Better Call Saul will be coming back for Season 3 on Monday, April 10th. I’m more than ready to catch up with my favorite con man, Jimmy McGill. Jimmy was always my favorite character on Breaking Bad and was the main reason I became interested in the TV show. So, I thought it might be fun to talk about which character you might call if you had a bad situation end up at your door.
First we have to talk about the differences in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. Breaking Bad was about Walter White/Heisenberg, a man who was a monster. Hiding under a timid facade, waiting for the opportunity to grab the power he had always felt he deserved — the opportunities that should have been his all along. White plays a resentful character who gives up and retreats into a timid shell, until he is pushed into a corner and then he lashes out at the world. At the end of the series, he admits the cold, hard truth: He had never become the powerful kingpin for his family, after all. It had always been about him. Walter had seemed like a nice guy at the beginning of the show, but things are not always what they seem. At its core, that is what Breaking Bad is about. White wasn’t really pushed into becoming Heisenberg, he really had always been Heisenberg. Walter never killed, lied and schemed to actually help anyone but himself.
Better Call Saul, however, is about a man who, for better or worse, at his core, truly does want to help other people. Sure, he has some crackpot ideas that might have a 50/50 shot of working, but his intentions are where they are supposed to be. This is a man who dumpster dived to get shredded documents and spent hours attempting to paste those same documents back together. You don’t do that just because of the money, you do that out of concern for another person. That isn’t to say that he isn’t above bending and breaking the rules. When it comes to rule bending, Jimmy has made it into an art form. Better Call Saul is about a man of extreme talent, who needs the opportunity to use those talents. Like a child in a class too easy for him, he can cause problems when he isn’t pushed to his full potential. Jimmy realizes that the so-called good guys can be sharks, just like the so-called bad guys and he will use his talents to even that score. If Breaking Bad is about the monster hiding inside the good guy, Better Call Saul is about a good guy overlooked and underestimated. It’s about the good guy, deep within us all.
So, who is the smarter man? Which character would you want on your side in a bad situation? Heisenberg or Saul? Well, I think it’s easy, at first thought, to say Heisenberg. After all, he is a tough guy and his work in graduate school led to his associates winning a Nobel Prize. He’s obviously an intelligent man who can handle himself in a shootout. That, of course, overlooks Saul (as he always seems to be). It’s not like passing the bar is the easiest task, either. When Jimmy solves the mystery of where the Kettlemans went in Season 1 of Better Call Saul, that was some Sherlock Holmes deducing, not to mention all of the problems he solved for Walter in Breaking Bad. In actuality, their intelligence is about equal. Jimmy is a problem solver, that is certain. He doesn’t, however, like violence and isn’t your best bet in a fight… or is he?
Let’s go back to the characters’ main personality characteristics. Heisenberg is a man who is ultimately about helping himself, even if that could harm the people he cares about… and Saul is a man who goes out of his way to care about people who don’t really care about him. A man who forgives the people who have broken his heart or a man who sulks for decades and then takes his revenge, not on who hurt him, but on society. Sometimes the line between good and evil can be blurred, but that one main character difference between Saul and Heisenberg makes all the difference. So, who would I want on my side? Saul, all day, any day, no question. I don’t want the monster on my side; you can’t control monsters. Monsters only care about the carnage. Saul, on the other hand, has dedicated his life to fixing the problems of others, point blank. If you were drowning, Saul would rush to throw you a life preserver, even if he didn’t care for you. Heisenberg would shoot the sharks in the ocean around you, push someone else in to save you and then take credit for your rescue. Saul, on the other hand, fights for who he cares about until he just can’t fight any more.
Jimmy’s struggle is our struggle. The feeling that the guy who followed the rules only did so when everyone wasn’t watching. The feeling that “the man” is trying to hold you down. The feeling that you aren’t really a good guy or a bad guy, but somehow a mix of both. Jimmy is all of us, just a tad smarter and with much larger cojones. Jimmy isn’t afraid of a little trouble, if the end could result in the payoff he wants. Jimmy knows 90 percent of the time he is smarter than whatever trouble you can bring his way to begin with. I can’t wait to see what trouble he talks his way out of in Season 3.
Better Call Saul returns to AMC on Monday, April 9th at 10 pm EST.