When I first learned there would be a Breaking Bad spinoff about Saul, I was mildly interested. Breaking Bad isn’t what I normally look for in a T.V. show, but if Vince Gilligan writes it, I’ll watch whatever. Breaking Bad turned out to be one of the best-written shows I’ve ever seen. Still I thought, there’s no way a spinoff could possibly live up to it. Why should I be emotionally invested in Saul, the sleezebag lawyer, like I was in say, Jessie Pinkman? Better Call Saul offers the “why” in abundance.
I expected to find humor in this show, good writing, drama, and suspense. I did not expect to become so emotionally invested in Jimmy McGill’s character that my heart breaks over and over every week, or that when Jimmy cries, I want to too. I like him more than I ever liked Walt over the course of Breaking Bad and it’s only been one short season.
Jimmy is so utterly and painfully human, you can’t help but love him. Here’s someone who’s been so beaten down while trying to change his flawed character and walk the straight and narrow, but who still tries to do the right thing. Yes, he gives into temptation, like he did with the Kettlemans’ bribe, but that was understandable. He couldn’t make ends meat being good, so he opted for making a lot of money by being a little bit bad. That part wasn’t surprising to me at all. What did shock me was that he gave the money back, turned the Kettlemans back over to Kim and HHM, and completely righted his moral misstep by taking $20,000 of his own will money to make the county whole again.
So in true Gilliganian fashion, we see rewards for bad behavior in this working world (a sad commentary on the working world, quite the opposite for his writing) and pain and poverty in return for doing the right thing. Jimmy does the right thing and loses his shiny new office, loses $20,000 and his dream desk, loses Kim whom he is still so obviously in love with (ow, there’s that pain in my heart again) but at least he’s done the right thing. The right thing leaves him crying in his would-be office–one of the most heart wrenching scenes I’ve ever witnessed.
Still, Jimmy is trying to be the good guy–the guy Chuck is proud of and a guy good enough to earn Kim’s affection. He works his ass off in the mail room at HHM where he receives no respect and Kim seems to be his only friend, and receives an online law degree and passes the bar. How can you not respect the hell out of that? Still he gets beaten down. HHM won’t hire him.
Well, we found out last night that the reason why is Chuck. It turns out Chuck isn’t proud of Jimmy at all, and doesn’t even consider him a “real” lawyer. When Jimmy finds out (and not because Chuck confessed, mind you) he is crushed, and so am I. Jimmy has been taking care of Chuck, bringing him everything he needs, checking up on him regularly, grounding himself, rescuing him from the hospital with so much genuine care it made my heart swell, defending Chuck’s claim that the condition is physical and not psychological, not committing him, not cashing out with HHM by becoming his legal guardian, and rooting Chuck to get back outside and back to work. In the beginning I saw two brothers with fundamental differences, who at the end of the day, were really there for each other. I am so disappointed. What a great show, that it can evoke all these emotions.
Mark my words, the difference between Jimmy being good, and Saul being bad is ultimately going to amount to the fact that Chuck doesn’t believe in his brother. You live up to people’s expectations of you (at least those you care about). When Jimmy thought Chuck was proud of him, and encouraging him, he was working hard and doing so well–going so far as to dive into dumpsters and reassemble shredded documents, pulling all nighters. Now that he knows how Chuck really feels about him, he will be what Chuck accused him of: Slippin’ Jimmy. Why not? That’s all he’ll ever get credit for. The pain…my God, the pain…
Speaking of emotions, I rarely ship characters outside of SciFi, but I just want Jimmy to apologize to Kim and kiss her. At first I thought she sold him out to be partner (I’ll make you partner if you get your friend to take the deal) But she didn’t do anything wrong. She stood up for him. I still have a bad feeling (but I really hope I’m wrong) that Kim is involved with Hamlin in more than just a professional way. If that happens, then Hamlin will have everything Jimmy wants, and Jimmy will have nothing and no reason not to become Saul. Kim never appears in Breaking Bad. Why? What happens to her? I really like her. There’s finally a cool female character in this world who doesn’t suck like Skylar, Jane, and Marie did. She too has me emotionally invested. Why does she stay with a firm that treats her like garbage, threatening to fire her, and moving her to a closet office? Way to show loyalty, Hamlin. I’ll tell you why: for the almighty dollar. She wants to be partner, and that means more to her than accepting Jimmy’s offer. They’d have less money, but they would have both been happy, respected, and really enjoyed their job together. She also might have rejected Jimmy’s offer (ow, the stabbing pain is back) because of my Kim/Hamlin theory. Again, I really hope not.
There’s only one episode left in this first season and I’m already bracing myself for the inevitability of Jimmy’s downfall into Saul. What do you think? Please share your thoughts below.