Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman: Not the loquacious sort, are you?
Mike Ehrmantraut: We can’t all be as blessed as you.
So, Saul Goodman is a joke. A stupid joke. “S’all good, man.” Hardee har. Better Call Saul episode 1.04, Hero, gets us back into the flashback era of Saul’s youthful life of crime, sometime in the 1990s. At this point, we have something like a timeline of Saul’s life: He’s “Slippin’ Jimmy,” a con man from the outskirts of Chicago (Cicero). At some point he gets in big trouble and either does or does not go to jail, but this inspires him to turn over a new leaf, under the guidance of his much-older brother, Chuck. In this period he gets a law degree, and goes to work for his brother’s firm. Then somethingsomethingsomething, and now Chuck is loony and Jimmy is on his own living/working in a nail salon.
Now in 2002, we have a Jimmy who is desperately trying to be a good guy, who seems really to want to be a good guy. Yes, his heroism is a fake and a ploy, but Hero is more than an episode title. Jimmy really wants to be somebody’s hero, he really wants to be the guy who doesn’t take a bribe. Or…he thinks he does. What Jimmy really wants is to use his considerable blessings; his brain, his words, in a way that benefits himself and others. He wants to be the smart guy that people listen to.
Upon this rock I will build my church.
It’s for this reason that I really think the best scene in the episode is when he tells off Nacho. Because he’s 100% right, and I was already thinking that last week—you got spotted by a neighbor? Really? Nacho styles himself so tough and cool, such a criminal mastermind, and he fools people with this demeanor; probably fools himself as well. But everything that Jimmy called Nacho out for is dead-on. You commit a crime in your own van? Clean it the hell up! Don’t leave evidence! You’re staking a place out for a potential robbery or kidnapping? STAY OUT OF SIGHT YOU DOPE. I think this is the start of the relationship between Jimmy and criminals in general; I think Nacho is going to realize how very right Jimmy was, and will be going to him for further advice. Because Jimmy, he’s a smart guy and he wants to be appreciated for it. He wants to be a good lawyer because he wants his clients, his opponents, the judges, to say “You’re a smart guy, Jimmy.” I don’t think he cares who says that as long as he gets to hear it, so if it’s Nacho who says it, Jimmy becomes Lawyer to Criminals: Better Call Saul.
Of course, the Kettlemans also referred to Jimmy as the “kind of lawyer that guilty people hire,” and if he recognizes that about himself, then he has to figure out how to reach out to guilty people. I don’t think he’s there yet, though. The hero stunt makes him look like a good guy, not Saul Goodman, not yet.
So, all this to say, I really liked this episode, in large part because I’m coming to really like Jimmy. He’s unexpectedly nice to people. He’s a jerk but not an awful jerk. He’s got a relationship with Kim that I enjoy. Chuck, on the other hand, does nothing for me, not his space blanket, or his psychosis, or his insistence on controlling his brother. The ending of the episode was a big phhhht for me.
People love a hero.
The billboard stunt confused me, though. I don’t think he actually planned it out that far, do you? Jimmy’s not a long-con guy. I mean, from the time he put up the billboard, did he plan on losing that case and having to take it down, and then filming his “heroism”? I thought the “hero” stunt was an afterthought, a way of salvaging a failure. Maybe I’m wrong. The more I think about it, the more I see that there can’t possibly be a purpose to the billboard other than getting the injunction, but damn, that’s convoluted. Long con. And it doesn’t exactly require the exact same cut of suit, does it?
By the way, Sea Island cotton is a James Bond reference. Ian Fleming often referred to Bond wearing shirts, even boxer shorts, made out of the stuff. Tasmanian wool, however, is not. And the orange shirt and tie combination is one we’ll see Saul wearing on Breaking Bad.