|Breaking Bad / Better Call Saul character|
Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman/Jimmy McGill
|Portrayed by||Bob Odenkirk|
Blake Bertrand, Cole Whitaker (childhood flashbacks)
|Full name||James Morgan McGill|
|Significant other||Kim Wexler|
|Home||Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States|
|Birthplace||Cicero, Illinois, United States|
James Morgan McGill, also known as Saul Goodman, Slippin' Jimmy and Gene Taković, is a fictional character who appears in the television series Breaking Bad and serves as the titular character of its spin-off prequel series Better Call Saul. He is portrayed by Bob Odenkirk, and was created by Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould. The character is an Albuquerque-based lawyer who embraces his tendencies as a former scam artist and begins to represent criminals while himself becoming involved in the city's criminal world. Saul's name is a play on the phrase "[It]'s all good, man".
Saul was born in Cicero, Illinois as James Morgan "Jimmy" McGill. His older brother Chuck became a successful lawyer as one of the partners at an Albuquerque law firm, Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill (HHM). Jimmy became a scam artist in Cicero and soon gained the nickname "Slippin' Jimmy" for staging "slip and fall" accidents to make quick cash. Jimmy runs into trouble with the police and Chuck returns to help but requires that Jimmy join him in Albuquerque and work a legitimate job in HHM's mail room. Jimmy befriends Kim Wexler, an HHM employee who is attending law school. Inspired by her success, Jimmy completes his college degree and attends a correspondence law school. He passes the bar exam and hopes to be hired at HHM, but at Chuck's secret instigation, senior partner Howard Hamlin denies Jimmy the opportunity. Jimmy then starts a solo practice in the utility room of a Vietnamese nail salon. He takes whatever cases he can get, including low paid public defender work. Jimmy frequently gets into altercations with the stoic Mike Ehrmantraut, a former police officer working as the clerk at the courthouse's parking lot.
Jimmy begins to use the alias "Saul Goodman", a play on the phrase "It's all good, man!" He initially uses it as the alternate identity for the high energy pitchman in TV ads he produces during the suspension of his law license, and later makes use of it when he begins a business reselling prepaid cell phones on the street.
Better Call Saul
Unhappy with working as a public defender for low pay, Jimmy attempts to represent Craig and Betsy Kettleman, a couple accused of embezzling over a million dollars. They hire HHM to represent them and Jimmy attempts to persuade them to switch, leading to an altercation with Tuco Salamanca and Nacho Varga, Tuco's subordinate in the Salamanca drug cartel. When Nacho plans to rob them, Jimmy anonymously warns the Kettlemans, and their home later appears to have been the scene of a kidnapping. Nacho, who had been seen surveilling the Kettlemans, is arrested, and Jimmy defends him and obtains his release. Following Mike's hunch, Jimmy discovers the Kettlemans staged their disappearance and are hiding near their home. When he confronts them, the Kettlemans pay him to keep silent. When HHM suggests the Kettlemans take a plea bargain, they use their payment to Jimmy to blackmail him into defending them. Jimmy works with Mike to find the Kettlemans' hiding place. Mike steals their money and delivers it to the district attorney, forcing the Kettlemans to accept a guilty plea for Craig so that both Kettlemans won't go to prison and leave their children parentless.
Jimmy produces wills for several elderly clients and seems to have great rapport with them, so Kim suggests he focus on an elder law practice. During a visit to the Sandpiper Crossing retirement home, he finds the company is committing fraud by overcharging clients. With Chuck's help, he finds a document that proves the fraud, and Jimmy and Chuck begin a class action lawsuit against Sandpiper. When the case grows, Chuck suggests turning it over to HHM, but secretly arranges with Howard to cut Jimmy out of the subsequent litigation. Jimmy confronts Chuck, who admits that he resents Jimmy's legal career and doesn't consider him a peer because of his unconventional education and conman past. Jimmy returns to Cicero and spends a week running cons with his old partner, but returns to Albuquerque when Kim calls to say that the case has continued to grow, so HHM has brought in another firm, Davis & Main. Knowing he understands the details of the case better than anyone and has developed personal relationships with the clients, Kim persuades Davis & Main to hire Jimmy as an associate. Jimmy goes home and is prepared to meet with the Davis & Main partners, but has second thoughts and drives away.
