No effort is made to craft stand-alone blog posts.
Thus, posts may only make sense if read in sequence.
2/19/15 The People’s Clown Monkey
2/20/15 Saul What?
2/25/15 Missing Guts Of Story
3/06/15 The Future Of Better Call Saul
3/09/15 Manifest Destiny
3/26/15 How Better Call Saul Is Verging On A Joke
3/29/15 The Key To The Man Known As Good
In Breaking Bad, Saul was the guy, the people’s clown monkey, grabbing a Tiger by the tail, riding that tiger. Tiger obviously Walter White. In Better Call Saul so far same deal except that the Tiger is all society. The people’s clown monkey wants first to survive, second to prosper, third to thrive, a faint dream, fourth to do good amid conflicted impulses. So at the end of six years of riding the Tiger by the crazy tail in Better Call Saul, you could see where Saul gets to a moment where by his lights at least he is about to achieve something truly and deeply good, maybe even noble or great, but then his love Kim gets killed in the process and Saul rages and despairs and is crushed back into survivor mode. Enter Walter White. Saul hasn’t broken bad but has simply been broken. Saul grabs the trouser pockets and wallet of Walter White and hangs on for dear life the way he might in more fortunate circumstances latch onto a smooth talking broker with a high risk high reward investment portfolio. Saul with an eye to secure retirement. In Better Call Saul the story remains the Tiger not as prismed by the at first cautionary and then increasingly villainous figure of doomed Walter White but as prismed by the people’s clown monkey survivor, Saul Goodman – who is more than a little akin to the “final girl” or “survivor girl” figure of horror films. Saul has to survive his own show to get to Walter White’s show. Doesn’t mean that Walter White’s show will be the greater show. Shouldn’t mean that.
There is something that Better Call Saul reviewers and commenters are getting either totally wrong, most, or partially and uncertainly wrong, a relative few:
Saul is on an upward trajectory, unlike Walter White, not a downward trajectory. Yes, by the very end he will be broken, and down and out, but that was how he started, after all, as Slippin’ Jimmy, the scammer, the con. Since leaving prison in Cicero he has been on an upward trajectory, hasn’t progressed very far, I suppose, but is still striving, and won’t progress far unless he gets some luck to go along with his wits. His trajectory won’t be largely officially upward (thought it may be at its peak) but unofficially so, sometimes as a near martyr (already saw that in the desert with the skater boys), sometimes as a Robin Hood figure, one would hope, sometimes as a protector of the down and out (the sort of work he probably did as Saul Goodman during Breaking Bad, which we didn’t see much of but I bet we will). Saul has nowhere interesting to go but up because he started as an unscrupulous con, it seems, and now can ascend as a scrupulous con, until he is broken and jaded enough to become Walter White’s con. But even then he wasn’t only Walter White’s con. He still had his “Goodman” practice – Goodman being both ironic and not – though we saw precious little of it apart from Walter during Breaking Bad.
Granted this could be wishful thinking that the show will raise Saul up to the heights of the near epic before tragedy strikes. However, if the show does not move in this direction, if it attempts instead to trace decline as in Walter White and Breaking Bad, then it will be phony, a dud, and even more limited than it would otherwise be (due to the politics of being produced by wealthy investors…). Walter started as a relatively great man, whereas Jimmy started as a screw-up of sorts. Their stories have to move in different directions.
I have no doubt that the writers of BB/BCS recognize this and are proceeding accordingly. The problem, as always, as it was in BB, is the limits of their aim, their worldview, their politics, and their will. It’s fiction gutted, after a certain point. If it were not, given their prominence, the establishment would come down on them like tons of bricks. And Vince Gilligan doesn’t seem to have the fire in his belly to be interested in taking on that. He’s no young Oliver Stone even. And Stone publicly ridiculed Breaking Bad, with some good reason, apparently for how trite and visionless. Though Stone could learn from other elements of Breaking Bad: the clinically biting, clear-eyed, bitter view of society that BB cast seemed more apropos than what any other TV show has recently put forth.
