[Review] - Better Call Saul Season 1 Finale, Episode 10, "Marco"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
There is a dramatic device, known as anagnorisis, wherein a character undergoes a moment of discovery of clarity. If the season finale of Better Call Saul was anything, it was Jimmy's moment of anagnorisis. It was a low-key affair. There were no exploding planes or half charred king pins. This isn't that type of show, yet. This has been a season of Jimmy McGill coming to better understand himself. And in that respect, this was a perfect cap to that journey. We've watched him move from Slippin' Jimmy of the past, to struggle with the prim and proper Jimmy McGill of the present.

The episode itself was an island, and if it were any less of a show, I'm complain about that. The format, and the way they undertook Jimmy's finale realization was very isolated to the events of the past nine episodes, but not to the themes. It owned the themes, and the characters. It just went about it in a very divorced manner. the take away though, Jimmy's moment of anagnorisis, was good guys finish last, and when Jimmy McGill just won't cut it, you'd better call Saul.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that had the best week of their life.

On any other show, I'd really be out off by the way the writers decided to go about setting up this finale. In a lot of ways, last week's episode, with it's major conflict between characters and the reveal of a season long plot aspect, was the finale that it should have had. Certainly the finale that other shows might have went with. After all, a finale's responsibility is about bringing to conclusion the character arc of the year, and the plot arc of the season, leaving the characters someplace new, and potentially indicating what kind of space they'll be moving into next year. Episode nine did that.

Episode ten left like an epilogue. It wouldn't have really worked as a season premiere either. A lot of the material they covered in this hour felt like it could have spent a few episodes on. With the loquacious pace this series has set, I was honestly shocked that Jimmy's return to Chicago and taking up the art of Slippin' Jimmy again, might have been something that took an episode or two to dive into to. That the writers blew through it inside half an hour isn't a slight, it was deliberate. It was impulse, a return to the familiar and an embracing of everything that Chuck despises about Jimmy. If Chuck is going to hate me no matter what I do, is Jimmy's logic, then I might as well do what I want.

The episode then sends mixed messages. Jimmy returns to Chicago and takes up the con again, with his partner Marco (previously established in a cold open; those cold opens retrospectively laying wonderful groundwork for Jimmy's backstory). He's a natural, but after a week he gives it up because he feels the pangs of decency. Despite the fact that his brother hates him, he can't bring himself to completely hate Chuck back. Despite it not bringing him fame and fortune, he recognizes the work he does for his clients is noble and good work, that he in turn is good at. He realizes that he isn't Slippin' Jimmy anymore. He can't be. He's been infected with just cause.

the question then becomes, how much of a role did Marco's death play in his subsequent abandonment of those ideals? Because no sooner does Jimmy return to ABQ, ready to dive back into the world he's spent the whole season building up and finally get the recognition he deserves, and he turns around. He has a second epiphany. He had millions at his disposal, and he gave it away because he was attempting to live up to an ideal that Kim and Chuck had set for him, one he now knows he's capable of, but will reap little reward from. And I think that is the crux of his heel turn. He knows he's capable of doing the right thing. Before, he was trying to prove that to Chuck. Now, he's really in this for himself. So, he's checked that one off the list. He can be the good guy. But good guys finish last, and they work like hell to get there. His new plan is to use his skills to take the easy way, and get what he feels is coming to him. And that is the road to proto-Saul if ever there was one.

How successful was the episode. Well, like I said, if it were anyone other than these writers, these directors, and these actors, it would have been a pretty clunky episode. It broke a lot of rules, namely the "show, don't tell" one. Jimmy's bingo confession was a ten minute exposition dump that no one else would have been able to pull off, and frankly this show only just barely did. thank gods Odenkirk has proven to be a fantastic presence, that he could carry us through that scene, making it funny and tragic, and only barely grating. Likewise, introducing then killing a brand new character, who was meant to have meant so much to Jimmy's past life doesn't sit overly well. If he hadn't been introduced half a season ago, I would call complete bullshit on it. As it stands, Marco is a likable enough guy, and stands in direct opposition to Chuck: Marco genuinely likes Jimmy, and brings out the worst in him.

What the biggest take away from this episode, and this season, I feel should be, is that Jimmy is a sad guy. He's not depressed, he's just sad. He wants so much, and is capable of achieving any of it, just not all of it, and not without sacrifice. This has been his season of conflict. I expect future seasons will see him narrow his focus somewhat. Leave behind those things he cannot use, in the future he's decided to take. Looking back on Saul during Breaking Bad, you can still see that sadness in him. He has achieved everything he wanted. He's rich, successful, famous, but he's alone, and when he's not cracking jokes, he looks like a puppy that's been kicked too many times. This season has shown us everything Jimmy had, and everything that Saul left behind.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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