Spoiler alert: This story includes plot details from AMC's "Better Call Saul" finale, which aired Monday.
It seemed a bit of a lark when a “Breaking Bad” spinoff about the con artist strip-mall lawyer known for his cheesy commercials and catchphrase “Better Call Saul!” was announced more than seven years ago. Since when has a prequel ever been good? Really good? And why would the creators of “Breaking Bad” risk its legacy on a character as deeply unserious as goofy Saul Goodman?
But six seasons later, creators Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan have the last laugh, after transforming the huckster comic relief of one of the all-time-great TV dramas into a prestige series that stands toe to toe with its predecessor. Even if there weren’t many laughs to be had through all the tears shed in Monday's finale, which ended with Saul (Bob Odenkirk) in the slammer for the rest of his life, separated by razor wire from his one true love, Kim (Rhea Seehorn).
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It’s not just fans who were pleased with the series finale: Gould, Odenkirk and Seehorn were in a good mood Tuesday as they reflected on the series and that big finale.
“I was very happy with the script the first time I read it,” Odenkirk says of the bittersweet but redemptive ending. “One of the things that’s been hard for me is, you sometimes start to champion your character. You like him and you want him to do the right thing. Which is stupid, because it’s Saul Goodman! What kind of show do you have if he does the right thing?”
Seehorn is more to the point: “I thought it was perfect."
“Redemption’s a big word,” Gould says. “I don’t know that (Saul’s) redeemable. It’s hard to think that he could make up for the things he’s been part of. I don’t think he really can … But he’s got his soul back, and Kim has her agency back. And that’s pretty cool.”
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One way Gould refused to let Saul off the hook was by bringing back “Breaking Bad” regular Marie (Betsy Brandt), DEA agent Hank Schrader’s widow (thanks in no small part to Saul). In a standout confrontation set in the post-"Breaking Bad" timeline, a righteous Marie reminds Saul (and us) of just how much death and destruction the crooked lawyer has wrought.
“We wanted very much for someone to be the voice of the victims,” Gould said, adding, “Betsy Brandt is one of my favorite people in the world, and one of my favorite actors. In my dream world, you’d do a Betsy Brandt/Rhea Seehorn TV series where they’d be buddy cops or something.” (“I’m in!” shouts Seehorn.)
One of Gould’s many bold choices with the finale, which he wrote and directed, was to film it largely in artful black and white, the show’s cinematographic marker of a post-“Breaking Bad” timeline.
“We were a little scared about having so much of the show in black and white,” Gould admits. Most of the final episodes, set after the events of "Breaking Bad," were shot in black and white. While unusual for a 21st-century TV drama, the rich contrast gives it the feel of a classic film noir. Gould created a slideshow for the cast and crew, which included shots from films like “The Sweet Smell of Success” and “The Third Man” to serve as visual inspiration.
“We didn’t get a single bit of pushback from the studio or the network, which I think is very impressive,” Gould says. “And hopefully, the audience went along with it.”
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Also a bold choice: Closing out the series on an ambiguous, open-ended note. Sure, Saul’s behind bars. That much is settled. But does an intimately shared prison cigarette between Saul and Kim hint at some kind of future together, or is that just wishful thinking?
Seehorn loves the uncertainty, and the possibilities it offers.
“I personally am a hopeless romantic, so I think they continue to see each other and that there is still a bond there,” she says. “Maybe she legally tries to find a way to reduce his sentence. But in a just way, not a scamming way.”
Odenkirk, too, is hopeful for their future: “I do think they’re two people who belong together and who are comfortable together in a deep way, which is a great thing in a long-term relationship.”
And while that final scene may have been hard on the hearts of viewers, the emotional swell wasn’t a challenge for Odenkirk to deliver.
“It was the easiest scene we ever shot,” he says. “It was really just a lot of feelings from six years of working together and playing these people.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Better Call Saul': Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn break down finale