Time to say your goodbyes. As if to play a joke on the audience members constantly commenting on the slow pace of the series, Better Call Saul‘s “Fun and Games” kicked the show’s grand finale into high gear and seemed to give us our last moments with a few key players. It’s been repeated over and again that while Better Call Saul is a prequel to Breaking Bad, it stands on its own and has in fact succeeded for almost six full seasons with only a handful of references to its predecessor. But “Fun and Games” changes things up, coming the closest so far to the Breaking Bad timeline and showing us the crossover characters nearly as they are when that show begins.
Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) has gotten rid of his biggest and most dangerous threats. Mike (Jonathan Banks) has gained Gus’ trust and is focused entirely on the construction of the Super Lab. And, as we saw from the heartbreaking ending of this episode, Kim’s (Rhea Seehorn) confession to Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) was the catalyst that pushed him to fully embrace his persona as Saul Goodman. The lingering question going into Better Call Saul‘s final four episodes is not what will happen to the characters we’ve watched for six seasons, but rather, what is the cost of their actions? The closure given to the characters in “Fun and Games” is not shown to be positive in any way. While technically everyone has triumphed, there’s no rest for the wicked and no solace in success.
First Place: Kim Wexler
If it seems strange to rank first a woman who split from her husband and is dealing with intense grief about a murder she caused…well, take it as a sign that no one in the Better Call Saul universe is doing too well. After last week’s episode, it’s safe to say that Kim is traumatized. If Howard being murdered right in front of her wasn’t enough to do it, the ensuing cover-up has pushed Kim fully over the edge. Heeding Mike’s advice, Kim puts on the performance of a lifetime just going about her day. When she gets home, however, she can’t keep up the tough act around Jimmy, and all his attempts at relieving her worries are futile.
At Howard’s (Patrick Fabian) memorial service, we see just how much Kim regrets her actions, and we discover what is perhaps her breaking point. Confronted by Howard’s widow Cheryl (Sandrine Holt), who is suspicious of Kim and Jimmy’s involvement in Howard’s death (they were, after all, the last people to see him alive), Kim quickly tells a story about how she once saw Howard snorting coke late at night in the HHM office. We know it’s not true, and Cheryl doesn’t seem to buy it. But the story also seems to convince Kim that she’s too far gone. The woman who was once shocked when Jimmy told her about his scams no longer exists. So, in a move almost as shocking as Howard’s death, we watch Kim stand in the middle of a courtroom and announce to the judge in one of her pro bono cases that she’s given up her law license. If Kim isn’t a lawyer, who is she? It’s a question we can’t help wondering – and neither can Kim.
When Jimmy gets home that evening, he’s shocked at Kim’s decision, and begs her to walk her decision back. Kim refuses. In a heartbreaking twist, she also reveals that she’s leaving Jimmy. She loves him – “But so what?” The bad they’ve done together far outweighs any good. Kim can’t just move on from the death she has witnessed. She tells Jimmy that they’re poison together. Kim has had the time of her life with Jimmy, but the only way to save herself is to leave the relationship.
We’ve spent years theorizing what Kim Wexler’s fate would be. Would she be killed by the cartel? Would Jimmy inadvertently get her arrested? An answer as simple as leaving Jimmy, while neither as tragic nor as violent as the popular theories, is just as heartbreaking.
Second Place: Gus Fring
It’s always jarring to see Gus Fring relaxed. The idea that Gus is always calm and buttoned up comes from the man we met in Breaking Bad, and we’re getting closer and closer to seeing him again. Summoned to a meeting with Don Eladio, Hector Salamanca, and Juan Bolsa, it’s up to Gus to prove he didn’t kill Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton). He succeeds, but is given a cold reminder why he’s doing what he’s doing. We see Gus acknowledge that their meeting is being held poolside: it’s the same location where his partner Max was murdered, and that murder is the reason Gus is seeking revenge in the first place.
After leaving, we see Gus at dinner, enjoying a glass of wine and having a conversation with a sommelier, David (Reed Diamond). It’s a strange (and long) scene, one that might seem out of place at first in an episode so dense with plot. But watching Gus relax and (almost) get close to someone outside of the cartel is important. He so desperately wants to avenge Max – his entire life is dedicated to that. But at what point is the dedication too much? When David exits to retrieve an especially fine bottle, Gus tenses up. He isn’t ready to be a normal person and consider a relationship with someone new. It’s almost as if he accepts that the rest of his life is going to be solitary, focused only on vengeance.
Third Place: Cheryl Hamlin
We’ve never seen much of Cheryl Hamlin (Sandrine Holt). In fact, we only met her a few episodes ago. Howard kept his personal life pretty separate from Kim and Jimmy, so the most we knew was that he had a rough marriage. We saw Howard tell Cheryl that he was being terrorized by Jimmy, and, while she appeared neither to believe him nor particularly care, “Fun and Games” proved otherwise.
At Howard’s memorial, Cheryl confronts Jimmy and Kim, blaming them for somehow bringing about Howard’s death. It’s likely that if Cheryl hadn’t made Jimmy and Kim feel worse by sharing her suspicions, Kim wouldn’t have felt as reprehensible as she did, and she might not have left Jimmy. We know that Howard didn’t commit suicide, and we also know that his body isn’t going to turn up. He didn’t deserve such a horribly tragic fate –one that also leaves Cheryl without closure.
Fourth Place: Jimmy “Saul Goodman” McGill
Saul Goodman is here to stay. We’ve been waiting for the moment where Jimmy McGill transforms fully into Saul Goodman, and ‘Fun and Games’ gives us precisely that. With four episodes left in Better Call Saul, it’s surprising for Jimmy’s transformation to come this early, but the events leading up to it were unavoidable. Kim and Jimmy are both traumatized by Howard’s murder, but it’s obvious that Kim is having a harder time coping with it. Echoing the advice Mike gave him when they returned from the desert in Season 5, Jimmy tells Kim that one day they’ll wake up, go about their day, and realize they haven’t even thought about what happened. He sounds confident, but we (and Kim) know that he’s still overwhelmed by what happened in the desert. And if Jimmy isn’t even over that, can he really believe they’ll ever get over Howard’s murder?
The answer, for Kim, is no. When Jimmy discovers what Kim has done, he panics and pleads with her to stay. He even tells Kim, for the first time in the entirety of Better Call Saul, that he loves her. In Jimmy’s mind, that should be enough. If he loves her, they can get through anything – even this mess.
But we know that his promise, however well-meaning, isn’t enough for Kim. While Jimmy watches Kim pack, “Fun and Games” cuts to Jimmy in the future. He is now Saul Goodman. Kim’s departure led Jimmy straight into this persona, perhaps as a coping mechanism. We see him in his mansion, waking up in bed next to a prostitute, answering phone calls, and going to work in his fully renovated “cathedral of justice.” We may not be in the Breaking Bad timeline yet, but Saul is already here. And it’s clear just how broken he is.