Jimmy hides out at a hotel while vacationing under an assumed name with a stolen credit card. Kim persuades Jimmy to reconsider joining Davis & Main, so he accepts their offer. Assigned to enroll new clients in the Sandpiper case, Jimmy succeeds at signing up more residents, but his skirting of the ethical canons leads Chuck to chastise him in front of the other attorneys. Jimmy produces and airs a television ad without the approval of the D&M partners or the knowledge of the partners at HHM, leading to a reprimand and a junior attorney assigned to constantly supervise him. Kim is relegated to menial document review work as the result of her failure to inform HHM about Jimmy's commercial. In an effort to reclaim her status at HHM, Kim works her contacts to bring in a new client and succeeds at landing Mesa Verde Bank. Howard is happy to have the business, but denies Kim credit. Jimmy proposes that they go into partnership together. Kim counters with a proposal that they start separate practices in a shared office, so Jimmy quits D&M and Kim quits HHM and they begin their new firms. Kim succeeds at winning Mesa Verde as a client, but Chuck persuades Mesa Verde to remain with HHM.
Chuck's attempts to hide his electromagnetic sensitivity during the meeting with Kevin and Paige from Mesa Verde causes him to become severely ill, and Ernesto calls Jimmy for help. While Chuck sleeps, Jimmy alters Mesa Verde documents stored at Chuck's house. As a result, Chuck's application to the state banking board for a new Mesa Verde branch is incorrect, leading to a significant delay. Mesa Verde fires HHM and hires Kim, and Chuck suspects that Jimmy sabotaged him. Kim infers Jimmy's guilt and tells him that if he left any evidence, Chuck will find it. Knowing the copy store clerk where he altered the documents can identify him, Jimmy goes to the store to buy his silence, but sees Ernesto questioning the clerk. Having visited stores at Chuck's request until he found the right one, Ernesto leaves to pick up Chuck and bring him back to question the clerk. Jimmy enters the store and bribes the clerk, then waits across the street to see what happens when Chuck arrives. Chuck begins to question the clerk, but his EHS causes him to faint and hit his head. Jimmy is torn between coming to Chuck's aid and keeping secret his alteration of the Mesa Verde documents. Jimmy comes to Chuck's aid and Chuck is transported to the hospital. He wonders how Jimmy arrived at the store so quickly after his accident and guesses that Jimmy bribed the clerk and stayed nearby to watch. Ernesto falsely tells Chuck that he called Jimmy before bringing Chuck to the store, out of concern for Chuck's health. Chuck's doctor proves to Jimmy that Chuck's EHS symptoms are psychosomatic. Chuck tricks Jimmy into confessing to the Mesa Verde fraud, which Chuck secretly records. Chuck arranges for Jimmy to learn of the recording through Ernesto and Kim, and Jimmy breaks into Chuck's house to destroy it. Chuck's private investigator and Howard witness Jimmy actions, enabling Chuck to report him to the police.
Jimmy is arrested, but Chuck tells the prosecutor he prefers having Jimmy submit to a bar association disciplinary hearing to pursuing a criminal case. Jimmy and Kim make Chuck's mental fitness an issue when he testifies, and Jimmy questions him about his EHS. Jimmy reveals that Huell Babineaux, a pickpocket, placed Jimmy's cell phone battery in Chuck's pocket and Chuck carried it for over an hour without experiencing symptoms. The prosecutor says Chuck's mental fitness isn't an issue, and the suggestion that Chuck's illness isn't real causes him to vent all his frustrations about Jimmy in a tirade that stuns the hearing room audience. Jimmy's law license is suspended for a year, but he is not disbarred.
