After taking the past 2 years off, "Better Call Saul" is finally just about back to re-establish itself as one of the greatest, most well-written television shows of the last decade or so — essentially taking the crown from its original parent series, "Breaking Bad." Neither a pandemic nor a scary, life-threatening heart attack suffered by star Bob Odenkirk during filming could put a stop to AMC's plans to bring the spin-off/prequel series in for a landing with its sixth and final season, set to debut next month. Earlier today, after weeks of releasing the briefest of teases suggesting the approach of imminent danger, the network finally dropped a full-length trailer on us that has given us our best, most extensive look yet at the upcoming season.
The inevitable transformation of lovable screwup attorney Jimmy McGill into the heartless, cruel, and disturbingly murder-condoning Saul Goodman promises (threatens?) to come to a head in this final batch of episodes, scheduled to be released in two separate installments in 2022. Jimmy, Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), Nacho Varga (Michael Mando), Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton), Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), and even some mystery characters are all present and accounted for in the trailer, taking their own disparate and usually self-defeating paths toward navigating the lawless underbelly of New Mexico. We know for a fact that several of these individuals will live to fight another day in "Breaking Bad," but others have no such assurances. The trailer sure seems to be taking full advantage of that anxiety-inducing thought, hinting at just enough plot for us to worry about everyone's general wellbeing.
Let's dive right in and see what dots we can connect from the new trailer.
Guess Who's Back, Back Again
"Better Call Saul" deserves credit for many different aspects. The attention to detail when it comes to character development and delicately threading nuanced arcs from episode to episode is second to none. The show's ability to leverage our knowledge of "future" events in "Breaking Bad" while still avoiding typical prequel-itis pitfalls should honestly be taught in a class. The expert knowledge of how and when to deploy action scenes, ratchet up the tension, and subsequently change the status quo of the ongoing storyline certainly gets plenty of attention and appreciation among fans.
But on top of all of that? "Better Call Saul" is just a really, really gorgeously-shot series. The trailer reminds us of that little fact from the very first frame that reintroduces us to its main character, drenching this particular shot in shadows and reflected neon lights as Jimmy McGill goes on some unknown (but probably no-good) errand — almost as if he were riding the line between light and darkness as he wages the same war internally. The technical crew behind the show have always found some of the most unexpected (but always story-specific and character-centric) ways to place the camera and communicate visually, putting this show a tier above its competition.
I would also be derelict in my trailer breakdown duties if I didn't point out that the "El Camino" signage could be interpreted as a cheeky reference to the "Breaking Bad" spin-off movie of the same name, which explored the post-series fate of Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). Just like previous seasons have done, this final stretch of "Better Call Saul" episodes will similarly explore the post-"Breaking Bad" timeline through "Gene," the alias for an older (and mustachioed) Jimmy McGill after going into hiding when Walter White (Bryan Cranston) pretty much burned everything to the ground on his way out. The new poster for this final season makes that transformation painfully clear, juxtaposing the black-and-white flashforwards with the ostentatious suits that Saul Goodman was so fond of.
The early portions of the trailer flash through a series of reintroductions, starting with Jimmy and making the rounds to Nacho, Kim, and, menacingly enough, the dreaded Salamanca Twins. Marco and Leonel (played respectively by Luis and Daniel Moncada) first appeared in "Breaking Bad" as the lackeys for the Salamanca drug cartel and, once "Better Call Saul" similarly brushed up against the Mexican drug trade, the sinister pair returned to plague Mike Ehrmantraut in early seasons and keep him in line. In another instance of the show's below-the-line team finding evocative ways to capture images, the approaching shadows of the Twins sure seem to fit in nicely with that previous teaser, which showed the two hitmen approaching Lalo's facility that got shot up in the season 5 finale. The two (mostly) mute Salamancas appear surprisingly often throughout the trailer, reminding viewers of the physical threat that the two pose at any given moment and the far more powerful Salamancas who lurk in the shadows behind them. But more on that in a bit!
