The Fall Of Saul Goodman Is Far More Tragic Than Walter White’s
Warning: spoilers for the season five finale of Better Call Saul will follow.
It was the scene where Jimmy was sitting on the hotel bed, bags packed and ready to go. He looked defeated. Hell, he sounded defeated, which is the exact antithesis of the trademark Saul Goodman bravado that we’ve come to know and love all these years. He wanted to go home. He’d had enough. But as we know, unfortunately for Jimmy, once he’s in the game, there’s no gettin’ out.
He pleads with Kim — let’s get outta here, let’s go home. She doesn’t agree — let’s stay, enjoy the hotel suite we paid for. Jimmy accepts because, well, he has no choice. Even if they did go home, there’s no guarantee they’ll be any safer from Lalo and the cartel there then they would be at the hotel.
And that’s when it hit me: this may actually be more tragic than Breaking Bad.
Don’t get me wrong, Walter White was an absolute monster, but his increasingly maniacal hand was more-or-less forced: he only began to unravel after finding out he had terminal lung cancer. All bets are off at that point. Similar to the chemistry he beloved so, his descent into darkness was a result of cause-and-effect. The same can not be necessarily said for Jimmy McGill.
Jimmy’s current predicament is the fault of no one but his own. He must now live in a perpetual state of fear — worrying about the safety of both himself and his adoring wife Kim — due to his own hubris. Jimmy has had dozens of chances to exit off, what he calls, “Bad Choice Road.” Hell, Howard Hamlin offered him the swanky lawyer job he once always dreamed of at the beginning of the season. But he refused and recoiled into the familiarity of revenge as he remains trapped in a labyrinth of his own ego. He must now sit idly by as the woman he loves turns into the exact thing that he now simultaneously has begun to fear: himself. His personal hell was built delicately by his own hands and it will be torn down further by those around him. He’s realized it’s too late, too late.
And to me, that’s utterly tragic. We’ve been with Jimmy McGill long enough to know that, deep down, he’s a good man. In fact, when I think of the character, I think more of the earnest McGill we meet at the beginning of Better Call Saul than the neon-soaked criminal lawyer Saul we eventually meet in Breaking Bad — that’s how successful the series has been in reshaping my perception. His entire moral compass, and potentially his wife’s, have been undone by Jimmy’s own hubris.
Whereas Walter White was a rabid dog that was left off the leash by a fatal disease, Jimmy was a housebroken pup that lived in a loving home who just decided to run away one day because he thought he could find better. And now that he’s on the run, he can never go home again. That’s heartbreaking.
Eric is a New York City-based and New Jersey-born writer who still isn’t quite sure how he’s allowed to have this much fun for a living and will tell anyone who listens that Gotham City is canonically in New Jersey. Follow him on Twitter @eric_ital for movie and soccer takes or contact him firstname.lastname@example.org