Fans of Breaking Bad know that Jimmy McGill’s transformation into the sleazy Saul Goodman is inevitable, and that makes Jimmy’s struggles in Better Call Saul all the more painful to watch.
I didn’t dive into the world of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul in the usual order. I actually started with Better Call Saul and loved the writing, characters, and production value of the series so much that it finally made me want to watch Breaking Bad and see what all of the hype was about, but more importantly what the fate of Jimmy McGill and the other Better Call Saul characters was in the Breaking Bad universe.
Seeing Saul Goodman was extremely difficult for me at first because I had fallen in love with the character of Jimmy McGill, and couldn’t fathom that Jimmy could fall this low, that he could really become this reprehensible of a person. Starting this story with Jimmy McGill rather than Saul Goodman is extremely jarring, because they really are two different people. Jimmy is a man who has a good heart and the best intentions behind every single action he takes,things usually just don’t turn out the way that he originally intended.
He tries his best, but he just can’t help breaking things when he’s trying to fix them. As Jimmy famously said in one of my favorite lines from Better Call Saul: “I’m not good at building shit you know…I’m excellent at tearing it down.” That right there is Jimmy’s fatal flaw. He truly does care about the people who love him and does everything he can to help them in his own way, but he doesn’t realize that the actions he takes will almost every time end up hurting someone.
Saul Goodman on the other hand is almost completely devoid of these good qualities. He is the result of what Jimmy becomes when everyone who was a good influence in his life some way or another is no longer there to show him the right way, to pull him back from the edge when he’s on the verge of setting up some scheme or pulling off a plan that will result in irreversible damage.
We want Jimmy to realize the choices he’s making will eventually lead him down a path of destruction he can’t reverse, but it’s too late. He will eventually end up changing his name to “Gene” and working at a Cinnabon in Omaha, Nebraska after his ill fated partnership with Walter White whether we like it or not.
From the beginning of Better Call Saul Jimmy has been inching closer and closer to becoming Saul Goodman, but in season 4 he’s closer than ever, almost at the tipping point, and the cause of this is the death of his brother Chuck. In the season 3 finale “Lantern” we saw Chuck tragically take his own life by setting his house on fire after he had a severe relapse from his disease that made him unable to bear contact with electricity. The season 4 premiere “Smoke” picked up directly after that heartbreaking scene, showing everyone who knew Chuck dealing with the direct aftermath of his death.
As a coping mechanism, Jimmy is avoiding dealing with how he feels about Chuck’s death by compartmentalizing and almost disassociating entirely. He’s building a wall around himself to avoid confronting what happened, because if he slowed down and allowed himself to mourn or think about his role in his own brother’s death, he would break down completely. To keep himself busy, he goes to one job interview after another, confronting a pair of copier salesman who offer him a job when he does his usual song and dance without interviewing other candidates or doing a background check on him.
Despite everything Chuck did to him, keeping him from joining Hamlin, Hamlin and McGill and using Jimmy’s concern over his disease to record a confession and get Jimmy arrested, Jimmy always cared about his brother and what Chuck thought of him. Jimmy knows that Chuck was extremely disappointed in him, it was the last thing that Chuck said to him before he died, and these two copier salesman hiring him without question just proved Chuck’s point, that Jimmy could talk his way into anything without having to actually do the work.
In an extremely powerful scene from ‘Breathe’ Jimmy exploded at these two copier salesmen, telling them that they “had no idea” who he was and that he felt sorry for them. In this scene we saw that Chuck’s death is eating away at Jimmy, he’s just expressing his guilt and his sorrow in a strange way. This is the key to Jimmy’s transformation into Saul Goodman. Chuck always thought that Jimmy was a good for nothing disappointment who would eventually end up becoming a full blown criminal. Now that Chuck is dead and it was partly Jimmy’s fault (in Jimmy’s mind anyway) why shouldn’t Jimmy just give in and become the person who Chuck always thought he was? Why shouldn’t he just give in to that part of his nature and become Saul Goodman?
Right now, the only person standing in the way of Jimmy becoming Saul is Kim, and I’m extremely worried about what’s going to happen to her this season. As fans of Breaking Bad know, Kim isn’t in the show. Saul clearly has no significant other in his life, and as we’ve seen in Better Call Saul something major would have to happen to pull Jimmy and Kim apart. When Chuck was trying to tear his brother down, Kim was always there, giving him the emotional support that he had been deprived of. Whenever Jimmy is in trouble or needs help Kim is always at his side. In ‘Breathe’ Kim had an explosive confrontation with Howard about his treatment of Jimmy after Chuck’s death, telling him to leave Jimmy alone and that he couldn’t fix anything he had done to him. Right now, Jimmy and Kim are inseparable, but something catastrophic is coming for the both of them. If something happens to Kim, that would be the final blow that would cause Jimmy to become Saul.
We’ll have to wait and see what happens, but we know that Better Call Saul will start to connect with the events of Breaking Bad this season, and that means that chaos and tragedy is coming for all of our favorites in Better Call Saul.
Better Call Saul airs Mondays at 9/8c on AMC.