Get off US Bets’ corner, Alan Sepinwall. In his recap of the penultimate episode of Better Call Saul, the great TV critic wrote, “I would not bet against Kim [Wexler] being in the finale, not after how crucial she has become to the series.”
Hey, Alan, how ’bout you stick to writing insightful analyses for Rolling Stone and leave the framing of scripted TV series as something to wager on (or not wager on) to us experts, OK?
See, we’ve done this before, for Ted Lasso (which we justified because it’s a show about sports) and for Succession (which we justified because … well … the Ted Lasso article generated strong web traffic).
So should you bet against Kim appearing in the finale? We, the phony TV prop betting experts, will let you know in the paragraphs to follow.
It’s important to clarify, though, that you can’t legally wager on any of this in the U.S. Sports betting has been legalized in some form in 33 jurisdictions, and while you can bet (with modest dollar limits) in some states on entertainment-based awards like the Oscars or Emmys, you can’t actually wager on what the fate of Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman/Gene Takovic will be. Nor should you be able to. Hundreds of Better Call Saul crew members already know all the answers, and the last thing we need is for the sportsbooks to fall victim to something akin to a Slippin’ Jimmy scheme.
After 62 episodes, the 63rd, titled “Saul Gone,” airs Monday night on AMC, concluding the (mostly) prequel series to Breaking Bad (which told its story across 62 episodes — 63 if you count the El Camino movie that followed).
The writers in the Vince Gilligan-iverse love their finale titles with multiple meanings. Breaking Bad concluded with “Felina,” which is an anagram of “finale,” the name of a song that plays early in the episode, and a portmanteau of “Fe,” “Li,” and “Na,” the chemical symbols for iron, lithium, and sodium, or as some believe, stand-ins for blood, meth, and tears.
So does “Saul Gone” mean the character of Saul is gone after this? That everything he has is gone? That Better Call Saul is gone? All of the above, perhaps?
We’ll know Monday night. For now, let’s set some lines on the many things we don’t know. (Warning: copious spoilers ahead for BB and the first 62 episodes of BCS.)
We’ll start with Sepinwall’s wager (or lack thereof) and related topics. Better Call Saul’s finale is all but certain to stretch across at least two timelines: the Gene timeline — which in the penultimate episode also became a Kim timeline — projecting forward from him getting made by Carol Burnett’s Marion in Omaha; and the Saul timeline, likely overlapping with some of what we saw on Breaking Bad. The door is open for numerous characters, dead or alive at the end of Breaking Bad, to pop up.
Also among the callbacks — Gene peering slowly around a corner, but no reflection this time. The duality is gone. He's beyond redemption. pic.twitter.com/w3S0QSNJM9
— John Tomase (@jtomase) August 9, 2022
Obviously, Bob Odenkirk’s Jimmy/Saul/Gene will be in the finale. No sense setting odds on him appearing. But as for the rest …
Kim Wexler: On the one hand, Kim’s story could be complete. We saw her leave Saul’s life in 2004 and we’ve seen her phone conversation with him in 2010 and what it led her to do, and we can infer everything we need to know about her life in between. Saul was the one surviving major character we didn’t see in the Breaking Bad finale. Same maybe for Kim here? Probably not. Sepinwall’s logic is sound. If Saul/Gene is apprehended, Kim and her written statement about Howard’s death figure to play into the consequences for him. So let’s say -800 that Kim is in the episode, +500 if you want to disobey Sepinwall.
Walter White: The sportsbooks have taken this one off the board, since Bryan Cranston spilled the beans in a recent interview about he and Aaron Paul filming three scenes for BCS — one together, and one apiece separately. We saw them together in Episode 611. We saw Paul’s Jesse Pinkman with Kim in 612. So we’re getting a hit of Walt in 613.
Jesse Pinkman: Also off the board. See above.
Mike Ehrmantraut: Jonathan Banks’ Mike is an interesting case in that he was the second lead of this series when it first started — it was the Saul spinoff, with Mike on the side — but his story feels complete. If our last glimpse of him is warning Saul in 2008 to stay away from this Heisenberg fella, that’s a fitting ending for the wise old man of this criminal universe. But there’s no shortage of fill-in-the-blanks scenes in 2008 or 2009 that are possible and would delight fans, featuring Mike with Walt, or Mike with Saul, or Mike with Gus, or Mike with Saul and Gus. The odds we see Mike: -110 in both directions.
