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Series Review: Better Call Saul – Season 6 (2022)

As a general rule of thumb, I find it best when reviewing or otherwise critiquing to avoid words like “perfect” or “flawless.” That’s not to say I haven’t ever used them for dramatic, indulgent purposes — I probably have at some point. Rather, suggesting a piece of media is without flaw seems almost sacrilegious to the very nature of critical writing and the subjectivity of art. That being said, if you were to demand I name the single closest a film or TV series has ever been to perfection, I would name Breaking Bad at the drop of a hat. It remains not only in its own league regarding motion pictures, but is quite frankly one of the most entertaining stories ever told.

But what if I told you “perfection” could get even better? It’s difficult to overstate just how much of a miracle the Breaking Bad spinoff/prequel series Better Call Saul proves to be. Even writing that, I wince a bit at the use of the word spinoff, simply because it feels like an inherently critical word to use when describing something that somehow, miraculously improves upon perfection. And reaching the end of the series with its extended sixth season, I can say with absolute confidence that this series makes its predecessor seem like the true spinoff in the franchise.

Although the final conclusion (roughly the last third of season six) doesn’t have the same explosive energy as the finale of its predecessor, it packs an atypical punch in perhaps an even more emotionally impactful fashion. This isn’t a crime thriller at its core; although it utilizes techniques of the genre to coincide with the narrative follow-through leading into the events of Breaking Bad, it never tries to imitate it or even capture the same kind of magic. That’s because Better Call Saul is, first and foremost, a deep-seeded character drama. In turn, the finale returns the writing to its roots, and gives a deeply satisfying resolution for what it is, not what it could have pretended to be. It doesn’t blow up any buildings, but it does tie a bow on a saga that’s been told since 2008, and frankly, doesn’t require anything more.

Developments with Breaking Bad familiars like Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) and Mike (Jonathan Banks) manage to effectively deepen their characters, particularly with the latter. But the quality of character writing for Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) is absolutely off the charts. The level to which the series deepens the fast-talking lawyer we met in Breaking Bad is explicitly profound. We don’t just have extra backstory to pin on, we have a backstory that retroactively alters the very emotion one feels when watching his scenes in the original series. It changes everything. I’m well aware that recency bias is a dangerous ball to juggle, but setting that aside for a moment… Jimmy McGill is one of the most complex, sympathetic, empathetic, and overall well-written characters in TV and film. Ever.

But even in the light of this unparalleled feat of character writing, we get a truly exhilarating tale with clever visual storytelling, plenty of twists and turns, and impeccable performances. Odenkirk is incredible at capturing all the nuances and depths of Jimmy; Rhea Seehorn is the perfect choice for Kim Wexler, the understated badass who works as both a contrast and a parallel to Jimmy; Tony Dalton is captivating as Lalo Salamanca, a villain who haunts season six like a ghost, seldom appearing, always with devastating connotations… seriously, this guy coming into frame makes you grip the arms of your couch EVERY TIME. And that’s just scratching the surface — the whole ensemble is immaculately cast.

Better Call Saul takes what was already a modern classic in storytelling craft and simply improves upon it. But even with the immeasurable improvements it gives to the Breaking Bad story, the series stands on its own as some of the best television we’ve seen in recent years, and maybe ever.

Overall rating: 10/10

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Published by Jeremy Bader

Aspiring writer, film and music lover, drummer.

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