On the surface Better Call Saul’s Jimmy McGill took the 86-year sentence to protect Kim Wexler, but beyond that there is symbolism to the number and the decision.
Better Call Saul was the hit AMC sequel-prequel to the 2000s hit series Breaking Bad. As such, the premise of the series details the life of Jimmy McGill, an Albuquerque lawyer, before he became the lawyer we know as Saul Goodman.
The series finale answered the big question, “Where is Kim Wexler in Breaking Bad?”
Moreover, it showed what happened to Saul Goodman after the events of Breaking Bad as he was imprisoned for 86 years for his crimes after reneging on the seven-year plea bargain to protect Kim Wexler.
There is also other symbolism in the number of years and Saul Goodman’s decision to do this.
Did Saul get 86 years?
Technically, Saul Goodman did not get an 86-year prison sentence when he was initially sentenced, but he negotiated a seven-year sentence.
He did this by remembering who Saul Goodman was as his alter ego and letting go of the persona that he had played as Gene Takovic for the years that he was in hiding after the events of Breaking Bad.
Seemingly, with each persona that Jimmy/Saul/Gene took on, he was as fully committed to them as Bob Odenkirk was to portraying each persona as a different person.
Better Call Saul: Why did Saul take the 86 years?
By the season finale of Better Call Saul, Saul Goodman was apprehended after initially hiding out as Gene Takovic, the manager of a Cinnabon in a mall in Omaha.
However, after his apprehension, he was able to return to being Saul Goodman and negotiate himself a sweet plea bargain through which he would confess to his crimes but suggest that it was under duress and fear of the consequences of saying no to Heisenberg.
Kim Wexler had returned from her own hiding as the demurrer brunette that seemed the exact opposite of the blonde, ponytailed, assertive lawyer that fans had known for five seasons.
Moreover, Kim came out of hiding as she confessed to her own sins, like her involvement in pushing Jimmy’s brother to commit suicide after all but ruining his reputation as a lawyer.
Saul decided to revoke his initial plea statement and take onus for all his crimes by asserting that he knew what he was doing by working with Walter White, and that Walter would not be successful without him and his contacts.
Though he initially feared his reception, Saul enjoyed a warm welcome upon arrival as his notoriety as Saul Goodman preceded him in prison.
What is the symbolism of Saul Goodman taking the full blame?
On the surface, Saul Goodman taking blame for his crimes was the apt way to end a series which was a tragic love story between Jimmy McGill and Kim Wexler.
However, there is a deeper symbolism behind Saul taking the onus of his crimes and wanting the judge to refer to him as Jimmy McGill instead of Saul Goodman, which is that while Jimmy enjoyed the notoriety that being Saul Goodman earned him prison.
He had returned to his old self, Jimmy, by the end of the series by letting go of his Saul Goodman persona.
How did Jimmy McGill letting go of Saul Goodman lead to the touching end?
When Better Call Saul was introduced, it was understood as the sequel-prequel to Breaking Bad.
Therefore, characters like Saul Goodman, Mike Ehrmantraut, and Gus Fring were fully realised characters through Better Call Saul, which could have been empathised with by viewers more.
But it became quickly apparent that the series was about the love story and chemistry between Jimmy/Saul and Kim Wexler.
Therefore, when Jimmy finally let go of Saul and took the blame for his crimes, it allowed the touching last scene to happen when Kim visited Saul in prison and they both leaned against the wall, and shared a cigarette, – a homage to their first scene together in season one.
What is the symbolism of number 86?
Amongst the many, one of the things that the Breaking Bad universe could always do was place little easter egg details that fans could find and see the relation between the original series, the Netflix original El Camino, and the sequel-prequel.
Similarly, the number 86, which was how many years Saul was sentenced to, was a recurring number in the Breaking Bad universe.
Firstly, in El Camino, Jesse Pinkman’s number plate started with “86j” and the state motto was, “The last frontier.”
Moreover, 86’ed is also a term which meant the end of something, which signified that the series was ending, since Vince Gilligan affirmed that Better Call Saul was the last expansion of the Breaking Bad universe.