Kim Wexler is still the best.

There's nothing quite like a Better Call Saul con: The meticulous planning, the skilled improv, the binoculars, the bit of harsh truth that makes the lie too big to fail. Several baits get switched in the final season's first two episodes (which air back-to-back on AMC and AMC+). Petty document fraud intercuts with major border-hopping action. I don't know if there will ever be another show that cares so much about Wagnerian cartel blood feuds and the careful etiquette of white-shoe law firms — or a show that makes white-shoe law firms feel Wagnerian without losing track of the careful etiquette of cartel blood feuds.

The Breaking Bad spin-off's fifth season was its best yet, confirming that the hazy moral journey of Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) was just as enthralling as the gradual origin story for Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), the former Jimmy McGill. Season 6 begins with the married attorneys partnering for a complex bit of subterfuge. Their target: radiantly tan Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian). The aristocratic uber-lawyer came off like a jerky antagonist back when the show debuted. Now I'm worried he will be Saul's final victim — a testament to the drama's steady evolution.

Better Call Saul
Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill in 'Better Call Saul.'
| Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC

Though I'm much more worried about Nacho (Michael Mando), more trapped than ever in the simmering conflict between drug barons. Hard to figure out who isn't hunting poor Nacho at this point. There's Lalo (Tony Dalton), seething with vengeful rage after dodging a hundred bullets in last season's massacre. Lalo's a Salamanca — and, of course, he has cousins. Nacho is nominally a double agent for Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), and if you think Gus has his best interests at heart, I've got a chicken shack in Albuquerque to sell you.

Saul's split narrative used to trouble me. All the looming drug stuff could feel like residual Bad vibes, even fan service, separate from the eccentric legal perambulations over in the McGill-Wexler corner. In the two episodes I've seen, everything happening with Kim is totally fascinating. At one point, she performs an entirely heroic act that is somehow also the worst thing she's ever done. By comparison, some of the cartel stuff is… very solid! But not too surprising — which could be an inevitable prequel problem.

There has always been a vague notion that Saul was going to slowly become the previous show, with greater focus on the Fring-adjacent underworld. But these early episodes confirm the prequel as its own unique entertainment. Co-creator Peter Gould has built out a fascinating corner of the Breaking Bad world originally conceived by co-creator Vince GilliganSaul can be devastating and thrilling when you least expect it, whether it's staging a heist scene in a country club or rediscovering some old familiar characters in downbeat new digs. Jonathan Banks and Mark Margolis have cut their performances to the bone, bringing pulpy humor to characters they've been playing for over a decade. Odenkirk finds some new notes to play in the criminal pairing with Kim. You keep seeing the old Jimmy nervously reappear inside Saul, a last gasp of conscience as he approaches the amoral finish line. And Seehorn is just unstoppable, shading Kim's dark turn as a simultaneous act of self-immolation and self-realization.

Look closely in these early episodes and you keep spotting a dogeared copy of The Time Machine. H.G. Wells' novel more or less invented the popular vision of time travel...and is a book I'll definitely read someday. Its placement feels meaningful on multiple levels because Saul has always been a time machine. The show started by cutting forward to a future Saul, embalmed in a mall Cinnabon, living under a false "Gene Takovic" identity. The season-starting Gene scenes have turned into the longest tease in TV history. The new premiere swerves unexpectedly, and delightfully, with a marvelous opening that suggests these final 13 episodes will reveal the answers to questions you didn't know you had. Inventing tantalizing new mysteries right as the end begins? Only the best artists pull a con like that. A-

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Better Call Saul

Saul Goodman, first introduced in Breaking Bad, gets his own prequel.



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