To both pay his share of the rent on the office and make use of TV ad time for which he's already prepaid, Jimmy begins producing commercials for other businesses while using the on air alias Saul Goodman. He learns of a proposed settlement of the Sandpiper case, of which his share will be more than a million dollars, but finds that Irene, the lawsuit's class representative, has turned it down because the lawyers have advised her that they can obtain a bigger settlement by waiting. Jimmy executes several actions designed to trick Irene into accepting the settlement, but feels remorse when her friends ostracize her. When he attempts to confess, her friends believe he's covering for her, so he arranges for them to overhear him bragging about tricking them, vindicating Irene and restoring her friendships, but costing him his share of the proposed settlement. Kim takes on a second client in order to generate the income necessary to keep the office, but falls asleep at the wheel while driving to a meeting and breaks her arm. Jimmy and Kim close the office and Kim runs her practice from her apartment.
Jimmy attempts to obtain a refund of his malpractice insurance premium but finds that the insurance must stay in force in case he's sued over past cases while his license is suspended. Jimmy pretends to break down while informing the insurance carrier about Chuck's condition, but his knowing look as he departs indicates he has intentionally caused a problem for Chuck. The insurance carrier informs Chuck and Howard that their insurance rates will rise dramatically unless Chuck is continually supervised by another attorney. Chuck wants to fight, but Howard pays the first of three installments that will enable him to buy out Chuck's partnership, and Chuck is forced to retire. Jimmy attempts to make amends with Chuck, but Chuck rebuffs him. Chuck's EHS symptoms become more severe and he removes all the appliances from his house and pulls out the wiring in an effort to discover what is causing his electricity meter to keep running. Chuck's condition continues to deteriorate, and he purposely kicks over a gas lantern that sets his house ablaze.
Jimmy learns that Chuck died in the fire, and believes himself at fault. Howard tells Kim and Jimmy he believes he's at fault for Chuck's death because of his concern over the malpractice insurance rates. Jimmy conceals his role in the insurance issue, allows Howard to accept the blame, and regains his upbeat demeanor. While job hunting, Jimmy spots an opportunity to steal a valuable Hummel figurine, which he hires Ira to do. While managing a cell phone store, Jimmy uses his token inheritance from Chuck to begin a lucrative side business reselling prepaid phones on the street, again making use of the Saul Goodman alias. Kim is bored with practicing banking law for Mesa Verde, and begins accepting pro bono criminal defense cases she finds more satisfying. Kim persuades Schweikart and Cokley, the firm representing Sandpiper, to hire her as a partner in charge of a new banking division, but tells Jimmy that senior partner Rich Schweikart sought her out.
A police officer attempts to persuade Jimmy to end his cell phone business, but Huell, acting as his bodyguard, misunderstands the interaction and strikes the police officer, leading to an assault charge. Jimmy enlists Kim's aid to defend Huell, but she refuses to ruin the police officer's reputation. Instead, Kim and Jimmy arrange for a false show of support for Huell that results in the prosecutor accepting a plea bargain that keeps him out of prison. Kim and Jimmy run a con that enables her to replace approved plans for a Mesa Verde branch in Lubbock, Texas with plans for a bigger building. Jimmy's request for reinstatement is denied, and he learns that it was because he failed to show remorse for Chuck's death. To prepare for his appeal, Kim and Jimmy carry out several public displays that enable him to fake remorse, and he wins reinstatement. To Kim's shock, Jimmy says that his speech to the appeal panel about wanting to do justice to the McGill name in honor of Chuck was a con, and he plans to resume practicing under the name Saul Goodman.
