The Delicate Balancing Act At The Heart Of Better Call Saul

When "Better Call Saul" premiered, it had a Herculean task ahead of it: Following up one of the most acclaimed TV shows of all time. The prequel series to "Breaking Bad" gives us another incredible character transformation, but with the caveat that the audience already knows where this story goes, and who the fan-favorite character will become.

Against all odds, the Emmy-nominated crime drama became just as good, if not better, than "Breaking Bad." The show features its own twists and turns with an ensemble cast you genuinely care about — including the treasure that is Rhea Seehorn's Kim Wexler — and a heartfelt and emotional journey for Jimmy McGill, AKA Saul Goodman. The biggest compliment one can give this show is that it makes you care about Jimmy as much as you thought you cared about Saul, and you begin to dread the moment his transformation into a criminal lawyer is complete.

In an interview for Empire magazine, Bob Odenkirk talked about the tricky balancing act at the center of "Better Call Saul" and finally merging two polar opposite characters:

"I mean, people ask me if I like Saul Goodman. The answer is no. I like Jimmy McGill. Saul Goodman is the kind of person I would avoid, pretty much at all costs, for a million reasons. Not the least is fashion sense. Keeping those two people in the same body, and having them matter and connect up, can be a challenge for the writers and for me, but it's been a great, great effort to try to make it work."

Slippin' Jimmy

It's not hard to see where Odenkirk is coming from, because connecting Jimmy to Saul has been the most astounding trick "Better Call Saul" has pulled. Unlike "Breaking Bad," which was all about seeing a "Mister Rogers" type of character become Scarface, we already know Jimmy will become Saul. The joy (or horror) of Walter White's transformation was seeing how far he was willing to go to get what he wanted. And, for better or worse, "Breaking Bad" constantly offered Walt an exit, a way to avoid violence, which he kept refusing because as he confessed in the series finale, "I liked it, I was good at it, and I was really — I was alive." We knew from the beginning that Walt had a darkness inside him, and he embraced it wholeheartedly. 

Jimmy McGill, on the other hand, is always running away from the darkness within him. We hear from both those around him and Jimmy himself that he used to do bad things to take shortcuts and get ahead in life, but we believe Jimmy when he says he wants to do what is right. The magic of the show is that creators Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan manage to make you feel troubled the moment Jimmy finally starts to break bad himself. He goes to great lengths to avoid violence and confrontation, and when he does commit awful acts, he is immediately regretful and wants to make amends.

In a way, Jimmy has more in common with BoJack Horseman than he does Walter White. Like Jimmy, BoJack is a character who is desperate to think of himself as a good person and to be applauded as one, but he continues to do bad things that he blames on circumstance. Similar to "Better Call Saul," the greatest tragedy of "BoJack Horseman" is when BoJack looks at himself and realizes he is just who others think he is.

Now that we're nearing the end of "Better Call Saul," expect to see how Jimmy fully becomes Saul Goodman, criminal lawyer. One thing's for sure: It is not going to be pretty. "Better Call Saul" Season 6 premieres on April 18, 2022.