Slippin' Jimmy to Saul Goodman: The 4 Greatest Forces at Work in Season Two of Better Call Saul

by | February 14, 2016 | Comments


At one point early in its development, Better Call Saul was going to be a half-hour comedy, which is a strange notion. Maybe creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould feared they couldn’t catch lightning in a bottle twice with a Breaking Bad spinoff featuring Walter White’s shady attorney and consigliere Saul Goodman, played by Bob Odenkirk. Maybe they thought viewers would only want a season’s worth of Saul, if that.

Eventually Better Call Saul became an hour-long drama — a tragicomedy, in truth — which a melancholy character like Jimmy McGill merits. By the end of season one, we wanted to spend as much time as possible in Jimmy’s kooky, sad existence as possible.

The first two episodes of season two, which kicks off at 10pm Monday on AMC, feel more meticulously paced, which is a good thing. We know Jimmy is due to take a torturous slide into the moral tar pits where Saul operates, and we know he’ll end up hiding out in a Cinnabon purgatory in the Midwest. The second season continues to move the character toward his fate, even if it is a long time coming.

Read on for the list of forces that are moving nice guy Jimmy McGill and his eventual partner Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) toward Breaking Bad. (That is, if you’ve watched season one. If you haven’t, better call up Netflix before venturing any further.)



Barely eking out a career as a bumbling public defender in Albuquerque while operating out of a nail salon’s utility closet, Jimmy wore his defiance of his brother Chuck’s (Michael McKean) law partners at the high powered firm of Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill like a medal. Some of that rebelliousness is rooted in Jimmy’s con man past as Slippin’ Jimmy, a guy who preyed on easy marks at his favorite local dive in Cicero, Il. The first season finale took us into that world when a disillusioned Jimmy took a vacation back to the Midwest and reconnected with his old grifting buddy Marco (Mel Rodriguez).

Those scenes illustrated the exuberant thrills Jimmy left behind out of respect for Chuck.

Thus, when a revved-up Jimmy declares in so many words that he’s through doing the right thing, we get it. A part of us may even root for him. Jimmy so badly wants to be successful; more than that, he wants to be respected.  But that con artist’s spirit is what makes Saul Goodman so effective and entertaining.

What Saul doesn’t have is Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), who may end up being a more stabilizing influence on old Jimmy than he had bargained for. As Jimmy rises to a new career level, we get to see more of Seehorn’s portrayal of Kim, a welcome development.



The whole universe seemed to be conspiring against Jimmy at times, and every forward lurch eventually pushed him down to the ground again. But at least he had Chuck’s support, and he repaid that by catering to his brother’s mysterious and likely delusional “electromagnetic hypersensitivity.”

Jimmy’s discovery that Chuck played a role in stalling his career, then, was heartbreaking, made infinitely more poignant by Odenkirk’s performance, as he movingly called upon a variety of emotional tones during the confrontation.

The revelation also marked a shift in Jimmy that pulls us into the new season, informing his attitude about the relative worth of doing the right thing. Because, as his faithless brother points out, Chuck worked his butt off to get where he is… which happens to be cowering under a mylar blanket in a dark house.

Still, Chuck’s view of Jimmy may be morphing from disdain masked by tolerance into a full-blown rivalry. No one gets under a person’s skin like family.



Chuck’s long-held view that Jimmy was little more than a clown lost its power when little brother found a case that turned into a multimillion dollar class action lawsuit. Jimmy laid the foundation for the suit using his intellect, pluck and willpower… and not a bit of hustling. And as the new season starts, that effort earns Jimmy a chance to gain the respect that’s long eluded him.

But what happens when a person appears to have gotten what he’s always desired, only to discover that the reality isn’t nearly as fun as the dream?

This is where Better Call Saul, like its predecessor Breaking Bad, starts to expand its uniqueness as a character study in this universe. Where Breaking was about Walter’s devolution into evil, Better Call Saul is shaping up to be a tale of integration that informs why we were so drawn to Saul Goodman’s nature, even as he facilitated the committing of some truly evil acts. Eventually Slippin’ Jimmy and Jimmy McGill, attorney at law, will meld into one personality.



Along with delving into Jimmy’s past, Better Call Saul also gives us a deeper look at Mike, a taciturn fixer who wanted to complete the dirty work he was assigned with the least amount of muss possible. Exploring Mike as part of Saul’s universe is one of the most rewarding aspects of the show, as Gilligan and Gould added a depth and pathos to his character we didn’t get to see in Breaking Bad.

It’s simplistic to assign Mike the role of the devil on Jimmy’s shoulder, but he isn’t, not really. Rather, Mike has a way of drawing out Jimmy’s moral flexibility and using it for his own purposes, resulting in some tremendous comedy in the process.

