Saul Goodman

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This article is about the fictional character originating in Breaking Bad. For other uses, see Saul Goodman (disambiguation).
Saul Goodman
Breaking Bad / Better Call Saul character
Saul Goodman.jpg
First appearance "Better Call Saul"
Created by
Portrayed by Bob Odenkirk
Full name James Morgan McGill
Nickname(s) Jimmy
  • Gene
  • Slippin' Jimmy
Family Charles McGill (brother)
Significant other(s) Kim Wexler
Nationality American

James Morgan "Jimmy" McGill, also known as Saul Goodman, is a fictional character in Breaking Bad and the titular character of its spin-off series Better Call Saul. He is portrayed by Bob Odenkirk and was created by series creator Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, a writer on the series.[1] Saul is a criminal lawyer and can be easily found in the yellow pages of Albuquerque. Throughout Breaking Bad, he acts as Walter White and Jesse Pinkman's attorney and accomplice. His made-up name is a play on words to better attract clients: "'S'all good, man!" becomes the faux-Jewish "Saul Goodman". He is also known for his low-budget television commercials and print advertisements in Albuquerque, wherein he advertises mainly under the tagline "Better Call Saul!". For the first season of Better Call Saul, Odenkirk was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.[2]

Character biography[edit]

Better Call Saul[edit]

Season 1[edit]

Prior to the start of Better Call Saul, Jimmy McGill lived in Cicero, Illinois, where he was a con artist nicknamed "Slippin' Jimmy," who feigned falls in front of businesses to get money; he went straight after his older brother Chuck pulled strings to get him out of prison on an indecent exposure charge relating to a Chicago sunroof incident, where Jimmy defecated in the open sunroof of an a man named Chet who wronged him, not knowing that the man's kids were in the backseat. Jimmy was given a job in the mail room of Chuck's firm Hamlin, Hamlin and McGill, got a law degree from the University of American Samoa, and passed the state bar exam. However, partner Howard Hamlin refused to hire him, and Jimmy is still bitter at him for it.[3]

When the show begins, Jimmy is an underpaid public defender working difficult cases and defending obviously guilty clients in the Albuquerque court system, although he originally hails from Cicero, Illinois. His office, which doubles as his home, is located in the back of a nail salon, and he is desperate for actual clients. Jimmy also takes care of Chuck, who is housebound by sudden onset of electromagnetic hypersensitivity that Jimmy secretly believes is a psychological breakdown; he often asks Howard to cash out Chuck's severance share of $17 million because he does not believe he will ever return to work, but Howard believes he will. Jimmy's closest friend is his ex-girlfriend, Kim Wexler, who is a lawyer at HHM and provides him with inside information.

One day, Jimmy receives a promising phone call from two prospective clients, former Bernalillo County treasurer Craig Kettleman and his wife, Betsy, who are accused of embezzling $1.6 millioin, but they go with HHM. Desperate for their business, Jimmy enlists the help of twin con artists Lars and Cal, intending for them to "accidentally" get hit by Betsy's car, after which, Jimmy will "happen" to be driving past and save her from the scam, winning her trust. However, due to the twins not being very smart, they instead target a car driven by an elderly Hispanic woman, who happens to be the grandmother of drug kingpin Tuco Salamanca. Tuco takes Jimmy and the twins hostage and is intent on killing them, but Tuco's right-hand man Ignacio "Nacho" Varga convinces him to let everyone live, but not before Jimmy talks Tuco into breaking one leg on each twin as a message.

Nacho later meets with Jimmy and tells him he needed him alive for help in robbing the Kettlemans of the money for himself. Jimmy refuses, but Nacho senses Jimmy will eventually succumb to his criminal urges.

Jimmy anonymously warns the Kettlemans, who go missing soon after with their house ransacked. Nacho is arrested due to evidence pointing to him, but he proclaims innocence and names Jimmy his lawyer, threatening him with death if he is not released. Jimmy concludes the Kettlemans staged the whole thing and actually ran away. Thanks to advice from Mike Ehrmantraut, Jimmy finds them camping in the wilderness behind their home with the stolen money.[4] The Kettlemans bribe Jimmy to assure his silence. Nacho is released, but he accuses Jimmy of informing the Kettlemans and threatens repercussions.