Better Call Saul will have to improve on Breaking Bad, let alone attempt to replay it. Done well so far, though the limits remain painfully obvious. Breaking Bad was too often suffocating, maudlin and morbid, even sick, also intellectually and politically bankrupt, due to its limits. And Stone was right that parts of the final episode were thoroughly embarrassing. And frankly stupid, for how easily avoidable some phony key moments were. (Jesse allowed to cackle like a bad grad school actor in the car; Walt the brilliant scientist exacting revenge with the dolt tool of a machine gun.) These moments are not nearly as damning in and of themselves as they are emblematic of the larger intellectual, political, social, and also literary, novelistic, and cinematic voids. Better Call Saul will be equally inconsequential too as any positive cultural force – the cheese and self-caricature being the main emblems of larger vacuity – if it does not leap orders of magnitude forward beyond the all too familiar limits.
The first 3 episodes of Better Call Saul were solid enough. But by now, after episode 4, the stakes are too low, compared to Breaking Bad standards especially. The lead character’s life is not on the verge of collapse (socially or biologically – think Walt in BB), no new or urgent aspect of society is being plumbed (think lack of health insurance, meth outbreak, DEA & drug “war” in BB and real life), no supreme violence aka murder let alone by the lead character (think Walt killing in BB). In fact the stakes and plot are so thin in Better Call Saul that it’s necessary to have the dynamo tragicomic character McGill/Goodman in every scene. It’s thin.
The main characters of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul are different, and their situations are different, so the plot arc should be different, possibly radically different. Seems to me that the Better Call Saul main character – as a kind of public defender, the people’s defender, rather than the people’s dope dealer – should have a plot that arcs up, rather than down like Walter White. Most reviewers and commenters are either missing or mistaking this basic context. Saul’s story has to move in a different direction than Walt’s story. Could still happen in BSC but by now there seem to be precious few hints of this.
Jimmy McGill aka Saul Goodman is not a thin character. He’s a character worthy of a novel, a great story. But where is that story, where is the rest of the novel? Like most towering works of narrative, Breaking Bad laid out the basic elements of a great story within the first few episodes at the latest, a tragic, dark, disturbing story. Seems to be not so with Better Call Saul. The key elements of a great story would have to be added on at this point.
Curious, the many references by reviewers and commenters to Saul as a “sleaze ball”. Is Saul any more of a “sleaze ball” than the Kettlemans? than the slimy cop characters? than Walt’s zealous and bigoted drug cop brother-in-law, Hank? than ex-cop Mike? It could be useful to check some assumptions and do some data crunching on who are the biggest sleaze balls on these shows. Jimmy/Saul is no saint. He’s a lawbreaker. However, he’s far from the biggest sleazeball on these shows despite being called it the most by reviewers and commenters. The “Why not kill Badger?” line might be the biggest piece of evidence in a counterargument to this point but doesn’t amount to a very strong counterargument.
Cory Roth notes in his interesting ongoing lawyer’s blog reviews of the series: “Better Call Saul is essentially a lawyer joke. Saul Goodman is the epitome of a slimy, sleazy, shark of a lawyer that hits most most of the negative stereotypes possible.” In narrative terms, Better Call Saul is little more than a character sketch, of a lawyer joke. If Saul aspires to be more than a sketchy joke, it will have to build story, and it will have to do so in ways far deeper than what has been to this point foreshadowed, let alone put in place.
**Cory Roth: “Just to clarify the mispersection (sic) that Saul/Jimmy is a public defender, he is not. He IS supposed to be the stereotypical bottom of the barrel public defender. In reality, he is a private lawyer taking court appointments.”
Attorney Harry Graff writes in his first review of Better Call Saul: “[Creator Vince] Gilligan always has stated Breaking Bad documented one character’s journey from Mr. Chips to Scarface. We know that Better Call Saul’s arc from Jimmy McGill to Saul Goodman will not be as dramatic.”
