SPOILER ALERT: Don’t read if you haven’t watched the series finale of “You better call Saul“, titled” Saul Gone “.
Chuck McGill was lovingly brought back to life in the series finale “Better Call Saul,” but Michael McKeanwho reprises his role as the late lawyer in a flashback sequence, isn’t quite sure what it all means – as he’s still a few episodes behind the AMC series.
In two flashbacks during the finale, Jimmy (Bob Odenkerk) asks Mike (Jonathan Banks) and Walter White (Bryan Cranston) where they would go if they had a time machine. Mike and Walt both have major regrets – taking a bribe and leaving Gray Matter Technologies, respectively – but Jimmy refrains from getting too personal. Only after the climactic courtroom scene — in which Jimmy attempts redemption by confessing to his crimes and taking a much longer prison sentence in order to clear Kim’s (Rhea Seehorn) name — as we travel back in time to a conversation between him and Chuck, who died by suicide at the end of Season 3, as Jimmy delivers fresh groceries and newspapers to his older brother. (Note how director Peter Gould foreshadows Chuck’s flashback by focusing on the buzzing courtroom exit sign, a nod to Season 3’s “Chicanery.”)
Although Chuck doesn’t ask himself the same question Jimmy asks Mike and Walt, he does offer his younger brother sage advice: “If you don’t like where you’re going, there’s no shame in coming back. back and change lanes.” After Jimmy leaves, it is revealed that Chuck is reading “The Time Machine” by H. G. Wells.
Sure, McKean remembers shooting that crucial final scene, but he has no idea when the show ended, or who his fictional brother Jimmy was. In a neat, spoiler-free interview with VarietyMcKean breaks down his return to “Better Call Saul” and tries to figure out the significance of “The Time Machine.”
How many “Better Call Saul” Season 6 have you seen?
My wife and I have seen episode 8, so we haven’t seen the last five. The last one we saw was a monster episode, with the confrontation between Gus [Giancarlo Esposito] and Lalo [Tony Dalton]. It’s really good TV over there.
When did you know you would come back for the final?
At the beginning of the last season, they told me they needed me for one more scene in the last episode, and I said, “Awesome”. And I said, “Don’t tell me anything that Chuck doesn’t know about,” and they said okay. I only read my scene, and I didn’t read anything else, because I’m a fan of the series. And I want to see the story unfold properly. I’m so glad I didn’t know anything, and people were so nice not to tell me what was going on. And I try not to read anything on Twitter that tells me more than I need to know.
It must be difficult for you to avoid spoilers. What safeguards do you have in place? I imagine Twitter is a minefield.
There is a way to read and clear at the same time, so I know what to ignore. People say such amazing and adorable things about the show that I can absorb the positivity without delving deeper into what they’re referring to. Also, the fact that Chuck doesn’t know any of this makes it kind of normal that I don’t. It works quite well.
Having not seen the full episode, what do you think is the meaning of “The Time Machine”?
I think the reason Chuck is in the episode is to tell everyone that you really can’t go back in time. You must therefore make your decisions in the moment. And we come back to a guy who didn’t make the right choices, a guy who let a lot of long-standing issues set his life on fire, both literally and figuratively. Chuck, at that point, may have had a little glimpse of what the future is, if you shape it right. And of course, “The Time Machine” is about an ill-shaped future.
Maybe it’s about how the future is yours to conceive as much as you’re capable of. Don’t blow it. Now that’s something said by a man [Chuck] who was starting to kind of ruin his own future. He just didn’t know. He was getting into a bind because of his different feelings, his jealousies, his inability to win people over like Jimmy does. [Chuck watches Jimmy] do what lawyers do, but do it openly and brazenly and get away with it because it’s charming and a little slippery. Rule-following Chuck was the man who wondered, “If I’m doing it right, why do I feel so bad?” The past is the past, but it is always with you. What you make of yourself and who you are when you revisit the past can be quite instructive. I think on a much smaller scale, that’s what Jimmy does and feels in those moments, when he thinks about the time that has passed.
If Chuck had a time machine, where do you think he would go? Do you think Chuck has any regrets?
Well clearly, but we have to take his mental illness into our calculations. Chuck may have had some version of sanity, but something got the better of him…something that maybe shouldn’t have. There is nothing more present than the moment of your death. If Chuck could have had a time machine, if he could have gone back and convinced his parents that Jimmy needed a lot more rigor in his life, that Jimmy should not give up on his responsibilities, that Jimmy needed to straighten up and get his shit together…so it would have been worth trying again. But look, Chuck was off to law school by the time Jimmy was 18, and he pretty much left everything in the dust. If there was a way he could have done the right thing, it might not have occurred to him. So I don’t really know.
What did you think of the fate of Howard (Patrick Fabian) in episode 7?
Wow. Staggering. Again, I had to be very careful not to spoil anything, and my wife and I just stared at it with our jaws on the floor. First of all, Patrick Fabian is a great fucking actor. And it was like his character was so developed, and then of course he disappeared off the face of the earth. It was just devastating. We had invested heavily in this man, even though our assessment of him is not 100% favorable as a human being. There was so much about his relationship with his wife and his little tips on how to get the fizz out of a can of soda…all those things, all those little details, that’s what people do. People aren’t just made up of big lines.
And he certainly didn’t need to be a victim. He was a redeemable person, until he wasn’t. He was revealed to be two-faced and very destructive and arrogant. These are all human flaws. When he became a victim, it was devastating, but that was also how life is. Life is the guy who comes at the wrong time, you know?
Even beyond the grave, Chuck plays an important role in this episode, with his portrait hovering over the mediation room. What did you think of this?
I thought it was good theater. It’s not like “Big Brother is watching,” but it’s kind of like the surrogate dad watching. I got that vibe from that relationship [between Howard and Chuck].
As for this final batch of episodes, what are your hopes for Jimmy?
I’m that guy who reads a detective novel without guessing who it is. I’m like the idiot standing next to the detective, and that’s how I am entertained.
Now that the show is over, what legacy do you think ‘Better Call Saul’ will have?
Hopefully people will strive to do great writing about TV series. My wife and I often remark that we love any story where we make up our minds about someone early on and turn it into something beautiful. I remember feeling that in “Say Anything” with John Mahoney, who plays Skye’s father. We love this man until we love him no more. And you don’t see it coming, it’s just good writing, and that’s the key. The only thing that matters is that people want to see what’s going on. You don’t have to like the people you watch. Your rooting interest doesn’t have to be absolute – in fact, it’s better if you can get the rug pulled out from under you.
Coming back for one last scene, how do you reflect on Chuck and Jimmy’s relationship and your time on the show in general?
The relationship between Chuck and Jimmy was very complex. He grew by leaps and bounds, and Peter [Gould]vince [Gilligan] and Tom [Schnauz] have always said that many things that Bob [Odenkirk] and I inspired them as to where the story would go. I’m pretty proud of that. To relate to this complex amount of work and make it dramatically viable for the rest of the show was something that Bob and I discovered as we went along. [“Better Call Saul”] is also one of those shows where nobody ever had to say, “Hey, my character wouldn’t say that.” The writers were so determined to know where they were going, and they were so sure that if an idea came from the set, they would give it a chance. It’s a perfect working condition, plus the fact that everyone is extraordinarily nice, smart and funny. This is the kind of job that I wish for everyone.