Better Call Saul had the best series finale in the history of the antihero crime drama genre due to the way it found redemption for its protagonist. The Better Call Saul season 6 ending has been favorably compared to the series finales of other prominent antihero crime television dramas. These include its own predecessor, Breaking Bad, as well as The Sopranos, Ozark and more series that laid the groundwork for the thematic foundations of the antihero genre that Better Call Saul has perfected
Better Call Saul season 6, episode 13, “Saul Gone,” pulled off a miracle by giving Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) a viable one-episode redemption arc. Once again, Jimmy manipulated the legal system for his own ends. The twist: Jimmy wasn’t after money this time around. In “Saul Gone,” he initiated his final scam as a way of “killing” his Saul Goodman identity, seeking redemption for Saul’s actions, and showing Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) that all hope is not lost for Jimmy McGill.
The Better Call Saul ending, through Jimmy McGill’s final testimony, gets the antihero crime drama genre right by putting its protagonist on a realistic path toward redeeming himself. Executed in a non-preachy manner that fully recognizes Jimmy for the antihero he truly is, the Better Call Saul series finale argues that it’s never too late to seek redemption, a moral stand previously unaccomplished in any other prominent antihero show. The Sopranos, Ozark, and Breaking Bad undoubtedly influenced the conclusion of Better Call Saul, which paid off their foundational work by delivering a better ending.
Is The Better Call Saul Ending Better Than Breaking Bad?
Vince Gilligan took the lessons he learned from the ending of Breaking Bad in order to make the prequel series Better Call Saul even better. Comparatively, the Breaking Bad series finale wasn’t clear about whether Walter White (Bryan Cranston) had actually died. Breaking Bad season 5, episode 16, “Felina,” ended with Walt seemingly bleeding to death, but his eyes were open, and the authorities had arrived. For years, this lead to speculation about Walt’s true fate, until Gilligan finally clarified years later that the character was in fact dead. While the ambiguity was useful for drumming up buzz about Breaking Bad universe spinoffs like Better Call Saul, longtime viewers were still deprived of a definitive conclusion to the story of the legendary antihero.
In contrast, the Better Call Saul ending left behind no unanswered questions about its protagonist or other main characters. In fact, Gilligan actively avoided confusing fans by not including a shot where Kim throws finger guns back at Jimmy during their last scene in prison. Yes, Kim did return Jimmy’s finger guns in the Better Call Saul series finale. However, knowing that they’ve set a tone in which viewers constantly sought to dissect the real meanings of even the most minute details, showrunners decided against showing Kim returning Jimmy’s finger guns to avoid implying that she’s somehow back in the game. It may seem like a small decision, but it helped in crafting a more definitive ending for Jimmy.
Ultimately, Jimmy succeeded where Walt could not — grasping at some hope of redemption — and this is what makes the Better Call Saul ending better. The antihero crime genre is about exposing the excesses and consequences of the criminal underworld. Breaking Bad did this as well, but Better Call Saul took it further by arguing that it’s not too late for Jimmy. While viewers expected and got a dark ending for Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul completely subverted audience expectations through Jimmy McGill’s relatively happy ending. In hindsight, it’s not that fair to compare the endings of the two shows and see that Gilligan made mistakes in Breaking Bad so Better Call Saul could take off and fly.
The Sopranos, Ozark, Breaking Bad, & Better Call Saul Endings Compared
Of the four prominent antihero crime shows The Sopranos, Ozark, Breaking Bad, and Better Call Saul, only the last one ended with zero ambiguity and put the protagonist behind bars. Like Breaking Bad, The Sopranos also had an open-ended finale, and it similarly wasn’t until years later that its creator, David Chase, finally clarified that Tony Soprano was killed. The ending of Ozark was less ambiguous; the Byrdes basically embraced their roles as the real villains of the show. However, while the Byrdes did come face to face with the consequences of their actions, they still ended up on top, and their final fate remains unknown.
In the respective final episodes of Ozark and The Sopranos, the protagonists are never punished for their crimes. The antihero never getting out of the game, and ultimately even prevailing, is a great ending in its own right, one that comes with its own lessons. As Better Call Saul delivered an alternate bittersweet fate for the modern antihero, it succeeded in being more distinct than these other crime dramas, which all ended thematically the same way. As expected, these other shows ended darkly while Better Call Saul broke from this pattern.
The Breaking Bad spinoff’s uncharacteristically optimistic ending also didn’t rely on any surprise deaths to deliver its twist. Instead, the Better Call Saul finale embraced the show’s roots as a legal procedural to give audiences one last taste of Saul Goodman’s signature mental guile. Until creator Vince Gilligan comes up with more spinoffs, the Better Call Saul ending was the perfect way to cap off the Breaking Bad universe timeline.