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Scott D. Pierce: ‘Better Call Saul’ is a great prequel ... because it’s also a sequel

The final season starts Monday, but it won’t end until August.

(Greg Lewis | AMC/Sony Pictures Television) Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman in "Better Call Saul."

It’s the beginning of the end for “Better Call Saul,” and despite the fact that the series is a prequel, we actually don’t know how it will end. That’s one of the reasons why this precursor to “Breaking Bad” is the best TV prequel ever.

The difficulty with most prequels is that we do know exactly how they’re going to end. It was impossible to build suspense in the “Star Wars” prequels, for example, because not only had we known for decades that Anakin Skywalker was going to become Darth Vader, but we knew exactly what was going to become of Darth Vader.

“Better Call Saul” is the saga of Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) and his transformation from a nice guy/lawyer with questionable ethics into Saul Goodman, a slick and dirty lawyer with no ethics. And that journey has been both fascinating and wildly entertaining.

We know what’s going to happen to Saul on “Breaking Bad,” but that wasn’t the end of the character’s story. We don’t know what’s going to become of Gene Takavic, Jimmy/Saul’s alter ego, who manages a Cinnabon store in Nebraska after escaping the carnage at the end of “Breaking Bad.”

But we’re going to find out in the sixth and final season of “Better Call Saul,” which starts airing Monday on AMC (7 p.m. Dish and DirecTV; 10 p.m. Comcast). The season will be split in two — seven episodes in April and May; six in July and August, with the finale scheduled to air on Aug. 15.

And the final season will feature the guest appearances fans have been waiting for. Bryan Cranston will reprise his “Breaking Bad” role as Walter White, and Aaron Paul will return as Jesse Pinkman.

We don’t know which episodes we’ll see them in, but the safe money bet is that it’ll probably be at or near the end of “Better Call Saul,” so maybe not until August. We also don’t know how many of the 13 episodes they’ll appear in — the only thing I can tell you for sure is that they aren’t in the first two that air on Monday, which were screened for critics.

And there are some intriguing possibilities. It’s certainly possible that both Walter and Jesse will appear opposite Saul, who was part of the “Breaking Bad” narrative. That’s got to be the case for Walter, who was killed at the end of the original series.

(Please, don’t tell me that’s a spoiler. The finale of “Breaking Bad” aired more than 8½ years ago.)

Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman and Bryan Cranston as Walter White in "Breaking Bad." Courtesy photo

Bringing back “Breaking Bad” characters is nothing new for “Better Call Saul.” More than two dozen characters from the former series have reappeared on the latter, and several of them — including Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) and Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) — were killed on “Breaking Bad.”

Jesse, however, survived. The last time we saw him was in “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie,” which was set shortly after the conclusion of the series. At the end of that movie — which premiered 2½ years ago — Jesse was headed into hiding under an assumed name.

So it’s possible that post-”El Camino” Jesse could meet up with post-”Breaking Bad” Gene.

(This is also not a spoiler. I’m speculating. I’m not sharing inside information.)

It’s been almost exactly two years since the end of season five of “Better Call Saul” — the pandemic and the heart attack Odenkirk suffered on set delayed things — but the series hasn’t lost any of its edge. Or its quirkiness. The first of two episodes that air Monday, “Wine & Roses,” begins with an extended, artistic montage of what appears to be a flash-forward to a crew emptying Saul’s house, post-”Breaking Bad.”

And then we’re right back into it with a pair of parallel stories. In one, drug cartel leader Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton) — having survived a bloody assassination attempt — is out for revenge.

(Greg Lewis | AMC/Sony Pictures Television) Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler in "Better Call Saul."

The other story finds Saul and his wife/fellow lawyer Kim Wexler (Rhea Seahorn) launching another scheme. This one is aimed at their former boss, Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian), but what’s really fascinating is what it shows us about Kim. No spoilers, but she is not an innocent bystander to Saul’s scheme, she’s the driving force. And she demonstrates just how scary she can be.

When we get to the end of “Better Call Saul” in August, I’m going to miss it. I mean, it’s been more than 14 years since the narrative began with the premiere of “Breaking Bad.” Right now, I’m still incredibly anxious to see what happens next. And how “Better Call Saul” is going to end.

Also on TV this week …

“The First Lady” (Sunday, 9 p.m., Showtime) is a 10-part, fictionalized drama that weaves together the stories of Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Ford and Michelle Obama. … Season 4 of “Mayan M.C.” begins (Tuesday. 11 p.m., FX) … The extraordinarily creepy documentary “Conversations with a Killer: The John Wayne Gacy Tapes” (Wednesday, streaming, Netflix) features audio tapes of Gacy talking about his crimes — he killed at least 33 young men and boys . … “Freddie Mercury: The Final Act” (Wednesday, 8 p.m., CW/Ch. 30) is a BBC-produced documentary about a tribute concert to the Queen frontman that featured Elton John, David Bowie, George Michael, Roger Daltrey and more. … Season two of “Russian Doll” (Wednesday, Streaming, Netflix) arrives, three years after season one. … Kaley Cuoco returns in season two of “The Flight Attendant” (Thursday, streaming, HBO), and her character is caught up in another murder. … “Polar Bear” (Friday, streaming, Disney+) is a charming nature documentary. … “They Call Me Magic” (Friday, Streaming Apple TV+) is a biography — sort of an autobiography — of Magic Johnson.

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