Warning: The following post contains spoilers for Monday’s Better Call Saul, so don’t read on if you don’t want to know.
Looks like someone finally called Saul.
Four seasons into AMC’s Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul, we got our first glimpse of Jimmy McGill in his Saul Goodman heyday in a flash-forward that opened Monday’s episode. A panicked Jimmy/Saul, wearing a shiny purple shirt and sporting a nose bandage, was packing up to flee, retrieving hidden stashes of cash from his law office while his secretary Francesca shredded a pile of documents. (We’d place this scene somewhere around the events of Breaking Bad‘s pivotal “Ozymandias” episode.) Saul then made a call to request a vacuum replacement part, code for an identity-wiping “extraction” — which, as we know, leads to him managing an Omaha Cinnabon as “Gene.”
The scene was such an unexpected treat, we had to reach out to series star Bob Odenkirk to see what it felt like to slip on Saul Goodman’s pinkie ring once again. Below, the Emmy nominee also talks to TVLine about Jimmy’s inability to play by the rules (“he is a restless soul”), what makes him root for Jimmy and Kim as a couple, Jimmy’s complicated reaction to his brother Chuck’s death — and the pleasures of acting opposite Jonathan Banks.
TVLINE | This was the first time we’ve seen you playing Saul Goodman again. When you put on that loud purple shirt and that pinkie ring, did it feel like déjà vu for you?
It surely did! When I got in that office, boy, it was like I fell through a time hole. It was super fun, and it just made me so happy. I’m happy to give the audience a few moments of pure Saul, so that they can maybe exhale a little bit in their anticipation and just enjoy the great, rich story that [creators] Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan are telling, and stop having that nagging thought of, “When do I get to see Saul?” Well, you get to see him right now! And then we get to carry on telling this wonderfully complex and human story.
TVLINE | Do you get that sense, though, that fans are impatient to get to Saul already? I know a lot of fans are enjoying the Jimmy parts.
Yeah, I think our fans, at this point in Season 4, they are down for watching Jimmy mutate into Saul at the rate he’s going. They’re enjoying all the rich details of this story. However, there’s no question that there’s still some commentary about, “When is he going to be Saul?” And it’s wonderful to just be able to go, “Right now! There you go. There’s some Saul.” And now they can enjoy what we’re actually doing.
TVLINE | Did they have to recreate the set for Saul’s office, or was that all still intact?
They had it. They kept it. It was in storage. Very wise.
TVLINE | So Jimmy lands this straight job at a cell phone store, but he gets antsy and starts selling phones off the books. Is he just incapable of laying low and staying out of trouble for a year, until his suspension is up?
The answer is: Yes. He is a restless soul, and he is an inventive person who has an energy to create, and to try to take shortcuts. He is going crazy trying to keep a straight job that is very, very quiet. It’s just who he is. He can’t hold a job like that.
TVLINE | That tracksuit looked very comfortable, by the way. Is that how Jimmy thinks a black market cell phone salesman should dress?
I think it’s like wearing a big sign: “Look at me!” It’s showy, and it pops. And that’s what he wants. He wants everyone’s attention. It certainly leads into being Saul. He wants some limelight in his life.
TVLINE | At the end of the episode, during the suspension check-in, Jimmy lays out his grand plans for how great everything will be when he gets his license back. Is he trying to convince himself?
That’s just the B.S. that he tells himself. [Laughs] When he’s not thinking of plots and plans to take shortcuts, he’s thinking about the grand scheme of how great it’s going to be when his plan is in place, and he’s going to do right by everyone. That’s what he’s telling himself. But there are no shortcuts, I think. I’m one of those few people who think there are no shortcuts. But he’s hoping that he can skirt responsibility and skirt the ethical choices and still end up in a great place. I don’t think that’s how the world works. And in the end, it all blows up on him, as we know in Breaking Bad. And maybe before that, really. A series of explosions. [Laughs]
TVLINE | His relationship with Kim seems pretty solid, but we also know that he’s not being completely truthful with her. Are there some cracks in that foundation?
I would argue that there are moments where he is being completely honest with her. When he says to her, “What the hell is wrong with me?”… I don’t think he can get more honest than that. That’s incredibly honest. And then the fact that her response is not to scold him, but to comfort him and listen and encourage him, that’s an amazing choice she makes. Those moments, and there are one or two of them this season, make me really cheer for them as a couple. And of course, I think we know that they’re not together. It’s an assumption, but I think it’s a good assumption that they’re not together in the Breaking Bad years. So it’s even sadder to think that they are going to have to fall apart. But they are honest with each other, and they do listen to each other. When Jimmy tells Kim that he didn’t go see a therapist when he promised he would, and she doesn’t get mad and she listens, those are the times where you think, “They could make it through anything.” That’s kind of at the core of a good relationship, to be able to be really honest with each other.
TVLINE | Jimmy’s reaction to Chuck’s death has been fascinating to watch. It’s kind of like a switch was flipped inside him. His emotions are completely cut off whenever Chuck comes up.
You are exactly right. I think people do mourn in vastly different ways, and a certain kind of compartmentalization can be very healthy. But honestly, people talk about Chuck’s death as though it’s not connected to the last thing Chuck said to him. If someone passes away, you think, “What was the last moment I had with him?” Well, the last moment that Jimmy had with Chuck was Chuck telling him, “You never meant anything to me.” And he certainly sounded like he meant it. He wasn’t emotional. He wasn’t putting on a front. To me, whenever Jimmy hears someone talking about Chuck passing, he cannot separate losing his brother from that last moment, where his brother told him he was completely insignificant.
TVLINE | Finally, Jimmy and Mike have been on separate journeys all season long, aside from that one diner scene they shared. Will we see their paths cross again anytime soon?
Their separate paths are getting much, much closer. They are running on parallel tracks, still, but the tracks are drawing closer.
TVLINE | That’s good to hear. It’s always fun to watch you two in a scene together.
Oh, it’s wonderful. Playing scenes with Jon Banks… it’s the funniest energy, me and him. Because he’s so frustrated with me. It is Laurel and Hardy. I’m Stan, and he’s Ollie. And he’s really pissed at me for all of my machinations. At the same time, he kind of likes Jimmy. He likes Jimmy’s spunk. I think he sees him as a guy who has a lot of qualities that Mike doesn’t want to do. Jimmy will do the chatty manipulation part of the ruse, and Mike will be the hammer. They’re a good duo, and he’s aware of that. But it’s a hard thing, for Mike to suffer Jimmy.