Bob Odenkirk chose his words carefully.
The actor and comedian, perched on a sofa at his home in Los Angeles, tried to answer questions about the final season of ‘Better Call Saul’, his ‘Breaking Bad’ spin-off series, without saying a word that could be interpreted like a spoiler.
“I now know what’s going on, of course,” Odenkirk said evenly, “and I’d like to talk to you about it.”
It might seem odd that the final 13 episodes of “Better Call Saul” are peppered with so many question marks ahead of the season premiere on April 18. The show is a prequel to one of the most popular shows of the last quarter century, which means millions of people around the world already know that the character of Odenkirk, the Albuquerque cheap peddler and hapless public defender Jimmy McGill, turns into the flashy, flamboyant lawyer known as Saul Goodman in “Breaking Bad.”
But the writers of “Better Call Saul” have always had more tricks up their pinstripe sleeves.
Over the course of 50 intricately written episodes, co-creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould have hooked viewers on a cast of characters who don’t even appear on “Breaking Bad” — as far as we know. What fate will be in store for embattled cartel lieutenant Nacho Vargo (Michael Mando); Jimmy’s ethically malleable partner, Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn); the white-shoe lawyer Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian)? How exactly do their rich stories intersect with the saga of Walter White (Bryan Cranston), the meth-cooking antihero who started it all?
“I think how ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘Better Call Saul’ come together in our final season will be of great satisfaction to all fans,” Odenkirk said in a Zoom chat, appearing to consider every syllable as he was talking. .
Gould, for his part, recently confirmed that the final season will feature Cranston and Aaron Paul, the Emmy-winning actor who played Walter’s accomplice Jesse Pinkman.
“Better Call Saul,” like its hit predecessor, is set in a decidedly seedy setting: life on the fringes of early-2000s Albuquerque, a parched landscape of ramshackle strip malls, stucco motels, and caravan trailers. cheap office in the middle of the desert. Jimmy McGill starts out living in a utilitarian closet in the back of a nail salon, where he tries (and fails) to make it as an honest lawyer, but finds more lucrative opportunities as a con artist and fixer for some of the biggest in town. miserable criminals.
The series debuted in 2015, and the fifth season began airing on AMC over two years ago, in late February 2020, just before Covid shut down everything and delayed production of the final episode. Production was again briefly disrupted after Odenkirk suffered a heart attack and collapsed on set in July 2021. He resumed filming in early September and told NBC News he had recovered. Twenty-four months after the last episode aired, “Saul” feels like a welcome blast from the past in more ways than one.
The show was arguably prescient, anticipating a flurry of stories about daring con artists who range from documentaries about the ill-fated Fyre Festival to scripted projects about Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes (“The Dropout”) and fraudulent socialite. Anna Delvey (“Inventing Anna”). “Saul” is certainly the most incisive trickster story of the lot: a dark and deeply comedic yet profoundly sad portrait of a man essentially addicted to lies, utterly convinced that a shameless corner cut will earn him the respect he thinks he deserves.
“Jimmy McGill is driven by resentment and a sense of revenge. It is too often guided by feelings of pain, instead of letting things go and making choices disconnected from those feelings,” Odenkirk said. “I would judge that to be a bad choice, but that’s the character they [Gilligan and Gould] created, and they must act on it.
Soul of ‘Saul’
“Breaking Bad” is one of the flagship shows of the era of prestige television, but the artistic fecundity of “Saul” was not assured. The prequel series lacks the “Mr. Chips-to-Scarface” and struts around at a different, low-key but jazzy tempo. “Breaking Bad” was often high-octane; “Saul” is relatively quieter, with a defiant shaggy dog spirit.And yet there are plenty of violent shocks and propulsive twists as Jimmy is more deeply connected to a vicious Juárez drug cartel and the gleefully sociopathic Lalo Salamanca (a terrifying Tony Dalton) .
“Saul” is not a monster classified by Nielsen as “Breaking Bad”. But many fans and critics now think the two shows are equal, contrasting provocatively. Walter White’s descent into evil was Wagnerian in intensity, but the gradual nature of Jimmy’s moral downfall is more painful, like witnessing the slow implosion of an unlucky friend.
Seehorn, one of the show’s leading performers, was thrilled at the chance to also exemplify Kim Wexler’s stunning evolution as a character who dwells in the gray area between professional competence and ethical slipperiness.
“I find it fascinating, personally. They [the writers] left room for there to be subtext. They do that with all the characters, but she [Kim] was constantly in situations where she didn’t show her cards,” Seehorn said. The result might have been inscrutable, she added, “but instead I was encouraged to play the subtext in a way that let the audience in.”