By the time of Saul's introduction in Breaking Bad, he has fully adopted the name "Saul Goodman", and rarely mentions the name McGill. Saul has established an office in a strip mall, adorned with tacky advertising inside and out. Saul considers himself a "criminal lawyer" -- in Jesse Pinkman's words "a lawyer who is a criminal." Jimmy is a skilled attorney who successfully defends numerous clients, but also engages in questionable and sometimes illegal activities. He has ties to criminal elements, including Gus Fring, the owner of the "Los Pollos Hermanos" fast-food chicken franchise around Albuquerque which he uses as a front to smuggle drugs from the Mexican cartel, and who is in direct competition with the Salamanca drug ring. Until the final episodes of Breaking Bad, Saul continues to have the same go-lucky attitude shown in Better Call Saul, mainly interested in profiting while other characters are concerned with life and death.
After Badger is arrested in an Albuquerque Police sting operation, Walt and Jesse look into hiring a shady, flamboyant lawyer named Saul Goodman. Saul has already offered to be Badger's legal counsel and has learned that the DEA hopes Badger will lead them to "Heisenberg." Walt poses as Badger's uncle and goes to Saul's office, where he learns that Saul will advise Badger to reveal his associates in order to avoid prison. Walt offers Saul a bribe to keep Badger from "flipping", but Saul refuses.
Walt and Jesse kidnap Saul and threaten to kill him if he does not keep Badger from informing. Saul sees through their scare tactics, takes a token payment so he can give them legal advice protected by attorney-client privilege, and tells them about Jimmy "In-'N-Out" Kilkelly, who makes a living confessing to the crimes of others and going to prison. Saul arranges for Kilkelly to be arrested and confess to being Heisenberg. The DEA busts Kilkelly when Badger meets with him for a drug deal, but Hank is not completely convinced. Later, Saul visits Walt at his school. He informs Walt that he was too easy to find and offers to be his full-time legal counsel, money launderer, and adviser with respect to protecting his identity.
Combo, Jesse's friend and one of their dealers, is killed by a rival gang, and Jesse's friends refuse to sell any further. Saul helps Walt and Jesse out by promising to contact another dealer, Gus, though warns the pair that Gus is very selective of whom he does business with. Walter ultimately convinces Gus to buy their latest batch valued at nearly one million dollars, but Gus expresses strong reservations about Jesse's drug habits and trustworthiness.
To help launder Walt's drug money, Saul uses Walt Jr.'s website he had setup to get donations to help pay for Walter's chemotherapy, splitting Walter's money as numerous small donations to the site. Saul also helps Jesse Pinkman anonymously buy his aunt's house back from his parents with his share of the drug money. Saul and Mike Ehrmantraut bug Skyler's house to find out if she has told anyone about Walt. Saul attempts to get Jesse to convince Walt to resume cooking methamphetamine. After an altercation between Walt and Skyler's boss Ted Beneke, Mike brings Walt to Saul. Walt figures out that Saul has been bugging his house and attacks him, causing Saul to refuse to launder any more money through Walt Jr.'s website. Jesse visits Saul with methamphetamine he produced and asks for a meeting with Gus, at which Gus agrees to buy Jesse's product, assuming it will be an incentive to Walt. Saul sets up a meeting between Jesse and Walt to resolve the issue of Jesse's half of the money from their previous work for Gus. Walt agrees to resume meth production for Gus, with Gale as his assistant, so Saul changes sides and agrees to launder Walt's new income.
When Hank is close to catching Jesse in the recreational vehicle Walt and he use as a meth lab, and learning that Walt is with him, Walt calls Saul. Saul has his secretary Francesca pose as a doctor attending to Hank's wife Marie and make a call that lures Hank away, giving Jesse and Walt enough time to destroy the RV. Frustrated at losing his potential arrest of Jesse, Hank attacks Jesse at his home. Saul visits a hospitalized Jesse, who threatens to expose Walt's identity. Saul and Walt consider killing Jesse, but decide against it. Saul tries to convince Jesse to buy commercial properties to launder his money but Jesse rejects the idea. Saul discusses plans for money laundering with Skyler and Walt, floating the idea of buying a laser tag business. Skyler wants to buy Bogdan's car wash, believing it is a much more plausible front business since Walt used to work there. Walt visits Saul to discuss Jesse's plan to kill the two dealers who work for Gus and killed Jesse's friend Combo and Andrea's brother Tomás. Mike threatens Saul in order to obtain Jesse's location, intending to kill him before he acts against the dealers, but Saul sends Mike to the wrong location. Saul helps Jesse hide and later arranges for Jesse and Walt to meet at the laser tag arcade.