That sense of danger seems to follow Kim, who poses the question to Jimmy: "You ever feel like you're being followed?" Jimmy's response that, "The wicked flee when no man pursueth" (a fittingly Biblical proverb) forces Kim to fire back with, "You think we're wicked?" Though it's hard to say exactly when this scene takes place in the season, this continues the finale's chilling conclusion that saw Kim come uncomfortably close to the moral line that Jimmy himself is fated to cross. Worse still, Kim seems either in denial or completely unaware of her proximity to that point of no return. Physical stakes mixing with the more spiritual kind? Yeah, that's what I meant when I said "Better Call Saul" is firing on all cylinders.
The Chicken Man
Though some fans initially worried that "Better Call Saul" was getting just a little too cute with fan service and references from "Breaking Bad," the presence of drug lord Gus Fring allowed the series to add even more layers to Mike Ehrmantraut and his somewhat confusing role in the original series. Introduced as Saul Goodman's "fixer" in the second season of "Breaking Bad," the creators loved Banks' performance so much that they expanded him to have connections with Fring himself. Here, we've been able to see Mike double-deal on both sides of the fence, giving us more of the hilarious dynamic between himself and Jimmy while also deepening his debt to Gus.
But as for the man behind the impeccably tailored suit and the fast-food chain that serves as a money-laundering front? Gus Fring continues to cast a wide shadow over the events of the series. We watched in previous seasons as Mike oversaw the construction of Fring's super-lab, which Walter and Jesse would eventually work in later on. But far from simply filling in the timeline blanks, the "Better Call Saul" writers used that plotline to put the screws on Mike and force him to commit his first murder. We saw Mike take increasingly illicit jobs before on the show (who among us could possibly forget that Hummer and its spinning rims!), but his journey has officially paralleled Jimmy's own tragedy to this point. Fring's presence in the show has made that possible, and here we receive even more reminders that he still has a few more cards to play before it's all over.
World's 2nd Best Lawyer?
Only "Better Call Saul" could wring an actual emotional reaction out of viewers from seeing a travel mug thrown in the garbage. If you remember, on-again/off-again love interest Kim gifted that mug to Jimmy way back at the beginning of the series. Ever since, it's been cleverly used to comment on the pair's roller coaster of a relationship. When Jimmy began taking career shortcuts and achieving ill-gained success as an attorney, he bought a fancy new car to celebrate ... but with cupholders that weren't big enough to fit the mug, no matter how hard he tried. Almost like something's just a little out of place, wouldn't you say?
Late in season 5, Jimmy finds himself once again caught up in much more dangerous situations. This time, getting mixed up with Lalo and volunteering to pick up his bail money — as any sleazy criminal lawyer would do, of course! Inevitably, he gets caught up in a harrowing shootout between armed cartel members and only escapes with his life thanks to Mike interceding with his own firepower. During the terrifying ordeal, however, a bullet strikes that mug and renders it completely useless. Almost like Jimmy's extracurricular choices keep driving a wedge between him and the normally straight-laced Kim! Here, we see the mug finally disposed of as a cab rolls away (with Jimmy presumably inside). It's as dire a symbol of Jimmy and Kim's deteriorating relationship as this show could possibly come up with — and for those of us concerned about Kim's continued wellbeing? Be afraid. Very afraid.
'You're The Guy, Right?'
Okay, you know what? Even "Better Call Saul" isn't above the occasional instance of fan service and pandering when the story calls for it. Several characters from "Breaking Bad" have reappeared during the events of the spin-off series, like the douchey Bluetooth guy who goes by the name of Ken and has the grave misfortune to end up annoying Jimmy McGill and, eventually, Walter White himself. This is yet another instance of worlds colliding, as the trailer brings us yet another vaguely familiar face. You would be forgiven for not immediately recognizing the gentleman on the left, however, who comes to Jimmy and asks if he's "Salamanca's guy," a chilling phrase that should send even more red flags about the path that he's found himself on. As some astute folks on Twitter noticed, that definitely appears to be the very same man who would eventually become addicted to meth (portrayed by David Ury) and provided one of the most harrowing hours of "Breaking Bad" in its history. His ultimate ending is a tragic and unforgettable one, but leave it to the "Better Call Saul" writing team to pluck this character from years past (well, years future according to the franchise timeline) and find a new use for him in the prequel series.
