Saul Goodman Never Wanted To Be The Good Guy

By Robert Scucci | Updated

Better Call Saul is a deep character study of Saul Goodman (or Jimmy McGill) that gives the Breaking Bad universe so much staying power because of how complex his role actually is. Originally introduced as not a criminal lawyer, but rather a criminal lawyer in Breaking Bad, Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) was originally meant to be a one-off character with a tenure of a couple of episodes, but ultimately ended up being the single most important figure in the entire franchise, eventually getting his own spin-off series.

While Better Call Saul makes an effort to portray the man behind Saul Goodman as somebody who deserves sympathy for being a product of his environment, I’d argue that Saul Goodman never once wanted to be the good guy, and the entire series, like Jimmy McGill’s entire life, is a long-con of the highest order.

Chuck Was Right All Along

Better Call Saul

Though I hate to say it, Jimmy McGill’s older brother, Chuck (Michael McKean), was 100 percent right about his little brother’s anti-social tendencies and disrespect to the one thing he held the most sacred in life: the law. It’s easy to see Chuck as Jimmy’s primary antagonist early in Better Call Saul because his reluctance to give Jimmy any opportunity outside of working inside the mail room at his law firm, Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill, forced him to instead go back to his old tricks as a scheming con artist.

When Chuck has his epic courtroom meltdown after exposing Jimmy for fraud, he passionately proclaims that “ever since he was nine, he couldn’t keep his hands out of the cash drawer,” referring to their father’s business that eventually failed due to financial hardship.

Though we can’t say for certain that Jimmy was solely responsible for ruining the family business, Chuck does point to a pattern of behavior that can’t be ignored throughout the series.

The McGill Brother Dynamic

Better Call Saul

Jimmy’s relationship with Chuck in Better Call Saul first seems like a man trying to win his older brother’s approval and affection after getting into trouble as a youth, but even the moments when Jimmy seems the most caring are not coming from a genuine place. Chuck, who suffers from electromagnetic hypersensitivity (a psychosomatic disorder), relies on Jimmy to stock his home with provisions, and Jimmy always offers a helping hand. As their relationship deteriorates throughout the series, it becomes clear that Jimmy’s mostly using his brother’s fragile mental state to his advantage, and simply keeping up appearances to manipulate everybody who’s witnessing how good of a little brother he is.

But make no mistake, when given the opportunity to screw his older brother over, Jimmy always acts in ways that benefit himself even if it means burning every single bridge along the way.

From Slippin’ Jimmy To Gene Takavic

Better Call Saul

Throughout Better Call Saul’s epic six-season run, Jimmy McGill shifts through several different personas. During his early conning days, he was known as Slippin’ Jimmy, but only before working in the Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill mail room and earning the somewhat more respectable nickname, Charlie Hustle. The Charlie Hustle nickname itself has double meaning because it can be seen as a compliment in the sense that Jimmy is working incredibly hard to follow in his brother Charlie’s footsteps, but is also a subtle jab because it also refers to Pete rose, a legendary baseball player who earned the same nickname when he was outed for gambling, or hustling.

Of course, we can’t talk about Better Call Saul without talking about Saul Goodman, the criminal lawyer who’s ultimately responsible for facilitating the operations of the biggest drug ring in the Southwestern United States throughout Breaking Bad’s run, but Saul Goodman is simply Slippin’ Jimmy and Charlie Hustle dialed to up to 11, and we all already know that.

After Walter White’s (Bryan Cranston) empire crumbles, Jimmy assumes another identity, Gene Takavic, a mild-mannered Cinnabon manager living in Omaha, Nebraska. It’s during these “Gene” sequences that take place after the events in Breaking Bad when everything comes around full-circle.

Gene’s Commitment To The Long-Con

Better Call Saul

The Gene Takavic persona is what reveals Jimmy McGill’s true personality in Better Call Saul, but it doesn’t become apparent until the Vince Gilligan series sees its conclusion. Living a boring life and trying to earn an honest living, Gene can’t help himself and eventually feels the need to start scamming again. Jimmy even adopts an alter-ego for Gene, named Victor St. Clair, so he can get wealthy men incredibly drunk and rob them blind of their life savings when he thinks his past life in Albuquerque, New Mexico is catching up with him.

As Gene, Jimmy also orchestrates an elaborate shoplifting heist while working at the mall Cinnabon in order to accumulate resources so he can relocate once again.

With nothing to lose, we see Jimmy’s true colors because he could easily keep a low profile, but why would he when he can do what he does best: lie, cheat, and scam his way through life?

Saul Goodman Is Who Jimmy Always Wanted To Be

Better Call Saul

When we first see how Gene Takavic lives in Better Call Saul, it’s obvious how much he misses his days wearing colorful suits and representing the worst criminals known to man while operating as Saul Goodman. He even sheds a tear while sitting in his recliner and watching one of the many old commercials he made to advertise his fraudulent law firm.

Jimmy McGill truly felt alive when he was Saul Goodman, and the persona that gave him the most success and attention represented who he truly was on the inside. Jimmy McGill’s character arc in Better Call Saul is one long-con after another, and the series itself can be seen as a long-con for trying to make the many faces of Jimmy McGill seem sympathetic in the first place. No matter what alias Jimmy uses, he’s always up to something because there is not a genuine bone in his body.

To put it simply, Bob Odenkirk is the greatest con artist of all time.