'Better Call Saul' Season 6 Review: A Riveting Bob Odenkirk Leads a Final Season Set to Surpass Its 'Breaking Bad' Roots (2022)

The first episode of the sixth and final season of Better Call Saul begins inauspiciously. With no dialogue and set to a sweeping yet melodic score, we see people clearing out all the various possessions of a house. It is a house that presumably belongs to Bob Odenkirk’s Jimmy McGill, who is fast on his way to becoming the Saul Goodman we know from Breaking Bad. Mysterious and melancholy, it is one of many moments that has come to define the quiet beauty of a show. The show is fascinated with these seemingly mundane details of life that then get folded into the chaotic and violent struggles for power at the core of the story. The first two episodes, “Wine and Roses” and “Carrot and Stick,” provided to critics of the final season, rely on the show’s solid foundation to draw us in for the steep descent ahead.

This is because Better Call Saul has and always will be one of television’s greatest tragedies. It is a harrowing yet enthralling experience as we watch a man slowly lose touch with the possibility to be good and instead fall into his own worst impulses. The show has seen Odenkirk give not just the best performances of his career, but one of the best ever put to screen. His shift from McGill to Goodman has been a patient one, drawing out every detail with both precision and poetry. The show’s final season promises to be the long-awaited payoff to that as we see the shady yet resourceful lawyer have to reckon with his past in a future that is already set. We know where this all leads. Rather than lessen the suspense and engagement with the story, it only builds it further. The inevitability that is hurtling toward all of Better Call Saul’s characters makes it all the more devastating when we know that they are all about to tip into oblivion.

The key to this is not actually Odenkirk. What makes it all work is a resolute Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler, Jimmy’s fellow lawyer and lover who has gotten caught up in his mess. Kim is more kind than any character on the show, motivated by doing what is right and trying to stand up for those who would otherwise be trampled underfoot. This show is as much her journey as it is Jimmy’s, maybe even more so at times. In the most simple of knowing looks or changes of expression, Seehorn gives a richly multifaceted performance that knocks you flat with every scene. She is a tactile performer, challenging our expectations for what she will do next at every moment. Even as we want to shout at her to get as far away from the whole situation as possible for her own sake, the way Seehorn brings her conflicted love for Jimmy to life makes it one of the most engaging turns of recent memory. In this final season, even just seeing the two share a meal reveals some of the show's most interesting character moments to date.

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Of course, a meal is never just a meal with these two, both in story and cinematic form. The beginning of Better Call Saul Season 6 sees Kim and Jimmy beginning to hatch more schemes. The mark this time is someone close to both of them and will require treading extra carefully — and the manner in which this planning scene is shot notably leaves Kim cast in shadow, revealing how she has fallen more into the darkness over the course of the series. The machinations of the plot are less important than what they reveal about the characters. Even as we hope that Kim will find a life outside of Jimmy and all the complications he brings, we also know that she is excited by the underhanded dealings they do. She is no bystander. Kim is a flawed, fascinating character who Seehorn continues to peel back the layers of in every single episode. We don’t know whether she will survive the many ordeals to come already being sown in this season, though we know that she isn’t around in the subsequent events of Breaking Bad. This instills a perpetual sense of dread that elevates the moments where the show seems to be getting too caught up in the duo’s hustles. Even as one wishes both Jimmy and Kim would spend what is likely their last moments together doing something else, this is precisely the point. The looming crisis would make their ploys feel silly if they weren’t so downright depressing.

Of course, there is still a dark sense of humor in which Odenkirk excels. Perhaps despite ourselves, we can’t help but be taken by the way he is able to manipulate and play people like a fiddle. Jimmy is good at this, turning characters against themselves with bravado that is as exhilarating as it is sinister. When we see him run one over on the stuck-up manager of a country club, the schadenfreude is delicious in how devious it is. However, we know that Jimmy doesn’t limit his manipulation to those in power and will soon grow to be even more selfish in his motivations than we ever thought possible. Odenkirk is a comedic wrecking ball that can destroy anything in his path, though will also shift into playing up how Jimmy can be shockingly callous and cruel in the blink of an eye. It again demonstrates how he is a chameleon of an actor, playing his character with a charm that masks his darker motivations.

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Almost in the background of all this, there is the menacing cartel leader Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton) who is planning his comeback after surviving an attempt on his life at the end of last season. This is unknown to both Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) and Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), who believe the plan was successful in spite of not going as smoothly as they would have hoped. Both Banks and Esposito continue to have a dynamic relationship, even as their characters frequently sit at odds with one another. Left behind in all of this is Nacho Varga (Michael Mando), who fled after he hoped Lalo would be killed but is now completely out on his own with no support. The portraits of all these characters and the work of the actors are occasionally undone by the story getting wrapped up in itself. If anything, the experience is at its best when it lets the characters drive the story and the drama.

Better Call Saul is still mostly aware of this, as it is abundantly patient and restrained. Moments of violence often occur offscreen, obscured by a handmade door of hay or covered up by the rushing of water from a drain. It is less about the spectacle and more about what the subterfuge says about the characters. In a scene where Mike goes through Nacho’s house, the sequence cuts to a variety of angles and ensures we sit with the details of the search. It is one of many ways that the story strips away any glamour of the criminal enterprise and hits home on just how wearisome it can almost be. There is no joy in the work and any excitement is undercut by it all crashing down to Earth. That is where the show excels and ultimately surpasses Breaking Bad in terms of how well-executed the story is in every single moment. When Better Call Saul was first announced many years ago, I was one of its first skeptics about whether a prequel series like this could actually thrive. Not only does it do that, but it also continues to be one of the best dramas because of the commitment it shows to its captivating characters.

Rating: A

The first half of Better Call Saul's final season premieres with its first two episodes on Monday, April 18 on AMC, with five episodes releasing weekly. The six-episode second half premieres on July 11.

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