Breaking Bad was about taking Walter White “from Mr. Chips to Scarface”. Better Call Saul has a similar path. The spinoff is about turning good-natured, down on his luck attorney Jimmy McGill to the shady, slimy “criminal” lawyer we all know as Saul Goodman.
Bob Odenkirk has embodied Saul/Jimmy for almost 10 years now, having first debuted the character on April 26, 2009.
When the spinoff was being toyed with, Odenkirk wasn’t sure how that would work at first. He tells Entertainment Weekly:
“I always thought it was a huge risk, and all I wanted was them to do it for their own reasons, and not because I asked them to do it or pressured them to do it,” he says. “So I basically backed off every single time it was suggested to me. I think Vince might have thought it was kind of weird to suggest to an actor, ‘What if I create a show for you?,’ and have that actor look at him and go, ‘I dunno. It’s your free time. Do what you want with your time.’ [Laughs] I didn’t want to be hoping, counting on it, and I didn’t know what it was. We didn’t really know who the character was when we left Breaking Bad.”
That last sentence is worth focusing on, because the person we see him play in the pilot episode of Better Call Saul was not somebody we recognized. Jimmy McGill is a completely different person from Saul Goodman. Odenkirk realized that was the trick to the show, because Saul is unlikeable, and hard to root for.
“My first question when we talked was, ‘How do you make him likable?’ Because I didn’t like that guy. I mean, I like watching him — like a car wreck when you’re not in it. It’s intriguing. It pulls you in. But he’s a bad guy.”
The show has taken its time with Jimmy’s journey. Better Call Saul is a masterclass of “the slow burn”. Nobody does it better (though Westworld is close). The gradual change has felt organic, and Odenkirk credits showrunners Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould with that.
“They made him such a likable guy, and yet kept it organic,” says Odenkirk of Gilligan and Gould. “It’s not a completely different person, but I really like the guy.”
But the change is inevitable. We know the end game. They keep reminding us with those post-Breaking Bad black and white flash forwards every season. With the 4th season about to start, the transformation has to be almost complete. Breaking Bad started in real time, 2008. Better Call Saul‘s first season is set in 2002. That gives them about 6 seasons to catch up to Breaking Bad. While Saul didn’t appear until season 2, he was already established as the “criminal” lawyer by then.
Odenkirk doesn’t seem to be ready to give up Jimmy, and dive into being Saul 100% again, but is facing the inevitable.
“I’m having to confront the fact that he is becoming Saul, and I don’t like Saul,” he shares. “If he was my friend, I would say, ‘Don’t go that route.’”
Maybe they can give him redemption. I am of the belief that they are showing us those black and white flash forwards for a reason. What if the best prequel show in history, showing the transformation of Jimmy McGill to Saul Goodman, transforms itself into a Breaking Bad sequel? The show can chronicle his birth as Saul Goodman. Breaking Bad chronicles his downfall at the hands of Walter White, and then the show (which can keep the same name, no need to change it to Better Screen Gene) can jump ahead and show us more in present day. I’d be so down to watch a sequel to see the end of Saul’s journey. Would he revert back to Jimmy? Or would he double down and become an even worse (better) version of Saul? I’m intrigued enough by that notion to want to find out.
The 4th season of Better Call Saul begins Monday, August 6. You can watch a preview for it, right here.
Source: Entertainment Weekly
In Better Call Saul‘s fourth season, Chuck’s death catalyzes Jimmy McGill’s transformation into Saul Goodman. In the wake of his loss, Jimmy takes steps into the criminal world that will put his future as a lawyer — and his relationship with Kim — in jeopardy. Chuck’s death deeply affects former colleagues Howard (Patrick Fabian) and Kim as well, putting the two of them once again on opposite sides of a battle sparked by the Brothers McGill. While Mike takes a more active role as Madrigal Electromotive’s newest (and most thorough) security consultant. It’s a volatile time to be in Gus Fring’s employ, as Hector’s collapse sends shock waves throughout the Albuquerque underworld and throws the cartel into chaos — tearing apart both Gus and Nacho’s well-laid plans. While Gus changes course, Nacho finds himself in the crosshairs of deadly forces.