Part of the episode hinged on an ethical dilemma not unlike the one discussed at the end of the first season. Jimmy found himself about to receive $1.16 million from a settlement agreement in a class-action lawsuit he initiated on behalf of a group of senior citizens against the Sandpiper retirement-home chain. In order to win that settlement, he’d meddled with the social order amid a group of old women. This resulted in the isolation of the sweet retiree Irene Landry, the representative for the plaintiffs: Jimmy had manipulated her friends into thinking she was greedy and amoral. When Jimmy realized that Irene was desperately sad and alone thanks to him, he faced a choice. He could ruin this woman’s life, or he could fess up to what he’d done—and likely lose out on the $1.16 million.
He chose to give up the money and rescue Irene’s social life. In a classically Saul-ian scene of goodhearted deception, he led a “chair yoga” class for the elderly then went outside to talk with another lawyer about his scamming of the community, pretending not to realize his mic was still on and everyone inside could hear him. “Shame on you,” one of the women said when he came back in after broadcasting his confession. But the truth was he’d actually made an honorable, personally costly decision. He’d done “the right thing,” just as he’d done in Season 1.
The culmination of the Sandpiper saga confirms that Better Call Saul has not been a chronicle of one man’s moral descent, despite initial assumptions that it might follow a similar roadmap as Breaking Bad. It’s been a chronicle of one man’s struggle to survive as a decent person, and about just how difficult it is to do so. And, more generally, it’s been about the human balancing act between expediency and honor—an act most people, day to day, successfully manage to pull off. Change here happens not only through the culmination of small, intentional evils as it did with Walter White. It happens through dramatic, unforeseen events in otherwise banal lives: car crashes, flameouts.
In Monday night’s finale, viewers saw Kim suffer the consequences of hustling to support both her and Jimmy’s dreams—a seemingly noble pursuit that ended in a wreck that could have cost people their lives. We also saw the cartel henchman Nacho try to save his father from being pulled into the employ of his vindictive boss Hector—by riskily switching out Hector’s heart medication and waiting for his health to fail. Rival kingpin Gus Fring applied CPR and called an ambulance when Nacho’s scheme began to work, and now the possibility looms of bloody reprisal for Nacho’s attempt at heroism.
Most wrenchingly, we saw Jimmy attempt to reconcile with his estranged brother—another difficult, and ultimately futile, attempt to do the right thing. The lynchpin of this season came a few episodes back when Jimmy successfully fought off Chuck’s challenge to his law license by exposing his older brother’s electricity “allergy” as mental illness. The fallout from that revelation brought Chuck into conflict with the law firm he helped found. Last night, his longtime friend and protégé Howard Hamlin told him off, handed him a check, and announced Chuck’s departure from the firm. Technically, getting bought out was a win for Chuck. But it soon became clear that forced retirement was death.