We don’t know any such thing. At least, we shouldn’t. Any writer worth his salt should be able to think of ways to make BCS at least as dramatic as or even more dramatic than Breaking Bad. To do so, Jimmy/Saul would have to get thickly involved in a socio-political arena far bigger and more dire than the meth crime / DEA world. Not hard to think of what. What does one think of when one thinks of New Mexico? Race, class, Native America, Mexico, uranium mines, and nuclear weapons labs and testing sites, and on and on. Jimmy could get sucked up in the whirlwind of a case and socio-political arena that threatens countries and continents and civilization itself – the likelihood of nuclear holocaust has never been greater; see also, climate change – achieving or nearly achieving or not achieving at all some great, even legal, victories, but in a world that ultimately comes crashing down hard on him and those around him, gutting him utterly and sending him further toward the crooked cynical wit Saul, of Better Call.
Reviewer John Teti’s argument may be more or less valid but it’s not necessarily sound: “The problem of a prequel is that we know where it ends up.” No, we don’t. The prequel could end long before Jimmy McGill becomes Saul Goodman and the ending of the prequel might give us no conclusive insight into how Jimmy at some point in the future becomes Saul. The creators will have that choice to make. “But Saul creators … understand that we’re all waiting for Saul Goodman to emerge.” No, I’m not. I’m not especially interested in Saul, though he is an interesting character. I can conceive of Jimmy becoming someone completely different than Saul first, and have the prequel end there. That could be awesome. And more awesome than waiting for the ostensible inevitable.
Where will Better Call Saul end? With some new shot of Saul after he rejects Walter White’s bribe in Breaking Bad upon first meeting? after kicking Walt out, muttering to himself, “What a creep!” or somesuch. Or will BCS end, say, entire years before Breaking Bad began, at some especially high or low moment of Jimmy or Saul’s life? Or will it end with Jimmy/Saul sunning himself in, say, Key West and sipping Pina Coladas years after Walt whipped out his machine gun?
After viewers see Jimmy/Saul/Gene in his post-Breaking Bad life working at Cinnabon and coming home to pop in his old Better Call Saul commercials tapes, Saul could then flip through the TV channels and see a vacation ad for Key West, or wherever, or an ad for another Better Call Saul type lawyer who could help Jimmy get to Key West or wherever – for a fee. And even then, the show could move back in time to years before Jimmy/Saul meets Walt, and the series could end with some great courtroom success, or disaster, befitting of Jimmy, not Saul. He could also pop in other tapes of other more compelling moments of his past.
Viewers do not know where Better Call Saul ends, and viewers do not know that Better Call Saul will be less dramatic or powerful than Breaking Bad. It could far surpass Breaking Bad in many ways, and it’s easy to argue that it damn well should.
The large issue is that if the show doesn’t get over itself as a character sketch it’s going to be stifling or relatively slight. The Kettleman’s and the government position and money could have been (could still be) the jumping off point to some larger socio-political plot. Jimmy’s development or lack thereof could be woven in with that. The show is a shadow of what it could be by now.
I happened to catch the first episode of Breaking Bad when it first came out. Had heard zero about it. I immediately thought it was one of the best fictions on TV. Better Call Saul is pretty good. It may even be one of the better fictions on TV. But Better Call Saul is strong as a character sketch, weak as a larger story. Thus far. We’ll see if it can come up with a stronger storyline – more at stake, more plot, bigger themes…. Breaking Bad was limited in these ways too a lot of the time – I stopped watching BB in the middle seasons for that reason. Still, BB did not have the weaknesses that BCS has, not early on in the first few episodes.