Using the bribe money, Jimmy plans to buy an office. He exacts revenge upon Howard for earlier asking him not to use the McGill name for his business by buying advertising space on a billboard that copies HHM's look. Howard orders Kim to serve Jimmy a cease and desist, so Jimmy organizes a filmed publicity stunt while the billboard is being taken down that makes it look like he saved the life of the billboard worker.[5] The stunt gets Jimmy new clients that do not pan out (including a rancher who wants to have his property secede from the United States; and a family dad who has invented a toilet meant to spout words of encouragement to kids who need toilet-training, but which instead says things that sound like sexual innuendos), but after he drafts a will for an elderly woman, Kim encourages him to pursue elder law. Chuck is hospitalized from being tasered by police after stealing a neighbor's newspaper to discover Jimmy's stunt. The doctor recommends committing Chuck, but Howard convinces the DA to make sure that Chuck is not committed. Jimmy realizes that if Chuck were committed, he would become his legal guardian and thus have the authority to request and receive Chuck's severance payment from HHM, but decides against it.

Mike requests Jimmy to be his lawyer after detectives from Philadelphia question him about the murder of two police officers, but he just needs Jimmy to spill coffee on one of the detectives so he can steal their notes. Jimmy does so after initially refusing, and he wonders how Nacho and Mike instinctively sensed he had a criminal streak.[6]

Meanwhile, Kim is demoted after the Kettlemans refuse a plea deal and they return to Jimmy, threatening to expose the bribe if he does not get Craig fully exonerated. Feeling guilty about Kim, Jimmy has Mike break into the Kettlemans home to steal the money; although the $1.6 million is his for the taking, Jimmy feels he must do the right thing and hand it to the authorities. Jimmy admits to the Kettlemans that the money and his bribe money is with the DA, and they cannot blackmail him because Betsy is guilty of bribery and she would also be arrested. Craig decides to admit guilt and accept Kim's plea deal, saving her career but setting Jimmy back significantly.[7]

Jimmy enters elder law and visits numerous nursing homes to network. He learns that nursing home Sandpiper Crossing is systematically overcharging its residents, making them guilty of fraud and forming grounds for a class action lawsuit. Sandpiper bans Jimmy from the premises when he starts snooping, so he resorts to dumpster diving in an effort to find shredded documents, eventually finding an incriminating one. With a solid case against Sandpiper, Chuck decides to become Jimmy's co-counsel and assist him in the case. Sandpiper Crossing's attorneys agree to meet, and although they deny that the home is defrauding its residents, they concede that some of them were overcharged and are willing to compensate. However, Jimmy presents evidence of Sandpiper Crossing engaging in illicit interstate commerce, making them eligible for a RICO lawsuit. Chuck demands that Sandpiper Crossing pay $20 million in settlement fees, which the attorneys refuse. The case invigorates Chuck and he finds himself able to leave the house.

Chuck convinces Jimmy to refer the case to HHM due to its sheer size. Howard offers to give Jimmy a monetary reward, but still refuses to hire him or let him work on the case. Feeling cut out, Jimmy does not release the case to HHM. The next day, Jimmy informs Chuck that he will accept Howard's deal after all, having discovered that Chuck used his phone in the middle of the night to call Howard before their meeting. Jimmy deduces that Chuck called Howard to cut him out of the case, and also deduces that it was Chuck, not Howard, who had been keeping him out of HHM since the beginning - Jimmy accuses Chuck of this, who admits to it being true, and who in turn accuses Jimmy of not being a "true" lawyer and believes Jimmy could never be an associate for HHM, as he has not changed from being "Slippin' Jimmy", and a con man with a law degree is dangerous. Feeling hurt and betrayed that Chuck still considers him a crook after how hard he worked to straighten out and take care of him, Jimmy cuts ties with him.[8]

After suffering a nervous breakdown while ranting to a bingo parlor about the state of his life, Jimmy returns to Cicero for a sabbatical. He is reunited with his partner-in-crime Marco Pasternak and they start scamming people again. Marco tempts him to stay, but concern for his elderly clients, Chuck, and a job offer from the law firm of Davis & Mane in Santa Fe sways Jimmy to return to New Mexico. Marco dies of a heart attack during one last con, his final words telling Jimmy how happy he was doing what they are best at since he was miserable in his legitimate job. Receiving Marco's gold ring and remembering his last words, Jimmy ultimately decides not to take the job with Davis & Mane, as he no longer feels obliged to "do the right thing".[9]

Breaking Bad[edit]

Sometime before meeting Walter White, Jimmy takes up the name 'Saul Goodman', because he believes that clients are more likely to want a lawyer with a Jewish-sounding name.[10]

Jimmy also begins to do business out of a highly stylized office in a cheap strip mall. With a new repertoire that includes small-time drug busts, fraudulent insurance claims, class actions, and his overbearing manner, he might seem disreputable to police and certain other lawyers. However, despite his flamboyant appearance, Jimmy/Saul has become a highly competent extra-legal operator, adept at sniffing out legal loopholes and able to negotiate good deals for his clients. He has deep ties with Albuquerque, New Mexico's most influential criminals, such as Gus Fring. He also employs Mike, who carries out illegal commands from Saul and Gus such as cleaning up crime scenes and bugging homes. Saul is not completely without integrity, however; he is shown to honor the ethics of his profession, particularly the attorney-client privilege, and is reluctant to involve himself with violence or murder.

