Saul Goodman (wearing a suit, sitting on a desk poorly green-screened in front of a backdrop showing the Declaration of Independence) appears in a TV advert touting his legal services.

Bad Nauseam: Better Call Saul

When Badger is arrested, Walter and Jesse find themselves needing the services of an unscrupulous attorney named Saul Goodman.

I have a confession to make – I’ve never watched Better Call Saul and I don’t really understand why the character got his own spin-off show. His introduction in this episode makes sense – one of Jesse’s friends was bound to get caught dealing drugs eventually and in that scenario, you need a fast-talking lawyer to get you out of trouble. The writers saw comic potential in the character as well, a way to counter-balance the more disturbing and dramatic moments of the series. This was the reason that they cast Bob Odenkirk, star of cult comedy programme Mr Show.1

I personally do not care for Saul Goodman as a character. Odenkirk’s performance isn’t the problem, rather the fact that what he is saying isn’t that funny. Saul mocking Badger for arguing that the cops lied about how much meth he was carrying got a chuckle out of me, but he follows that up by making prison rape jokes and harassing his secretary. The best comedy in Breaking Bad is situational – Jesse missing a police raid because he was having sex with a neighbour before falling off of a roof was funny, much funnier than the writers’ attempt to create a “witty” character.

Walter and Jesse talk to Saul in his office

This episode was written by Peter Gould and while I have been quite harsh on his scripts in the past, I want to applaud him for how he characterises Hank in this story. Gould leans hard into the idea that Hank’s machismo is a performance, something that he must do in order to be a successful police officer. This makes Hank more sympathetic, but it also creates a parallel to Walter and his “Heisenberg” persona. This is hinted at during the conversation in the Schrader’s bedroom, where Walt tells his brother-in-law to get out of bed and conquer his fears. He uses the phrase “kick that bastard as hard as you can right in the teeth” – a violent metaphor that Hank doesn’t expect and seems to find rather disconcerting.

“I don’t know this man nearly as well as I thought I did…”

The story concludes with Saul tracking down Walter at his teaching job, demonstrating once again that he cannot keep his personal and criminal lives separate. He may be in the clear for now, but the only way he will stay out of jail is by constantly fighting to keep one step ahead of the law. Walter’s troubles are far from over.

Odds and Ends

  • The cinematography in the opening teaser is excellent – the static camera focuses on Badger and the undercover cop while pedestrians and cars travel across the frame. Multiple reviewers at the time considered this shot to be diegetic – in other words, we are viewing Badger through a police camera on the opposite side of the street, the same set-up Hank and his colleagues use at the end of the episode. I approve of this interpretation.
  • There is a brief scene between Jesse and Jane where we discover that she is a recovering addict and I think it is sweet that when Jesse learns this, he offers not to smoke marijuana around the house anymore.
  • The ski masks that Walt and Jesse wear when they kidnap Saul are the same ones they used for the methylamine heist in A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal (Series 1, Episode 7).
  • I’m not a big fan of the ending – paying a guy to go to prison for you is a little silly for the relatively grounded world of Breaking Bad – but I appreciate that getting Badger out of police custody cost $80,000. Walt is slowly having to accept that peddling meth isn’t easy money – there are a lot of expenses and setbacks he never accounted for.
  • A prison shanking might be off the table for now, but Walter won’t always heed Jesse’s objections – he will order the murder of ten people incarcerated in three separate prisons in Gliding Over All (Series 5, Episode 8).

Please use spoiler tags in the comments, as some Avocadians are watching Breaking Bad for the first time