It’s been two years since “Better Call Saul” aired a new episode — so you would be well-advised to rewatch the Season 5 finale before plunging into the sixth and final season, premiering April 18 on AMC.
There are a lot of moving parts here and, if you’re like me, you’ll need a refresher course to catch up on who’s who and what’s as Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) morphs into Saul Goodman.
The first two Season 6 episodes don’t differ much from the series’ canon: they’re by turns riveting and plodding and are underscored by a cinematography template inherited by “Better Call Saul” from its predecessor, “Breaking Bad.” (It was fresh and new … back then.)
Enough already with close-ups of bugs crawling in the parched desert dirt or of dripping water or unorthodox camera angles. We get it. Case in point: the overlong five-minute season-opening sequence which, while admirably artsy, could have been cut in half and still made its point. (It fast-forwards to a post-“Better Call Saul” world as did all of its predecessors, but differs in one key way.)
“Better Call Saul” doesn’t need these embellishments — its strong acting, writing and directing stand on their own, and always have, since the show’s 2015 premiere (back in the Michael McKean/Chuck McGill salad days).
Season 6 picks up immediately after the events of the Season 5 finale. Nacho Varga (Michael Mando) is on the run from the deadly-dangerous Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton), who survived a botched assassination attempt in which Nacho participated (refresher: he unlocked the back gate at Lalo’s Mexican mansion so the gunmen could enter. Bad move all around). The attempt on Lalo’s life has left the drug kingpin blooded but not unbowed — and thirsting for revenge.
Back in New Mexico, Jimmy/Saul (Bob Odenkirk) is recovering from the Season 5 ambush in the Mexican desert — sunburnt but otherwise getting his sea legs back (or is he?) He and wife Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) are plotting to sabotage smarmy Howard Hamlin’s (Patrick Fabian) career even as Kim, who quit her white-shoe law firm last season, delights in handling pro bono cases for the underprivileged. Very subtle cracks in their relationship appeared late in Season 5 vis-a-vis their ethics and how far each of them is willing to go for the jugular — and those cracks could be headed for a major fissure.
And fear not, “Better Call Saul” fans, the old standbys are back: grizzled, world-weary fixer Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) and, in his wheelchair, mute, bell-ringing Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis); there’s a scene between Gus and Hector that will resonate for fans of “Breaking Bad” who know their ultimate fate.
Last but not least (I wouldn’t dare) the shadows of the vicious, monosyllabic Salamanca “Cousins,” twins Leonel and Marco (Daniel and Luis Moncada and their trademark expensive suits and boots), loom largely.
This final season of 13 episodes will be broken into two parts, with the first seven episodes premiering April 18 and the final six launching July 11, by which we’ll hopefully know how the world of “Better Call Saul” implodes for Jimmy/Saul — and, more importantly … whither Kim Wexler?