Saul and Skyler plot ways to persuade Bogdan to sell the car wash, but Skyler rules out violence or intimidation. Saul has Patrick Kuby pose as a government inspector to inform Bogdan of supposed environmental concerns that will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to mitigate. Bogdan sells the car wash to Walt and Skyler and Skyler takes over day to day management. Walt confides in Saul about his concerns with respect to Jesse, Hank, and Gus. Saul tells Walt about Ed the "disappearer", a vacuum repair shop owner who can provide Walt and his family new idenities if they have to flee. Walt runs over Gus' two dealers before Jesse can kill them, then tells Jesse to flee. Saul helps ensure the damage to Walt's car is not discovered. Walt suggests that Gus will retaliate for the murder of the two dealers and recommends that Saul contact a hit man to kill Gus, but Saul dismisses the idea. At Jesse's behest, Saul visits Andrea and tries to give her Jesse's remaining cash.
To protect Skyler from the IRS investigation into Ted Beneke's tax fraud, Saul gives Ted $620 thousand of Walt's cash to pay the tax bill by passing off the money as an inheritance from a fake relative. Ted plans to spend the cash, so Saul sends Kuby and Huell to force him to pay the IRS, and after Ted signs the check he tries to run away, trips, and injures himself. After Gus threatens Walt, Walt demands Saul set up a meeting with Ed the "disappearer" so his family can escape. Walt asks Saul to tip off the DEA about Gus directing the Cousins to attack Hank. Saul agrees but refuses to mention Gus' name. Saul persuades Jesse to come to his office, and has Huell secretly steal the ricin cigarette Walt gave Jesse to use in killing Gus. Saul gives Jesse his money and tells him to leave Albuquerque for his own safety. Jesse realizes the ricin is gone. Andrea's son Brock is poisoned and Jesse tells the doctors to check for ricin, believing that Walt is responsible. Walt persuades Jesse that Gus poisoned Brock. Jesse agrees to help Walt kill Gus. Saul goes into hiding, but returns to represent Jesse when he is questioned about Brock's poisoning. Saul discovers from Jesse that Gus regularly visits Hector Salamanca in a nursing home. Saul passes the information to Walt, who plans to use it in a plot to kill Gus.
Saul tells Skyler about Ted's accident, which has left him hospitalized and immobile. Walt is angry with Saul about Saul's payment to Ted. Saul is upset over Walt's poisoning of Brock and attempts to end his relationship with Walt, but Walt intimidates him into continuing their business arrangement. With Gus dead, Saul tries to convince Walt to stop making meth, but Walt says he has to continue because he needs the cash. Saul hosts a meeting between Mike, Jesse, and Walt, where they agree to set up a new meth producing business. Saul helps Walt and Jesse look for new locations and they agree on Ira's business, Vamanos Pest Control, as the best option. Saul defends Mike from the DEA's investigation by threatening litigation over their supposed harassment. The DEA learns that Mike's lawyer Dan Wachsberger is the conduit for Mike's hush money payments to Gus' former employees and Mike's hiding of cash for Kaylee and Stacey. Mike asks Saul to retrieve the "go bag" with cash and false identity documents that he previously hid. Saul is unable and has Walt do it. When Mike refuses to divulge the names of Gus' former employes so Walt can have them killed to protect his identity, Walt shoots and kills him. Jesse tries to have Saul take the $5 million Jesse made in the methylamine heist and distribute it to Kaylee and the parents of Drew Sharp, the young boy Todd killed during the theft. Saul refuses, saying the attempt to move the cash will attract more police scrutiny. Jesse attempts to get rid of the money in other ways, including throwing it onto random lawns and leaving it in random mailboxes. Saul calls Walt to inform him of the erratic behavior Jesse is displaying because of his distress over Drew's death.