He’s also crucial to the sculpting of Jimmy’s malleable moral code, serving as the show’s resident pragmatist as well as a mentor in the crime underworld. Mike also illustrates the fine difference between being a criminal and being evil, a key delineation in this world and one that assists that bond that we eventually develop with Saul.

The producers laid this out brilliantly in a speech Mike gave to a bumbling client during season one: “I’ve known good criminals and bad cops. Bad priests, honorable thieves. You can be on one side of the law or the other… You took something that wasn’t yours. And you sold it. You are now a criminal. Good one, bad one, that’s up to you.”

Melanie McFarland is a Seattle-based TV critic and an executive member of the Television Critics Association. Follow her on Twitter: @McTelevision

Season two of Better Call Saul is currently Fresh at 100 percent, and it premieres on Monday, Feb. 15 at 10 p.m. on AMC; read reviews here.

  • pjwal

    Great read before watching the kick off of Season 2 tonight, thanks!

Tag Cloud

anime Watching Series APB dramedy cinemax The Witch Warner Bros. Lifetime Drama Musical USA boxoffice Chernobyl Pop dceu NBC Set visit casting ABC TBS Vudu Sony Pictures Polls and Games OWN SDCC Musicals Hulu zombie Comic Book Epix TCA 2017 A&E Shondaland Nominations TCM DirecTV talk show Shudder See It Skip It Summer Paramount Network toy story sports Emmy Nominations zombies ratings Stephen King Biopics Netflix RT History blaxploitation Anna Paquin mockumentary animated Photos Rocketman Thanksgiving Esquire disaster FXX 2017 Acorn TV Freeform teaser travel Christmas Teen GIFs Super Bowl TV Land justice league discovery FX Song of Ice and Fire comiccon Pride Month Emmys Pixar festivals 2016 aliens HBO Cannes TIFF composers Lucasfilm nature WGN Starz 45 Pet Sematary Cosplay Schedule Brie Larson thriller crime thriller Action Toys Captain marvel Showtime PaleyFest true crime RT21 Country game show adaptation elevated horror The CW Reality Trophy Talk American Society of Cinematographers dragons CNN 007 theme song MTV TLC CW Seed BBC mutant IFC Films CMT Tomatazos History Ghostbusters Disney spinoff Animation cats BET harry potter Calendar crime zero dark thirty Dark Horse Comics Countdown 2015 police drama Podcast 21st Century Fox DGA Best and Worst hist Opinion DC Comics National Geographic E3 Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Apple El Rey Mary Poppins Returns dc Year in Review Winter TV USA Network YouTube Red Sundance Now VICE social media golden globes crime drama New York Comic Con Awards TruTV 24 frames Logo Trailer Star Trek AMC award winner San Diego Comic-Con CBS witnail Paramount Ovation cooking Nickelodeon Interview Spike The Arrangement Sundance psychological thriller richard e. Grant Film Festival Rom-Com Adult Swim Amazon Character Guide Rock adventure sitcom Mudbound Fox News Reality Competition spider-man robots Trivia Britbox Spring TV Universal Election Lionsgate Kids & Family Video Games SundanceTV Marvel YA Columbia Pictures Western Cartoon Network vampires 2018 PBS Mary poppins NYCC ABC Family sequel supernatural Tarantino binge diversity TCA YouTube Premium Holidays cults Oscars SXSW what to watch Crackle Nat Geo science fiction crossover Ellie Kemper MSNBC cops LGBT based on movie CBS All Access anthology spy thriller Fall TV strong female leads Mindy Kaling television Star Wars President transformers Elton John Women's History Month Quiz Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Comedy Central Marathons GoT ITV Martial Arts medical drama Masterpiece Premiere Dates space MCU TV comic Box Office VH1 DC streaming service Sneak Peek Creative Arts Emmys Certified Fresh X-Men political drama serial killer FOX romance Rocky IFC Pirates miniseries Writers Guild of America Mystery natural history politics Winners jamie lee curtis 20th Century Fox Infographic Comedy LGBTQ 2019 Fantasy Comics on TV Red Carpet technology Tumblr streaming Grammys Food Network green book Superheroes Music period drama Sci-Fi Horror unscripted TNT facebook Valentine's Day GLAAD Amazon Prime Black Mirror singing competition ESPN docudrama historical drama psycho BBC America Disney Channel Heroines Awards Tour DC Universe Syfy Mary Tyler Moore war Extras doctor who finale biography First Look E! Superheroe Walt Disney Pictures Bravo Spectrum Originals