“Better Call Saul” just wrapped up with Season 6, so it’s time to rank all six seasons of this stellar television series from worst to best.
6. Season 2
This is the ultimate set-up season. Unfortunately, not much happens here. It follows the climactic events of Season 1 and puts the events of Season 3 in motion, but this season itself is pretty forgettable. Jimmy and Chuck’s relationship remains in the same state without any new conflicts until the last couple episodes, Mike doesn’t do much except interact with Nacho a few times, and Kim spends time highlighting documents. The characters don’t grow much and neither does the plot. Season 2 obviously isn’t terrible; the writing, particularly the dialogue, remains great, but it still has nothing to really make it stand out, unlike the other “Better Call Saul” seasons.
5. Season 1
What this season does so well is set up our characters and the arcs they’ll go on over the course of the show. Concerning our returning characters from “Breaking Bad,” Jimmy is instantly likable and distinctively different than Saul Goodman, and Mike is given a terrific backstory in his guilt over the death of his son. As for the new characters, Kim Wexler is written and played to be so charming, funny, and supportive; she’s essentially the friend we all wish we had and she’s a great counterpart to Jimmy. Chuck McGill is another terrific character, as he’s such a unique villain. He’s pretentious, smug, and dismissive of Jimmy, but he’s also undoubtedly correct in his reasoning. Jimmy with a law degree is like “giving a chimp a machine gun.” He wisely predicts who Jimmy will become in “Breaking Bad” yet we still love to hate him by the end of the season.
Whereas this season is flawless in how it introduces our characters, it’s certainly flawed in its pacing. The first two episodes move quickly and are reminiscent of the types of stories in “Breaking Bad” where a character is in a deadly situation and must find some way to survive it. But afterwards the show slows to a crawl, as the plot lines aren’t as immediately interesting. The Kettlemans are fun characters but their embezzlement isn’t so compelling, and watching Jimmy build a lawsuit against Sandpiper Crossing isn’t all that exciting either. I was never bored per-say, but this season didn’t maintain the consistent entertainment factor of the seasons higher up on this list.
4. Season 4
Where Season 4 excels is in Mike’s story of managing the German engineers as they build Gus’ meth lab. Watching this deeply cynical and tortured man actually find a friend in the lead engineer Werner Ziegler is strangely endearing. It’s a place we’ve never seen Mike in in either of the shows. But when Ziegler escapes the compound to see his wife and betrays Mike, the story turns into a tragedy that impacts the rest of the series and, more importantly, Mike’s arc. When he kills Ziegler, it’s really Mike’s origin story; his journey into becoming the cold, ruthless assassin he was in “Breaking Bad” is completed. Honestly, this might be my favorite Mike storyline in either of the shows.
Another achievement of this season was introducing us to possibly the best character of the series: Lalo Salamanca, played to perfection by Tony Dalton. Talk about a memorable villain. He’s simultaneously affable and horrifying. Lalo is just as sadistic and psychotic as the other Salamancas, but he’s the best at hiding it. On the surface he’s this lovable guy with the charismatic smile of a 1960’s movie star, while deep down he’s completely soulless.
Unfortunately, the lawyer plot lines of this season are infinitely less interesting than the cartel plot lines. We spend half of the season with Jimmy who’s temporarily banned from practicing law, picking up garbage for community service, and selling cell phones for some extra profit. After a while it gets tiresome to watch Jimmy struggle to make ends meet for ten episodes, especially because it’s something we already saw in Season 1. However, despite its flaws, I still adore this season because of how its repercussions affect the rest of the series.
3. Season 6
“Better Call Saul” Season 6 has some of the best episodes and some of the worst episodes of the entire series. Episode 603 “Rock in a Hard Place” and Episode 608 “Point and Shoot” were the most tense and exciting episodes of the show, providing immensely satisfying payoff to the characters of Nacho and Lalo. Episode 607 “Plan and Execution” was a surprising and emotional mid-season finale and Episode 609 “Fun and Games” showed the tragic end to Kim and Jimmy’s relationship. Overall, the first nine episodes that concluded the prequel timeline were enthralling and pleasantly surprising (except for some dull moments throughout Episodes 605-606). Unfortunately, the last four episodes that concluded the future timeline weren’t nearly as satisfying.
