Jimmy McGill (aka Saul Goodman) May Be the Most Deserving Antihero

Author: Marisa Reyes-Pacheco

THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BETTER CALL SAUL

Breaking Bad (2008-2013) is known as one of the best, or more successful, television shows in history. While the main focus of the show is on Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a terminally-ill chemistry teacher who takes his final days into his own hands, Better Call Saul (2015-Current) follows James (“Jimmy”) McGill, who audiences have only known by his alias, Saul Goodman. The show serves as the prequel to the beloved Breaking Bad series, from the perspective and storyline of the show’s infamous criminal lawyer. It is by far one of the most in depth, creative and long thought out works of film I have ever seen. 

You do not come by a character like Jimmy McGill everyday. He is so complex, it’s difficult to wrap my head around how someone could create a person like him. Bob Odenkirk gives an outstanding performance, and I’m glad that Vance Gilligan gave him and other breakout stars like Mike Ehrmantraut (Johnathan Banks) and Gustavo ‘Gus’ Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) a new platform to further develop their characters and storylines. 

Jimmy McGill is a lawyer. He may be a courthouse lawyer with a degree from the correspondence American Somoan Law School, but he is a lawyer who cares deeply about the work he does and the people he is helping. Jimmy receives the nickname “Slippin’ Jimmy” after a number of staged slip and fall incidents in different businesses to get some money, as to relieve him from debt of different scammers. Jimmy himself falls into the unforgiving void of scamming, and is one of the best scam artists in Albuquerque. This is what makes him such a reliable and loyal guide in the Breaking Bad series as his alias, Saul Goodman. As a criminal himself, who has been in and out of jail, Jimmy knows what kind of representation his clients need; but it doesn’t really help him gain any respect from the people in his life.

One of the most significant plotlines of the series follows Jimmy’s relationship with his older brother, Chuck. They are polar opposites. The one thing that they have in common? Their love for the law. Chuck serves as Jimmy’s role model and motivation in life, whether he’ll admit it or not. Most of the things Jimmy does are to try to impress Chuck or to make him proud. After the realization that Chuck is the real reason behind why Jimmy was never hired to the firm his brother cofounded, Hamlin-Hamlin-McGill, their relationship completely flips. Jimmy is betrayed by the one person he respects for the one thing he has ever wanted, to be taken seriously in his line of work. Ultimately, Chuck is the reason for Jimmy being suspended from practicing law after the elder plotted a scheme to make Jimmy admit he had doctored files for a case. Chuck is the reason Jimmy wanted to be involved in law in the first place, but is ultimately the driving force to make sure he doesn’t succeed. They both follow very differing moral codes. [MAJOR SPOILER:] After Chuck’s sudden suicide, Jimmy falls into a deep depression that sees him suppressing any feelings of mourning for Chuck. They have a complex relationship that ends poorly, which is ultimately the driving force for the transformation of James McGill to Saul Goodman. 

Of all of the antiheroes I’ve written about so far, Jimmy McGill is by far the most likable and relatable. He didn’t live the most lawfully abiding life before becoming a lawyer. He scammed people, got money in the easiest and most attainable ways, and continued to cut corners after becoming a lawyer to always make sure he came out on top. Unfortunately, what goes up must come down. Every time Jimmy is seemingly in the clear, he is somehow always having to pay for the consequences of his actions at a much more extreme expense than the fiasco to get him there was ever worth. You don’t necessarily see this a lot with antiheroes, especially at the rate and frequency Jimmy is experiencing these repercussions. Maybe this is the way the show’s creators create the audience’s sense of empathy towards Jimmy. He is quite literally a person who is constantly trying to do the right thing, maybe not in the right way, but is oftentimes left more defeated than he was before trying. But Slippin’ Jimmy never stops trying, and that’s what makes people root for him. When all odds seem against him, time and time again, he perseveres. 

I’m excited to see the progression and development of Saul Goodman in the next season. If you have yet to see this prequel, go stream seasons 1-4 on Netflix!

Marisa Reyes-Pacheco | stay safe and healthy! | KXSU Arts Reporter

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