The sixth and final season of Better Call Saul brought viewers no shortage of long-awaited payoffs and revelations, yet it chose its most integral moment of character transformation — Jimmy McGill’s inevitable disappearance into his Saul Goodman persona — to happen offscreen. After Jimmy and Kim’s series of steadily escalating cons to sabotage the career of Howard Hamlin goes horrifically wrong, the duo is left with no choice but to live with their terrible secret. However, with the consequent coverup complete by the end of the show’s fifth-to-last episode, “Fun and Games,” Kim breaks the news to Jimmy that she is leaving him, as she’s unable to condone the collateral damage from their joint propensity for conning and scheming. The last the audience sees of Jimmy McGill is his silent, despondent reaction to Kim’s final affirmation: she couldn’t bring herself to leave him sooner because she was, simply, “having too much fun.”
To lend maximum significance to the fact that this final moment with Kim was all it took to complete his transformation, the remainder of Jimmy’s journey toward becoming Saul Goodman in his final form is left un-shown. With just one quick smash cut, the immediate next scene is that of a disheveled bedroom in a tacky mansion, Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” ringing out from a bedside clock radio only to be snoozed by the man audiences might have recognized as Jimmy McGill only seconds prior. Nonetheless, as this man cleans up after an obvious one-night stand, jumps into a garishly colorful suit, and hops into a series of sprightly business calls, the audience meets two instant realizations: multiple years have passed, and “Jimmy McGill” has now completely assumed the Saul Goodman character seen throughout Breaking Bad. Indeed, after years of stoking speculation as to when Jimmy’s final transformation might occur, Better Call Saul leaves this sight unseen in order to place all the heavier emphasis on the “why” instead.
Why Jimmy’s Saul Goodman Offscreen Transformation Was A Good Idea
In having Jimmy complete his transformation offscreen, Better Call Saul rewards the audience’s investment in the series by refusing to spell out something they can already deduce themselves. From the moment Better Call Saul premiered, the unavoidable question of when Jimmy McGill would or did “truly become Saul” (or whether he was always Saul Goodman all along) has posed the single most frequently discussed and debated topic among fans of the show. After all, anyone who’s seen all of Breaking Bad could easily identify that the Saul Goodman seen in that show is a far more cartoonish, gleefully immoral presence than a character like Jimmy McGill seems capable of assuming for the majority of Better Call Saul‘s airtime. Thus, with one abrupt jump forward in time, the series treats the remainder of Jimmy’s descent into Saul Goodman precisely like the inevitability the audience already knows it is, letting Kim’s final words prove the ultimate end-destination and context in themselves.
If the creators of Better Call Saul so intended, the series could have been more than capable of detailing the multiple years adjoining Kim’s departure from Jimmy’s life and the full emergence of Saul Goodman. However, such could also be said of the mostly-unseen gap in time between Saul’s final appearance in Breaking Bad and the first appearance of “Gene Takovic”, Jimmy’s third persona, in the flash-forward that begins Better Call Saul‘s pilot episode. Both instances prove mirroring examples of the audience already having the full journey’s context, with only the shock of the final lasting outcome to be revealed to them.
How The Time Jump Rewards Breaking Bad Fans
Jimmy’s unseen final backslide into Saul consequently frees space within the series’ final episodes to treat Breaking Bad fans to a front-row seat of Saul’s true undoing: his enablement of Walter White. As Walter famously said in the first-ever episode of Breaking Bad, “Technically, chemistry is the study of matter, but I prefer to see it as the study of change.” Also true to the “study of change”, the final episodes of Better Call Saul are then spent exploring precisely how both Saul and Walter’s long downward spirals into malicious alter egos intertwined, unable to have completed themselves without one another. The audience understands that, without Saul, Heisenberg’s enterprise wouldn’t have wrought nearly the havoc it did, and without Walter, Saul would never have needed to flee Albuquerque and live in hiding.
By noting the differences in style, Viewers of both series can also grasp even more significance behind the suddenness of Better Call Saul‘s jump into Breaking Bad‘s timeline. Better Call Saul has always been a slower, more patiently-paced series than Breaking Bad, particularly so when compared to the near-constant harrowing chaos that notoriously defined the bulk of Walter White’s rise and fall. Not only does this distinct difference in tone and pacing lend further weight to just how severely Walter would come to implode the lives of every character around him eventually, it’s a difference that’s simultaneously allowed Better Call Saul‘s characters all the more space to develop quietly and organically over the course of its six seasons. For the series to so jarringly buck the patience that set it apart with its sudden time jump to Saul Goodman proves the definitive signal that all that remained of the show’s Jimmy McGill left with Kim Wexler, the stage for Breaking Bad‘s timeline thus set entirely.
In the end, after Better Call Saul‘s time-jump, the Saul Goodman of Breaking Bad is understood to be a simple inevitability of the journey the audience just witnessed in full. A character perhaps previously seen as either secondary or a comic-relief caricature is consequently recontextualized top-to-bottom, and in far less of the audience’s time to boot. The debate over when Jimmy might have become Saul can all but be exchanged for a new discussion: whether Jimmy might just be the greatest inciting force (if not the most outright central character) of the universe shared by both shows as a whole. Above all, the resultant impact is the mark of a writers’ room that’s placed heavy priority in an area all writers should learn to note: respect for one’s audience.
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