Better Call Saul: “Marco” Season 1 Finale Review

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“Marco” feels like an unnecessary tangent that leads to a missed opportunity. It also manages to undo a lot of the graceful character work done throughout the season. It’s the worst hour of television Vince Gilligan has produced for either of his AMC shows.

Look, I get it. The draw of having Jimmy slip back into his old ways with his friend Marco is big, allowing him to realize the better life that lies ahead outside of his past. To tell that story, there’s no better way to do it than without any of the supporting cast. That way, you have this whole redemption arc saved just for Jimmy.

And there are some fun moments of mischief-making between Jimmy and Marco. But for a show so previously unpredictable, the whole storyline likes subtlety. We know Jimmy is going to go back to Albuquerque after realizing he can’t be an angst driven young adult anymore. Better Call Saul played with its cards shown for its first finale. I can’t imagine a more boring way to end things. The whole Chicago trip could have been done in the first 15 minutes of the episode, leaving the rest to flesh out some of the quick changes made in the final five minutes.

There was something still a little unsatisfying about Kim’s call to tell Jimmy he has an interview at a law firm that will be joining HHM on the Sandpiper case. After so much rejection, Jimmy not wanting to go in for the interview makes sense. But that’s the last moment of the season that does.

When Jimmy drives out of the parking lot and tells Mike that he’s not going to be held back anymore, he’s dropping his quest to do the right thing. The cheese factor written into this final scene doesn’t help. But there’s a bigger problem in that Jimmy’s sudden turn to the dark side doesn’t feel earned. Better Call Saul spent so much of its first season showing Jimmy trying to do the right thing. Sure, he had roundabout ways of getting there, but he always tried. What Chuck did doesn’t feel like enough for him to stop trying. Had “Marco” spent less time with, well, Marco, these big pivots in character could have landed. Just because Breaking Bad fans know Saul Goodman is a shady fellow doesn’t mean this series gets a free pass to make that transition from the admirable Jimmy McGill to the scummy Saul Goodman.

For all intents and purposes, all it took for Jimmy to regress was some nasty family drama. It just doesn’t feel big enough. If this is truly Jimmy’s big transition, season two will likely be a very different show. But if the point was for Saul to always be Saul, as great as this season was, maybe it should have been skipped.

This is why “Marco” is so disappointing on so many levels. After an overdraw exploration of Jimmy’s past, his future suddenly jumps too quickly. It’s an episode that has both too much and too little happen.

Better Call Saul is far from the first spinoff to have the word “disappointing” thrown around it, but it is one of the first to have the word “great” thrown around. Disappointment always stings extra when you know things could have been great. Grade: C-

 

Some Other Notes:

– Previously, the worst episode in this universe was Breaking Bad‘s “The Fly,” which was mostly watchable other than being almost entirely redundant. But it never betrayed the show’s previous work quite like “Marco” does.

– As we end the season, Howard gets a few more likability points as he tells Jimmy he wishes he could hire him.

– A lot of the writing felt over done throughout, with the Bingo scene being unnecessarily over-the-top. This show works in a believable world with believable characters. So when Jimmy’s actions aren’t being sold, the show itself immediately begins to crumble.

– Ugh, this is such a bad note to leave the season on. Look, I’m still excited for season two, mostly because the future the premise promises us is still intact. What’s severely damaged is the journey there.

 

By Matt Dougherty

One Response to Better Call Saul: “Marco” Season 1 Finale Review

  1. Dave says:

    Couldn’t agree more. The last episode and the Mike episode were so well done that this one fell in starl contrast. This was by far the worst episode in either BB or BCS that I can remember…. especially given it was the finale. It just seemed to spend too much time on the slippin jimmy story and his final decision felt rushed and empty.

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