When setting out to first create the Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul, Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould had a tall order in front of them. Their AMC family man-turned-drug-kingpin was beloved by audiences, critics, and awards voters: It has a Metascore of 87 and won 16 Primetime Emmys over its run, including two back-to-back Outstanding Drama Series trophies for its final, split into two parts seasons. Better Call Saul lived up to the hype with a Metascore of 86 and two Creative Arts Emmy wins so far (for its short-form spin-offs), but now it's coming to an end with a series finale episode titled "Saul Gone" written and directed by Gilligan and Gould and directed by Gould and there is still some pressure to live up to the quality of this world they began in 2008, but not as much as there once was.
"I'm not nearly as anxious as I was with Breaking Bad. I'm getting older and with the world ending, I've got other stuff to worry about," Gilligan said during a Television Critics Association press tour panel ahead of the finale episode.
That said, he joked that "if we don't win the Nobel Prize for this, I'm going to be very disappointed."
After five seasons of Breaking Bad, six seasons of Better Call Saul, and the standalone film El Camino, the door is really closing on this universe. Both Gilligan and Gould pointed out that they are proud of what they made, but they are looking to work on something new. They made 127 hours of television within this world, which, as Gilligan pointed out, is not an insignificant amount of time because it's how long it took for Aron Ralston to come to terms with having to cut off his own arm to survive getting caught by a boulder on an expedition.
"Maybe if he had been watching our show, he would have cut it off sooner," Gould joked, referencing the often violent nature that comes from the criminal activities happening within Better Call Saul.
Jimmy McGill's slow descent into Saul Goodman gradually picked up as seasons of Better Call Saul went on. "When you watch Jimmy-slash-Saul-slash Gene devolve, you picture him snipping pieces of his soul off," Gilligan said. "It gets more uncomfortable and sad."
As the show inches to the end, Jimmy's portrayer Bob Odenkirk said that he feels "bad for him." He joked that the series is really about how "women corrupt men" because Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) has done some bad things, too, including lying to a widow at the end of the final season, but she gets away with them in a different way.
On a more serious note, though, when reflecting on his character's journey, Odenkirk said, "It's maybe not a great instinct, but you want your character to do the right thing, and the more he did this, the more I wanted him to pull back or see what he was doing. It's just not what this job is or it's to really want you want to see as an audience member: You want to see somebody go deep into his craziness. He kept going and at a certain point he was driven to his destruction. I thought a lot about that movie Leaving Las Vegas ... How he was just going to take the crime of getting these rich guys drunk and getting their information. It had no purpose outside of grinding that itch and, I think, to get caught."
Meanwhile, in speaking about Kim's journey, one thing Seehorn noted was that she believes her character "absolutely...still has love for Jimmy."
"Even in the heartbreaking episode where they break up, it was never because she didn't love him; that was not how she came to the decision that she made," she explained.
For the record, Gilligan and Gould shared that they never planned to kill off Kim, even as audience members worried that would happen since she does not appear in Breaking Bad. Better Call Saul flashed forward a bit to prove she was still alive during that timeline, with Gould noting that "the relationship between Jimmy and Kim is at the heart of the show" and "this show is a lot about how you live with what you've done...instead of ending it."
"How are you going to kill off America's sweetheart?" Gilligan added.
Obviously, Jimmy, too, will make it out of the series alive physically, even if forever changed emotionally and psychologically. Since Gilligan considers the show a "tragedy," though, others may not be as lucky. The team behind the show didn't offer any spoilers for the finale episode, but Gilligan did offer one thing he realized was a mistake: In a scene in the episode in which Jimmy is talking to Jeff (Pat Healy), he wishes he had Odenkirk using a Bluetooth earpiece to further prove he was leaning into his Saul persona.
But overall, "Those of us on the show are very happy with where it ended," said Gould. "The show is true to itself, and we're playing in the same court that we started with, and I think that's an accomplishment. But whether it fills all their dreams and hopes, all we can do is hope."
The series finale of Better Call Saul airs Monday, Aug. 15 at 9 p.m. on AMC.