This post contains spoilers for the You better call Saul The series finale.
Fourteen years ago, Peter Gould wrote an episode of breaking Bad, “Better Call Saul”, where he was tasked with pitching a character who would serve two purposes: 1) provide legal expertise to Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, so that he would be more plausible when they escape the forces of the ‘order; and 2) bring back some of the humor that breaking Bad Creator Vince Gilligan feared the series was losing out as Walt and Jesse’s arcs grew darker. Beyond that, and the casting of Bob Odenkirk in the role, no one gave much thought to who Saul was, let alone believed that he would ever anchor a prequel series – also titled You better call Saul — which would rival the reputation of breaking Bad himself.
Now that the prequel is complete, Gould (who co-created the spin-off with Gilligan) is fittingly serving as writer and director for the series finale, which we’ve recap. here. Gould spoke with rolling stone why he chose to end the series with Jimmy/Saul going to jail, bringing Walt back for one last talk with his criminal attorney, what he thinks is happening to Rhea Seehorn’s Kim Wexler, and much more.
When we talked after season five, you said that while you were writing that year’s episodes, “the fog started to lift slightly on where we were going with all of this.” Was what you had planned at that time what you ended up doing?
It’s similar, but not exactly. What we started to realize was that the proper ending for Saul was for him to be in the justice system, as a suspect and eventually convicted, rather than a lawyer. This guy lived in justice, he made a joke of it, he played it. And it felt like that was the right place to end the series: him behind bars. But that was about all we had at the time.
How important was it to the end of Kim’s story that Jimmy was behind bars?
I think Kim was on her own journey. I don’t know if Jimmy being behind bars is an axiomatic for her. But I think the fact that they’re both confessing, that they’ve both discharged their consciences, that they’re both living more honest lives, that’s the heart of the ending.
You bring Walt back one last time. And as in the breaking Bad finale, “Felina”, you have the main character who returns to Albuquerque, makes amends for what he has done and gets a small measure of satisfaction. Did you think about that when you did that?
When I thought of “Felina,” what I mostly thought of was such a big, heartbreaking episode that Vince wrote and directed. It was so right for breaking Bad. I knew the end of this show was going to have a different feel. It was nice to have these two guys, Saul and Walt, in a final scene, which kind of touches on their reluctance to be really honest with themselves about what they’ve done and who they are, and what are their real regrets. Neither of them can really bring themselves to tell the truth.
I asked some of the other writers on the show, including Vincewhat they would change Saul Where breaking Bad if they had a time machine. And now you have incorporated this question into the text of this program! So I have to ask you if there is anything you would like to change in either series, just to make your life easier. on this one.
That’s a tough question, because usually the things in the writers room that we’ve wrestled with on one show or another, where we’ve been like, ‘Oh, if only we’d done this differently’, those problems led to an interesting solution. So it’s very hard for me to wish for things to be easier, because making it a little difficult has been helpful. There’s that old Orson Welles who says, “Lack of limits is the enemy of art.” Sometimes having to live with choices you’ve made makes things more fun.
If I had to pick one thing – and it’s hard to say I’d change it, because it felt so right – it’s how Saul was such a scumwad to Francesca on breaking Bad. We made it [on Better Call Saul]but barely.
Can you think of a specific example where the struggle to circumvent the plot of breaking Bad leads to a more interesting solution?
The most obvious is the Lalo-Ignacio dialogue Saul spouted in the first episode we met him: “It wasn’t me, it was Ignacio!” And “You’re not with Lalo?” For a long time we wondered, “What the hell is he talking about?” And even after we had Nacho, who was obviously Ignacio, we asked, “What did he do?” And how is Lalo involved? We just didn’t know. It really helped guide us to where we landed. It was definitely one of them. But the other thing is, why the hell does he have this crazy office? What was the point? What is he really looking for? And finally, the question we started with, which seemed unsolvable, which is: what problem does becoming Saul Goodman solve?
