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|James McGill/Saul Goodman|
|Breaking Bad / Better Call Saul character|
|First appearance||"Better Call Saul" (Breaking Bad)|
|Portrayed by||Bob Odenkirk
Blake Bertrand (childhood flashbacks)
|Full name||James Morgan McGill|
|Family||Charles McGill (brother)|
|Significant other(s)||Kim Wexler|
James Morgan "Jimmy" McGill, Esq., also known by the trade name Saul Goodman, is a fictional character in Breaking Bad and the title 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. He is a criminal lawyer. 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.
As a young man, Jimmy McGill lived in Cicero, Illinois, where he made a living from petty scams such as feigning falls in front of businesses; his skill as a con artist earned him the nickname "Slippin' Jimmy". His father was the owner of a general store, but was an easy target for grifters, to the point that he lost about $14,000 in revenue and had no choice but to sell his store, about six months before he died. Jimmy went straight after his older brother, Chuck, pulled strings to get him out of prison on an indecent exposure charge relating to a "Chicago sun-roof" incident; he ran into a man who had previously angered him and, after getting drunk, defecated on the sunroof of the man's car, unaware that the man's children were inside. Chuck got Jimmy a job in the mail room of his law firm, Hamlin, Hamlin and McGill (HHM), alongside future lawyer and romantic interest Kim Wexler. Jimmy got a law degree from the University of American Samoa, and passed the state bar exam, but Chuck's law partner Howard Hamlin refused to hire him at HHM.
Better Call Saul
At the beginning of Better Call Saul, Jimmy was an underpaid public defender representing obviously guilty clients in the Albuquerque court system. Jimmy also took care of Chuck, who was housebound by sudden onset of severe phobic behavior. He first used his con artist skills in law practice by enlisting two twin con artists to "accidentally" get hit by a car, after which Jimmy would "happen" to be driving past and save the driver. The twins mistakenly targeted a car driven by the grandmother of drug kingpin Tuco Salamanca, which led to Tuco taking Jimmy and the twins hostage.
Jimmy exacted revenge upon Howard by buying advertising space for his own practice on a billboard, copying HHM's branding. HHM served a cease and desist order on Jimmy, and Jimmy organized a filmed publicity stunt while the billboard was being taken down. The stunt got Jimmy new clients, one of whom was an elderly woman, starting Jimmy's practice in elder law. Mike Ehrmentraut hired Jimmy to spill coffee on a detective during questioning so that Mike could steal his notebook.
As Jimmy began developing an elder law practice, he learned that the nursing home provider Sandpiper Crossing was systematically overcharging its residents. Jimmy involved Chuck in developing a class action case against Sandpiper, re-invigorating Chuck in the process. Chuck convinced Jimmy to refer the case to HHM due to its sheer size, but refused to allow Jimmy to join the firm, believing that Jimmy was still a con-artist at heart and had no business practicing law. Jimmy returned to Cicero and spent a week pulling scams with his former partner-in-crime Marco Pasternak. Marco died of a heart attack during one last con, and with his dying breath, told Jimmy that their week together was the greatest of his life. After receiving Marco's gold ring and remembering his last words, Jimmy ultimately decided that he no longer felt obliged to "do the right thing".
After the Cicero trip, Jimmy closed down his law practice and spent his days relaxing at a hotel pool looking for people to con. However, due in large part to his interest in Kim, he returned to law practice as an associate with Davis & Main, a prestigious Santa Fe law firm involved in the Sandpiper case alongside HHM. Jimmy was put in charge of client outreach for the Sandpiper case, but quickly resorted to unethical tactics to do so, including bribing a bus driver to solicit nursing home residents as clients. When called on the potential legal issues by both Chuck and Kim, Jimmy resorted to filming a targeted TV commercial and airing it on a test basis without permission from his firm. The ad was a success but got Jimmy in trouble with Cliff and the other bosses. As a consequence, Jimmy was put under closer scrutiny and given a handler in the form of junior attorney Erin Brill. At the same time, Jimmy was recruited by Mike on a couple of side jobs, including defending a small-time drug dealer and representing Mike in police questioning.
Jimmy attempted to quit his job at Davis & Main, but after discovering that he would lose his signing bonus if he did so, he instead got himself fired by making himself as obnoxious as possible: wearing unorthodox suits to work, purchasing a boisterous blender, goes to the restroom without flushing the toilet, and playing bagpipes loudly in his office. He temporarily moved back into his old salon office, keeping only his cocobolo desk. Jimmy then proposed becoming law partners with Kim, but Kim decided that she would rather be a solo practitioner, working under the same roof as Jimmy. After HHM captured Kim's only potential client, Mesa Verde Bank, Jimmy resorted to altering documents in Chuck's possession in order to embarrass HHM at a regulatory hearing, helping Kim to win the client back. At the end of the second season, Jimmy confessed his crime to Chuck, not knowing that Chuck was secretly recording the conversation.