Walt visits Saul to tell him that Hank has learned that Walt is Heisenberg. Saul suggests killing Hank but Walt rejects the idea. Jesse is arrested while tossing money from his car and Saul obtains his release from police custody. Saul arranges a meeting between Walt and Jesse, and Walt convinces Jesse to contact Ed the "disappearer" and start a new life. Saul wants Jesse to give up drugs before beginning the trip, but Jesse refuses, so Saul has Huell pickpocket Jesse's cannabis. When Jesse realizes his marijuana was stolen, he figures out that Huell must have also stolen the ricin cigarette, meaning that Walt poisoned Brock and Saul knew. Instead of leaving with the "disappearer" Jesse returns to Saul's office and assaults him. Saul admits he had Huell steal the ricin, but says he didn't know what Walt intended. Saul calls Walt to warn him that Jesse knows the truth about what happened to Brock. Saul meets with Walt and suggests killing Jesse. After the DEA manipulates Huell into telling them what happened to Walt's money, Saul is afraid for his life and meets with Walt at the car wash. Believing his arrest is imminent, Walt goes into hiding. Saul and Walt both contact Ed, who sets up a new life for Saul as Gene, the manager of a Cinnabon in Omaha, Nebraska. Walt tries to persuade Saul to go with him instead of going to Omaha, and to contact hit men to kill Jack Welker in retaliation for his murder of Hank, but Saul refuses. Walt tries to intimidate Saul but doubles over in a coughing fit. Saul leaves Walt in Ed's basement and begins his trip to Omaha.
The season premieres of Better Call Saul open with black and white flash forwards that take place after the final episodes of Breaking Bad, showing that after leaving Albuquerque, Saul relocates to Omaha, Nebraska under the alias "Gene Taković", and keeps a low profile as a manager of a Cinnabon store. These scenes show Gene to be reminiscing about his past success in private, but wary of anyone finding out about his previous life in Albuquerque.
Though he doesn't appear, Saul is briefly mentioned in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie when Jesse seeks out the services of Ed, the "disappearer." His former law office has also become a bar.
The need for a character like Saul came from two paths of Breaking Bad's development around the show's second season. First and foremost, as White and Pinkman got themselves deeper into the drug business, the show's writers felt they needed a character to be a guide for them. At this point, they had written that Pinkman's dimwitted friends like Badger were selling their drugs, they envisioned what type of lawyer they would enlist should they run into trouble. The creators decided on the name "Saul Goodman" as a play on the phrase "[It]'s all good, man", as in that even his most simple-minded clients would remember his name when they get arrested. Secondly, they were at a point in Hank's narrative where he had suffered a major trauma in seeing an informant's severed head, and he would no longer be able to serve as the show's bit of lightness. They thus made Saul more of a comical character to fill this void. The character was originally intended to appear in only three episodes of Breaking Bad, but instead became central to the narrative of the series.
Odenkirk described Saul in Breaking Bad as a "front" who "seemed to enjoy being a showy cheeseball," while in Better Call Saul, Jimmy is an "earnest, sweet guy whose brain naturally cooks up dishonest solutions to the challenges in front of him." Gould described Saul as a "hermetically sealed slickster." Odenkirk based the character's speaking style on producer Robert Evans.
In 2014, as a publicity stunt for the launch of Better Call Saul, a billboard for "James M. McGill, Attorney at Law" was placed in Albuquerque, mimicking a billboard that appeared on the show, with a phone number connecting to a voice mail message recorded by Odenkirk.
For the first, second, third and fourth seasons of Better Call Saul, Odenkirk was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series as well as the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor. Odenkirk also received nominations for the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Actor in a Drama Series for the first four seasons, winning the award twice.
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