Season 2[edit]

Following Badger's arrest for selling meth, Walt and Jesse contact Saul for legal representation, as Jesse knows him from successfully defending Emilio twice, and getting him released almost immediately from jail. Walt, posing as Badger’s uncle "Mr. Mayhew", hires him to keep Badger out of prison. Unfortunately, while meeting Badger at the police station he catches a glimpse of DEA agents Hank Schrader and Steven Gomez, and deduces that they are interested in his client and plans to make a deal with the DEA for Badger to testify against his dealer “Heisenberg” (Walt's criminal alias). Walt offers Saul $10,000 to keep Badger from talking to the DEA, but Saul refuses, claiming to be “morally outraged.” Walt and Jesse then take more desperate measures, kidnapping Saul at gunpoint and taking him to the desert to threaten him into keeping Badger from testifying. However, Saul quickly points out it would make more sense to have Badger killed in prison, but Walt and Jesse reject this solution. Recognizing “Mr. Mayhew” from Walt’s hacking cough, he quickly offers to be their lawyer, accepting payment of six dollars on the spot to establish a confidential attorney-client relationship. To throw the DEA off Walt and Jesse’s trail, Saul proposes the use of James Edward Kilkely (aka Jimmy “In-and-Out”), a man who fits Heisenberg’s description and is a professional fall guy who takes the rap for other peoples' crimes for a fee. In exchange for $80,000 ($50,000 of which goes to Saul for a finders' fee) and a decoy pound of meth, Saul has Badger cooperate with the authorities and a sting operation leads to Jimmy’s arrest. When Mike figures out who Walt is, Saul–intrigued by the DEA’s interest in Walt’s product–proposes that Walt hire him as his consigliere, in the same vein as Tom Hagen from The Godfather. Walt ultimately accepts the offer.[10]

In an effort to help pay for Walt's cancer treatment, his son Walter Jr. sets up the website,,[11] which requests and collects donations. Saul tells Walt that it is a perfect opportunity to launder money. Saul arranges for a wave of fake donations drawn from Walt's drug money. When Jesse discovers that his girlfriend Jane Margolis has died in his bed from a heroin overdose, he contacts Walt, who contacts Saul. Saul sends Mike to clean up the crime scene and mitigate Jesse's involvement with Jane's death.[12]

Season 3[edit]

After Walt sells $1.2 million of meth to Gus, Saul pushes Walt to take Gus’s lucrative offer to continue cooking. Saul also accepts a job from Jesse, using Jesse’s half of the earnings to purchase Jesse's parents' house at a dramatically lowered price, by strong-arming / threatening Jesse’s parents and attorney with a potential lawsuit concerning the undisclosed meth lab Jesse was running out of the basement. [13]

After Walt reveals that Skyler has threatened to expose him, Saul assures Walt that she wouldn't talk due to blowback on the family, but Saul secretly hires Mike to bug the Whites' house as insurance. Forced to leave early when Walt comes home, Mike witnesses the cartel hitmen Leonel and Marco Salamanca entering with an axe and quickly places a call to Gus to call them off. Per Gus’ direction, Saul has not been informed of this threat to Walt. [14]

Mike later brings Walt to Saul after Walt creates a disturbance at Skyler’s office, and attempts to talk Walt into cooking meth again. After Saul admits that he bugged Walt’s house, Walt attacks and subsequently fires him. Furious, Saul stops laundering Walt’s drug money. Jesse then approaches Saul with two bags of meth he has cooked himself using Walt’s procedure, and asks to set up a deal. He meets with Gus' henchman Victor to make the exchange, only to see he has been given half of the money – the other half goes to Walt. [15] Saul sets up an intervention between Walt and Jesse, offering to give Walt a percentage of Jesse’s future deals. Walt returns Jesse’s half, coldly informing both of them that he has now accepted Gus’ offer and will be cutting Jesse out of the business. Saul quickly dumps Jesse as a client in favor of the much higher profits Walt can produce, and once again goes to work laundering Walt's money – this time for a dramatically reduced percentage. [16]

