There’s something to be said about being surprised when watching a television show nowadays. We live in a culture where at any given moment we can be spoiled just by signing on to social media. Websites have spoilers in their headlines, set photos leak constantly, and comment sections could ruin an entire series with just one sentence. I think there is a true gift for avoiding spoilers and an even greater gift when a show allows it’s audience to be genuinely surprised. The cold open to “Quite A Ride” was more than just surprising it was jaw-droppingly shocking and exciting. As soon as I put together what was happening I was screaming at my television. “Holy crap, this is… are they? Oh my god wait. This is happening now?!” I was caught off guard and that helped enhance the moment. There was a certain amount of magnitude to seeing Saul Goodman again at the very end of his Breaking Bad run and as soon as the title screen brought us back to the world of Jimmy McGill, I knew that Better Call Saul wouldn’t be the same. We now had the shows first look at Saul and it’s as his empire is crumbling down. We were presented with questions that need answering. Whose business card did Saul give (my money is on Howard)? What’s this phone call in November? Where did that bag of money in the ceiling come from? When will we see this timeline again? More important than all that, we were given an opening that perfectly bookended the ending of the episode.
Nothing is done by accident or for gimmick when it comes to Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan’s storytelling methods. Sure, this cold open could have been done as a way to bring in viewers or boost ratings for next week’s episode. “Will we see more Breaking Bad timelines, tune in next week.” It makes for a tremendous conversation piece and reminds a fandom that there is still story to be told within that universe. Beyond all that, the cold opening of seeing Saul Goodman begin his transition to Gene helps emphasize the character we see at the end of the episode. Jimmy McGill sits suspended from practice and definitely maps out his future as a lawyer. Jimmy comes across as borderline childish as he makes plans for a bigger office, more clients, and all the success, and that moment would resonate with just what we know of Jimmy McGill. A man who has struggled to escape his brother’s shadow and genuinely wants to do good. Jimmy isn’t a bad man, sure he cuts corners, but Jimmy’s heart is usually in the right place. As long he’s striving for something.
The suspension from practicing has lead Jimmy down a path that’s more than shady. Selling burner phones in front of the Dog House (another excellent Breaking Bad easter egg) isn’t really the best way to achieve these goals, and to a degree, Jimmy knows this. That’s why his mugging opens his eyes to the fact that he’s not a lowlife anymore. If he was those kids never would have jumped him because he would have been one of theirs. I don’t think the mugging is a come to Jesus moment for Jimmy where he wakes up and suddenly decides that bending the law for his needs is going to get him nowhere. No, in fact, I believe it’s the opposite. Jimmy may not be a lowlife anymore but he’s an upper tier criminal now. Someone who knows the law and uses it for his own benefits while also slightly respecting it. What is his true crime in selling burner phones to bad people? It’s his ability to understand that certain clients need a certain type of purchase. A means to ends and something Jimmy can rationalize without feeling guilty. That’s Jimmy’s crux, his ability to rationalize his behavior. Opposed to someone like Kim who is literally throwing her career away to be a public servant because it makes her remember why she became a lawyer in the first place. Kim is someone who believes in actually making a difference and having an impact while Jimmy believes he believes he’s doing just that. I often wonder what Kim would think of Saul Goodman.
Jimmy dreaming of the life he’s going to lead once he gets his license back is impossible to imagine because the shadow of Saul Goodman looms largely thanks to the perfectly placed cold open. Bob Odenkirk does such an incredible job effortlessly slipping back into the skin of Saul and then slipping back into Jimmy once he knows the jig is up. “Tell ’em Jimmy sent you” is the most important line of that cold open. It’s a man reverting back to who he was for a second. The recommendation of Saul Goodman, a criminal lawyer means nothing, but the name Jimmy McGill still has emotion attached to it. Jimmy McGill makes the phone call to the vacuum repairman. Jimmy McGill stands in Saul Goodman’s office thinking about how it’s been quite a ride. How nothing he promised would happen once he became a lawyer again came to fruition. How Jimmy McGill allowed himself to be seduced by a one dimensional, emotionless crook. And for what? Money? Spotlight? A fleeting feeling of importance? In the end, what does that get him? A mundane, black and white existence, constant paranoia, and a Cinnabon.
Catching a glimpse of Saul Goodman in the Breaking Bad universe is an incredible easter egg that surely will excite the fan base, but at its core, it’s a reminder, of what is lost to get there. I’m not talking about Walter White or Heisenberg but more of the loss of Jimmy McGill. The loss of Kim Wexler. The loss of faith in believing in what you were doing, and it’s soul-crushingly sad.
There you have it Geeklings, Better Call Saul delievered one hell of an episode last night and we didn’t’ even touch on the scouting for the super meth lab in the laundry mat. This show continues to deliver character development in spades and superb storytelling. What did you think of last night’s episode? Were you shocked to see the Breaking Bad timeline? Are you saddened knowing what Jimmy will become? Is Kim making the right decisions? Where do we go from here? Sound off in the comments with your thoughts and if you’d like to talk more Saul you can find me on the Twitter @iamgeek32. See you all later and remember, it’s all good man!
Images from AMC