So I just talked with Better Call Saul creator Vince Gilligan and it turns out that the Kettlemans had a friend in state government who was redirecting tens of millions of dollars meant for the Navajo Nation into the Bernalillo County coffers as funneled by County Treasurer Craig Kettleman who then split the funds with his friend in state government, way more than the $1.6 million already revealed. A reporter learned of the deception/theft and was killed. Another reporter figured this all out but was more careful with his life, so instead of being killed, his reputation and career were ruined. So he came to Jimmy for help and a legal strategy. Jimmy sued the Kettlemans and their thieving friend, but it turned out that Hamlin, Hamlin, and McGill were implicated in the scam, which was what made Chuck go crazy in the first place. So Kim finds out and is killed. Turns out, the Kettlemans’ thieving friend in state government was actually a plant from Albuquerque’s Sister City of Helmstedt Germany who was using his cut of the tens of million of stolen Navajo money to steal uranium ore from, you guessed it, the Navajo Nation Reservation and ship it to a processing plant in the Ukraine where the neo-Nazis were processing the ore just enough to build dirty bombs that they planned to detonate in European capitals and blame it on Jihadis. Amazingly in the process of trying to defend the second reporter, Jimmy learns everything, or enough to be more than dangerous, but he is crafty enough to stay alive, so the German & Ukranian neo-Nazis kill Chuck to get at Jimmy. The US National Security Agency sees Jimmy as a threat too … for complicated reasons. Jimmy tries to make plain his innocence before a federal tribunal but the more he talks, the slicker he sounds. No one believes him. With Chuck and Kim dead and Jimmy facing the wrath of the neo-Nazis and the feds and one of the shadiest Wall Street financiers you’ll never meet, Saul flees to Cuba, gets married twice, has children, gets divorced, and a few years later moves back to Albuquerque with new Spanish speaking skills to defend his impoverished clientele from a strip mall, under the patriotic gaze of an inflatable Statue of Liberty and backed by the US Constitution on the wall. The neo-Nazis have given up on Saul as small fry, while the NSA keeps Saul under constant but disinterested surveillance. At long last, into Saul’s office one day walks Walter White. We know how that ends. Gene/Jimmy/Saul in Omaha dreams of Cuba and gets there one day but arrives only to find that … don’t worry, I won’t spoil it.
Oh well, I couldn’t wait for April 1.
“The ultimate fate of [the Better Call Saul] characters is not in doubt; they strut and fret while hemmed in by the known future. The trick is wringing third-act- quality drama out of scenes that are set in first and second acts.”
The problem with NYT reviewer David Segal’s remarks above is that they are entirely false in regard to most BCS characters and especially to Jimmy/Saul, whose “ultimate fate” is far from “not in doubt” – it is unknown. Viewers know merely a 2 year stretch of Jimmy/Saul’s life in the future, and only those moments in which he interacted with Walter White and a few others. Otherwise Jimmy/Saul’s “ultimate fate” before, after, and even during the time of Breaking Bad is unknown. Thus the pre-BB time of Jimmy does not necessarily represent the “first and second acts” of any story or life. In fact, BCS could be a stand-alone dramedy even more epic than BB, and only technically a prequel (or combo prequel-sequel, even running concurrently with BB. Would be a missed opportunity if not).
Jimmy/Saul’s selected or shown fate via BB is known, not his ultimate fate, let alone his larger story or stories, pre or post. The same can be said for all BCS characters, aside from the “ultimate fate” of Tuco and Mike (both killed in BB). If BCS is crafted well enough, if it is gripping enough, if it is sizable enough, then viewers’ knowledge of Saul’s two years in BB could seem not only insignificant but nearly irrelevant to the BCS story. On the other hand, to the extent that BCS scorns plot for character sketch, BB will loom too large.
Better Call Saul verges on a joke of a story, lawyer or no, by remaining a sketchy character sketch. Breaking Bad itself was too often vacuous or worse on social and political fronts. And BCS has yet to rise to even that scant level. Blah, blah, blah, the Kettlemans, Nacho, maybe Tuco, Chuck, Jimmy, Kim, Howard, Mike all coming together at last for one end of the season explosion. Not the biggest scene in the world.
Maybe for the next seasons, the BCS creators will realize that state-corporate-bank malfeasance deeply and broadly explored is the only way to put more than scrawny flesh and bones onto lil’ slippin’ Jimmy. Go Big Social or go home, BCS. The series could have geared up by now, in the pilot, with glimpses into Chuck’s macro world at the least, but no … lil’ Jimmy has been forced to putter along as the center of a universe scarcely larger than his closet of an office. Don’t look out the non-existent windows at the world, BCS, because like Chuck, you might not be able to handle it. That is, the writers might not be able. The people are already there. Where? New Mexico, USA, Earth. The supposedly big time episode 9 can’t come to the rescue soon enough.
