As “Better Call Saul” begins its fifth and penultimate season, it continues to inch closer to the timeline of the “Breaking Bad” universe. Last season saw the addition of undercover meth distributor-businessman Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito, “Breaking Bad”) and in its most recent episode, it appears DEA Agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris, “Superstore”) will also play a major role in the coming seasons. With the recent news that “Better Call Saul” will end after six seasons, it makes it much more intriguing for fans of the “Breaking Bad” franchise to predict the series’ endgame as the plots of Fring, Mike (Jonathan Banks, “Breaking Bad”) and Nacho (Michael Mando, “Psych”) all head in the same direction.
Part of the brilliance of “Breaking Bad” is the observation of Walter White’s moral decay from a nebbish science teacher to the leading meth chef of the Southwest. In contrast to gradual character transformation, perhaps the most clever challenge taken up by “Better Call Saul” is its utilization of similar narrative arcs to reveal how some of the most prominent characters from “Breaking Bad” ended up involved with drug cartels. “Better Call Saul” spends a considerable amount of time explaining these characters’ various backstories, which can be frustrating at times — particularly for viewers of “Breaking Bad” — but, narratively, appears to be worth the payoff.
We’ve spent the better part of four seasons watching Mike evolve from working the ticket booth at a parking lot to becoming one of Fring’s most valued security officers. The conclusion of last season saw Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk, “Breaking Bad”) officially register to practice law under the name Saul Goodman.
In these first few episodes of Season 5, Jimmy/Saul markets himself as a lawyer for those looking to engage in criminal activity at a heavily discounted price. Upon being recruited by Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton, “Sense8”), the following episodes find Jimmy at the center of the imminent war between the Mexican drug cartel run by the Salamancas and the hometown drug team led by Fring, effectively placing Jimmy in opposition to Mike, whom he’s worked closely with in the past. For the characters who don’t appear in “Breaking Bad,” a sense of danger looms on the horizon — even for Jimmy’s current girlfriend, Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn, “Veep”), a more accomplished lawyer.
Kim and Jimmy’s relationship may appear sweet, but at its center their codependency is toxic. In the past, Kim was willing to stretch the ethical boundaries of her job because Jimmy was worth it. Despite Kim’s best efforts to push Jimmy in the direction of becoming a responsible lawyer, he’s changed his name and the clients he represents. Now that she’s distanced herself from Jimmy — and his “50% off non-violent felonies” deal — she’s forced to reflect on how much of Jimmy’s personality she’s allowed to incorporate into her own.
All of these factors seem to point to a season that will be as much about connecting the dots between characters as it will be about characters following their hearts. “Better Call Saul” has been reliably intriguing for years, and with an ending in sight, there’s every reason to believe the high-quality drama will end stronger than it started.