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What Happened To Every Better Call Saul Character At The End Of Season 5

What would a spin-off of "Breaking Bad" featuring Bob Odenkirk's slimy lawyer Saul Goodman (née Jimmy McGill) even look like? That was the question facing creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould as they developed their follow-up to one of the greatest prestige television series of the 21st century. Saul was primarily a comic relief character, so would the show be a half-hour comedy about his other clients, the ones who were not monstrous drug kingpins? That was in fact an option in the early going, but eventually Gilligan and Gould settled on a vision for "Better Call Saul" that was not terribly different from the show it originated from: A neo-Western about a man cursed to follow his own worst impulses, to the ruin of himself and everyone he loves.

After five incredible seasons, that ruin is nearly upon us. The worlds of Jimmy McGill and Saul Goodman, of legal chicanery and cartel violence, have never been more entwined. For characters introduced in "Breaking Bad," like Chilean drug kingpin Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) and his all-around fixer Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), endings have already been written. But the fates of the show's original characters, like small-time dealer turned cartel spy Nacho Varga (Michael Mando) and especially Jimmy's partner in crime, law, and marriage Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), are terrifyingly up in the air–and in this world, almost no one gets away clean.

In anticipation of the sixth and final season premiere on April 18, let's take a look at what happened to every major character on "Better Call Saul" at the end of Season 5.

"Gene Takovic"

Every season of "Better Call Saul" has begun with a brief black-and-white prologue featuring the miserable, paranoid life of Cinnabon manager "Gene Takovic," Jimmy's new assumed identity after the events of the final season of "Breaking Bad." After a pair of unrelated vignettes at the start of Seasons 1 and 2, Season 3's prologue ended on a cliffhanger, with Gene fainting after a brief encounter with a couple of security guards at the Omaha mall where he works. Season 4 picked up with Gene leaving the hospital and getting a ride from a taxi driver, Jeff (Don Harvey), with an Albuquerque Isotopes decal hanging from his mirror.

In Season 5, fearing that he's been spotted, Gene drives to a diner at the state line but decides to cautiously return to work after a day or two. It turns out that Jeff indeed identified him as Saul Goodman. Although Jeff appears to be just a pushy fan who remembers Saul's obnoxious commercials, Gene nevertheless panics and calls Ed (Robert Forster), the "vacuum cleaner repairman" who facilitated Saul's new identity in the "Breaking Bad" episode "Live Free or Die." On the verge of going on the run once again, Gene/Saul/Jimmy decides not to go through with it, saying, "I'm gonna fix it myself."

Hector Salamanca

Of all the "Better Call Saul" characters ported over from "Breaking Bad," none save Jimmy had a bigger change ahead of them than Hector Salamanca ("Scarface" actor Mark Margolis), the cartel's man in New Mexico and uncle to a seemingly endless supply of nephews. "Breaking Bad" introduced tío Hector in a wheelchair, paralyzed by a stroke, mute and immobile except for his right index finger, forever tapping an antique brass bell to communicate. "Better Call Saul" begins when Hector is still healthy, and for three full seasons, the audience was kept in suspense as to when (and how) Hector's stroke would occur.

The answers came in Season 4. Hector's stroke was not due to some crafty move by his cartel foe Gus Fring, but simply the ravages of time. Gus, in fact, acted quickly to save Hector's life–but only so that Hector would die a longer, more humiliating death than the violent, macho way a cartel head might prefer to go out. Hector's infirmity has an unintended consequence, as Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton) is brought north of the border to take over the business. Together, the two plot against Gus in secret, and longtime "Breaking Bad" viewers know that in the end, Hector gets the last laugh.

Lalo Salamanca

There's never been an adversary on either "Breaking Bad" or "Better Call Saul" quite like smiling sociopath Lalo Salamanca. His closest analogue, oddly enough, might be Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), Walter White's DEA agent brother-in-law, a glad-handing people person who hides a shrewd, cunning mind underneath his charisma. Lalo arrives in Albuquerque late in Season 4 to take over the cartel business from his tío Hector and to keep a close eye on Gus Fring, who, unbeknownst to everyone, is building a massive drug lab. Lalo catches on that Gus is up to something when one of Gus' workers goes on the lam, but his investigation hits a snag when he murders a TravelWire employee (future "Saturday Night Live" star James Austin Johnson).