Better Call Saul creator Vince Gilligan changed his mind “180 degrees” on how to write Better Call Saul:
” “The prequel series, set six years prior to the first season of Breaking Bad, follows Odenkirk’s Jimmy McGill as he gradually becomes the sleazy lawyer calling himself Saul Goodman. According to Gilligan and Gould, how he gets there is less a question of specific steps and more one of establishing motivation. “I worried all through Season 1 that we weren’t getting to Saul Goodman fast enough,” Gilligan said, but added “now I’ve come around 180 degrees and I’m thinking ‘God, I don’t want to get to Saul too quick’, I love Jimmy McGill so much.” The key question, so Gilligan and Gould said, isn’t “how long does it take to turn Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman,” but “what kind of problem does becoming Saul Goodman solve?” “
The 180 degree turn is a good one, badly needed. However, I think Vince ought to take another turn of about 90 degrees … because “becoming Saul Goodman” does not necessarily solve an interesting “problem.” Jimmy McGill needs to make money, and he’s good at doing so in the shadows. “Problem” (not very interesting) “solved” (long since: “Saul Goodman” is merely “Slipping Jimmy” with a law degree). The more interesting question is What kind of show might BCS become, or need to become, if it is to become a standalone powerhouse dramedy in its own right rather than a mere and minor appendage of Breaking Bad?
That’s the actual key question that would best and would most “honor” the close viewers of Breaking Bad. BCS is weak, or at least relatively slight compared to what it could be, because there is no plot worthy of the lead character. No large dynamic social or political stakes worthy of the dynamic main man, as I’ve elaborated.
At least, discussion about BCS seems to be beginning to open up a little bit. During the first couple months of the show, there was nearly only glowing praise and fanboy adulation, with even mildly dissenting views treated harshly. So much excitement is great, a good thing. One can see where that comes from. The show is lively, witty, engaging, funny, dramatic. But it has some limits, some annoying, some galling, some otherwise unfortunate. That’s what is most interesting to me to discuss. It won’t be to everyone.
If everyone were ripping the show I might feel compelled to critically laud it. Obviously not the case, plenty of critical appreciation from the get-go. Vince Gilligan didn’t change his mind “180 degrees” by sitting back and critically lauding his show. He does plenty of that, deservedly so, but he critiques it otherwise which is what can cause your thinking to change 180 degrees sometimes, and needfully so.
A show that is “primarily about how the protagonist deals with the world,” as one viewer has aptly noted, is going to be very different in many ways, and very much the same in others, depending upon how much and what part of “the world” the show chooses to put upon the character. There is no getting away from that.
The show is called Better Call Saul, and it is set in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA, and it stars an attorney who legally and illegally fights the state and the police and wealthy authority in many forms. The potential to go Big Social is immense and could be riveting. Not that the unrequited romantic love and brotherly love is not interesting, but the show is not called Better Call My Brother! or Better Call My Best Girl/Guy Pal! BCS does have a very strong social and political and professional orientation inherent in its title and main character, much moreso than Breaking Bad, though Breaking Bad infused very strong socio-political elements into its all-important first episode/pilot. If anything, Better Call Saul seems to be running away from its inherent large socio-political dynamic, as did Breaking Bad. Well that’s the creators’ liberty.
I’m not critiquing how well the writers/creators of BCS meet their intentions. And I don’t intend to disparage their intentions. I am however pointing out some of the limitations of their project and expressing my preference for their not imposing those limitations on the show(s).
Another BCS viewer has made several objections to my view and this line of reasoning:
“This show isn’t a social or political polemic.”
Clearly. Nor does it need to be one to develop much bigger, much higher quality social and/or political elements.
“It’s not going to deal explicitly with those issues in the way you seem to want it to.”
If likely, so what? Comments, views, and opinions about the show need not all be echo chamber fanboy rah-rah, or endless character analysis, which would be dreadfully boring.
