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The Ending Of Better Call Saul Season 1 Explained

Looking back, it's incredible that "Better Call Saul" has become as popular as it is, especially considering just how much the series had to live up to. Releasing just a year and a half after the finale of "Breaking Bad," (which was lauded by many as one of the greatest series finales of all time) the first season "Better Call Saul” delivered a fresh, captivating story while maintaining the tone and direction of the original series.

Season 1 follows Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk), a brash con-man turned lawyer who is attempting to establish himself as a public defender, and who quickly finds himself embroiled in the criminal underworld of New Mexico. Along the way, Jimmy attempts to toe the line between his former life as a criminal and his new path as a lawyer — often at the expense of those closest to him. By the end of Season 1, it's clear that Jimmy is leaning more into his criminal past than his promising future. He turns away from the righteous path once and for all, and officially begins his transformation into Saul Goodman — a decision that will have devastating repercussions down the road.

Jimmy deals with Chuck's betrayal

In the penultimate episode of Season 1, Jimmy discovers that his own brother Chuck (Michael McKean) — not Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) — has blocked him from joining his law firm HHM, despite the fact that Jimmy has been caring for Chuck for over a year as he struggles through a psychosomatic illness. This twist is a devastating blow to Jimmy's self-esteem and his relationship with Chuck, and he agrees to hand over his Sandpiper case to HHM without putting up a fight. At first, he seems completely numbed by the betrayal, calmly telling Kim (Rhea Seehorn) "He's my brother. He thinks I'm a scumbag. There's nothing I can do to change that."

The real impact of Chuck's actions becomes clear in the next scene, as Jimmy has an emotional breakdown while calling a game of Bingo at the senior center, and ends up fleeing New Mexico and returning to his home in Cicero, Illinois. The relationship between Chuck and Jimmy is a major focal point of the series as a whole, and watching Jimmy completely lose it after Chuck's betrayal reinforces just how much Jimmy loves and idolizes his older brother — a brother who will never, ever respect him. 

By the end of the episode, Jimmy agrees to return to New Mexico and continue working as a lawyer, spitefully defying Chuck's attempt to get him to leave the practice of law once and for all. The episode makes it clear that, as much as Jimmy might love his brother, Chuck will only be his enemy from here on out.

A tragic reunion with Marco

Upon his return to Illinois, Jimmy meets up with Marco (Mel Rodriguez) — his longtime friend and former partner in crime. From flashbacks in previous episodes, we know that Jimmy and Marco used to be successful con men in Cicero, though that all changed after Jimmy fell into some legal trouble and was forced to move to New Mexico (another suggestion of Chuck's, as it happens). In the present, the two quickly fall into their old habits, running a string of cons around Cicero for several days.

At first, Jimmy seems elated by this change in lifestyle, but he comes crashing back to earth after Marco has a heart attack during a botched job. Marco tells him that "this was the best week of his life," before dying right in front of Jimmy's eyes. It's a gut-wrenching blow to the man who seems to have just lost his brother — though oddly, the loss of Marco seems to have desensitized him more than it traumatized him. Jimmy takes Marco's pinky ring as a memento and returns back to New Mexico, perhaps even emptier than he was before he left.

Our first glimpse of Saul Goodman

In the episode's final scene, Jimmy is about to accept a new job with the law firm Davis and Main when he stops abruptly outside the courthouse. He's mere moments from returning to the path of the honest, straight-shooting lawyer — but as he stands in the parking lot, fiddling with Marco's ring, it becomes clear that's not what he wants. Truth is, this past week of running scams was the best he'd felt in a while, and he decides it's time to embrace what he's good at.

Jimmy abruptly drives out of the parking lot, stopping at the gate to speak with Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks). He asks Mike why the two of them didn't just keep the $1.6 million they had stolen from the Kettlemans a few episodes prior. Mike gives him a halfhearted answer about doing the right thing, and Jimmy tells him he'll never make that mistake again. He drives off, humming "Smoke on the Water," which is the song Marco was humming just before he died.

This is the true beginning of Jimmy's transformation into Saul Goodman. There have been glimpses of his darker side before, but this is the scene where Jimmy accepts once and for all who he truly is. As he drives away smiling, it's clear he is finally starting to like this side of himself — or at least he's consciously ignoring the voice in his head that tells him he should do the right thing. From here on out, he's only doing what's best for him.