Season 5 brings Lalo into Jimmy's orbit, first when he and Nacho hire Jimmy to represent one of their low-level dealers (Max Arciniega as Domingo, AKA Krazy-8 from "Breaking Bad"), then again when he is arrested for the aforementioned murder he committed in Season 4. Thanks to a massive $7 million payment, Lalo is released on bail and promptly evades justice by heading back to Mexico. When back home, however, his compound is attacked by gunmen hired by Gus Fring, who orchestrated Lalo's arrest and his release on bail in order to get him back to Mexico. The gunmen fail to kill Lalo, who ends the Season 5 finale bent on revenge.

Nacho Varga

And No. 1 on Lalo's revenge list? Nacho Varga (Michael Mando), the ambitious, seemingly trustworthy man making his way up the cartel chain of command, who earlier that day even had the ear of Don Eladio (Steven Bauer, reprising his "Breaking Bad" role as the cartel head). It was Nacho who allowed the gunmen access to the compound. Why would he do this, though?

The answer, as it tends to be when it comes to labyrinthine plots of shifting loyalties, is Gus Fring. Seeking a man on the inside of the Salamanca family, Gus coerces Nacho into being his spy, going so far as to threaten Nacho's father. Nacho is stuck playing both sides for all of Season 5, desperate to escape the cartel life but unable to do so as the pressure on him grows ever greater. Only Mike seems to have any sympathy for Nacho's situation, but his attempts to get Gus to release him fall on deaf ears. Before Nacho knows it, he is in Mexico, sentencing Lalo to death in his own home. As the gunmen descend on the compound, Nacho runs into the woods, now an enemy of the cartel, and quite likely an enemy of Gus Fring, who might want to sever any ties connecting him to Lalo's assassination.

Howard Hamlin

Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian), namesake of the law firm Hamlin, Hamlin, and McGill, manages to righteously anger former employees Kim Wexler and Jimmy McGill on separate occasions. He doesn't intend to, of course, but he's always had a certain obliviousness to what Kim and Jimmy are feeling at any given moment, and his attempts at an olive branch always end up more insulting than anything else. Still, his concern for them both is genuine; in some ways, he took the death of Jimmy's brother Chuck (Michael McKean) in Season 3 harder than anyone. In Season 5 he offers Jimmy, now practicing law as Saul Goodman full-time, a position at the firm. Jimmy counters by sending a pair of sex workers to accost Howard during a business lunch, throwing bowling balls at Howard's car, and giving him an epic, fire-and-brimstone dressing-down in the middle of the Bernalillo County Courthouse.

Later in the season, when Howard discovers that Kim has left her cushy banking law job in favor of pro bono public defense, he can't help but believe that Jimmy's bad influence has played a part in her decision. He's correct, but not in the way he might think; Jimmy's brushes with death as a cartel lawyer have inspired her to chase her dreams while she still can. But the suggestion that Jimmy has somehow corrupted her infuriates Kim, who ends the season dreaming of ways to ruin Howard's life.

Gus Fring

The "Chicken Man" sacrifices a lot in Season 5. The arrival of Lalo Salamanca and the flight (and death) of his lead engineer, Werner Ziegler (Rainer Bock), at the end of Season 4 put a halt to the construction of the superlab where Walter White will one day cook meth. From there, Gus Fring takes several losing positions in Season 5 in order to keep his plans safe from Lalo's suspicions, from eating crow with the cartel over some diluted cocaine to burning down one of his own Los Pollos Hermanos locations.