When Jesse Pinkman's friend Badger Mayhew was arrested during a police sting for selling methamphetamine, Jesse and Walter White contacted Jimmy (by this point known as "Saul Goodman," an alias that he used as a young con artist) for legal representation. To throw the DEA off Walt and Jesse’s trail, Saul proposed the use of James Edward Kilkely (aka Jimmy “In-and-Out”), a professional fall guy who fit Heisenberg’s description. Mike discovered Walt's true identity, and Saul–intrigued by the DEA’s interest in Walt’s product–proposed that Walt hire him as a consigliere, in the same vein as Tom Hagen from The Godfather. Saul proposed using the savewalterwhite.com website set up by Walt's son as a means of money laundering, and arranged for a wave of fake donations drawn from Walt's drug money. After Walt sold $1.2 million of meth to drug kingpin Gus Fring, Saul pushed Walt to take Gus’ lucrative offer to continue cooking, and assisted Jesse in acquiring his aunt's house by threatening Jesse’s parents and attorney with a potential lawsuit concerning the undisclosed meth lab Jesse was running out of the basement.
Saul secretly hired Mike to bug the Whites' house after Walt revealed that his wife Skyler threatened to expose him. Walt attacked and fired Saul after discovering this, and Saul stopped laundering Walt’s drug money. Jesse then approached Saul with two bags of meth he cooked himself using Walt’s procedure. Saul set up an intervention between Walt and Jesse, offering to give Walt a percentage of Jesse’s future deals. Walt coldly informed both Saul and Jesse that he accepted Gus’s offer and would be cutting Jesse out of the business. Saul quickly dumped Jesse as a client in favor of the much higher profits Walt could produce, and returned to laundering Walt's money – this time for a dramatically reduced percentage.
When Hank deduced the existence of the RV Walt and Jesse used to cook meth, and was led to the RV while Walt is still inside, Saul had his long-suffering secretary Francesca masquerade as a cop to tell Hank that his wife Marie had been severely injured in a car accident, giving Walt and Jesse time to destroy the RV. Saul showed guilt for taking part in the ruse after Hank followed Jesse home and beat him unconscious.
At the end of the third season of Breaking Bad, Saul began to side with Walt and Jesse against Gus. After Walt killed two of Gus' dealers, Mike intimidated Saul into revealing Jesse's whereabouts. Saul gave Mike a fake address and secretly met with Walt and Jesse, expressing dismay at having been put in a difficult position. After Jesse killed Gale Boetticher, a meth cook that Gus was grooming to replace Walt, Saul feared he would be next, and locked up his offices, hired Huell Babineaux as a guard, and started scanning his offices for bugging devices.
Saul suggested that Skyler buy a laser tag business to launder Walt’s drug money. Skyler instead set her sights on purchasing the A1 Car Wash that Walt previously worked for. To force the sale of the business, Saul sent a henchman named Patrick Kuby to perform a fake environmental audit on the car wash and threaten to shut it down, forcing its owner to sell for a relatively low price.
Saul assisted in the cover-up after Walt angrily blew up the Dodge Challenger he'd bought for Walt Jr. After paying Saul for his services, Walt asked Saul for a list of hitmen he could hire to kill Gus. Saul advised against it since Mike knows all of the contacts, and hiring outside of his network carries the risk of encountering undercover cops. At the end of the fourth season, Saul agrees to help Walt go into hiding after Walt learns that Gus is planning to kill Hank (and to kill Walt and his family if Walt tries to intervene).
In the fifth season, Saul tasked Huell to pickpocket a ricin-filled cigarette from Jesse, not knowing that Walt would use it to poison Jesse's girlfriend Andrea Cantillo's son Brock. Saul attempted to end his partnership with Walt, but Walt backed him into a corner and intimidated him back into compliance. As Walt, Jesse, and Mike set up their own meth operation in the vacuum left by Gus's demise, Saul helped them find a new venue, and equipped them with a team led by Vamonos Pest exterminator Todd Alquist.  Saul helped Mike when the DEA came close to catching him.
After Hank discovered that Walt was Heisenberg, Saul advised Walt to kill Hank. When Jesse was picked up by the police and interrogated by Hank, Saul bailed him out of custody and arranged a meeting between Walt and Jesse to discuss how to handle Hank's investigation. Saul set Jesse up with a new identity far away from Albuquerque, but Jesse realized Saul's complicity in Brock's poisoning and beat a confession out of him. Saul subsequently advised Walt to call in a hit on Jesse.
After Hank and Gomez were killed and Walt's criminality was exposed, Saul decided to set himself up with a new identity. He and Walt spent several days in a basement together while Saul's extractor, Ed, made the necessary arrangements. Walt asked Saul to help him find hit-men to kill Hank's murderers, but Saul instead advised Walt to turn himself in to avoid a lengthy and humiliating federal investigation against Skyler. Walt again attempted to threaten Saul into complying, but broke down in a coughing fit. With his transportation ready, Saul headed for a new life in Omaha, Nebraska.
Both the first and second seasons of Better Call Saul open with black and white sequences that take place after the events of Breaking Bad; these sequences show that after leaving Albuquerque, Saul ended up in Omaha under the alias "Gene", working as assistant manager of a mall Cinnabon establishment, in disguise with mustache and glasses.
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- Hipes, Patrick (July 16, 2015). "Emmy Nominations 2015 – Full List". Deadline.com. Retrieved July 16, 2015.
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- Josh Ralske (August 7, 2013). "'Better Call Saul!' The Best of Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad". TWC Central.