Transformation of Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman: When “Breaking Bad” arrived on our television screens back in 2008, it did so without any hype or expectations. However, as the years went by, it became a cultural phenomenon and was regarded as one of the best television shows of all time. As creator Vince Gilligan once said of the main character, Walter White, he wanted to see the transformation of a character unlike anything that had ever been seen before. He wanted to turn Mr Chips into Scarface, and by the time “Breaking Bad” ended in 2013, he had done just that.

However, it was another character’s transformation that would become a topic of conversation. This article will explore the character of Saul Goodman, portrayed by Bob  Odenkirk, and how a memorable guest appearance in a season 2 episode of “Breaking  Bad” eventually led to Odenkirk landing his own spin-off show called “Better Call Saul” in  2015.

“Better Call Saul” is primarily a prequel to “Breaking Bad” and saw Odenkirk explore the origins of Saul Goodman, when he was known as Jimmy McGill, a struggling lawyer in  Albuquerque, and the events that led to him becoming the ‘criminal’ lawyer we see on  “Breaking Bad.” Unlike Walter White in the parent show, Jimmy’s transformation into Saul was more of a slow burn, as we gradually saw McGill lose faith in doing the right thing and turn to the dark side. In many ways, it was a more tragic transformation than Walter White because a decent guy tried to do the right thing until he realized it was getting him nowhere. Better Call Saul ran for six seasons and 63 episodes and is up there with “Breaking Bad” and the rest of the golden age of television in terms of quality.

Slippin’ Jimmy was how he was known during his formative years as he would run cons with his good friend, Marco, back in Chicago before his eventual move to Albuquerque. He landed a steady but dull job in the mailroom at his brother Chuck’s law firm, Hamlin, Hamlin, and McGill, and that is exactly where his brother wanted him. One of the critical moments in the series that is responsible for Jimmy’s descent into the dark and murky world of crime is when Chuck lets him know how he feels about Jimmy pursuing his law career.

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“Slippin’ Jimmy with a law degree is like a chimp with a machine gun.”

The audience had the foresight to know what became of Jimmy McGill through “Breaking Bad” to know that Chuck was essentially right about him. Still, it posed the question:  Would Jimmy have turned out this way if it wasn’t for Chuck’s constant insistence that he is a lesser person than him? When Chuck dies in a self-inflicted fire at his house at the end of Season 3, this is another crucial moment in Jimmy’s journey towards adopting the identity of Saul Goodman.

There was now no moral opposition to keep him from turning into the corrupt lawyer he became. In season 4, Jimmy began selling burner phones to criminals and got involved in a series of nefarious scams after having his law license taken away from him. When he is reinstated later in the season, he requests to practice law under the name Saul  Goodman. But Jimmy is still the same guy at heart and a long way from becoming Walter White’s shady lawyer, who would do anything for a paycheque. He claims that becoming Saul is his way of being the last line of defense for the little guy. But his new persona would instead lead him to become a ‘friend of the cartel.’

A throwaway line in Saul Goodman’s first appearance in the season 2 episode of  “Breaking Bad,” fittingly entitled Call Saul, played a considerable part in the prequel spin-off series. After being dragged into the desert in the dead of night in the now iconic RV,  Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, wearing ski masks to protect their identity, threaten Saul to get him to cooperate with them.

“It wasn’t me, it was Ignacio. He’s the one. Lalo didn’t send you?”

Jimmy McGill Better Call Saul
A still from Better Call Saul, which stars Bob Odenkirk as the character James Morgan “Jimmy” McGill, better known by his professional alias and business moniker, Saul Goodman.

Saul uttered this line in a desperate attempt to avoid being killed, and it would make more sense when “Better Call Saul” introduced the character of Lalo Salamanca, expertly portrayed by Tony Dalton. The feud between him and Ignacio (better known as Nacho) would reach a fever pitch, and Jimmy McGill’s involvement in it became clear.  So, when did Jimmy McGill fully transform into Saul Goodman? That is a topic of debate among fans of the show, but the consensus is that it happened after the death of Howard Hamlin, which led to Kim leaving him in Season 6. When they finalize their divorce, it’s clear Jimmy has fully transformed into the persona of Saul Goodman. He is running his law offices out of a strip mall, and as Kim leaves after finalizing the divorce,  she bumps into Jesse Pinkman, and the two briefly converse with each other.

Saul Goodman’s interaction with Walter and Jesse would lead to his eventual downfall in “Breaking Bad” and the need to change his name again as he went on the run. This is the moment where “Better Call Saul” became a sequel to Breaking Bad, and those black-and-white flash-forward moments at the start of each season become the full-blown story, as Jimmy Saul became Gene Takovic, working at a Cinnabon shop in Omaha,  Nebraska, and desperately trying to evade capture from the authorities.

Proving that a leopard never changes its spots, Jimmy returns to his slippin’ ways in  Omaha, and Kim signs a full confession to the Howard Hamlin scam and her and  Jimmy’s role in his murder. This spells the end for the man formerly known as Jimmy McGill. It’s pretty apt that his capture comes about after an old lady called Marion (played by Carol Burnett) discovers who he really is. For a second, we see Jimmy consider doing something terrible to protect himself. But Jimmy always had a special relationship with older people, which was witnessed during one of his good deeds during the Sandpiper Crossing legal case, and he instead goes on the run. Unlike Walter White, Jimmy was never capable of murder, and this is why the character never fully transforms into a monster.

He is arrested but uses his impressive legal skills to reduce a massive prison sentence to seven years. However, this is the moment when the man who became Saul Goodman begins his slow transformation back to the partially good Jimmy McGill. Jimmy confesses to everything to save Kim from years of civil litigation. For a brief moment, he re-enters the courtroom as Saul Goodman, in a flash suit and all the usual trappings that come with his alter ego. But he leaves as Jimmy McGill.

After admitting his crimes, when the judge refers to him as Saul Goodman, he denounces the name,  insisting Saul is no more. The final episode of “Better Call Saul” is titled ‘Saul Gone’ in an obvious nod to the arc of redemption for the character of Jimmy McGill. Saul Goodman was a cover-up for the trauma that Jimmy had experienced during his life. It was a response to Chuck’s untimely death and a way to put behind the pain of losing Kim by literally becoming someone else. Jimmy and Kim would share one last cigarette in his cell before she leaves the shady lawyer to serve the rest of his days behind bars. Saul  Goodman is officially dead. Long Live Jimmy McGill!

Read More: 10 Saddest Deaths in the Breaking Bad Universe

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