Exuberant, greasy, and fantastically shady: Why we fell in love with Jimmy McGill and Saul Goodman
With season 4 of 'Better Call Saul' less than two weeks away, we look at what made us fall in love with everyone's favorite criminal lawyer.
"Hi, I'm Saul Goodman. Did you know that you have rights? The constitution says you do! And so do I!"
When Vince Gilligan announced the Saul Goodman-centered spinoff to 'Breaking Bad' in 2012, fans greeted the news with hopeful optimism. After all, the greasy, shifty, opportunistic, bottom-feeding lawyer was arguably the show's most prominent side act and had endeared himself to audiences over the course of its iconic five-season run. His cult-status is made even more impressive by the fact that he only made his debut in season 2 of the show and was originally intended to appear in just three episodes.
When 'Better Call Saul' finally made its debut in 2015, viewers found themselves six years before Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) went about making their mark in Albuquerque and at a time when Saul was still the meek, earnest and sweet Jimmy McGill version of himself. But all the signs indicate their patience is finally set to pay off, with season 4 set to pull the trigger on his much-awaited metamorphosis.
The upcoming season of the AMC drama will make its bow on August 6 and will see the likes of Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), and Nacho (Michael Mando) look set to have their make-it or break-it moment as well as local, psychopathic drug lord Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) taking on a more significant role. And if the previous seasons are any indication, season 4 will be just as thrilling and gutting and laced with the sweaty-palm sequences that made both it and its predecessor such massive successes. But the biggest tease has been that of Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) finally completing his transformation into the erstwhile Saul Goodman.
Jimmy first uses the Saul Goodman moniker in a flashback in the episode 'Hero.' He introduces himself as Saul while working with close friend and fellow conman Marco Pasternak (Mel Rodriguez) to trick others into trading cash for fake Rolex watches. But it's with the airing of his ad in 'Off Brand' that we finally see the side to him that we had all grown to love so much.
"What's that I see? Albuquerque's next TV star? It's you, small business owner! Struggling to make it in today's fast-paced economy? Thought television advertising was too expensive for you? Well you better think again! You can't afford not to be on TV! Look at you, you're a triple threat: great services, great products, and most of all, that face! You're a star! Wrap it all up in your natural charisma, and bam — you belong on TV! Better watch out for autograph hounds and paparazzi! And it gets better! I can have you on the air tomorrow! Yeah, you heard me right — tomorrow! Better get ready to be famous, Albuquerque! I can make you a TV star for a price you can afford! Call me, Saul Goodman! The world needs to know about you and your business! Call me now!"
What will finally push Jimmy over the edge and into embracing the amoral, flamboyant criminal lawyer with a penchant for cheap ads and his 'LWYR UP' Cadillac for good? Well, it seems to be several reasons rather than a particular one.
The tension between Jimmy and brother Chuck (Michael McKean) had been palpable in the first two seasons and finally reached a head this past season. Chuck tried to force Jimmy from stop practicing law, brandishing a tape he had recorded of his brother confessing to sabotaging HHM's case with Mesa Verde but the plan would backfire. A subsequent hearing at the bar association of New Mexico saw Jimmy weasel his way out of trouble in that characteristic take no prisoners way we've grown to love, proving that Chuck was not sane of mind because of his unique allergy condition.
But despite their constant squabbles and petty fights, it was always apparent that Jimmy unequivocally loved his brother. After all, Chuck had bailed him out on numerous occasions and given him a roof to live under despite his repeated offenses. A deep dive into their personal relationship revealed how the two could not have been further apart on the spectrum in terms of their personality — Chuck was the diligent, responsible elder brother that strived for perfection and success, while Jimmy was the conniving, two-faced con-man, who despite harboring good intentions, always looked for a way to make a quick buck.
After the umpteenth rescue, Jimmy decides it's finally time for a change, taking up a job in the mailroom of his brother's company and working towards his law degree so Chuck would be proud of him. But when the day comes that he successfully passes the bar, his brother is disillusioned. He thinks Jimmy is unworthy of practicing such a prestigious profession. Unsurprisingly, the revelation hurts Jimmy so much — how can his brother think so less of him? — that their relationship ultimately becomes untenable. However, not enough that his death doesn't affect him.
