[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from the Season 1 finale of AMC's Better Call Saul. Read at your own risk.]
"I know what stopped me, and it'll never stop me again."
With those words, Better Call Saul's Jimmy McGill showed the first real signs of the sleazy lawyer he's destined to become. On Monday's finale, Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) — still reeling from learning that his brother Chuck (Michael McKean) was the person who wouldn't allow Jimmy to work his Sandpiper Crossing lawsuit at Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill — decided to leave that betrayal behind in Albuquerque and head back to Cicero. But even though he and his pal Marco (Mel Rodriguez) fell into their old familiar con routines, after a week of hustling — and Marco's untimely death — Jimmy decided to head back West for a job interview with Santa Fe law firm Davis & Mane.
However, just before going into the meeting, Jimmy decides it's time to stop striving for Chuck's ideals and set out on his own path. So, he leaves the courthouse, vowing to Mike (Jonathan Banks) that his days of playing the game straight are over. So, is Jimmy finally becoming Saul Goodman? TVGuide.com chatted with co-creator and executive producer Peter Gould about Jimmy's big choice and what it means for Season 2.
This season could have easily ended on that devastating confrontation between Jimmy and Chuck in the penultimate episode. Why did you want to stretch out Jimmy's epiphany?
Peter Gould: You absolutely could visualize a version of this where Jimmy leaves Chuck's and opens up his office as Saul Goodman right away. But what we found is that this guy is on a longer, more convoluted journey. I think we have to keep asking ourselves, "Is the only reason that Jimmy's behaving himself and being a decent guy Chuck's influence?" The conclusion we came to is maybe not. I think he's maybe following the rules of being a goodlawyer because of Chuck's influence, but there seems to be more complexity to him. And it's not just a new piece of information that Chuck has been working against Jimmy. It is a devastating emotional earthquake for Jimmy. So we asked ourselves, what's the reaction?
And that reaction was to go back to Cicero. How did Jimmy arrive at that choice?
Gould: Any time I've had anything devastating or life-changing in my own existence, I find that the truth of it doesn't sort itself out right away. You have to process it. We were very interested in having this guy go back to basics. As he says in the bingo scene, "Where did it all go wrong?" He decides in that moment that it all went wrong when he did the "Chicago Sunroof" and Chuck rescued him. He's wondering what his life would have been like if he things had gone differently. So, he tries to go back in time a little bit. And he finds that, he can go back, and his friend and life, to some extent, is still there, but he's changed. Somehow that doesn't suit him either. So, it's very much about this guy's quest for a way forward in life. Chuck is a very important part of [Jimmy's epiphany], but he's not the only part of that.
But even before Jimmy is offered the job in Santa Fe, he's telling Marco he has to go back to Albuquerque to attend to his elderly clients. By doing the right things all these years, has some of that goodness seeped into Jimmy?
Gould: It's something we've been asking ourselves and something that's very important in Season 2. I think the truth is that Jimmy is inherently a decent person. Even as he does things that are illegal or wrong, there is a decency to the guy. And there's also a paradox: Chuck is incredibly upstanding and law-abiding, and yet he does something that, to my eye, is more despicable than anything Jimmy does in Season 1. It echoes what Mike says in the previous episode. "You can be a good criminal or a bad criminal and you can be a good law-abiding person or a bad law-abiding person." This is not to say that everything is equal and everything is permitted, but these are some of the issues that Jimmy is struggling with.
When Jimmy tells Mike he knows why he gave the money back but that reason will never stop him again, if he referencing all of the things we've seen, or is there something deeper he's thinking about?
Gould: I think that's a lot of it, and those are big words. We'll see if Jimmy can live by them. Because it's one thing to make a statement of principles and it's something else to work out all the implications of that. What's it going to come down to when Jimmy has to decide that there's something that's good for him and bad for somebody else?
Now that you've gotten to know Jimmy maybe better than you did when writing Saul on Breaking Bad, is it difficult to make that transition?
Gould: This is part of the surprise of the show for us. We were really taken aback by how oddly heroic Jimmy is. We like him a lot better than we ever thought we would. He's somebody we find ourselves able to root for, but we don't really root for Saul Goodman in the same way. Something we're struggling with and are fascinated by is how this emotional, decent person evolves into this character of Saul Goodman, who is able to advise murder as part of a business operation without blinking. It's a long journey. But you have to wonder if he's not getting one step closer to Saul Goodman in that moment.
Why do you think Jimmy turns down the job? While he could have used it to show Chuck that he has value, does he somehow know he'll never live up to the ideal Chuck has?
Gould: There's so many ways of looking at that decision. In the most simplistic way, is he going to conform and be a straight-ahead lawyer in a straight-ahead firm? Is he going to take the prize that he wanted so badly earlier in the season, or was the only reason he wanted that was to please Chuck? The other angle on it is he's had this taste of almost intoxicating freedom of going to Cicero and ripping people off. Is that really what he's made for? We'll explore all the implications of that decision in Season 2.
That moment at Chuck's house shows that Chuck does maybe feel bad for what's happened. Why was that moment important for you?
Gould: Chuck and Jimmy have a complicated relationship, but they do love each other. Chuck is not just a villain. One of the things I love about the scene in the episode before is that, for all the terrible things that Chuck says, he's not completely wrong. Anybody whose watched Breaking Bad knows that, in some ways, Chuck is absolutely right in what he says. I think absolutely that Chuck feels regret — I think he felt regret instantly as soon as he said the things he did. I think Chuck, for all his bluster and all his pride, really does care about Jimmy. And that's ultimately what that scene is about.
But it's also about his pride, because if Chuck truly wanted to reconnect with Jimmy, he could have opened that door and stepped out. But he waits, he hesitates. And as the old saying goes, "He who hesitates is lost." He misses his opportunity to go out and say something to Jimmy and make some kind of peace. And who knows? If he had opened that door, maybe that next scene would play out very differently.
Fans really responded to the Mike-centric episode that had very little of Jimmy in it. Is it a problem to have a supporting character the audience responds to so much even though it's Jimmy's story?
Gould: Nobody loves Mike more than we do. I don't really see it as a problem. He is a wonderful character. He's got his own complex, interesting journey to take on the show. And the great news is that when he and Jimmy are together, it's like peanut butter and chocolate — it's the perfect combination. When we were first conceiving the show, we thought about movies like Midnight Run, where you have a very talkative character like Jimmy and you have the taciturn man of few words like Mike. We just love the ways these two guys pair together, and I'm just happy the audience loves Mike like we love Mike.
What can you tell us about Season 2 and the next chapter in Jimmy's evolution?
Gould: We're very excited about Season 2, and Jimmy is definitely not there yet. He's not quite Saul yet. We have talked a lot about what Jimmy's next step is and what this next season is, and what we've found is that Jimmy's decisions often have implications and corollaries that he does not expect. What he does at this moment with the Davis & Mane interview comes back in a way that we weren't' expecting but find surprising and delightful. There are other characters on the show, and some of them are going to surprise almost as much as Mike and Jimmy have.
What did you think of the finale?