Gus Fring: It’s probably time to give up on getting answers to what happened in Chile that helped shape the life of Giancarlo Esposito’s Gus before the events of Better Call Saul. But, like Mike, Gustavo could work into a little something from the Saul timeline. Let’s go with -200 that we don’t see Gus, +150 that we do.
Chuck McGill: Michael McKean has appeared in two flashbacks since his character, Jimmy’s older brother, was killed off at the end of BCS Season 3, but none since Season 4. Could we get one last look back, with the hairpiece department and the shadowy lighting department going into overdrive to make Odenkirk and McKean pass for 20 years or so younger than they actually are? We’ll put no Chuck at -300, yes Chuck at +225.
Other “will appear” odds for random Breaking Bad alums (hey, we saw minor character Emilio Koyama in Episode 612; everyone is in play in the Saul timeline):
- Hank Schrader: +2000
- Marie Schrader: +5000
- Skyler White: +1500
- Gale Boetticher: +2500
- Badger and/or Skinny Pete: +500 (the writers might feel a need to again sneak a laugh into another mostly serious series finale)
- Ted Beneke: +50000
vince gilligan final episode in breaking bad
vine gilligan final episode in better call saull
— يزن (@yazan789001) August 9, 2022
Saul’s (Gene’s) fate
When we left off, Gene was bolting from Marion’s house with the Life Alert operator notified of his presence. One presumes that he’ll want to swing by his apartment to grab his money, diamonds, shoebox of memories, etc., then skip town. How does it end for him?
Death, +400: I’m deeply skeptical that BCS showrunner Peter Gould (who wrote and directed “Saul Gone”) and Gilligan would assign their current main character the same ending they assigned their previous main character. Maybe if it can come in some shocking manner, like Kim killing him, or Cliff Main bashing him over the head with a guitar, it could feel different enough from the Breaking Bad ending. Still, seems unlikely.
Jail, -300: This has to be the favorite. Jimmy McGill pays the price for his various sins, with law enforcement and then, fittingly, the legal system catching up with him.
The field, +600: He could remain at large, living in constant fear of getting caught until the next time he can’t resist the urge to live a little, run a scam, and once again risk getting caught. But it seems a reach, since Marion will have told the police he’s living as Gene Takovic, and there may not be time to secure himself a new identity and the relocation services of Ed the vacuum cleaner repairman (who plausibly can be alive in the show even if the actor who played him, Robert Forster, is not). Maybe he can pull something off with whoever was the money man behind Gene’s identity theft scheme and re-emerge with one of those identities? You can’t rule it out completely.
Will Gene return to Albuquerque for the finale, like Walt did?: If he wants Ed’s disappearing services, he likely has to. And if he gets caught, presumably that’s where he’ll be tried. We’ll see Albuquerque in the finale in the Saul timeline, obviously. Seeing it in the Gene story is -1000 on the yes, +600 on the no.
That’s Saul, folks
A few odds-based odds and ends:
- How much of the finale will be in black-and-white? For starters, we should note the episode is scheduled to run from 9 p.m. to 10:38. It’s not a 98-minute episode, though, as there will be commercials. So the exact episode length is unknown, meaning we have to set this line in terms of percentages. There’s a chance we get no black-and-white, since we saw a flicker of color in Gene’s glasses as the end of the second-to-last episode, and maybe Gould and company will proceed from there to bring all the color back. But if the Gene scenes do remain in black-and-white, logic says this episode is at least 75% set in that timeline. So we’ll go with 75% as the line, -110 on both sides.
- Over/under number of times I’ll say, “Ya know, Chuck was right about Jimmy all along” when I eventually rewatch the series: 737.5, -110 on both sides.
- Over/under IMDb user rating for the finale: Of the last six episodes, four have scored a 9.4 or above on IMDb. Nothing could possibly compare to Breaking Bad’s stretch run, which featured a 9.8, a 10.0, a 9.6, and a 9.9. But that 9.9 for a finale that some thought was the weakest episode of the last several could be telling about the inflated user rating to come. Or Gould and company just might deliver a perfect finale that pays off any imperfections from the Gene storyline to this point. We’ll put the line at 9.75, -110 on both sides.
- Over/under number of people I melt in hydrofluoric acid or bury under a superlab if Rhea Seehorn doesn’t get an Emmy for her performance as Kim Wexler: 7.96 billion, -110 on both sides.
— better call saul spoilers (@odenhead) August 9, 2022
Photo: Dan MacMedan/USA TODAY