SPOILER ALERT: This article contains details of the season 4 finale of Better Call Saul.
There are many moving parts to Better Call Saul, with the main lingering question being: “How did Jimmy McGill become Saul Goodman?” The season 4 finale addresses this and continues to clear the path for the inevitable intersection with the Breaking Bad timeline — although we’ll probably have to wait a little longer to see Walter White or Jesse Pinkman make an appearance in Saul.
Even so, the AMC spinoff and its predecessor have practically crossed over already considering the amount of overflow from one to the other. The season 4 finale of Better Call Saul adds to the Breaking Bad-iverse narrative, focusing on two points: the metaphorical death of Bob Odenkirk’s Jimmy McGill and the birth of Saul Goodman as well as a “who can get to Werner Ziegler (Rainer Bock) first” competition between Mike (Jonathan Banks) and Lalo (Tony Dalton).
Even though there was a slight thrill seeing Mike and Lalo chase Werner, who took a break from building the super meth lab without Gus’s (Giancarlo Esposito) permission, the emphasis of the episode titled “Winner” is on Jimmy. Written by Peter Gould and Thomas Schnauz and directed by Adam Bernstein, we dive deep into Jimmy’s journey of getting his license back and his reconciliation with his brother Chuck’s (Michael McKean) death. From all of that, comes a “Eureka!” moment when it comes to his identity, self-worth, and the meaning behind the name “Saul Goodman.”
The episode starts with a foretelling flashback of Chuck vouching for Jimmy as a lawyer and the subsequent karaoke celebration where we see the brothers take the mic to sing a rendition of ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All” (hence the title of the episode). The evening ends with a bonding moment of brotherhood with Chuck caring for a drunk Jimmy, who had officially become a lawyer.
Fast-forward to the present where Jimmy, with the help of Kim (Rhea Seehorn), is trying to get his license back by getting in the good graces of the board. He spends a pretty penny on dedicating a law library to Chuck, tries to earn sympathy points by baiting people who knew his brother while “crying” at his grave and doing many other philanthropic deeds to put him in a good light so the board knows that he is a good guy despite the events leading up to the finale. Deep inside, he knows all of his efforts mean nothing, but he, being the cynical optimist he is, continues to persevere in hopes that the tide will change in his favor.
Meanwhile, Mike is busy tracking down Werner after Gus has found out Mr. Ziegler is vacationing when he really should be building his mega meth lab. Needless to say, Gus is not happy and he wants to make sure Werner knows that he is not going to let him get away with taking a vacay without his permission — he even makes a subtle threat against Werner’s wife. However, Mike has sympathy for the man and says that he will handle and bring Werner back so he can get back to work. All the while, Lalo is hot on the heels of Mike, trying to get to Werner before he does. Mike manages to thwart Lalo’s plans to intercept Werner with a stick of gum — which is very MacGyver of him.
It doesn’t matter who gets to Werner first because he’ll just end up unhappy either way which is why finishing what he started with Gus is probably the best bet to save his and his wife’s life. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that we get another visit from Walter’s assistant cook Gale (David Costabile) while Gus is doing a walk through his magical meth lab.
Back to Jimmy — while he’s full steam ahead on this train to redemption, he sits down with his colleagues as they evaluate a group of young scholarship hopefuls. He votes for the underdog name Christy Esposito (not sure if there is a relation to Gus here), a young lady who has a record of shoplifting but has a very strong application. His colleagues appreciate that he is rooting for her, but they end up choosing other applicants.
This marks a pivotal moment for Jimmy and the show. Feeling defeated, he chases after young Christy in the parking lot in a monologue that pretty much sums up the episode.
“You were never going to get it,” he tells Christy. He continues to say that they were just dangling the scholarship in front of her to think she had a chance, but she really didn’t. “They knew what they were going to do before you walked in the door.”
This is where things start to be less about Christy and more about Jimmy.
He points out that Christy shoplifted and made a mistake and how they will never forget that. “That mistake is who you are,” he says. “They are never letting you in — it doesn’t matter.” He then begins to empower her and in turn, empowering himself. He encourages her to not play by the rules and do whatever it takes. “Play by your own rules,” he says. “The higher you rise, the more they will hate you…you don’t matter that much to them — so what!”
He ends by saying “The winner takes it all” — making another reference to karaoke night and the title of this episode! It all comes full circle.
During his final plea to the board to get reinstated, he starts to get super sincere and emotional when he begins reading a letter from his brother. Almost moved to tears, he stops and says that the letter is something between him and Chuck and that he wants to make his brother proud.
He finishes by saying that, if he is reinstated, he will do “everything in his power to be worthy of the name McGill.”
“If you decide I’m not a lawyer — I will still be the best man I could be,” he ends his emotional plea.
When they leave the room, Kim is impressed and proud of Jimmy for the authentic and sincere words — but it turns out it was all an act. Remember when he told Christy to do whatever it takes and play by your own rules to get what you want? Well, Jimmy took his own advice.
As Kim looks disappointed, he is told that he has been reinstated and says that he will no longer practice under the name McGill. It looks like the name McGill isn’t worthy to him after all.
After Kim looks gobsmacked, he walks off to sign some papers for his reincarnated life as a lawyer and turns around to tell her: “S’all good man!”
Good-bye Jimmy, hello Saul.