“How do the defendants plead?” Predicting the fates of Better Call Saul’s crooked characters


Vince Gilligan’s acclaimed, darkly comic crime saga is about to make its closing statements with the sixth and final season of Better Call Saulstreaming April 19 on Neon. Acting as both a prequel and follow-up to game-changing series Breaking Bad, Tony Stamp writes about Better Call Saul‘s key characters and predicts their fates.

SPOILERS FOR SEASONS 1 – 5 AHEAD

It’s been 14 years since Breaking Bad premiered. Billboards of Bryan Cranston in his tighty whities dotted the inner city landscape, and the hype was justified: under the leadership of Vince Gilligan the show was tense, comedic and morally engaging. It all led to an incredible final season and definitive ending that most people were satisfied with.

Doing a spinoff about shyster lawyer Saul Goodman felt like an odd choice, and making it a prequel stranger still. After all, we knew where he ended up.

But Better Call Saul is a show that really knows how to make the most of its prequel format. It knows that you know what’s going to happen, and does its best to play into that: revelations about characters’ previous lives hit hard, and more importantly, the show always knows what story it’s actually telling.

It’s a tragedy about the moral decline of Jimmy McGill, sure, but the huge question mark hanging over the show centres on the characters who apparently don’t make it into the Breaking Bad timeline. One in particular.

And as an extra wrinkle, it takes the black and white pre-credits ‘flash-forward’ scenes from BB (remember the bear?), and turns them into a super slow motion peek at where Saul has ended up, and where he might be heading. These speak to the huge confidence of the showrunners, with season one featuring the briefest tease, and an incremental amount since then.

As the first half of Better Call Saul’s final season approaches, let’s take a look at its characters and try to predict where they might end up.

Nacho

Way back during Saul Goodman’s first appearance in Breaking Bad (Season 2 Episode 8), Walt and Jesse take him out to the desert, put a bag over his head, and threaten to kill him. He responds with “It wasn’t me, it was Ignacio. Did Lalo send you?”, a throwaway line that Better Call Saul has spun into a powerful bit of foreshadowing.

We meet ‘Nacho’ in-person early on in Better Call Saul (Season 1 Episode 2) as a canny operator working for Tuco Salamanca. The show goes on to show us he’s a complete person, with love for his father Manuel, and a functioning moral compass of sorts.

As time goes on, we’re left to wonder if Saul’s mention means Nacho made it out alive, or was he dispatched offscreen in a way we’ve yet to learn.

Prediction: An onscreen death. Nacho is a good dude, relatively speaking, but he’s in too deep.

Lalo

Lalo meanwhile entered the picture much later (Season 4), shaking up the status quo upon entry. He gifted his disabled uncle Hector Salamanca the trademark bell that would go on to ring throughout Breaking Bad (the sort of darkly funny fan service that Saul does well, complete with its own backstory), and has clashed with Gus Fring since then, leading to assassins hired by Fring raiding his estate at the end of season five.

Played by Tony Dalton, he’s a unique villain, and much like Nacho, a marked difference from the cartoonish gang bangers who populate both series. Lalo exudes charm, usually beaming with genuine warmth. He’s great fun to watch—Dalton’s best trick is making his eyes read as sociopathic while the grin remains.

Part of the show’s success is getting us to root against Lalo as he tries to bring down Gus, despite us knowing that Gus will go on to be Walter White’s main adversary. We want to see that story play out, so we want Lalo to fail.

Prediction: Death. If Lalo were to pop up after the events of Breaking Bad to enact revenge on Saul, only to be dispatched, that would be quite a good finish.

Kim

The character we’re all rooting for, Kim Wexler is the heart of the show, and its moral compass. Which has made it all the more sickening to see her drawn into a world of drug dealers and cartels along with Jimmy. Time and again she’s presented with a moral choice, and chosen him over her core values.

The thing is, Kim and Jimmy are really nice to spend time with, which is why fans continue to hope she’ll show up in the future timeline, alive and well. Her absence in BB has become the biggest mystery of BCS, and each time she’s drawn a bit deeper, whether it’s scamming a client or bargaining with Lalo, it’s that much more agonising.

Kim is often shown boxed in by the frame—confined by the angles of a staircase or doorframe. The show’s excellent production design and direction is telling us she’s trapped. But is she?

Prediction: Kim will appear alive and well in the black and white future timeline.

Saul

The Saul Goodman of Breaking Bad does not seem to be grieving. Largely used as comic relief, albeit with lots of nuance, we never really glimpsed his inner life till he had his own show.

But that’s the character—as in one poster for the show, he’s seen looking mournful while holding up a mask of his own cheerful face. So maybe what we saw in BB was him putting up a front.

Better Call Saul showed a great level of patience at its inception, revolving around Jimmy’s career in law, and setting up his brother Chuck and their clashes. Methodically it laid out how a good man could be infected by spite and let himself stray from his moral path. His lack of grief at his own brother’s death wasn’t just chilling, it was disappointing.

Because while we all know where this is going, Odenkirk’s performance is so layered and likeable—comedic, tragic and very human—that we want him to succeed. He has those devilish eyes (cast him as a real villain in something, I guarantee he’ll kill it), but also deep wells of sympathy. It’s an incredible performance of a character who started as a cartoon, and that’s the show’s point. You never really know anyone.

We’ve seen Saul at his absolute worst, and so we hope against hope for the best, as if he can escape his future and go back to being Jimmy. And maybe he can. In fact he tells Kim near the start of season five “I can’t go back to being Jimmy McGill”, which feels like the writers setting themselves a challenge.

During the S05 prologue there’s also what feels like a deliberate bit of foreshadowing—the guy who recognises Saul, and forces him to say his catchphrase, goes on to say that he works for Omaha United Cabs, and that Jimmy can call him anytime.

As Jimmy tells Robert Forster’s fixer “I’m gonna fix it myself”, I wonder if this cab driver will return in some guise.

Prediction: Jimmy and Kim ride into the sunset, we hope.

Gus & Mike

We all know how things turn out here, with Gus missing half his face and Mike falling victim to a cowardly attack from Walt. BCS has used its time with each to add shading, and I’m guessing we’ll see extra pieces of context for both of them: one last twist of the knife for Gus, and some sort of redemption for Mike.

Jesse & Walter

Vince Gilligan just said they’re both going to show up this season. Who knows how that will play out.

Better Call Saul has proven to be a more-than-worthy follow up to a classic series. It’s both sillier than Breaking Bad and more mature, indulging in moments like the montage of two meth heads on a bender, or ants swarming a dropped ice cream, alongside many focused on adults talking about their problems in a grounded, real way.

As the show has drawn closer to its predecessor it’s become more like it, while simultaneously teasing a grand conclusion in its flash-forward moments. When all is said and done, crooked lawyer Saul Goodman might prove to be a more relatable character than anyone we’ve seen in either series.