Better Call Saul’s Co-Creator on the Series Finale—and the Franchise’s Future

Peter Gould says the ending will ‘cause some discussion, and a lot of thinking’

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After six seasons, it’s last call for Better Call Saul. The critically-acclaimed Breaking Bad prequel series—which debuted in 2015 and focused on the origins of Saul Goodman, the slick Breaking Bad lawyer played by Bob Odenkirk—airs its series finale Monday night on AMC and AMC+.

In the most recent issue of Adweek, I wrote about AMC’s “bittersweet” farewell to the series, and what the show meant both to the network and marketers. (“It’s impossible to overstate the importance of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul to this company,” said Dan McDermott, president of entertainment and AMC Studios at AMC Networks.)

And while that story also included thoughts from Saul co-creator and showrunner Peter Gould, there was much more from Gould—who also wrote and directed the series finale—that couldn’t make it in.

So here’s an extended Q&A with Gould, who talked with Adweek about why it was time to end Better Call Saul, why making this finale was “scarier” than Breaking Bad’s, how he thinks audiences will react to the final episode—and whether there are still more stories to tell in the Breaking Bad universe. (This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

Adweek: When and why did you decide that this season was going to be the end? Because AMC would have been happy for it to go on as long as you would want it to.
Gould: Well, there are a couple of dimensions to that. The exterior dimension is, you just don’t want to overstay your welcome. The show has gotten so much love, and we have such great fans. And there’s a certain point where maybe people start moving on to something else—and that would be painful.

But then there’s more on the creative side, just looking at the story and figuring out where we were and where we are. And certainly there’s no science to it. You’re sort of eyeballing it; you really don’t know for sure how many episodes it’s going to take to wrap something up. So there’s a little bit of guesswork. And then, the other side of it was that Breaking Bad was 62 episodes. So I just thought we should up the ante by one episode and do 63 episodes. [laughs]

This season was split into two parts, which also happened with Breaking Bad’s last season. At what point in the process was that decision made, and did that change any of your plans for the last season?
Because of Covid, all our plans were thrown into disarray. But we spent a lot of time working on this season and figuring out the story, and we had no idea at that point, that we were going to break the season into two parts. That was a decision that Dan McDermott and the very intelligent people over at AMC made. They’re the experts about when to air; I would never try to interfere in that. This was definitely something that Dan and the folks at AMC figured out, that episode seven [which ended with a shocking cliffhanger] would be a great place to leave people for a few weeks.

And frankly, the episodes are ready closer to the air dates than they’ve ever been, especially in this second half of the season. So we couldn’t have aired them all at once and still started at the same point [in April, when the first half of Season 6 premiered]. But I’m very happy with the way it worked out.

How much did your work on the end of Breaking Bad—not only making the final episodes, but the audience’s response to them—inform how you approached Saul’s conclusion?
I think mostly it just made it scarier. Because the response to the end of Breaking Bad was so terrific. And I’m so proud of the work that we all did, led by [Breaking Bad creator and Better Call Saul co-creator] Vince Gilligan of course, in those final few episodes of Breaking Bad, and it was an incredible moment to be there and be part of the show. Trying to equal that is daunting. And in fact, what we realized was, this is a very different show from Breaking Bad. And it has a very different ending. [In the final episodes,] the show takes some turns that I don’t think anyone’s expecting, that I think are great and organic. But I have no idea … hopefully, the world will love it as much as we do.

In your mind, what would a successful finale be? Does the reaction not matter, as long as you’re happy with it, or do you need that audience appreciation as well?
Obviously, we want people to love the show. The reality is, you can never please everybody. And I think the thing that I’m most proud of is that both shows have integrity. And we’re not wildly changing it because we’re trying to figure out what the audience thinks and what they’re expecting; we’re not playing a game like that. We’re trying to finish telling the story in the most organic, satisfying way we can. The best thing would be if people loved it.

Also, this particular ending, I think it’s going to cause some discussion, and a lot of thinking. In my perfect world, you keep writing the story of the characters in your own head. These characters live in the minds of the audience after the show is over. And that’s the ultimate compliment and that’s something that Breaking Bad definitely had; you still see people reference all the Breaking Bad characters, even in just casual conversation or in memes. And that’s the ultimate compliment: if the characters live beyond the story in the hearts and minds of the audience.

How did whatever ending you came up with change from what you had envisioned earlier in the run?
Everything about this show changed. I wish I could say that we were such masterminds that before we rolled a frame, that we knew exactly how everything was going to go. But we did not. So much of the storytelling comes out of watching the actors and really thinking about the characters and going backwards and forwards and really trying to understand where we are, and think about the things that would naturally happen.

Our first thought was that he would be Saul Goodman as we knew him on Breaking Bad by the end of the first season, and then it would be all about Saul Goodman wheeling and dealing for subsequent seasons. And what we learned was, there was a lot more to say about Jimmy McGill [the character’s real name, before he created the Saul persona]. So we had no specific feeling about how it was going to end, or even just the shape of it for a couple of seasons—and it was worrying. And then I think in Season 4, we started getting an idea. And then in Season 5, the clouds parted, and we started understanding where we were going. But having said that, one of the things I’m proud of is that we’re always ready to change the plan if the characters don’t want to do what we tell them to.

Does this feel to you like a bit of the end of an era? We don’t really see prestige shows on basic cable anymore, and we don’t see these shows make it to a sixth season. If you were coming up with Saul now, I don’t think it would end up on the same outlet.
I can just talk about my personal experience, which is that we’re in an industry that’s constantly changing, and people have sometimes had the illusion that things are going to be stable for a while. And really, they haven’t been stable in an awfully long time. So things are always going to change about how people watch shows and how shows get financed, and what kinds of shows are hot at a particular moment.

But the thing that doesn’t change is that audiences are hungry and want good, quality work, work that’s maybe even a little challenging sometimes. And my hope is that there continues to be a way to make things like that. But you’re absolutely right. I’ve been on this [Breaking Bad and Saul] ride now for 15 years. When I got on the merry-go-round, show business, especially television, was in a very different place, than when I’m getting off the merry-go-round. And right now, I’m thinking about what I’m doing next.

Which leads to my final question. In this IP-focused industry, a lot of people will be wondering—including AMC—if there are more stories to tell in this world, or if this is really going to be the end. Do you feel there will be more stories told in this world, and if so, will you be the one to help tell them?
All I can really say is, I’m coming off of a lot of work in this world, and I would like to try something else for a bit. But I would never say never. And there are certainly ideas that get kicked around. But I will say that when we were finishing Breaking Bad, this show was very much on Vince’s mind and on my mind. And here we are ending Better Call Saul, and we’re both working on other things. But like I say, we love this cast, we love this crew, we love this world that’s been created. So it’s hard for me to say we will never come back to it. But I think it’s time to maybe give it a rest.

Maybe this is a terrible thing to say, but I don’t think this is a franchise in the sense of a Star Wars. It’s a different kind of animal. And maybe it’s just it’s own animal, and because we’re focused on these very specific characters who change. So I don’t know. It’s a great question—and it’s one I’m still thinking about.