Better Call Saul Showrunner Explains Saul's Fate

Warning: this story contains spoilers for Monday's "Saul Gone" episode of Better Call Saul. Saul Goodman is dead. Long live James McGill. The Better Call Saul series finale hands down a verdict on the fate of "Slippin' Jimmy" McGill (Bob Odenkirk), who fled Albuquerque as criminal lawyer Saul Goodman — only to get caught as disguised fugitive Gene Takovic in Nebraska. As the final episodes of the Breaking Bad prequel tied up loose ends from "Felina," Saul's own series finale, titled "Saul Gone," answered what became of Jimmy/Saul/Gene in the aftermath of the Heisenberg meth empire that ended with Walter White (Bryan Cranston) dead and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) in the wind.

For his crimes as Heisenberg's lawyer — including RICO charges, 27 predicate violations, federal conspiracy to manufacture and distribute a controlled substance, money laundering, and accessory to multiple murders, including DEA Agents ASAC Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) and Steve Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) — Saul faces life plus one hundred ninety years behind bars. But the Albuquerque con man works his magic to reach a plea deal with the feds, talking them down to seven-and-a-half years in the comfy federal institution where Bernie Madoff served time.  

But when Saul gets greedy, offering to sweeten the deal and spill the truth about the framed-as-a-suicide death of defamed lawyer Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian), Saul learns his ex-wife Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) already came clean on the record. Instead of using Kim's future as leverage to save himself, it's revealed Saul's negotiations were a ploy to get Kim to the courthouse so she could hear his confession — copping not only to the crimes of Saul Goodman, but the sins of Jimmy McGill.

"I was more than a willing participant. I was indispensable. I kept Walter White out of jail, I laundered his money, I lied for him, I conspired with him, and I made millions," Saul tells the court and the gallery, including Hank's widow, Marie Schrader (Betsy Brandt). "If he hadn't walked into my office that day, Walter White would have been dead or behind bars within a month. And Agent Schrader and Agent Gomez, and a whole lot of other people, would still be alive. The fact is... Walter White couldn't have done it without me." 

Saul also reflects on his regrets about his brother, esteemed lawyer Charles McGill (Michael McKean). Chuck told his younger brother he would never change, leading to a "Slippin' Jimmy" scheme that ended with Chuck's malpractice insurance canceled — and Chuck's subsequent death by suicide. Fīat jūstitia ruat cælum: let justice be done, though the heavens fall.

The trial may be United States vs. Saul Goodman, but Saul says, "The name's McGill. I'm James McGill." And it's James McGill, not Saul Goodman, who is guilty and charged with an 86-year sentence. But as Jimmy says during a final scene jailhouse smoke with Kim, "With good behavior... who knows?" 

"I think you can see that he is really feeling like Saul when he's negotiating for his own sentence. He is being the hard-ass, manipulative negotiator, and he says to Marie's face that he's a victim also as he re-tells the story of his involvement with Walter White in this incredibly slanted, ridiculous way. He is as nasty as we've ever seen him," showrunner and series co-creator Peter Gould, who wrote and directed "Saul Gone," told "But then at the end of that sequence, he finds out that Kim has turned herself in, and I think his whole feeling of victory over the system turns to ashes in his mouth at that point. I think he's starting to think to himself, 'Why does this victory — and it is a kind of victory, that he got the deal of a lifetime — feel so empty?'"

Gould continued, "It feels empty because he knows in his heart he could do better. Not better in terms of his sentence but better in terms of himself."

"I think he's thinking about it, and then on the airplane he knows what he has to do, but he also knows that he may or may not have the courage to do it if Kim isn't there to follow her example. So that's when he comes up with this plan to lure her to Albuquerque," Gould explained. "And, of course, the last conversation they had [in 'Waterworks'] was absolutely miserable and a sad moment. He knows she's not going to come because he asks her to, but maybe it's in her own best interest to see what he's got to say. Maybe he can get her to Albuquerque." 

Jimmy's confession in which he speaks his truth and accepts responsibility for the chicanery that ruined so many lives — Chuck's, Howard's, Kim's, Jimmy's — isn't just the death of Saul Goodman. It's the rebirth of James McGill. 

"I don't know that he really redeems himself, but I think he does recover his soul, let's put it that way," Gould said. "We thought about every possibility, but this is a guy who we've seen go through ups and downs. And to have him go deeper into Saul Goodman at the end of the show, I think would've just felt repetitive because we've already seen that. The story of every episode up through [Season 6] Episode 9 is the story of why this guy puts on this mask and why does this guy with a soul flatten himself out into a cartoon character? So, it really felt only natural, and in some ways the end of the series is sad."

"I've heard people say that they cry; I hope people find it sad in a good way. But in some ways, it's a very hopeful ending because in spite of the fact that he's in prison, which is terrible, Jimmy is Jimmy again. He's recovered his soul," Gould continued. "And the rest of the world may not know that. I mean, everybody in prison calls him Saul, even the guards. But there's Kim and she calls him Jimmy, so she still sees him and he is Jimmy. He's become maybe the person he never quite had the nerve to be until now."

Gould added: "And I don't know about you, but I feel like this guy is so clever, I kind of wonder how long he's really going to be in prison."