This article contains spoilers for Better Call Saul season 6 episode 12.
The first time a character on Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul kills someone intentionally on-screen, it’s always a tipping point in the series. Walter White (Bryan Cranston) spent an entire episode mulling his first murder, complete with composing a pros and cons list, to ultimately settle on killing Krazy-8 (Max Arciniega) with a bike lock. Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) stands distraught in front of Gale Boetticher’s (David Costabile) door before he pulls the trigger on Gus Fring’s (Giancarlo Esposito) main meth cook.
Jimmy McGill a.k.a. Saul Goodman a.k.a. Gene Takovic (Bob Odenkirk) has never become violent in this manner. However, there is a point in the show’s penultimate episode, “Waterworks,” in which it felt like this moment of truth was tantalizingly palpable. When Gene arrives to ask Marion (Carol Burnett) to leave with him to bail her son out of prison for crimes he didn’t commit, the innocent old woman has the revelation that will push the show through its final hour next week: Gene Takovic is Saul Goodman, one of the FBI’s most wanted men.
Gene tries to intimidate Marion into letting him get away with his crimes, replete with menacingly stretching the telephone cord in front of her when she threatens to call the police. The way he stalks her down the kitchen hall and corners her into the wall of the room is a disturbing choice the audience simply isn’t used to. It’s an action that looks so much different when done by Gene compared to others in this universe. At his core, Jimmy McGill is a conman, not a murderer. He may encourage others to spill blood, but he’s never really considered doing it himself.
Is this really something Gene is going to do? Will he really complete his transformation from downtrodden lawyer to full-fledged psychopath? In several seconds that seem to last a century, Gene decides to let Marion call the authorities using her life alert alarm. He darts out of the house, presumably on the run again. The teaser for the finale includes audio of him asking for the vacuum repair man that so famously disappears all of Albuquerque’s shadiest folks.
Does this mean Gene passed on his one fleeting moment of potential brutality? It sure would seem so, but it’s hard to predict what will happen in the last episode. In speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Breaking Bad creator and “Waterworks” writer/director Vince Gilligan shared his perspective.
“I guess in that moment the clouds parted and he realizes, ‘What am I doing? How in the world did I get this far?’ And he lets her go,” Gilligan told THR. “If the fever hadn’t broken there and the madness hadn’t subsided, he could have stopped her, but maybe in that moment a little bit of the old Jimmy came back. I hope so. It remains to be seen. Obviously we haven’t seen episode 13 yet.”
What we know for sure is that Gene’s careless choices are now going to present massive consequences for him – it’s just how the cookie crumbles in the Gilliverse (a term coined by Eric Broadbent to describe Gilligan’s Albuquerque shows).
It’s poetic that Marion is the one who figured out Gene’s con-act considering how many times his path has crossed with the elderly throughout Better Call Saul. Jimmy McGill was always there to defend the innocent, but in the end, he’s much better at taking advantage of them. This climactic scene was the most fitting way for his most abused clientele to give him a giant middle finger.
The Better Call Saul series finale premieres Monday, Aug. 15 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.