When Hank deduces the existence of the RV Walt and Jesse use to cook meth, Walt calls Saul in a panic. Saul scolds him for not having a contingency plan. After Hank locates the RV with Walt and Jesse trapped inside, Walt calls Saul for assistance. Saul has his secretary Francesca masquerade as a cop to tell Hank that Marie has been severely injured in a car accident to give Walt and Jesse time to destroy the RV. Saul later feels guilty for taking part in such a cruel ruse, especially when, in response to being duped, Hank follows Jesse home and viciously beats him unconscious.[17]

After Walt murders two drug dealers and Jesse goes on the run, Mike storms into Saul's office and intimidates him into revealing Jesse's whereabouts. Saul gives Mike a fake address, however, and secretly meets with Walt and Jesse. He expresses dismay at having been put in a difficult position. [18]

Season 4[edit]

After Jesse murders cartel meth cook Gale Boetticher at the end of season three, Saul fears he will be next. He locks up his offices, hires Huell Babineaux as a guard, and starts scanning his offices for bugging devices. [19]

Saul suggests to Skyler she should buy a laser tag business to launder Walt’s drug money. Skyler dismisses the idea, and instead sets her sights on purchasing the car wash Walt has previously worked for. When the owner Bogdan refuses to sell, Skyler and Walt ask Saul for help. Saul suggests they accuse Bogdan of harboring al-Qaeda terrorists, but Walt dismisses that plan, reasoning that Bogdan is Romanian. Eventually, they concoct a plan to force Bogdan to sell: Skyler hires Saul’s henchman Patrick Kuby to perform a fake environmental audit on the car wash and threaten to shut it down, forcing Bogdan to sell for a relatively low price. [20]

When Walt says that he fears his meth business will go under, Saul mentions that he knows someone who can, for a fee, arrange for him to disappear and start over with a new identity. Walt rejects this idea.[21]

When Walt angrily blows up the Dodge Challenger he'd bought for Walt Jr. but which Skyler insisted Walt return, Saul helps deal with the legal consequence and cover up the incident. After paying Saul for his services, Walt asks for a list of hit men he could hire to kill Gus. Saul advises against it since Mike knows all of the contacts, and hiring outside of his network carries the risk of encountering undercover cops. [22]

Meanwhile, Skyler's former boss and lover Ted Beneke tells her that his business is being audited for tax fraud. Since Skyler was his bookkeeper, she could also be implicated. At the audit, Skyler acts completely ignorant of accounting practices. The IRS agent, believing the fraud was simply a mistake, orders Ted to pay back taxes and fines. Ted, however, refuses to comply. Skyler, against Saul’s advice, arranges for Ted to receive enough money to pay his IRS debt by having Saul manufacture a fake relative who leaves Ted a sizable inheritance. When Saul follows up, he finds that Ted is not using the money to pay the IRS. With no other options, Skyler has Saul’s men—Huell and Kuby—force Ted to write the check. They succeed, but in Ted’s attempt to flee, he trips and seriously injures himself.[23]

Gus coerces Walt into a meeting, where he informs him that he is going to kill Hank to cover their tracks, and threatens to kill Walt and his family if he tries to intervene. Walt barges into Saul's office and takes him up on his earlier offer to go into hiding. Walt also asks Saul to anonymously tip the DEA that Hank is being targeted. Saul eventually agrees, provided Gus' name isn't mentioned. Afterward, Saul gives Jesse back his money and prepares to flee Albuquerque temporarily until the fallout between Walt and Gus is over.[23]

Season 5[edit]

In the fifth season, it is revealed that Saul tasked Huell to pickpocket a ricin-filled cigarette from Jesse, but didn't know that Walt would use it to poison Jesse's girlfriend Andrea Cantillo's son Brock.[24] Saul attempts to end his partnership with Walt, but Walt backs him into a corner and intimidates him back into compliance. As Walt, Jesse, and Mike set up their own meth operation in the vacuum left by Gus's demise, Saul helps them find a meth lab and equips them with a team led by Todd Alquist. [25] Saul helps Mike when the DEA comes close to catching him.[26]

