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'Better Call Saul' season 5 review:  Why this is still the best show on TV

Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill and Rhea Seehorn

Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill and Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler in AMC's Season 5 of "Better Call Saul."  Credit: AMC/Sony Pictures Television/Warrick Page

SERIES "Better Call Saul"

WHEN|WHERE Season 5 premiere airs Sunday at 10:05 p.m. on AMC. Moves to its regular time slot, Mondays at 9 p.m., starting Feb. 24.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT As season 5 begins, Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) has legally become Saul Goodman, while Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) must process the conversion. Meanwhile, Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) has attempted to absorb the enormity of his crime — the murder of German engineer Werner Ziegler (Rainer Bock) who left the construction of Gus Fring's (Giancarlo Esposito) meth superlab — but there's no time for soul-searching. Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton), ruthless nephew of Gus' nemesis Don Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis), wants to know what that lab is for. That would be catastrophic for Gus, who persuades Lalo's henchman, Nacho (Michael Mando)/ to find out what he can about his boss.

Also this: DEA agents "Gomie" (Steven Michael Quezada) and Hank (Dean Norris) are back for a two-episode arc.

MY SAY Nearly 10 years and a whole other series ("Breaking Bad") ago, Mike explained the problem with something he called "half-measures." When he had been a cop in Philly, he had taken pity on an abusive husband who ended up killing his wife. That pity was the "half-measure." A full-measure — offing the husband first — would have saved her life, ergo "full" is better than "half."

Which brings us to Jimmy, now Saul. No more halfsies for Jimmy either. He's not even Jimmy anymore, but the Saul of glorious marmalade shirts, Technicolor ties, and lines that only Saul could get away with. He hands out drop phones to skels with just one number — his own. He works his cons. He gets results. Kim is appalled. She is also awed. 

This new Saul also brings us closer to the "Breaking Bad" universe, so close we can now taste it, smell it, feel it. A pair of beloved characters return by the third episode, as if they'd never been gone. There's a joy to their arc, but also a deep sadness. 

Certainly one of the many pleasures of this season is that we have almost returned back to where we started from. Saul being Saul, he's never too far from his comic-relief roots.  As a result, there is a lightness to this new season — which makes the shades of darkness all the bleaker and more menacing. By going full-measure, Saul sees himself as "friend to the friendless [and] their last line of defense." But we as viewers are better positioned to see who he really is. Jimmy changed his name so as not to soil the legacy of his beloved brother, Chuck (Michael McKean). He's become a 1-800 bottom feeder because those at the top of the feeding chain, represented by Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian), will never allow him at the trough with them. 

"Breaking Bad," now "Saul," were always about the problem of full-measures. Nacho puts it concisely when he says "when you're in, you're in." There's no backing away from full-measures, ever. Most people here — Kim, Nacho, Jimmy, even big, bad Mike — live by half-measures, checked by a love for someone that exceeds their own self-love. Full measures are for either psychos or bank presidents. The greatness of these two series lies in their mutual ambition. With roots as deep as the Bible, they explore fundamental human drives, the fundamental human struggle to figure out inner strife, inner division, under the cool gaze of an Old Testament God. A full-measure God. 

BOTTOM LINE The best show on TV remains — emphatically — the best. 

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