Spoilers below for Better Call Saul's latest episode, titled "Fall."
AMC's Better Call Saul, in all its three seasons, has rarely (if ever) fallen into the same kinds of storyline traps and tropes that affect just about every other show on TV,. And there isn't anything accidental about that. In fact, co-creator Peter Gould revealed there was the slightest chance that Kim's shocking car accident in the penultimate episode could have been left as an open-ended cliffhanger, except for the fact that he and Vince Gilligan think those kinds of endings are just "schmuck bait." According to Gould:
We had an option that we considered --- and if it had been a different TV show, we might have taken --- which was to have the crash and then not show her getting out of the car. There's a phrase that we used to use in the Breaking Bad writers' room, and we use in the Better Call Saul writers' room, and it's something we try to avoid. We call it schmuck bait, but basically, it means leaving the audience to believe that something enormous has happened to get them to keep watching past the commercial or to the next episode, and then taking it off the table as soon as you get back. We really try to play fair with the audience. The question in my mind is: How badly is Kim hurt? And also what does this mean? What caused the car accident? And what is she going to take out of all of this?
Ha! Now, Peter Gould obviously isn't trying to imply that Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad are both completely free from episodes with cliffhanger endings. But as fans are well aware, when these dramas leave you hanging from a plot strand, it's never just about "Is this person dead or alive?" because there are an abundance of stakes that go along with each of those scenarios, and just being "alive" allows for its own infinite subset of consequences. For Gould and Gilligan, getting viewers to that particular point of contemplation is more interesting and important than simply shooting for an emotional appeal that doesn't conclude anything.
In his interview with EW, Peter Gould talks about how Jimmy and Kim's relationship is going to play out, since their last conversation prior to her accident involved him being a douche and her dismissing him. And as shocking as it might be to admit, that super-specific emotional aftermath is a more exciting source of speculation than an episode ending in which Kim's fate within the wrecked vehicle is left unconfirmed. Funny that a show that airs on the same network as The Walking Dead is so against faking audiences out with cliffhangers, right?
Considering Better Call Saul is a courtroom-adjacent crime drama where the hero is a greedy and law-eschewing mope, and where the villains' motivations are extremely understandable, a non-viewer might infer that the series would need to take bounding leaps and nosediving falls with its plot in order to get audiences pumped. But no, Saul and the impeccable Rhea Seehorn are able to make a dramatic mountain out of the concept that Kim has overworked herself to the point where she likely fell asleep behind the wheel. Plus, it was edited in a way that didn't fall in with traditional TV car wrecks, so it wins again.
Get yourself some high-price tequila in a pretty bottle, because Better Call Saul is sadly going to bring Season 3 to a close on AMC next Monday night, June 19, at 10:00 p.m. ET. To see what shows you'll be able to get obsessed with in the near future, head to our summer TV premiere schedule.