Better Call Saul, Season 1 Episode 5: “Hero”

Local lawyer, local hero

I work with someone who lives puns, and I know he would have loved the origin story of Saul Goodman’s name (I actually just asked him about it, and he said the first time he heard the name Saul Goodman, he wondered if it was a play on words). I heard it and wondered why I’d never thought of it before. Just a heads up, I’m writing this on my phone again, so it’s going to be rough, with several strange words in here courtesy of autocorrect. I realised just now that the flashbacks to Slippin’ Jimmy are structured similarly to those in Jane the Virgin, but provide the audience with insight into Jimmy’s personality, whereas Jane’s flashbacks ate odd formative moments in her life. The difference is small, but it’s there.

This week’s flashback is of Jimmy and a friend, who pretends to be dead, fleecing some poor idiot out of money by taking the money out of his wallet and lifting a fake Rolex from his wrist. Jinny then fleeces the guy or of more money and the other guy runs away with a fake watch. We need to know how Jimmy’s cons work so that we’re not too surprised when the billboard thing is a stunt. I should have figured it out when Jimmy kept insisting that both he and the billboard are in the frame, but I was taken unawares, probably because I had to so the episode so many times. There are two people who aren’t convinced by Jimmy’s hero act: his brother, and Hamlin, who has asked Jimmy to use a different name for his practice. Now Jimmy has started a war with his brother’s law partner, who knows how far this will go.

What we know about Jimmy McGill is that he used to con people for money, and then he got his act together after he was arrested. Since then, he’s tried to make his name as a public defender, but what he really wants to do is start his own practice. The problem? “You look like a lawyer that guilty people hire.” This is what Mrs Kettleman tells Jimmy after he finds them camping in the woods to run away from their crime – they even have the 1.6 million they stole in a duffel bag but maintain their innocence, because Mr Kettleman never got paid for the overtime he did. Then they paid him a bribe. I wasn’t aware that he even took the bribe until he started buying the expensive suit. That billboard gag was great (why would anyone wear a woollen tie?).

What we have in Jimmy McGill is not the Walter White to Heisenberg transformation, but it seems that James McGill the lawyer is a departure from Jimmy’s true nature. He was Slippin’ Jimmy back in Illinois, and when we see him on Breaking Bad, Saul Goodman isn’t that different to Jimmy McGill. We learn about Walter White’s inner darkness throughout Breaking Bad as it manifests itself, but Better Call Saul is a different beast. Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould have a difficult task in creating a prequel; we already know how Saul Goodman ended up in Nebraska, but we didn’t know how he became Saul Goodman. The answer is that Slippin’ Jimmy is Saul Goodman, but in trying to build up his reputation as a lawyer, Jimmy McGill wants to cultivate a certain image – I wonder how long it will be until he realises that being the kind of lawyer guilty people hire isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

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