Better Call Saul, Season Finale

Dalai Lama’s got nothing on me. – Jimmy McGill

Rather than speak to every scene or every moment in Monday night’s season finale of Better Call Saul, let’s talk about the one moment that screamed thematic importance. From the moment McGill told the story about the Kennedy half-dollar, everything came into focus as to why the writers felt their audience needed to see this final tale of Slippin’ Jimmy and his buddy Marco.

Jimmy’s story, used to bilk a well-to-do gentleman out of a c-note, was simple. Coins usually display their subject in a certain way; in this case, looking to the right. It’s the same as gravestones always facing to the east, done so the dead could look to the rising sun. The con involved a Kennedy half-dollar, already rare as the coins were Lincoln-embossed up to that point in 1964. One ambitious man inside a U.S. mint building in Colorado decided that Kennedy should face west, because this was JFK; Camelot, the New Frontier, all of what the legend preached long before he ever reached 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The aberration was discovered, the man fired, and the coin design unified back to an east-facing Kennedy. The west coin became scarce, with the mint finding around 800 of them and leaving a mere 200 undiscovered, and of course, Jimmy McGill had one of these treasures.

That’s the story, and over the days that followed as Jimmy spent a week in his old digs, he and Marco ran their cons and reminisced about the good times. The cold open showed the moment Jimmy told his friend he was leaving for Chicago. Chuck had helped him out of trouble and kept him out of jail, which points to an earlier episode that depicted that stage of the flashback. Marco was crushed, trying to talk his friend out of it, but Jimmy seemed to understand that he was being given a second chance and needed to take advantage of it. It would lead him to New Mexico, where he would pass the bar exam and become a “lawyer,” in quotes because Charles McGill would have wanted it that way.

So why is this one story about the Kennedy half-dollar so crucial? It’s the story of Jimmy McGill.   

McGill’s past is in Chicago; that’s Slippin’ Jimmy and Marco and scrapes with the law. It’s also a place of escape for him, once he finally snaps at the Bingo hall and goes on the rant. Incidentally, none of us will ever forget what a “Chicago Sunroof” is, and the entire scene worked in a big way. It was terribly sad and it was utterly hilarious. At it’s best, that’s what Better Call Saul has been from the beginning. For every Mike Ehrmantraut origin story, there’s a Jimmy McGill Matlock suit and gelatin advertising campaign, and it’s been a treat to watch.

Before he snaps, Jimmy is calm, he’s handling things like an adult, and he impresses both Howard and Kim in separate conversations. It’s as if McGill has given up; believing that his success simply isn’t meant to be, as all the failures have taken their toll. It isn’t the suicide type of depression. It’s the complete ambivalence variation; right up until he gets that fifth “B” ping pong ball and turns the Gene Rayburn microphone into an instrument of destruction for a room full of unwitting captives.

Jimmy escapes to the Windy City; not wanting to face further disappointment in the wake of yet another big thing not going his way and on the heels of learning his brother doesn’t respect him as an individual. It’s normal to want to go home. It’s desirable to look back to the memories and forget the problems; especially when things are tough. However, not one thing in Chicago is good for Jimmy McGill. He gets right back into the swing of things, pushing the Nigerian prince scam and the “I’m Kevin Costner” scam. Incidentally, the redhead was a nice throwaway one-night-stand for the morally bankrupt Jimmy, but she’s no Kim Wexler.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why the Kennedy story should be your takeaway from the season.

Jimmy’s New Frontier is in New Mexico – working, scratching, and clawing for respect and for a solid reputation. His world is the one where he’s dangerously close to being in a serious relationship with a talented, beautiful woman who cares about him. His life should be spent working to make the best out of “elder law” and continuing to perfect his craft. It’s a risk, but that’s what makes it special. It’s kind of like one person bucking the system because he believed in Kennedy’s ideals; ones that his imprint needed to look to the west to see clearly. It cost the man his job, but he did what he thought was right for the essence of the coin and the face that adorned the precious metal.

When Kim makes the phone call and tells Jimmy she’s put in a good word for him with a firm that will soon be partnering up with HHM on McGill’s Sandpiper Crossing case, there’s the answer, right in front of him. Jimmy should have broken the sound barrier getting back to New Mexico and planning for the introduction and the interview that would solidify everything he’s always wanted. Hell, even Howard Hamlin was working to help him get that job, not to mention he treated Jimmy with complete respect and even showed compassion in the conversation about Chuck early in the episode. For Jimmy, this is his New Frontier. He’s looking to the west, both literally and figuratively. It’s so easy. It’s right there in his face.

However, the audience knows how this story ends, so a solid job on the partner track of a law firm in Santa Fe was never going to happen. That other guy, you know the one, yeah THAT guy – he has to rise from the sewer to the gutter, and to get to that point, Jimmy McGill has to make consistently horrible mistakes. So, even as he embarks on his own journey back to the west, he finds a way to ruin it before it ever starts. In one of the more pitch-perfect scenes you’ll ever see, McGill decides his brother was right all along. He pulls into the parking lot, steps out and looks at the right answer, but immediately leaves instead of walking in the door. It isn’t fear. It isn’t apprehension. He’s made a decision. He stops his Suzuki at the booth and asks Mike Ehrmantraut why they didn’t split the million plus that they took from the Kettlemans. Mike was doing a job, and he lives by that rule; enough said.

Then, in the line that will likely come to define Better Call Saul and succinctly explains Mr. Comb Over’s actions in Breaking Bad, Jimmy McGill takes the more familiar path. He tells Robert Frost to fuck off and he chooses the low road. It’s a long stretch of asphalt that ends behind the counter of an Omaha Cinnabon, and it came into view for the first time on Monday night. His response to Mike couldn’t have been more illuminating:

“Well, I know what stopped me – and you know what – it’s never stopping me again.”

Conscience. Morality. Doing the right thing. Who needs it?

…S’aul Good…Man.

I’m @GuyNamedJason. Follow me there. Can you keep a secret? Because I really, really shouldn’t be telling you this…I’m Kevin Costner.

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.