But a tactician like Gus understands that sometimes a few minor defeats are necessary for a larger victory. At first, his plan to permanently remove Lalo Salamanca works perfectly. Mike has an informant identify Lalo's car in connection with the murder of the TravelWire employee. Lalo is arrested and posts bail, and then immediately flees back to Mexico, where a group of paid gunmen will kill him. Except for a brief snag in the desert (more on that soon enough), everything plays out as Gus planned–until Lalo escapes the gunmen with his life, almost certainly aware that it was Fring who ordered the assault. The cold war between Gus and the Salamancas has just turned very hot.

Mike Ehrmantraut

All-around fixer and tough guy Mike Ehrmantraut has a bad habit of casting his lot with strong-willed psychopaths, from Gus Fring to Walter White, and even Jimmy McGill to a certain extent. He's a born follower, and when his duty is in conflict with his moral code, duty almost always wins out, as it did at the end of Season 4, when Mike was forced to kill his newfound friend Werner Ziegler, who cracked under the pressure of constructing Gus' superlab.

That isn't to say that Mike was happy with his decision, of course. Season 5 finds him wrecked by what he had to do, lashing out at his daughter-in-law (Kerry Condon) and beloved granddaughter Kayleigh, and picking fights with strangers on the street. He is on the outs with Gus not only over Werner but also Gus' strong-arm tactics with Nacho. Nevertheless, he does what he's told, and follows Jimmy out into the Mexican desert to pick up Lalo's $7 million cash bail. When a gang of would-be thieves tries to rob Jimmy, Mike's sniper rifle makes short work of both them and their car, leaving Jimmy and Mike to hike back to the United States on foot for two days, nearly dying in the process. The experience leaves a lasting physical and psychic wound on Jimmy, but for Mike, it's just one more in a string of very bad days.

Kim Wexler

"What happens to Kim?" is perhaps the most pressing question on fans' minds as "Better Call Saul" enters its final season. Kim Wexler is not seen in "Breaking Bad," and unlike Nacho and Lalo, she is not even referred to by name. Much as Walter White's greatest victims were those closest to him, Jimmy McGill's final transformation into the venal, amoral Saul Goodman might destroy Kim, emotionally or perhaps even physically.

On the other hand, Jimmy may need to worry about Kim more than the other way around. Kim has often been involved with Jimmy's schemes over the years, but for the most part, she has remained as no-nonsense and put-together as her famous ponytail. Season 5, however, shows Kim getting a taste of the Saul Goodman way of doing things. When a scheme against Kim's clients at Mesa Verde Credit Union turns ethically dicey, she and Jimmy get married in order to shore up their legal protections. When Lalo makes a surprise visit to interrogate Jimmy's version of events when he was lost in the desert, Kim jumps to his defense and thoroughly puts him in his place. But most worryingly of all, Kim ends Season 5 musing on ways to ruin Howard Hamlin, personally and professionally, in a way that leaves even Jimmy at a loss for words. Is Kim about to break bad herself? Only Season 6 knows for sure.

Jimmy McGill

Jimmy McGill and Walter White have a lot in common, beyond both being the main characters of two series set in Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould's vision of the Albuquerque underworld, and beyond both becoming infamous under assumed identities. Like Walter, Jimmy is very good at what he does. Despite early career questions about his competence, he's a skilled lawyer, and those skills could have–and perhaps should have–put him at the top of the legal profession next to his brother Chuck and Howard Hamlin. But also like Walter, Jimmy has an endless reserve of anger bubbling within him, especially toward those like Chuck and Howard who deem him a fraud and a screw-up. He has the bad habit of living down to people's worst expectations.

Season 5 sees Jimmy officially practicing law as Saul Goodman for the first time, keeping much of the same low-life clientele he cultivated during his time hawking burner phones in Season 4. He works every angle he can, from theatrical flourishes (like filling the court with a fake family at Lalo's arraignment) to genuine scandals (like Mesa Verde's theft of an indigenous woman's photograph for use in their logo). He jumps at the chance to get $100,000 in what should be a simple money exchange in the desert for Lalo's bail, but instead becomes a two-day odyssey that leaves Jimmy sun-blistered and haunted by what it truly means to be a "friend of the cartel." Whether he calls himself Jimmy McGill or Saul Goodman, there's no turning back anymore.