Jesse asks Saul to deliver his share of the drug money to Mike's granddaughter and the family of Drew Sharp, a child shot by Todd for witnessing a train heist, but Saul refuses.[27] After Hank discovers that Walt is Heisenberg, Saul advises Walt to kill his brother-in-law, a suggestion Walt angrily rejects.[28] Later, when Jesse is picked up by the police and interrogated by Hank, Saul bails him out of custody. After arranging a meeting between Walt and Jesse to discuss how to handle Hank's investigation, Saul arranges with his contact to set Jesse up with a new identity far away from Albuquerque. However, Jesse realizes Saul's complicity in Brock's poisoning and beats a confession out of him. Saul subsequently advises Walt to call in a hit on Jesse.[24]

After Hank and Gomez are killed and Walt's criminality is exposed, Saul decides to set himself up with a new identity. He and Walt spend several days in a basement together while Saul's extractor, Ed, makes the necessary arrangements. Walt asks Saul to help him find hitmen to kill Hank's murderers, but Saul instead advises Walt to turn himself in to avoid a lengthy and humiliating federal investigation against Skyler. Walt again attempts to threaten Saul into complying, but breaks down in a coughing fit. With his transportation ready, Saul leaves Walt and heads for a new life in Omaha, Nebraska.[29]

Sure enough, he does end up in Omaha, managing a Cinnabon under the alias name "Gene". He also spends his nights in a drunken stupor watching VHS tapes of his old commercials.


  1. ^ "Vince Gilligan Talks BREAKING BAD, the Saul Goodman Spinoff, the Behind-the-Scenes Documentary, and More". Collider. 2013-09-13. Retrieved 2013-09-23. 
  2. ^ Hipes, Patrick (July 16, 2015). "Emmy Nominations 2015 – Full List". Retrieved July 16, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Mijo". Better Call Saul. Season 1. Episode 2. February 9, 2015. AMC. 
  4. ^ "Nacho". Better Call Saul. Season 1. Episode 3. February 16, 2015. AMC. 
  5. ^ "Hero". Better Call Saul. Season 1. Episode 4. February 23, 2015. AMC. 
  6. ^ "Five-O". Better Call Saul. Season 1. Episode 9. March 9, 2015. AMC. 
  7. ^ "Bingo". Better Call Saul. Season 1. Episode 7. February 23, 2015. AMC. 
  8. ^ "Pimento". Better Call Saul. Season 1. Episode 9. March 30, 2015. AMC. 
  9. ^ "Marco". Better Call Saul. Season 1. Episode 10. April 6, 2015. AMC. 
  10. ^ a b "Better Call Saul". Breaking Bad. Season 2. Episode 8. April 26, 2009. AMC. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Phoenix". Breaking Bad. Season 2. Episode 12. May 24, 2009. AMC. 
  13. ^ "Caballo Sin Nombre". Breaking Bad. Season 3. Episode 2. March 28, 2010. AMC. 
  14. ^ "I.F.T". Breaking Bad. Season 3. Episode 3. April 4, 2010. AMC. 
  15. ^ "Green Light". Breaking Bad. Season 3. Episode 4. April 11, 2010. AMC. 
  16. ^ "Más". Breaking Bad. Season 3. Episode 5. April 10, 2010. AMC. 
  17. ^ "Sunset". Breaking Bad. Season 3. Episode 6. April 25, 2010. AMC. 
  18. ^ "Full Measure". Breaking Bad. Season 3. Episode 13. June 13, 2010. AMC. 
  19. ^ "Box Cutter". Breaking Bad. Season 4. Episode 1. July 17, 2011. AMC. 
  20. ^ "Open House". Breaking Bad. Season 4. Episode 3. July 31, 2011. AMC. 
  21. ^ "Cornered". Breaking Bad. Season 4. Episode 6. August 21, 2011. AMC. 
  22. ^ "Problem Dog". Breaking Bad. Season 4. Episode 7. August 28, 2011. AMC. 
  23. ^ a b "Face Off". Breaking Bad. Season 4. Episode 12. October 9, 2011. AMC. 
  24. ^ a b "Confessions". Breaking Bad. Season 5. Episode 11. August 25, 2013. AMC. 
  25. ^ "Hazard Pay". Breaking Bad. Season 5. Episode 3. July 29, 2012. AMC. 
  26. ^ "Buyout". Breaking Bad. Season 5. Episode 6. August 19, 2012. AMC. 
  27. ^ "Blood Money". Breaking Bad. Season 5. Episode 9. August 11, 2013. AMC. 
  28. ^ "Buried". Breaking Bad. Season 5. Episode 10. August 18, 2013. AMC. 
  29. ^ "Granite State". Breaking Bad. Season 5. Episode 11. September 22, 2013. AMC. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]