BETTER CALL SAUL took us deeper into the formative years of Jimmy McGill, small time hustler who grew up to be Saul Goodman during the episode, “Hero”.
We also got the origin, at least it sounded like it, of the name Saul Goodman. As a young street hood McGill was asked his name by a mark being set up for a scam.” ‘S all good man”, was the response. String it together and you’re in business years later.
McGill would meet someone in a bar, get all liquored up and invite the mark to an after-hours bar, knowing the drunk had lots of cash in his wallet. On the way they’d stumble on an envelope with lots more cash in it that looked like it belonged to a guy passed out and roughed up in an alley.
That guy worked with McGill and the two would end up with the mark’s money and him thinking he’d gotten away with bamboozling Jimmy. Apparently the acting was Oscar-worthy because he kept at it, although it was a meager existence, sort of like him hanging by a thread in 2002 living in the back of an Albuquerque nail salon.
The Kettlemans, Nacho and Jimmy
We’re immediately sent back there as McGill is negotiating with the now-outed Kettlemans about whether to turn themselves in with the embezzled money or have Jimmy take a “retainer” from their bounty to represent them. It’s exactly how he would later pitch himself as Saul Goodman, man of the people, facilitator to big and small time crooks.
Need money laundered and have nowhere else to go? Better Call Saul
Except the Kettlemans don’t want his help in figuring out how to make their expected jail time as little as possible. They’re delusional, thinking they deserve the money for overtime Mr. Kettleman put in at the county offices. They’ll give Jimmy a big chunk of change to “forget” he ever saw the money and he wrestled with it.
“I can’t take a bribe,” he kept telling them, but after they don’t budge on admitting they have the dough, he took the money anyway, using it to set up his introduction to Albuquerque as much more than a down-on-his-luck public defender.
The Kettlemans agree to cop to just taking a little camping trip that just so happened to coincide with Nacho being nabbed for an alleged kidnapping. No one really buys it, but without a story to contradict it, the family stays free and Nacho gets sprung from jail.
The crook has decided that McGill betrayed him by warning the Kettlemans. Jimmy tries to finesse it, trying to tell Nacho that whoever it was just cared about the family’s kids. Nacho swears revenge and goes off to do what guys like Nacho do.
The Billboard Caper
As he spends his Kettleman money, McGill zeroes in once again on hurting the law firm that won’t let his brother cash out his partnership share. They are the big guns in town so why not trade on their name and get them riled up to make news, just for some harmless self-promotion.
That insufferable name partner Howard Hamlin goes nuts when he sees a billboard with McGill’s name, that mimics the logo of the big firm and features Jimmy in copycat clothing and a silver-streaked mane of hair. Kim is pressured to get Jimmy to cease and desist but it doesn’t work.
It was a great scene McGill gave himself a foot bath and drank the precious cucumber water at the closed salon, trying to convince Kim to let it all go. The next scene was Jimmy and Harold in front of a judge. He’s given 48 hours to pull the ad down and then he realizes he didn’t go big enough in his self-promotion.
Why not stage something that the papers and local news will really want to cover? McGill hired a guy to go up and start taking down the billboard as his paid camera and sound guys try to get Jimmy talking along with a wide shot of the billboard.
When the workman falls and dangles by his harness from that height, McGill gets what he wants. It’s a “call 911” moment as it stops auto traffic. Jimmy plays hero by going up to the top and saving the man, a feat that you’re surprised McGill can actually pull off.
Next thing you know, Howard Hamlin, Kim and partners know they’ve been outsmarted. Jimmy’s taking the sign down but as he’s interviewed about the heroic save, he gets his digs in about why the sign had to come down. David vs. Goliath stories are told and McGill gets what he wants. Potential clients start calling and it gives him a way to show his brother Chuck that things are looking up.
Of course he lies about how it happened and even hides the local paper from Chuck, claiming it wasn’t delivered, to keep his brother from reading about the stunt. Chuck’s so pissed that the newspaper didn’t make it that day he actually braves the outdoors and the rays of the sun with his space blanket over him, to take a neighbor’s paper.
Jimmy’s outed, but at what cost to brother Chuck who is gasping from the experience of any potential exposure to the things that he believes are hurting him?
It’s all about self-promotion. If there’s a bit of harmless fraud thrown in for good measure, no one gets hurt and Jimmy makes some dough in the process, except that Chuck it feels like life and death.
A way of life has begun. Jimmy tried it Chuck’s solid citizen way. It’s just that he’s so much better being a scam artist.
AMC airs BETTER CALL SAUL Monday nights at 10 p.m. ET/PT Image: AMC, used with permission.