Better Call Saul Season 5 Finale: Tense, but UnderwhelmingPhoto Courtesy of AMC TV Features better call saul
There is an argument to be made that “Bad Choice Road,” Season 5’s penultimate episode, was a better finale than “Something Unforgivable.” To be fair, “Something Unforgivable” wasn’t a bad episode by any stretch. It was—like all good Better Call Saul hours—both tense and emotionally revealing. But as a finale, it felt a little lacking. Ultimately, nothing in this final hour really changed the circumstances introduced in “Bad Choice Road.” Kim is still kinda breaking bad, Jimmy is dealing with the repercussions of being a “friend of the cartel,” and Nacho is looking for a way out of Lalo’s unstable hold.
“Something Unforgivable” did extend these circumstances in new ways; Kim unexpectedly—and ruthlessly—plots Howard’s demise as a lawyer, something that appears to haunt Jimmy (finally, perhaps, realizing the effect his actions have had on Kim, who is notoriously difficult to read). We spend a lot of time with Lalo and Nacho, as the latter anxiously awaits an assassination attempt on the former that would set him (somewhat) free. Jimmy, thanks to the tip Mike gave him, is also hoping for the same. So it wasn’t surprising that Lalo lived, even though the lead-up to the firefight itself was suitably tense.
The problem is, Lalo remains a threat—one we’ve seen and known to fear for awhile now. But I’m not really emotionally invested in him at all. Tony Dalton has been great, bringing a bizarrely charming energy to this latest unhinged Salamanca, but there’s something about knowing he’s ultimately off the board that leaves me cold. Unlikely, say, the fact that Kim and Nacho are not in Breaking Bad, which leaves me in a constant cold sweat.
It’s not that I needed Kim to die or anything to feel like this was a satisfying finale. It’s worse, really (in terms of stress) to have the threat of Lalo lurking just when Jimmy and Kim seem to believe they are free from him. And yet, we have no idea if (as Mike suggested) he’ll even care about Jimmy at this point given that his family was just slaughtered in their home by a tactical team. Kim’s actions against Howard, if they do in fact play out, could be what causes her to split with Jimmy, or be disbarred and leave Albuquerque, or who knows what. It doesn’t have to be a cartel shootout; it could be devastatingly quiet. It probably will be.
But even the title, “Something Unforgivable,” carried with it a weight the episode didn’t really deliver on. It was teased in a couple of ways—in Kim’s potential actions, in Lalo going after Nacho for his part in the war—but it’s mainly written with a confidence that there is another, final season coming afterwards to unpack all of these things. Imagine if this episode aired without us knowing if the series would get another season. That would be unforgivable!
As a whole, this season of Saul has worked well in showing the rocky start and moral complications of Jimmy’s change to Saul Goodman. The worlds inhabited by Gus, Nacho, Mike, and Jimmy have come closer and closer to together, with the first three now fully overlapping. And, because of the surprising, casual marriage (!) of Jimmy and Kim and the pact that came with it, Kim is now accidentally also “in the game.” But she’s really started to lean into it. As Jimmy has more fully embraced his true Slippin’ Jimmy self personally and professionally, Kim seems to be reconsidering who she is and what her accomplishments mean as well. Mesa Verde was a feather in her cap, but also her albatross. Some of Jimmy’s desire for vengeance against Howard has also come out in her as well. I wrote earlier in the season about how the show has turned into a war for Kim’s soul, and right now the forces of good don’t seem to be winning, even though she seems to be on a valid path of true and self-discovery.
Like all aspects of Better Call Saul, it’s complicated.
Overall, this has still been a great season of one of TV’s best shows. And despite other quibbles about the finale (including its Gene erasure!), it did make me exceptionally ready, and anxious, to see how this story ends: at the start of Breaking Bad, or a Cinnabon in Omaha?
Allison Keene is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For more television talk, pop culture chat and general japery, you can follow her @keeneTV
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