What 'Better Call Saul's Final Season Used to Make the Perfect Use of Black and White

What 'Better Call Saul's Final Season Used to Make the Perfect Use of Black and White ...

Better Call Saul, directed by Vince Gilligan, makes use of black and white's uniqueness with aplomb, highlighting the main character's creeping fear as the metaphorical walls close in around him.

Better Call Saul makes the counterintuitive choice to set its modern day sequences in black and white, as well as the main thrust of the program, which takes place prior to the events of Breaking Bad, in color. The monochrome presentation is all too appropriate during the series' conclusion, in which the show's protagonist must stop living in the comforting self-delusion that being morally gray frees him from personal responsibility.

Setting the Stage for the Finale

Better Call Saul is a gripping tale of shady morality. Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) is a clever but unreliable conman who lives in constant danger, but he lacks his growing willingness to harm the innocent if it does mean helping himself. Kim provides a distraction from Saul's selfish desires, while coaxing Kim to pursue risky yet thrilling actions.

Kim and Saul are 'bad for each other because their schemes result in other people suffering,' according to Breaking Bad. Without Kim reminding Saul to consider the consequences of his actions, he transforms from an occasionally sympathetic huckster into a fully self-serving criminal and accomplice to the budding drug lord Walter White (Bryan Cranston).

Trapped in Black and White

When Marion (Carol Burnett) discovers that the seemingly kind Gene is Saul Goodman, he reports him to Life Alert, taking up the upper part of the film, revealing that Saul has bought himself some time before the walls finally fall down for good.

The next scene, a homage to David Fincher's Se7en, is shot with Carol Reed's The Third Man. Darkness surrounds Saul as he attempts to find his stowed goods from the hidey-hole itself, capturing him with a relatively small amount of light. Then a whirring of a helicopter overhead slowed him down to the dark tunnel. He begins his journey towards the promised destination, the light shining on his back.

Noir to Run

More of the same black and white frames are seen once Saul is captured and confined in a holding cell. Here we see some striking light lines that evoke classic noir detective films and perhaps even morality plays. As Saul paces, he pauses, almost begging him to kneel in it and ask for forgiveness.

Saul's rage and self-centered rage prevent him from engaging in retaliation. He instead knocks the door open and chastises himself. He falls to the floor, where he sees a bit of graffiti that changes his mood. Two diagonal lines of shadow to his left and right are growing, indicating his intention to revert to his manipulative ways to save himself.

Slim Pickens When It Comes to Justice

Saul Goodman unveils his intention to utilize his legal expertise to shorten his sentence to the least painful and pleasant experience possible. The wide shots, close-ups, and diagonals depicting seated actors around a table, as well as the dark-paneled walls, evoke the classic dark satire from Stanley Kubrick.

Saul sees the proceedings as a game he is prepared to win, relishing in the opportunity to poke fun at the prosecution in the knowledge that he may easily get away scot-free if he so chooses. It's a darkly comic irony that the same behavior that led Saul to commit his legion of crimes might allow him to escape relatively unpunished.

How Saul Was Framed

The director misleads the viewer by implying that Kim and not Saul will be punished for his actions, as well as Kim's as well as his assent. The shot frames the scene in a classic crime drama, allowing Saul to perform his magic trick of recognizing his superiority.

The auditorium behind Saul's podium is lit up with light, yet the room around him, aside from the judge's bench, remains dark and foreboding. When he confesses and tells those around him that he is Jimmy McGill, the same kind of hum that tormented Chuck when he was alive, it appears to be giving him some emotional relief.

Black, White, and Morally Gray

Kim meets Jimmy in his cell before he is released. The god rays bathe areas of the room once more in caged light. They seem to shine most brightly over Kim, Jimmy's last chance at hope, humanity, or compassion. When Jimmy joins Kim for a cigarette in the caged sunbeam, light meets darkness in a final moment.

The use of black and white to draw the viewer's attention and assist in the framing of his works is fantastic. He evokes and underscores Saul Goodman's journey out of darkness and toward the light, while also providing a moment of redemption in the stark contrast of monochrome.