CS Soapbox: 5 Reasons to Keep Cheering for Saul Goodman
[spoiler warning for those of you who haven’t watched this week’s episode]
After watching this week’s brilliant episode of AMC’s Better Call Saul, titled “Wexler v. Goodman,” I was left feeling like Kim Wexler after that electrifying conference room scene — shocked, angry, sad, and ultimately conflicted. You see, I am still rooting for Saul Goodman, despite his sleazy manner and overall bad behavior. Why? Because I think Jimmy McGill remains tucked away; hidden under Saul’s tacky suits and brazen mannerisms. Yes, his actions seemingly create a destructive ripple effect to all who swim too close. Though I would stress that, unlike Walter White, whose actions led to ungodly amounts of blood and death, which made him harder to root for the longer into his story we traversed, Saul’s actions merely have a way of pushing people towards their natural disposition. Is Kim truly an innocent bystander stuck in the path of a tornado, or a fiercer force lying in wait for an opportunity to reveal her true nature? Was Chuck McGill a tragic figure pushed to the brink by his brother, or a sick old man consumed by bitterness?
In each instance, both points of view can be true. Yet, I’m inclined to go with the latter of both circumstances because I really want Jimmy McGill to thwart the evil Emperor and reclaim his place in the force. As such, here are five reasons why you should keep cheering for Saul Goodman.
1. He sticks up for the little guy — even if the little guy consists of petty criminals
Naturally, a lot of my defense for Saul stems from comparisons to Walter White. Both are characters whose adverse relationship with the world drove them to break bad. And yet, where Walt’s path led to murder and wanton destruction, at this stage Jimmy seems to have transformed into Saul as a way of sticking up for the little guy; or, at the very least, rebelling against people like Kevin Wachtell, the pompous Mesa Verde CEO.
Yes, the people Saul defends are criminals, but most are on the cuff for petty crimes. As far as I can recall, Saul has yet to defend a true murderer when his own life wasn’t on the line. Saul helps people who make stupid mistakes because he empathizes with them. Lest we forget, he too was perpetrator of a stupid crime that practically derailed his entire life. That mistake forced him back to Chuck, who never let him forget about it and more or less jump started their perilous journey. If “Slippin’ Jimmy” had a Saul Goodman in his corner at the time, his life might have, for better or worse, turned out quite differently.
In this latest episode, Saul takes down the aforementioned Kevin not in defense of Mr. Acker, the stubborn old man refusing to cater to the bully tactics of Mesa Verde, but out of his pure hatred for “side sitters” who think they are above the world due to their abundant (and not entirely earned) wealth and power. And while Saul’s actions in the episode were driven almost entirely by his own selfish desires, I have no problem watching someone like Kevin take it in the chin from someone he glossed over and therefore underestimated.
2. Everything he does is technically legal
Saul knows the law probably better than his brother Chuck, and maybe even better than Kim. The tactics he uses are not what you would call legal, but they are not illegal either. Saul operates in that gray space between right and wrong but has yet to commit a true felony (though, I might be blanking on earlier seasons). Oh sure, on Breaking Bad we see Saul commit money laundering and suggest murder on more than one occasion. But, as currently depicted, Saul Goodman is simply a man who knows how to stretch the system to its absolute breaking point.
I’m also holding out hope that the Saul we met on Breaking Bad was simply making the best out of a bad situation. You know, the way he handles all of his dealings with Nacho, Mike and Gus. Saul may have the ethical backbone of a snake, but he still has limits and, clearly, operating alongside drug cartels doesn’t rank high on his to-do list. He tries to get out of the Lalo-Krazy-8 ordeal until he realizes he has no choice; and so, he takes a nice chunk of change, because, why not?
Perhaps, Saul eventually finds himself stuck in a vice after getting in too deep with the cartel and has no way out. Enter Walter White. Everything goes south. You get the gist. Yes, that’s likely just wishful thinking, but there certainly exists precedence for such a situation to occur.
3. Chuck drove him to the brink
I hated Chuck McGill. I hated the way he presented himself like the symbol of perfection, and the way he belittled his imperfect brother. His surprising death came as a result of his personal conscience; an inability to make peace with the past. In another world, Chuck supports his little brother through thick and thin and the two end up running Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill as an unstoppable team.
In the world presented, Chuck serves as the catalyst to Saul Goodman — a character Jimmy reverts to as a means to not only distance himself from his brother, but to also break down people just like him.
My takeaway from this last episode is that Saul didn’t like Kevin because he reminded him of his brother. Or, at least, the hierarchy his brother represented. Tearing Kevin down was personal.
Jimmy always struggled to stay on the straight and narrow path, but Chuck’s behavior practically pushed him onto the slippery slope he eventually landed on. If anything, Jimmy/Saul is a tragic figure and one who deserves a happy ending after dealing with Chuck’s eccentricities and Walt’s abuse later on.
4. He still has a soul, albeit a misguided one
One of the bits I liked about this last episode was the moment where Saul cautions two young prostitutes to be careful after he has just secured their release.
I think Saul truly does care about his clients and believes everyone deserves a second, third or fourth fresh start. Even if they end up right back where they started.
In other words: he’s the complete opposite of Chuck, who wouldn’t have given any of Saul’s clients another thought. Is any of this right from an ethical perspective? Not really. But Saul clearly empathizes with a majority of his clientele and likely believes his actions are unironically American.
5. He deserves redemption
Look, I get it. Saul Goodman is a weasel and a con artist. Yet, his actions are the result of the years of abuse he endured from the world and, more significantly, his own brother. Does Saul deserve jail time? Sure. But he also deserves another chance at redemption; a clean slate, as it were. Perhaps his dealings with Walt made Saul realize just how far he had truly fallen; or, maybe he will finally come to terms with the guilt he feels over his brother’s death. Hell, maybe he and Kim reconcile (if they’re not already together) in some way shape or form by series end. (How great would it be if Saul/Jimmy traveled to San Juan Tineo and found Kim fixing his old car on a beach? Smiles. Hugs. Music swells. Credits. Is that from a movie?)
Whatever the case, Saul deserves some sort of salvation. Or, at the very least, his own Jerry Maguire-esque ending where he rediscovers his soul and learns the true value of life Jimmy Stewart style.
After all, Walter freaking White enjoyed a relatively happy conclusion. That guy inadvertently murdered an airplane full of people!
Jimmy McGill deserves to find happiness. Even if it’s behind bars.