It's the reason for Better Call Saul. Without Bob Odenkirk's impressive performance as surprisingly amiable lawyer Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad, the spinoff would never have existed. Consequently, from the very first episode, the spark, the defining moment that transforms well-natured Jimmy McGill into Walter White's shady accomplice has been anticipated with all the patience of Tuco Salamanca snorting a line of blue meth.
You'd be forgiven for expecting the reveal, when it came, to be an all-singing, all-dancing affair. But this is a creation of Vince Gilligan, a man who must've recited The Tortoise and the Hare over and over as a child. Better Call Saul may trickle along at a slow pace, but now, after 26 episodes and 3.5 seasons, Jimmy McGill's metamorphosis into Saul Goodman is complete, and, like the Hare, the show is winning.
With the benefit of foresight, we already know that Saul Goodman will remain, and Jimmy McGill will cease to be. The reason why is still a mystery. However, the latest episode of #BetterCallSaul may also foreshadow an explanation — when cunningly linked to a subtle reference from Breaking Bad. Excited? Good. Read on.
Saul Goodman Finally Arrives
*Warning: This article contains spoilers for Better Call Saul Season 3, Episode 6*
Better Call Saul is a textbook exercise in how to tell stories. Restraint is the key, with examples such as last week's court scene illustrating how holding back and letting the pieces sloooowly fit together makes for a rewarding payoff. The Saul Goodman reveal was no different — facing a 12 month suspension following his disciplinary hearing, Jimmy is faced with a $4,000 bill for nine commercial spots which he can no longer use.
In typical Machiavellian nature, Jimmy comes up with a genius plan: He'll charge production costs to produce an advert for another company, but give them the slot for free, thus sidestepping the legal restrictions. In a moment foreshadowed by the change in opening credits, Jimmy relies on a familiar sounding alter ego to create his very own commercial to promote his heterodox plan.
By the time Jimmy puts the tape in the video player, it's clear what we're about to see, but the show continues to tease. Donning a comical disguise and presenting his new business venture with disjointed hand gestures and an awkward energy, the identity of Saul Goodman finally enters the Better Call Saul world (amid a high number of visual star wipes.)
The 'Breaking Bad' Scene That Finally Makes Sense
It's significant that "Off Brand" — the very same episode that finally gave us Saul Goodman — opened with Ignacio Varga (a.k.a Nacho). Throughout the episode, Nacho's (Michael Mando) growing discomfort working at the hands of Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) becomes more and more apparent. He physically assaults Krazy-8 (who is introduced in this episode) with clear reluctance and has a gun held to his head thanks to Hector's greed.
Significantly, near the end of the episode he is accosted by Hector to involve his father in the gang's drug operations. This, clearly, is the final straw. Fortunately for Nacho, that request was preceded by a case happenstance; Hector drops his medication on the floor, leaving a spare pill which he manages to hide under his foot.
This pill could be the key to Saul Goodman's identity and Hector's health in Breaking Bad, answered by a theory on where Better Call Saul will go next. With enough of a motive to want his boss out of the picture, it looks certain Nacho will attempt to poison Hector. However, he won't be able to do this alone, which could lead to Jimmy, now desperate for cash, helping Nacho enact his dangerous plan.
Reddit user RaiderGuy has undertaken detective work Hank Schrader would be proud of by noting something significant in #BreakingBad which backs up this theory. When Walt and Jesse first meet Saul, they kidnap him and take him to the desert. As he kneels before a ditch in the ground, a distressed Saul screams:
"It wasn't me! It was Ignacio, he's the one!"
Saul then turns around, and starts to speak broken Spanish. With more evidence from Better Call Saul, it looks like in this moment, Saul is fearful that he has been found out by Salamanca's cartel for one reason — for helping to poison Hector. Taking this into consideration, it'd make sense if Jimmy decides to keep a different identity after the incident and, in accordance with this theory, to distance himself from dealings with Nacho (after all, he has acted on his behalf before), thus giving incentive to forever remain Saul Goodman.
Jimmy's new identity may be an alias born from a phrase, a marker of leaving his past behind, an identity assumed through fear. And, judging from the state of events in Better Call Saul, s'all far, far from good, with things about to get a lot worse. But in the universe of Breaking Bad, that's exactly how we like it.
Do you think this theory predicts why Jimmy uses the Saul Goodman alias?