Episodes 610 and 611 felt like a strange course correction and lame epilogue to the show, letting all the air out of the balloon. In fact, Episode 611 “Breaking Bad” might be my least favorite episode of “Better Call Saul.” It’s boring, uneventful, and a complete waste of time. You could’ve cut down this episode to five minutes and it would have had the same impact on the show’s conclusion. It also has a borderline insulting throwaway cameo with Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, who don’t have any interesting dialogue, interactions, or stake in the narrative.
However, the show really picked itself back up in Episode 612 “Waterworks” and Episode 613 “Saul Gone.” It certainly helped to bring Kim Wexler into the future timeline to give the audience a break from the monotonous scam sequences with Gene and Jeff (who was poorly recast, by the way). Seeing Kim in this hopeless and futile existence was heartbreaking, especially in the scene when she breaks out sobbing, releasing all of her inner turmoil carried over the past few years. Rhea Seehorn has never been better.
While I do think the series finale “Saul Gone” is overrated since it’s entirely predictable and a bit stretched out, it was certainly the right way to conclude the series. I appreciate that showrunner Peter Gould didn’t write an obnoxious “subverting our expectations” ending (I’m looking at you, “Game of Thrones”) and instead gave us the appropriately sad yet optimistic conclusion to Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman’s story. Jimmy finally learned to stop running from his crimes and sacrificed himself to life in prison to prove to Kim he can change into a better man. It’s not an exciting or climactic ending, but it’s suitable and fulfilling.
Ultimately, if Season 6 cut out Episode 611 entirely, shaved the runtime of other episodes down, and inserted the future timeline episodes throughout the whole season instead of dumping them all at the end, the season would move a lot quicker and feel less clunky. Season 6 certainly gave satisfying conclusions to our characters and landed the ship, but it was surprisingly poorly paced.
2. Season 3
Whereas Season 2 was an all set-up season, Season 3 was an all pay-off season, which is what makes it so thoroughly entertaining and satisfying. This is the season where Gus Fring finally enters the series, first appearing in a phenomenal sequence with Jimmy in Los Pollos Hermanos. Gus’ first words in the show are the perfect reintroduction: “Can I help you?”
We also see Nacho exact his revenge on Hector Salamanca and discover how he became the silent, wheelchair-bound nemesis from “Breaking Bad.” Then there’s the great climax Jimmy and Chuck’s conflict in what is my second favorite episode of the series, “Chicanery,” where in one epic courtroom battle Jimmy finally proves Chuck’s allergy to electricity is all in his head.
Season 3 never lets up. Episode after episode pays off all the conflicts from Seasons 1 and 2 in the most satisfying ways imaginable. It’s one of the most consistently enthralling seasons of television of the past decade and proved that this series was a worthy entry into the “Breaking Bad” universe. However, there’s one season that just barely tops it.
1. Season 5
In the “Breaking Bad” vs. “Better Call Saul” debate, I’ll always argue that BB is the superior series over BCS. After all, “Breaking Bad” is mankind’s greatest achievement. That said, Season 5 is the season of “Better Call Saul” that’s (somewhat) on par with “Breaking Bad.”
To be fair, I’m biased because Season 5 is by far the closest BCS has gotten to the style of “Breaking Bad,” as it really focuses on the drug world more than the lawyer world, which no other season does.
BCS Season 5 is relentlessly compelling, intense, action-packed, and game changing. Every episode builds the tension as Jimmy falls deeper and deeper into the madness of the cartel. His dynamic with Lalo is humorous yet terrifying; both characters are lighthearted on the surface but the audience knows how conniving and ruthless Lalo is. This leads into my all-time favorite episode of the series, 508 “Bagman,” in which Saul and Mike endure a brutal odyssey through the scorching desert to bring Lalo $7 million in bail money with no water and a bandit hunting them. At that point in the show, we’ve never seen Jimmy in this dangerous of a situation before, and it’s glorious.
This season also kicks off Kim’s arc into becoming a morally grey con artist alongside Jimmy, igniting much of the chaos in Season 6. In the final episode of this season, Jimmy asks Kim, “Am I bad for you?” Although Kim denies it, the audience knows the tragic path of both these characters and that, unfortunately, this relationship hurts everyone around them.
For me, Season 5 is the most rewatchable season. It has the fastest pacing, best dialogue, and most memorable sequences. Most importantly, it perfectly challenges every character to their breaking point. This is “Better Call Saul” at its finest.
Click here for my “El Camino” Review