“Since the show is a character study, these kind of themes will necessarily arise from conflicts – internal and external – that the characters face.”
First, the show is not entirely a character study. Second, current indication is that social plotting is becoming more integral to the show, i.e, the Sandpiper assisted living corporation’s fraud and racketeering against the elderly in the most recent show, episode 8, which may be thought to serve as a kind of strong second pilot for the entire BCS series. Third, many of the greatest characters in narrative are necessarily developed in great social and/or political settings and conflicts.
“If you are uninterested in asking why the characters behave as they do”…
Never said this, never would.
“you are ignoring the most important tool the show has at its disposal to say anything about larger themes.”
The show has as many powerful tools at its disposal to explore larger themes as it chooses to have, including tools far beyond character behavior. I would encourage the creators to use any and ever narrative tool to the utmost, and not straightjacket themselves by relying mainly on character behavior.
Of course I’m not saying make BCS a piece of crap moral cliche, as the viewer suggested was the danger of my views, removing “moral ambiguity,” which has absolutely nothing, zero, nada to do with increasing focus on the social.
Notwithstanding that moral ambiguity often has precious little to do with life and great stories. No? How morally ambiguous was Walter White in Breaking Bad? (To answer that question, you don’t even have to recall what he said to Skyler in the final episode: “Everything that I did, I did for myself.”) And Skyler? And Hank? And Marie? And Gus? Seemed rather clear when these stars were in the right and when they were in the wrong. Not that they did not have difficult choices. Not that they were not complex. But morally ambiguous? I don’t think so. Much of the tension was created by these characters not being morally ambiguous. So, moral ambiguity has nothing to do with my view on the quality of BCS.
Breaking Bad has serious weaknesses, which caused me to stop watching the show for a couple years. My issue with BCS is that it has substantially more weaknesses than BB.
That said, in some ways BCS is more watchable than BB because it’s lighter, more uplifting. However, I find BCS to be thin and sketchy, whether compared to BB or not. I feel that Jimmy’s character and the overall story has gone to waste compared to what could have been by now. I blame the weak, sometimes trivial, plotting. Doesn’t mean the show can’t take a turn for the better. But to do so, something seriously substantive will have to change.
Vince Gilligan has said that a central issue he has faced in creating Better Call Saul is to answer the “key question” of “what kind of problem does becoming Saul Goodman solve” for Jimmy McGill?
In my view, that’s a necessary question that must be answered but far from the largest and most central of questions that must be answered for the sake of the story. After all, there are a lot of ways to become Saul Goodman of Breaking Bad, some big, some small, some private, some public, some interesting, some mundane to become a shyster lawyer. The smaller and the more private those ways … well, the smaller and more narrow the show/story. Whatever the “kind” of problem, the “size” of the problem matters too.
It’s not that Vince and company are not thinking of this, not aware of it at some level. However, they are not talking about it publicly, as far as I know. That’s there prerogative. And if viewers “don’t mind a plot like we are getting” as one view states (and many feel), then viewers are probably not going to think about the plot that they could be getting. Many viewers “don’t expect [BCS] characters to address general social problems. Their own personal problems are plenty enough in [Vince Gilligan’s] hands to provide abundant entertainment.” The problem with this comment is that in BCS the “general social problems” troubling the characters already dwarf the “personal problems” troubling the characters – lack of money, grinding working conditions, street violence, law firm power plays, all of these are general social issues and problems that in this show already far overshadow Jimmy’s longing for Kim and her longing for anyone and even Chuck’s illness. Jimmy and Kim’s love troubles are clearly strongly impacted, even overwhelmingly so, by the “general social issues” they are struggling with (work conditions, etc) and surely the same is true for Chuck’s illness. But the viewer is correct to note that the show does keep pulling us to look at the smaller personal problems by structuring the show as a series of character sketches, with no large plot. The focus is on the personal, aka the private, rather than on the public, the social. If viewers are good with that, if Vince Gilligan is good with that, then s’all good, man. I find it wanting.
