A few weeks ago, Bob Odenkirk gave the absolute best explanation for the difference between Jimmy McGill and Saul Goodman on Better Call Saul. He said it’s not about the clothes. It’s not about the fast-talking and the schemes, because Jimmy has always had a facility for manipulation and negotiation. It’s not even the name itself. The difference between Jimmy and Saul is not in their actions, it’s in the consequences, Odenkirk said. “Saul is the guy who doesn’t really care about the collateral damage. And knows it. And is aware of it.”
While Jimmy sometimes does things that hurts people, that’s not his purpose. Saul, on the other hand, is “fully aware of who is going to get hurt, and he doesn’t care. It’s about serving himself. So, when he makes those emotional choices without regard to the consequences, that’s when we’re getting in touch with Saul … It’s the growth of the character to an awareness that people get hurt by his schemes and then not caring. A choice to be mercenary.”
In last week’s episode, when Jimmy conned Irene into settling the Sandpiper lawsuit at the expense of Irene’s relationship with her friends, we saw Jimmy as mercenary as he’s ever been on Saul. That was as Saul Goodman as we’ve ever seen him.
Kim’s car accident, however, forced Jimmy to re-examine himself, to re-examine his life. He’d wanted to keep the McGill/Wexler offices intact because Jimmy believed it was the only way to keep his relationship with Kim. Maintaining that office, however, drove Jimmy to a dark place, and Kim to a dangerous one. They’d lost touch with who they are as individuals as who they are as a couple.
This week, Jimmy took a step back and realized that the office is not what’s keeping Jimmy and Kim together. Kim’s accident put everything back into perspective for Jimmy. He let go of his pride and decided to lease the office while he’s serving out his suspension. More importantly, Jimmy decided to undo his mercenary act against Irene at the expense of himself. He blew up his own life to salvage Irene’s relationship with her friends. It was a huge moment. At the brink of transforming into Saul, Jimmy found his heart, his inner McGill. Kim is what anchors Jimmy, and Kim is why I suspect Gene is in Omaha after the events of Breaking Bad: He’s there to find Kim and reconnect with his inner Jimmy.
What’s likely to throw Jimmy back into turmoil, however, is the death of his brother, Chuck. And make no mistake, though we did not see the body: Chuck is dead. Chuck is a man who demands complete control of his life, and when he lost control of his firm, when he lost control of his disease, there were only two things he still had agency over: His ability to hurt Jimmy — which he did by throwing his apology back in Jimmy’s face — and his control over his own death. Chuck’s decision to burn down his house with him inside of it was an intentional one. He’d lost the thread over his own life, and he no longer wanted to go on as the mentally unfit, unemployed man he had become. Ironically, it was that final break with Jimmy that sent Chuck over the edge, that unmoored him from everything else. He had nothing left for which to live.
R.I.P. Chuck McGill.
What that means for Jimmy next season is unclear, but we know where Jimmy invariably ends up. Jimmy’s now gone to his dark place — to his Saul Goodman phase — and it won’t be difficult for him to get back there. Chuck’s death will likely hasten his fall, and there are only so many more f*ck ups Kim will stand for, as much as she might love Jimmy. I’m still predicting that eventually, one of Jimmy’s schemes will cost Kim her law license and that she will — as she once predicted — end up back in her hometown, not too far from Omaha, working as a cashier at a Hinky Dinky.
It’s my hope that after the deaths of so many men in the Breaking Bad universe — Gus Fring, Walter White, Mike Ehrmantraut, Hank Schrader, and now Chuck McGill — that Jimmy McGill is the one man who escapes the ultimate tragedy. I hope that after the nine, ten, or eleven years that we have all shared with these characters, that Jimmy finds his way back to Kim. That there’s one happy ending for all of these morally bankrupt characters, because underneath Saul Goodman, Jimmy McGill is a pretty great human being. Ever after all he has done, I think Jimmy deserves another chance.