Coming to Confession in Better Call Saul

Daniel Jung

Who’s to blame for disobeying God and eating the forbidden fruit: Adam or Eve? According to Genesis 3, they were both culpable. The final season of AMC’s Better Call Saul makes its case in agreement.

Better Call Saul, a spinoff to Breaking Bad and also set in Albuquerque, stars Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman. As far as spinoffs go, you’d be hard-pressed to find one that’s superior; it’s both a stunning complement to its predecessor and a masterpiece on its own merits. One of its strengths is the way character plot lines run parallel to each other in nuanced and creative ways. Throughout the first three seasons, the plot seemed to center around Jimmy and Chuck McGill (Michael McKean), rival brothers whose competing careers as lawyers provided the bulk of the show’s conflict. But now that the sixth and final season has come and gone, we see that the show has always been about Jimmy McGill and Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), his romantic love interest and partner in crime.

As we watch Jimmy’s moral descent and transformation into corrupt lawyer Saul Goodman, his tumultuous relationship with his brother receives most of the blame. But it was with Kim Wexler—back in Season 2—that Jimmy changed his alias and assumed a false identity for the sake of a con. Here, he donned the “Viktor Saint Claire” moniker, which served as a precursor to his Saul Goodman persona. It’s easy to conclude that Jimmy dragged Kim down into the muck and ruined both of their lives, but this last season gives insight into Kim’s attraction to Jimmy—less a moth to the flame and more like two peas in a pod.

In the sixth episode, we see a young Kim participating in a shoplifting con with her mother, stealing a pair of earrings from a local department store. The scene explains her attraction to Jimmy and his propensity to break the rules for his own personal gain. It also brings clarity to scenes in earlier seasons where Kim finds a certain sense of thrill when participating in Jimmy’s schemes.

Witnessing their relationship in this final season, I couldn’t help but think of Ananias and Sapphira, who were mixed up in a con of their own in Acts 5. I’d like to think that Ananias and Sapphira’s attraction to each other was due in part to their shared moral misgivings. We’re told that Ananias, who lied about the money he gave to the church, acted “with his wife’s full knowledge.” Two peas in a pod.

Striking parallels also exist in Breaking Bad, which followed disgruntled high school chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston), who is diagnosed with cancer and turns to cooking meth to pay for his treatments. At first we watch in disbelief—“That's crazy. How could he do that to his family?” Yet the show also cleverly includes the character of Ted Beneke character (Christopher Cousins), a white-collar businessman who cheats on his taxes and is fueled by his own greed and narcissism. Much like Kim Wexler and Jimmy McGill, the lives of Walter White and Ted Beneke parallel each other. Both shows, under the guidance of creator Vince Gilligan, offer a very simple, very biblical message: the capacity for evil exists in us all. We might think it’s impossible that we would ever turn to selling meth or that we could never make the moral concessions that Jimmy McGill makes as he morphs into Saul Goodman. But cheating on our taxes, like Beneke? Or bending the rules a little bit to win a case, like Wexler? That's not in the same ballpark, right? Think again. We are all Walter White and Saul Goodman.

The show offers a very simple, very biblical message: the capacity for evil exists in us all.

And we’re all Ananias and Sapphira. And Adam and Eve. Thankfully, the story of our moral descent has been interrupted. Jesus Christ, the divine author, has inserted himself into the story, offering us a new narrative from which our future spin-offs will be written. As the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 5: “For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!”

Throughout the final season of Better Call Saul, we saw Jimmy and Kim respond to the weight of their sins in different ways. (Spoilers ahead.) Jimmy went into hiding and Kim quit the law. But in the end, we also witnessed their need for penance and their desire for respite from a lifelong load of guilt. Perhaps being in solitude—Jimmy hiding out in Omaha and Kim in Florida—made them realize that the weight of the guilt was an unbearable burden to carry alone.

In the series finale, Jimmy is given another opportunity to weasel his way out of a lengthy prison sentence, but upon hearing of Kim’s own confession, he chooses a different route. Instead, with Kim present in the courtroom, he confesses to the full extent of his crimes. And although this confession was for the State of New Mexico, he was staring at Kim the entire time, as if confessing to her directly.

In the show’s final scene, Kim visits Jimmy in prison and they share a cigarette together against the drab backdrop of his holding cell. As with all of the flash-forward scenes in the series, it’s shot in black and white, adding to the sense of dreariness. It’s a poignant image that speaks to our need for salvation, for one who will shoulder the burden of guilt we’ve accumulated along the way. At Think Christian we like to ask, “Does this show provide evidence of our need for the good news?” Better Call Saul answers “yes” to this question with the convictions of a first-year law student, while also suggesting what it might look like to open one's ears to the gift of the gospel. Gilligan hasnot completely closed the door on another Breaking Bad spinoff. I, for one, would love to see another rendition of our need for a Savior play out in the lives of Albuquerque’s seedy underbelly.

Topics: TV