Better Call Saul feels like a perfect prequel to breaking bad, and here are all of the show’s season premieres and finales, ranked by IMDb.
Better Call Saul is the rare spin-off series that does not exist as a cash-grab, nor out of obligation. It feels like a natural extension of its predecessor, perfectly fitting Walter White’s universe, and not just for its iconic dusty setting, gorgeous cinematography, or sense of humor. Jimmy McGill’s gradual, plausible transformation is a fair parallel to what Walter would eventually experience.
Jimmy’s descent into escalating moral ambiguity and criminal activity is both tragic and fascinating, and Jimmy’s story still utterly distinguishes itself, though it covers similar themes. Like any show, premieres and finales will take the largest risks. But, when the baseline drama is already gripping and prone to suspense, such intrigue reaches a fever pitch. Spoilers below.
3×1: Mabel – 8.2
There is perhaps nothing more tragic in the show than Jimmy’s relationship with his brother, and few episodes are so punctuated by their broken history. For all of Chuck’s objection over Jimmy’s methods, Chuck implements his own devious scheme. Even after recording Jimmy’s confession, he is further willing to intimidate Ernesto into keeping quiet about it. Worst of all is the brief opening moment of peace between Chuck and Jimmy that suggests what the brothers could have had.
4×1: Smoke – 8.4
The continuing fast-forward sequences remain just as compelling as the main story, even with such little runtime. It’s a testament to the audience’s investment in Jimmy, and that lingering desire for resolution after Breaking Bad.
Jimmy is constantly paranoid and in danger of being recognized in his Cinnabon future. After the cold open, the episode surprisingly has less to do with Jimmy, who doesn’t handle his grief over Chuck’s death especially well. Fortunately, Mike’s audit scene is great comic relief, and Nacho’s attempt to swap Hector’s pills is some of the greatest tension the show has ever mustered. Even though viewers know the outcome, which is definitely a sign of great storytelling, both visually and on paper.
2×1: Switch – 8.4
This episode is mainly about whether Jimmy will accept a job, but it’s also a perfect, early example of Kim’s perpetual struggle with Jimmy. The manner with which Jimmy walks a fine line between harmful crime and mischievous fun is what can make him so endearing to audiences, too. Many times, he can even seem well-meaning, bending rules to help people he cares about.
So, Kim is consistently convinced that she can pull Jimmy towards outright good, but Jimmy can be very self-destructive, and his brother Chuck remains a serious influence. Meanwhile, Mike’s burgeoning association with Nacho, through an amusing client, is fascinating in hindsight.
1×1: Uno – 8.6
Vince Gilligan’s triumphant return to the Breaking Bad universe perfectly encapsulates all that will follow in a single episode. It establishes Jimmy’s struggling and thankless position in life, as well as the questionable methods that ultimately drag him among dangerous criminals—inadvertently or not.
The story also emphasizes his tense relationship with Chuck, who suffers from unique psychosomatic issues. While Jimmy is protective of Chuck, it’s clear they have differences. Although, wandering into Tuco at the end remains a very rare instance of Saul personally engaging in life-threatening crime.
1×10: Marco – 8.7
The titular character provides a smartly designed finale by directly revisiting Jimmy’s past. Once again, Chuck’s dismay drives Jimmy into backsliding. Jimmy’s exploits with Marco are genuinely funny, but they only result in another one of Jimmy’s crucial flaws.
So often, Jimmy is somehow afforded a legitimate opportunity. Here, it’s with a firm in Santa Fe, perfectly primed for a lawful path to success. But, emotional circumstances always drive Jimmy to deliberately give up on these chances. Despite their frequency, lost opportunities remain totally organic throughout the series and emphasize the tragedy of Jimmy’s nature.
5×1: Magic Man – 8.9
Jimmy is finally in full form as classic Saul Goodman. In context, this is both an absolute joy to watch and is particularly grim due to its context. The cold open escalates accordingly, with someone inevitably recognizing Jimmy, at last. In yet another memorable scene, the deeply missed Robert Forster reprises his role as Ed Galbraith.
Jimmy’s decision to fight instead of run is indicative of the series’ end, which remains totally unpredictable—though Jimmy’s path has given undeniable hints. Meanwhile, Lalo continues a fantastic extension of the Salamanca storyline. Lalo was naturally built up and is equally menacing or amusing on command. His tension with Gus Fring is palpable and engaging.
2×10: Klick – 9.0
It’s a shame how often Chuck and Jimmy both plot against each other and ultimately learn the truth. It only perpetuates their neverending friction, although a flashback with their mother’s last words makes Chuck’s resentment even clearer.
At present, Jimmy helps rescue Chuck with first aid after an accident, because Jimmy always cared deeply for him. Unfortunately, the episode closes with Chuck taking advantage of that side of Jimmy. Their slippery slope is heartbreaking to behold, wherein one conflict always invites another.
3×10: Lantern – 9.2
Surely one of the most iconic moments in the show, the episode closes with Chuck’s shocking suicide. Chuck lost his position with his own firm, and, despite Jimmy’s attempts to repair their relationship, Chuck decidedly gives up on Jimmy for good. His subsequent mental decline is difficult to watch, and his death is a massive turning point for the series.
Still, this episode juggles many characters, more so than usual. Everything comes to a head, including Nacho and Gus Fring’s disparate plans. Fortunately, there is some comic relief as Jimmy uses his con artistry to help an old woman, actually sacrificing his own reputation. It feels like it could have been a step in the right direction for Jimmy, if not for the final minutes of the episode.
5×10: Something Unforgivable – 9.4
Much of this episode is dedicated to the attempted assassination of Lalo Salamanca, which probably swayed such high ratings. The relentless suspense throughout feels completely earned, a wild commitment the show has been leading to for some time.
Likewise, the dramatic arc has also resulted in Kim’s unexpected transformation. It seems Jimmy is either enabling or influencing Kim towards his own reckless behavior. Ideally, these effects could beg Jimmy to reflect and change. Sadly, Jimmy’s future is set. The enormous potential energy set up for season six simply radiates from every scene.
4×10: Winner – 9.6
This episode is centered on Jimmy’s tremendous efforts to become reinstated. Kim is utterly supportive, but Jimmy’s closing speech might be the most stunning act of insincerity he has ever committed. He appears to improvise a genuinely touching speech about Chuck, moving enough to convince even the viewers.
Instead, he has decided to take his own advice after finding a parallel struggle in a young scholarship prospect. Even in his absence, Chuck continues to compel Jimmy. The episode closes with Jimmy openly indulging his flaws, welcoming the inevitable Saul Goodman identity. Instantly, the journey feels earned, satisfying, and promising.