It’s shocking to think about what happened on “Better Call Saul.” As the show begins, Jimmy’s brother Chuck is a major force, and villain. But Chuck is dead now, and it feels like he’s been gone a long time, very long time. That makes his reappearance here in another flashback all the more jarring. It was a moment where the two brothers tried to get close to each other, but ultimately couldn’t. Chuck is too gritty, Jimmy is too defensive. Finally, Chuck said, “We always have the same conversation,” he finally said, retreating into the shadows of his home with a replica of the “Time Machine” in hand. And this has to be it – this has to be Jimmy’s “time machine moment”. While his previous responses to his regrets were rather pathetic, this moment that gives a glimpse of what could happen. Because here, in this flashback, Chuck makes an effort to try to contact his brother; to stretch an olive branch. These two were complete opposites throughout their lives, but they were also brothers. And every now and then, Chuck will try to connect with Jimmy. Here, he wants to talk to Jimmy about his cases – but Jimmy, so used to Chuck’s crap, turns him down.
We realize here, like Jimmy, that this It’s a moment that can change everything. That if Jimmy had just stayed and talked to Chuck about his cases and his clients, things might have been different. But Jimmy doesn’t have a time machine; As Walt pointed out, they do not – and cannot – exist. Meaning this is just a memory. Or a glimpse of what could happen.
In the end, things ended the only way they could. After confessing to many of his crimes and blowing up his deal, Jimmy McGill will end up in jail – not the fancy Bernie Madoff prison. There’s a great moment when Jimmy makes his way to the prison and is recognized by the other convicts on the bus – all of whom start chanting “BETTER CALL SAUL!” like a light, knowing smile on Jimmy’s lips.
Finally, one day in custody (it’s unclear how much time has passed), Jimmy is found by his lawyer – who turns out to be Kim, of course. And she has a cigarette. I feel a pang in my heart when I remember the first episode, when Jimmy and Kim stood in the shadow of the HHM garage and smoked. Again, they’re shrouded in darkness here, with light evoking film noir and German expressionism (lots of movable bar shadows slicing across faces and walls).
When they both smoke together, we learn that Jimmy has been sentenced to a staggering 86 years. “With good behavior, who knows?” Jimmy winked and said, it’s bittersweet, and it’s perfect. The idea that Jimmy will rot in prison for the rest of his life isn’t a good one – but it’s fair in the end. He was a criminal who did terrible things. He may not have killed anyone himself, but he played an important role in the empire of those who did. We want him to be free because we like him, but liking someone doesn’t dictate justice.
The show ends with a series of powerful shots. Outside the prison, Kim was walking to her car when she saw Jimmy, behind the fence across the yard. Kim, standing behind her own fence, watched him – and he shot her with a gun, a gesture of understanding that they both understood. There’s a wide shot here of the two of them, separated by fence and distance, space and eternity. And as Kim finally walks away, we see Jimmy fade into the distance, the camera moving, gliding in front of a solid object, blocking him from our view forever.
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