The version of You better call Saul that we’ve been watching since 2015 basically ends with “Fun and games.” Most of the Cartel characters no longer appear, the main title sequence is different, and the focus is almost entirely on Jimmy and Kim. Why did you decide to structure the season like this?
There’s a lot of different pieces in the show, but ultimately the thrust, the heart, the emotion of the show, is about this guy’s journey – about Saul Goodman/Jimmy McGill/Gene Takovic, his journey. We felt like it wasn’t enough to answer the question of how he became Saul Goodman. We wanted to know if there was any chance for this guy, even in a small way, to redeem himself – redeeming is a big word, I don’t know if he redeems himself, but is he still going to be trapped in this cycle he’s been in? It seemed right to continue the story, as the man’s life continued. Of course, that was the idea, really from the start. That’s why we started the way we did, at the very beginning of the series, showing Gene Takovic and going back to Gene’s story. I think we really would have left something on the table if we hadn’t finished Gene’s story.
Walt reappears, you also bring back Chuck and Marie Schrader. Were there any other characters you wanted to include in the finale but couldn’t?
Oh, man. You talk to the writer-director of the episode. I would have loved to find Patrick Fabian, find Dean Norris. Anna Gunn would have been great if this made history. I love all of our cast. Giancarlo Esposito is one of the best and funniest actors to work with. So I would have wanted them all. I am greedy. We didn’t want to do some sort of overloaded epic, and I hope we didn’t. We wanted it to feel like a drama and not a collection of scenes. I would have absolutely brought them back. And of course Michael Mando, the shadow of Nacho hangs over the whole season. The feeling I had about this episode was that it was kind of like A Christmas Carol. Gene becomes Saul and he is visited by three ghosts. And every time he gets a visit from one of those ghosts, you realize that guy is trapped in the cycle. It’s not an exact analogy, but hopefully these flashbacks help illuminate the change he brings to this episode. He makes a change, and it’s a hard thing to do.
Do you think what Saul does in the hearing will get Kim out of legal trouble with Cheryl?
No I do not know. I think Kim is on his own journey, and I think he knows it. He feels bad about what’s going on with Cheryl. But I don’t think Kim would like Jimmy to pull off a move that protects her from Cheryl. He does not save her; she saves her. They ended up saving each other at that point. What he sees is that she had the courage to face what she did. And she did something that I don’t think Jimmy/Gene ever thought she would do, which is not just surrender, but actually sit across from Cheryl Hamlin, who they have both lied in a disgusting way, and to be 100% truthful.
Over the years, whenever I asked you if Jimmy was really Saul, you said that in the scripts you would continue to call him “Jimmy” for as long as Kim did – that is, until until the transformation is complete. I’m curious if his name in the script and stage directions for this episode kept changing in the black and white scenes for this episode, or if you just used one of Jimmy, Saul or Gene all during.
Since this is an episode where he goes from Gene to Saul and ultimately back to Jimmy, I was very careful to use the name that felt “right” to me at all times. I called those moments in the script. [Gould emailed me: “Here’s a screenshot of one of the pages to illustrate.”]
Finally, Vince says that, at least for now, this is the conclusion of the Heisenberg universe. You’ve been doing this for 15 years. how does it feel to be at the end?
I didn’t understand how I feel about this. It’s really upsetting. In my daily life, the most upsetting thing is that I don’t see all my collaborators and co-consiprators on the show every day. My life for 15 years has had a very regular rhythm of going to the writers’ room, being on the set, being in office. That’s the wonderful thing about this job. Just when you are exhausted from one phase, the next phase begins. In my heart, I still feel like we’re about to reopen the writers room for season seven. But of course, that’s not happening. I fervently hope that as many of us as possible can work together again. And, of course, these characters mean so much to me. I love writing them all, but mostly I love writing Jimmy, Kim and Mike. Their voices, I’m going to have to really fight, in everything I do in the future, not to let those voices shine through. They are deep in my heart and deep in my soul, and I don’t think it will ever end.