The beginning of Better Call Saul’s sixth and final season has a cold open a bit differently than what we have become accustomed to in each season. Rather than a brief scene in black and white and set during the rather bleak future of criminal lawyer Saul Goodman (now going by the alias Gene Takovic who manages a Cinnabon far from Albuquerque), the season begins at what was once the regal estate of Saul Goodman. The TV lawyer is nowhere to be found as auditors root through the former Xanadu – tossing out his large collection of trademark paisley ties, revealing a golden throne toilet, and baroque furniture being boxed up. There’s even a little Easter egg to Breaking Bad with a stuffed teddy bear being thrown in a box labeled “No Value.”
There’s also the rather obvious nod to CITIZEN KANE – the sun rising through its stained glass windows after Charles Foster Kane’s unfinished stately pleasure dome, is broken down piece by piece to be auctioned off or destroyed. In that movie, Rosebud – the key to understanding Kane’s life, the childhood he was forced to leave behind – was burned as worthless trash. It’s not quite clear what part of Goodman’s “cathedral of justice” will be able to encapsulate the full story of how Jimmy McGill became Saul Goodman – or even if the public at large will link the legendary criminal lawyer back to Gene Takovic – who is on the run yet again after being made.
Things are moving in the season premiere the way they always have been – ever so slowly. The elusive Lalo is presumed dead – although just enough of the wrong people have caught wind that he’s still alive, all of them outside Nacho’s circle, as the reluctant enforcer has found himself deeper within the criminal underworld than ever. This time you could argue it in a literal sense, as his new boss Gus Fring is more than willing to leave him stranded in Mexico, deep in Salamanca territory after the botched assassination attempt on Lalo’s life. While he’s in hiding, Nacho is once again contemplating a chance to start over – only to have the Salamanca brothers encroach on his refuge in a rundown motel.
The tensions heighten further and further – working as a slow burn as Nacho waits in his room and then finally uncovers the man who has been spying on him – but before he can make the stranger reveal who he works for, the cartel fills the desolate motel with gunfire and blockades his exit. The episode concludes before we can determine if Nacho is a free man – or whatever he could consider free, as nearly everyone in this realm has put a price on him in one way or other. Meanwhile, back in Albuquerque, Saul comes upon an old client – the “Kettle Team” you might remember from the show’s pilot, running yet another small-time scam – cheating seniors out of their tax returns while pocketing the rest until being strong-armed by Kim Wexler and Saul to cease operations. How the show will conclude is still uncertain – but what does seem to be clear in this universe is that redemption after one “breaks bad” is a rare and difficult road to travel.