Working my way through each of the season recaps, I was reminded of the effective extensions the show has given to the Breaking Bad narrative and the embellishments given to returning characters. This universe comprises of my absolute favourite TV shows, and Better Call Saul has made sure to expand on the original material with worthy additions to the cast and impactful moments that have punctuated the show’s previous four seasons.
These moments have often led to an unnerving dot-to-dot of sorts, and it’s something that we know will form the pieces of Jimmy McGill’s tragic downfall. Perhaps the greatest strength of the show’s storytelling is how it leans into this inevitability. We’re reminded of this as each series is bookended by the briefest of flash-forwards in which, following Walter White’s destructive demise, Jimmy’s miserable new life is laid bare. What follows is the story of his earnest beginnings, which only makes his downfall across the seasons all the more clear. By season five, he’s not so far from the ‘criminal lawyer’ of Saul Goodman that we know from Breaking Bad.
There’s genuine pain there, and the humour masks the true self of a man tired of trying to find his place in the world.
This is front and centre in episode one as his connections to the criminal underworld strengthen. All the while, the criminal networks that provide a catalyst to the events of Breaking Bad begin to fortify. The humour projected from Jimmy throughout this doesn’t feel quite as innocent as it did in earlier seasons, nor does it solely echo the sales technique spiel of Breaking Bad. There’s genuine pain there, and the humour masks the true self of a man tired of trying to find his place in the world.
And yet, we continue to root for Jimmy’s success, whatever form that may take. Similarly, Kim Wexler is sympathetic towards him and his rogue methods when they are used for noble pursuits. But, increasingly in season five, these principled acts instead take the form of profiting from the ‘lost-cause’ criminals that seek his services - something Kim inevitably won’t/can’t join him with.
Compared to the loathsome, evil turn of Walter White, this sympathy for Jimmy ensures an immensely poignant tone to the show, and it looks as though this will only grow as the story culminates. Nevertheless, Breaking Bad did still have its fair share of tragic characters, one of which is set to make a surprise return in later episodes of Better Call Saul. What’s more, there should be no doubt that he’ll get straight on with keeping Jimmy between a rock and a hard place. “Rocks? Jesus, no, they’re minerals!”