For Whom The Bell Tolls
After an establishing shot gives us our best glimpse yet of Lalo's compound in the aftermath of the season 5 finale shootout (spoiler alert: a bunch of people are dead, roofs have holes, and the entire place has been turned into a massive crime scene), the trailer barrels onward to brief shots of Lalo, more Twins imagery, and Nacho looking positively traumatized and fearing for his life ... all accompanied by a constantly ringing bell. That, of course, belongs to Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis), another character from "Breaking Bad." We previously saw how the head of the Salamanca crime family became a wheelchair user in the first place, as a result of Nacho surreptitiously withholding his vital pills over a prolonged period of time. Down but not out, Hector lives on as one of the most dangerous figures of the New Mexico drug scene and, as we saw in "Breaking Bad," nurses a grudge of mythical proportions against young upstart Gus Fring.
Intriguingly, however, we glimpse a rare meeting between the two titans a little later in the trailer. Gus appears to be visiting Hector for a tête-à-tête of some kind, the two even sharing a brief handshake. Fans of "Breaking Bad" know all too well what happened the last time these individuals found themselves occupying the same room, with so much bitter history simmering between the two stemming from years before "Better Call Saul," when a young and naïve Gus had only just entered the drug trade and bumped shoulders with the fearsome cartel. Fring's drug business sure seems like it will continue to be a major subplot throughout the final season, and Nacho, the Salamancas, Mike, and possibly even Jimmy may find themselves wrapped up in it as well by the time the smoke clears.
Lalo And Company
The latter half of the trailer flies by with a flurry of quick shots, teasing images like Mike in Nacho's home (worrisome, to say the least!), a possible shot of Walt's cousin and DEA agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), Nacho in another tense shootout, and a potential plotline involving Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian). Howard and Jimmy's rocky relationship goes back to the days when Jimmy worked at Howard's law firm with his estranged older brother, Chuck (Michael McKean). Chuck, now dead, certainly did his part to unknowingly push Jimmy towards becoming Saul Goodman. Much of that resentment and malice seems to have become refocused on Howard now, with the season 5 finale seeing Kim coax Jimmy into another one of their schemes that would ruin Howard's reputation in one fell swoop. While Hamlin has certainly been no angel himself, the cruelly disproportionate punishment would feel entirely out of character for Kim — if somewhat less so for Jimmy. In any case, the trailer suggests that he won't simply take the aggression by Jimmy and Kim without striking back, proven by his ominous line that he's "...just getting warmed up" as he apparently builds some sort of case against Jimmy.
The final image of the trailer, however, is worth dissecting for a minute. Overlaid with Mike saying that, "Whatever happens next, it's not gonna go down the way you think it is," we see one last shot of Lalo standing in some unknown location. A figure in front of him suddenly rises up from the bottom of the frame, briefly smiling at a mirror before cutting to black. At first glance, I actually thought it was somehow Lalo himself — perhaps a dream sequence of some kind. But given the hit ordered on Lalo already, it would certainly make sense that he's gone out and called in a body double to fend off would-be killers. Alternately, this mysterious figure could also be yet another Salamanca. As sprawling as their operation is in "Better Call Saul" and eventually becomes in "Breaking Bad," the individual figureheads of the family have ranged from drug-addled (remember Tuco?) to psychotic (hello, Lalo!) to, well, dead (Hector, we hardly knew ya). Perhaps there's just enough time left in the series for another Salamanca to rise up and cause trouble.
Or maybe not. We'll see when "Better Call Saul" premieres on April 18, 2022.
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