By Carl Franzen
It’s hard to believe that the first season of Better Call Saul is already over. But if the finale that aired last night (April 6) is any indication, our morally fluid antihero Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) is just truly getting started on his transition to becoming Breaking Bad lawyer Saul Goodman.
Fittingly, “Marco,” the tenth and final episode of Season 1, finds Jimmy returning to his home in the Chicago suburb of Cicero to figure out what kind of man he really is and wants to be.
Related: Better Call Saul Episode 9 Recap
In keeping with the entire first season’s commitment to titling nearly every episode in a word ending with “o,” “Marco” refers to Jimmy’s old friend and former con artist partner, a large, affable, mustachioed fellow who was introduced in a flashback in episode four.
In that episode, we saw Marco and Jimmy pull off a dastardly clever Rolex scam on an unsuspecting drunk, playing off their mark’s own innate greed and moral ambiguity, and so it’s hardly a surprise to see the duo revisiting that same scam and others like it when they are finally reunited later in this episode after a decade apart. Yet what is a surprise was how tragically their partnership ends this time around, and how that event impacts Jimmy.
Before all that, though, Jimmy spends the first few moments of the finale tying up the loose ends left in the wake of his better confrontation with his older brother Chuck last week. Fresh off Chuck’s confessed move to block Jimmy from temporarily aligning with the former’s firm HHM, a dejected Jimmy visits HHM himself. Once there, he tells his sometime love interest and lawyer friend Kim that he’s decided to relinquish to HHM the biggest case of his career so far, the class action lawsuit against the fraudulent Sandpiper Crossing elderhome.
Both Kim and her boss Howard seem genuinely sad for Jimmy that he has to do this because of his brother’s distrust in him. That’s a particularly notable reaction in the case of Howard because as Jimmy reminds him, they haven’t historically been on good terms. “I’m sorry I called you a pig f—-r,” Jimmy says. Still, Howard agrees to the original terms of their proposed deal and hands Jimmy a check for a $20,000 “finder’s fee,” and again promises 20 percent of the final settlement compensation.
Also notable is that even though Chuck has betrayed him, Jimmy still has a strong sense of responsibility to care for his older brother. As an aside to their deal, Jimmy asks Howard to arrange someone to take over his deliveries of supplies to the electromagnetically paranoid and reclusive Chuck’s home. Howard’s astonished reaction at all the work Jimmy’s been doing for Chuck mirrors what the audience has been feeling all along. “You’ve been doing all of this every day for over a year?” Howard asks Jimmy, who brushes it off as a given. This underscores one of the central themes to emerge in this first season: Jimmy may be ethically squirmy when it comes to legal matters, but his devotion to his family his ironclad.
You’d think Jimmy might use some of his newfound gains to move his office out of the back of the strip mall nail salon. And he might yet do that, but first we see him have an emotional meltdown while he attempts to proctor a seniors’ bingo game.
In one of Better Call Saul’s most hilarious extended scenes so far, Jimmy pulls bingo ball after bingo ball with the letter “B,” reminding him of two words to which he’s particularly sensitive at the moment: brother and betrayal, “as in Benedict Arnold, who betrayed the U.S.,” Jimmy says, eventually launching into a tirade about how much he loathes New Mexico and how he ended up there in the first place. The scene is not only laugh-out-loud funny, but funny in large part because we empathize with Jimmy’s distress, a subtle point that perfectly embodies the dual comedy/drama nature at the heart of Better Call Saul. Major credit goes to lead actor Bob Odenkirk for playing the scene out gradually, slowly ratcheting up Jimmy’s existential dread until it finally spills out and completely overtakes his jokey, carefree posturing.