As a show Better Call Saul has ripped up television's rule book, sprinkled the pieces into a rizla, blazed it, then passed it to the viewer on the left hand side.

Over the course of its five seasons those who have deep dragged its potent vapour have been left dizzy and reeling, strung out and paranoid and, on occasion, in fits of giggles.

To take one more puff from this sticky metaphor before it burns out completely, what I'm saying is Better Call Saul is a real buzzy show, man.


This doesn't mean it's been a psychedelic experience. Although the recent episode Bagman got extremely close. This one saw our odd couple heroes, the increasingly slippery lawyer Saul Goodman and steely faced cartel enforcer Mike Ehrmantraut, stranded in the New Mexico desert and needing to walk $7million in cash back to Albuquerque while trying to escape the relentless bright of the sun and the deadly bullets of a rival cartel gunman hunting them.

The awful desert heat radiated off the screen, the stinging glare trapped your eyes, and you could feel the intense pain panging from Goodman's burnt, chaffed lips. Your constitution is made of much stronger stuff than mine if you didn't recoil inside every time he took a survival swig from the Powerade bottle he'd filled with his own pee.

Where Better Call Saul has proved to be a trippy viewing experience is in the artful way it has continuously confounded expectations - conceptually and artistically. Heck, the titular character Saul Goodman didn't even show up until a couple of seasons in.

Better Call Saul Season 5 Trailer. Video / AMC

When I first tuned into Lightbox to watch the debut season of this Breaking Bad spin-off all those years ago I reasonably thought it'd be a show about fan favourite Saul's fast talking hucksterism running loose amongst the New Mexico drug wars. It's fair to say I was not expecting a slow burn legal drama about two estranged brothers and the finer points of elder law.

And when I tuned in last night to watch the finale episode of the fifth season I was not expecting to be left with what can only be described as an absolutely excruciating cliff-hanger that featured a deadly high-stakes assault on a fortified cartel compound, an unlucky betrayal and the show's moral compass staring down the barrel of two winking finger guns to finally break bad.

Getting from the 'there' of season one all the way to the 'here' of season five has been the slowest wild ride imaginable. But also one of the most rewarding. Spinning off from one of the television's most acclaimed series afforded the show a creative freedom and accommodating budget to produce something completely unlike any TV show that's come before.

Breaking Bad was renowned for its inventive cinematography, but Better Call Saul betters it. Not a shot is wasted, no angle unexplored, no chance to create art goes wanting.

An example; at the end of one episode Saul is merrily walking along the footpath eating an ice-cream when suddenly a car pulls up and bundles him in. In the kerfuffle his cool treat falls to the ground. From behind the dropped cone we see the car speed off and the credits roll.


The next episode, a week later, opens close-up on an ant. It follows the zig-zagging critter until he finds a drip of melting ice cream. The ant proceeds to scale the Saul's discarded sticky mountain while his ant buddies swarm below. At the end of the episode Saul is released and narrowly avoids stepping in the lingering puddle.

Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman and Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut in Better Call Saul, streaming on Lightbox. Photo / Lightbox
Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman and Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut in Better Call Saul, streaming on Lightbox. Photo / Lightbox

This week's action packed finale episode opened with a homage to Hitchcock's Psycho as Goodman's partner, and legal wife, Kim Wexler peered through their apartment's peephole to check the coast was clear from the show's charismatic and terrifying big bad Lalo Salamanca.

From there it was an hour of fear and loathing, double crossing, violence and characters jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. Salamanca literally using a burning fry pan in his attempt to escape the early morning assault and assassination attempt at his home.

But for all the tense and exciting drug land warfare it's the foreboding tragedy that you can viscerally feel awaiting the characters that keeps you hooked. Wexler's good intentions and sense of right has eroded before our eyes as she increasingly finds way to justify the wrong while Goodman slowly loses the inner battle between his heart of gold and his love of scams and fast money.

And then there's the maniacal wild card Lalo whose quest for revenge is going to absolutely tear through the next season like bullets from an overheated machine gun.

The wait to see how this all pans out is going to be unbearable. Saul's in big trouble. And sadly for him there's no one to call.

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