December 7, 2023

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Better Call Saul “Winner”

Season Four Finale

OK, I didn’t realize that this episode would mark what is theoretically the end of the supervillain origin story of Saul Goodman, and yet, here I am.

OK, admittedly, “supervillain” is a bit harsh.  That might be more of what’s going on with Mike as he falls deeper into Gus’s operation.  Calling Jimmy a “villain” just doesn’t feel right.  Like, Walter White was a villain.  He was setting up people to die, ordering executions, and selling poison.  Jimmy McGill is a smalltime con man trying to do what he can to keep himself with his head above water.  And while Walter White’s turn from, as it was put, from Mr. Chips to Scarface is a bit fast, there’s nothing fast about the downfall of Jimmy McGill.

If anything, all Jimmy ever wanted was Kim by his side and the respect of his fellow attorneys.  His relationship with Chuck is a complex one.  This episode reminded the viewer of that as the cold open shows Chuck celebrating Jimmy’s entering the bar with Jimmy, Kim, and a bad singing Ernesto at a karaoke place.  The two brothers, both a bit drunk, crash in a bed together.  By the episode’s end, after Jimmy has used a bunch of crocodile tears to talk about Chuck in a way to get his law license back, well…this is what became of Chuck’s turning his back on the kid brother who was honestly trying his best.  He was never going to be another Chuck.  He was always going to be a Jimmy.  But Jimmy didn’t have to be a bad guy.

Or, you know, a Saul Goodman.  His last line here, as he decides to practice law under a different name after all his talk of aspiring to be like his late brother, is just the sort of thing a Saul Goodman would do.  S’all good, man.

That is, more or less, what this episode does.  It essentially replaces Jimmy McGill with a sleazier alter ego.  Jimmy’s no saint, but it’s not hard to see why he hates the Howard Hamlins of the world.  After pretending to mourn Chuck’s death for a week, including writing a big check to get a library named for his brother, Jimmy is there to help decide which of a group of promising young high schoolers should get the Chuck McGill scholarship, and Jimmy alone votes for a girl with a shoplifting conviction.  Jimmy believed in giving the girl a second chance.  The others didn’t.  Jimmy then does a very Jimmy-ish thing by going to talk to the girl, telling her that the other people in there will never see her as anything other than her one mistake no matter how much she plays by the rules.  So, really, why bother?  Cut corners and get to the top anyway.  Does this student take heed to Jimmy’s advice?  Hard to say, but the only thing I thought was obvious was this was what Jimmy McGill thought of himself.  He made mistakes, and the Chucks of the world would never see him as anything more no matter how hard he tried.

So, why bother?

I have felt for a while that much of what happened to Jimmy McGill is basically Chuck’s fault.  Had Chuck not sabotaged his own brother or even not looked down his nose at him, Jimmy might have ended up a better person.  But now it’s only a matter of time before Jimmy graduates from representing low level crooks like himself to major drug lords, even if they sure don’t look like major drug lords at first glance.  Sure, Jimmy is responsible too, but really, would have been too horrible for Chuck to see a guy who was trying to be good?

Might as well cut those corners to get to the 50th floor office.