Season 3 closed off on the cliffhanger of Chuck's house burning down with him still inside. But Gilligan has confirmed that the older brother does not make it out alive. The speculation is that Jimmy will find himself with a windfall of an inheritance from his brother's stake in HHM — after all, he remains Chuck's only living relative — and that he uses this money to abandon his old name to develop his reputation under his pseudonym of Saul Goodman. Audiences may finally see Jimmy open up the iconic gaudy and cliched 'Better Call Saul' office and fully champion his new, aggressively confident persona.
There's also an impending implosion between Jimmy and Kim that's been waiting to happen for a while. The pair had always been close to one another but in recent seasons the cracks had begun to show. Their joint law venture put them consistently in close quarters for the first time and in a working environment, and while Jimmy has always been well-meaning, his proclivity for short-cuts and illicit methods rubbed Kim off the wrong way. His role in the HHM fiasco should have been the last straw but his subsequent disbarment and inability to pay his share of their 50-50 agreement meant she had to overwork herself to the extent she was sleep-deprived and compromised. A near-fatal accident sees her banged up at the end of season 3, and the upcoming season should see her harboring the underlying resentment to break things off for good with Jimmy.
Kim was the only one who accepted Jimmy in a world where he constantly found himself chastised and rebuked for his antics, and the severance of their bond might prove to be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back.
We're not complaining, though. There's a charm to Saul that Jimmy lacks, with the exuberant, fantastically shady appearance punctuated with those flashy suits, the abhorrent low-budget TV commercials, the sleazy mannerisms, and the obvious lack of moral compass making him one of the most memorable characters in television history. And of course, there are the countless exchanges where he humblebrags his way into your heart via outrageous claims; the best being his claim to fame as Kevin Costner.
"If you're committed enough, you can make any story work. I once told a woman I was Kevin Costner, and it worked because I believed it," he says in episode 11 of the third season of 'Breaking Bad.' And of course, Gilligan couldn't help but elaborate on this particular incident in 'Better Call Saul, where Jimmy is shown lying in bed with a woman who proclaims "You are NOT Kevin Costner" after the pair sleep together.
It's not that he's some two-bit hack of a lawyer either. Despite the outwardly goofy manner in which he portrays himself, Saul is a highly competent extra-legal operator, with a cursory look at the list of his clients giving a clear indication of how well he is trusted in the seedy underbelly of Albuquerque. Incredibly adept at sniffing out legal loopholes and using illegal tactics and dirty schemes to ensure those he represented came out on top. There are only a few things more pleasing than watching overzealous, overbearing, power-abusing officers get their due, and the ease with which he antagonizes the law enforcement and DEA in the city only endear him to you more.
There's also the fact that the origin for his name, as well as his role as a problem fixing lawyer, is a play on the phrase 'It's all good, man,' which when pronounced in vernacular becomes 'S'all good, man.' That combined with his trademark panache and chutzpah mean that there is very little to not like about him. After all, how often is it that you come across such an ethically-devoid protagonist that oozes so much charisma? (Yes, we know, Harvey Specter counts as well).
But what made so many of us fall head-over-heels for Saul was that he was by no means one dimensional. Despite maintaining extensive connections with the criminal underworld and serving as a go-between connecting drug distributors evidence removers, impersonators, and other criminals-for-hire, he still retains integrity and a sliver of ethics; just enough to keep up his ambiguous outlook and keep viewers guessing. Attorney-client privilege remains sacred and while murder doesn't faze him as long as it somehow endangers his interests, he draws the line and cuts off ties with Walter White after he uses him to poison a young boy.
'Breaking Bad' ensures that Saul's time in the sun doesn't last too long. His criminal ways catch up to him as law enforcement tighten the noose around Walter, and he is forced to make his escape from Albuquerque. An identity change later, we meet Gene, a manager working behind the counter at a shopping-mall Cinnabon in Omaha, Nebraska. Depressed, lonely and longing to return to his lawyer ways, as 'Better Call Saul' inches towards the 'Breaking Bad' timeline, it's likely we will see what feels like an inevitable conclusion to his story: his death. A fitting end, but quite possibly an undeserved one.