How big can the show go into the social conditions that chomp on, create, and shape, and define characters? That’s the question that great narratives try to setup at the outset. Jimmy/Saul has a (somewhat transformative) problem in making his way through the world. Great, watching him solve the problem, or fail to, could be interesting – maybe it’s a legal problem, maybe it’s a criminal problem, maybe it’s a psychological problem, maybe it’s all of those problems and more. The question remains: what kind of big picture world are his problems going to be solved within? Not violent meth economies and DEA interventions and lack of health insurance and inadequate social security surely. Breaking Bad set up that sizable world in the very first episode, the pilot. BCS hasn’t set up much of anything in 8 episodes. Sure, the show should be about the solving of problems, especially, hopefully, a Big problem taking on even bigger realms of society than BB took on. No sign of that yet. Instead the opposite. Jimmy will become Saul Goodman whether he solves a big problem or a little problem. Right now it looks little. I would simply urge Vince Gilligan to start thinking bigger than the show currently appears to be thinking. Ideally, start thinking much bigger than Breaking Bad.
Look, it’s quite possible to work up to great scope. Stories don’t absolutely need to start out with it. It does often help to start big however, as BB did. It can be telling when shows start small and narrow. Sometimes they never escape those bounds.
Hopefully BCS itself will transform, or pull through. And if it doesn’t, so be it. The show is pretty good as is.
Is it really much of a problem after all, for Jimmy McGill (and the show and the show’s creators), the transformation from Jimmy McGill to Saul Goodman. Is it necessarily any sort of big deal? Not really, though I suppose it could be. As viewers, there’s no way to predict why Jimmy will reinvent himself as Saul, insofar as he does. There does not have be a reason nor a reinvention, beyond a need for dollars, because Jimmy has always been Saul (aka S’all), a shyster, and has always referred to himself – literally – as Saul (aka S’all). The simplest explanation is that Jimmy/S’all merely becomes more who he already is – a con man, now with a law degree. Given the existing episodes, in a very real sense, Jimmy is already and always has been Saul Goodman. Money/survival seems to be why. That’s why I think that Vince Gilligan needs to turn his questioning further. Ask a better question, get a better answer, get a bigger better show/story. “When” Jimmy becomes Saul is a small question, which Vince finally realized. But so is “why” Jimmy becomes Saul a small question. The larger question, the “key” question, is what is the greatest human challenge that can be thrown at this wonderful character Jimmy/S’all that Jimmy/S’all can almost meet but ultimately be gutted by and turned into the ever more crooked cynical wit, Saul. This is a question that must be asked of and found in the challenges of the world, not in the closeted psychology and current life of lil’ slippy Jimmy. How Jimmy’s psychology and life would react to a great challenge from the world, that is what would be interesting. There are a lot of ways to become Saul Goodman of Breaking Bad. Some ways though are bigger, badder, better, greater – and all around flat out more interesting and more meaningful – than others. That is what will be “key.”
Regardless of whether or not BCS goes Big Social, viewers’ impressions and understanding of Saul Goodman in BCS may change radically compared to how negatively he was often portrayed and known in Breaking Bad.
Even in BB, Saul at times showed empathy and real emotion for others. And he always had a wit. Not only that but a wit that often attacked power and privilege and various faults in people and places. And remember that during the mere 2 years of BB, viewers almost only saw Saul’s life and practice in relation to the deranged Walter White and a very few others. A much more humane, big-hearted, even genuinely community involved, conflicted Saul could be dramatically shown during the time of BB when he is away from Walter White and the others.
Yes, it might come off a little bit as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or hypocritical, but for a short complex high-pressure and mistaken period of his life.
There will always remain the degraded side of Saul in BB obviously. But Saul’s life during that time could be viewed from a much expanded and different perspective, so that viewers’ opinions of Saul during those two years could be radically changed, so little of his life did viewers see in those short couple years, let alone the many other years past and future.
Going this route would also be a great way to include Walter White and Jesse and all the other BB characters/actors into BCS. Dramatically and comically it could work out very well.