Better Call Saul season 6’s two-part release strategy will inevitably invite comparisons to Breaking Bad – but can it match the original show’s spectacular mid-season cliffhanger? Nailing a TV spinoff requires a tricky balance between honoring the past and doing something new, and Better Call Saul exemplifies that formula far better than most. Despite the immense pressure that comes with following Breaking Bad, Saul Goodman’s solo series has conned, connived and cajoled its way to critical acclaim, and many would consider Better Call Saul to have matched its predecessor in quality. Arguably, a final season home run would cement Better Call Saul as the (marginally) superior series.
Comparisons between Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul‘s respective finales are unavoidable, but in a curious move, the spinoff has now announced season 6 will be split into 2 parts. Though a first for Better Call Saul, the same release schedule was used for Breaking Bad‘s closing run almost a decade go. Breaking Bad season 5 premiered in July 2012 and ran uninterrupted for 8 episodes, before taking a year-long break and resuming in August 2013 for a thrilling final octet. Dates are yet to be confirmed, but Rhea Seehorn – the actress behind Kim Wexler – confirms Better Call Saul season 6 will do something similar.
There’s many a reason Better Call Saul would split season 6 into chunks. Aside from pandemic interruption, production halted while Bob Odenkirk recovered from a health scare, and since the tactic worked so well for Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul season 6 was always likely to become a two-part affair. Nevertheless, the release plan strengthens those existing parallels to Breaking Bad‘s final season, and poses a very specific challenge for the spinoff – can Better Call Saul‘s mid-season cliffhanger have the same impact as Breaking Bad‘s?
Breaking Bad season 5a ends with the chill-inducing moment Hank figures out Walter White is Heisenberg. Fans then had to wait an agonizing 11 months before the story resumed. It’s a classic cliffhanger – tantalizing more than frustrating, and completely earned rather than a cheap attempt to engineer a water cooler moment. Intentionally or not, Better Call Saul is challenging itself to do something similar with its own mid-season finale. Obviously, Better Call Saul can’t just recycle Breaking Bad‘s trick verbatim. Kim sitting on the toilet and coming to the shocking conclusion that she’s never seen Jimmy McGill and Saul Goodman in the same room just won’t have the right impact.
Better Call Saul season 6a needs a jaw-dropping moment that gets audiences climbing the walls waiting for the continuation – just like Hank’s revelatory bowel evacuation. Because Breaking Bad set the standard for mid-season cliffhangers, Better Call Saul season 6 can’t just let its mid-season finale end like a regular episode. It needs an exclamation mark, whether that be a dramatic character death, a big betrayal, or a game-changing moment between Jimmy and Kim that begins to explain why the latter doesn’t appear in Breaking Bad.
Also remember Better Call Saul‘s season 6 cliffhangers won’t necessarily take place in the pre-Breaking Bad narrative. The spinoff’s black-and-white “Gene” timeline means the possibilities are endless. Better Call Saul could feature Walter White before his “Felina” finale, reintroduce Kim in the future, or turn a desperate Jimmy into a darker criminal – all of which could potentially match the cliffhanging power of Hank’s spine-tingling “W.W.” realization.