'Better Call Saul' Producer on Jimmy's Tragic Betrayal, "Epic" Finale
[Warning: Spoilers ahead for Monday's episode of Better Call Saul, "Pimento."]
Jimmy's (Bob Odernkirk) life is coming undone.
Just when he was poised to tackle a multimillion dollar case with his brother Chuck (Michael McKean), he learned that his brother had been the one preventing him from working at Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill all along.
It was a tragic betrayal, with Chuck revealing he felt Jimmy was disrespecting the law by slipping into the profession via an online school — and that he might even be a danger as someone wielding the law.
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Saul producer Tom Schnauz wrote and directed the episode, the second hour of television he's helmed after Breaking Bad's well-reguarded "Say My Name" episode. In a chat with The Hollywood Reporter, Schnauz reveals details of a deleted flashback that had to be cut, breaks down Mike's (Jonathan Banks) badass moves and teases an epic moment in next week's finale.
This is a rare episode where we don't start with a flashback. How did that come about?
There is a whole six-minute teaser that exists that is not shown in this episode. The episode was so over length that instead of death by 1,000 cuts of trying to trim here and there, we decided to lift the entire teaser and make the first scene of Act I the teaser. There's a teaser that shows a very young Jimmy McGill back in the day. He's like nine years old. These actors did such a great job. I'm crossing my fingers that we get to use this teaser for an episode next season and not just make it a DVD extra, which I would feel terrible about.
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This is very much a big episode. Did you always know episode nine would be so consequential rather than having this stuff happen in a finale?
Somewhere as we started breaking episodes, we realized this confrontation was going to happen and it kind of fell into nine. In Breaking Bad, a lot of stuff happens in the penultimate episode, as opposed to the finale. We knew if we had this big blow up, it's like, do we want to wait a whole year before we know what happens? Or do we want to see how Jimmy deals with it? I think that's what's so great about the next episode — episode ten, which is written and directed by Peter Gould. There's one scene in particular where Bob does this epic monologue. It's just fantastic.
Bob really brought it this week, especially in the scene where he confronts Chuck. Do you feel like he upped his game?
He's been phenomenal all year. He came in after reading the scene and knowing the importance of what it means to the series. He and Michael McKean did their homework. They studied the hell out of it. Figured out what the intricacies of it were and just knocked it out of the park. Fortunately as a director I had to do very little guidance as far as directing the emotion of the scene. They came in, sat down. We read through it and once they started adding the emotion to the scene, they knew exactly what it needed. I didn't have to do very much other than say put the camera here and point it at them.
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What was writing that confrontation like?
The whole scene was a favorite of mine — Jimmy going after Chuck and trying to get him to break. When Chuck finally talks, the stuff he's saying about "the law is sacred" and "you're a chimp with a machine gun" and "you could do real damage." We as viewers, having seen Breaking Bad, know Chuck might be right about this. Even though what he's done is really, really horrible, we know who Saul Goodman is. People in the future die and get hurt because of his actions. If not for Breaking Bad, I think this scene would have another feeling to it. I think half the audience is going to listen to Chuck and say "what a jerk." I think some people will listen to him and think "he's not too far off. Maybe he's giving the correct advice." We don't know — would Jimmy turn into Saul Goodman if not for Chuck's horrible actions? Is it a self-fulfilling prophecy? Or was Slippin' Jimmy always going to be become Saul Goodman? We'll never know.
Everybody will be going crazy for this Mike stuff. Was his plan all along to take out the other two guys and keep all the pay?
No, he was going to go along nicely and sit there and be a force during this meeting. But this this other guy decides he's going to get rid of the old man and get some more money for himself and the Man Mountain, which is a horrible mistake. He's a tool who underestimates the man standing next to him and he pays for it dearly.
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This is very much the Mike we know.
Mike, his whole history, going back to his time on the police force — he tells this great story in Breaking Bad about putting a gun in the guy's mouth because he was a wife beater, and that he should have pulled the trigger. It's this great speech he has in "Half Measures." You don't ever feel like he has a lot of change from then until the time he dies by the side of the river. But there's definite change happening. It was a decision by Vince [Gilligan] and Peter [that Mike wouldn't take a gun to the meeting]. Early on I was confused by the not carrying a gun part of it, but once we started talking about it more I got on board and understood. I was like "Why wouldn't Mike bring a gun?" I think because I was thinking more about the Mike in Breaking Bad, rather than in Better Call Saul.
We also get the return of Nacho, who hasn't been in this season as much as many viewers expected.
We were very surprised too how little Nacho (Michael Mando) there was this season. When we started the season, we thought, "of course Jimmy McGill is going to quickly slide towards being Saul Goodman." What we discovered while breaking it was the transition was much slower than we realized, and that he doesn't become Saul Goodman immediately. The crossing over with Nacho — it just didn't make sense, once we started getting into it. Once he was done with Nacho in episode four, he didn't have any scene to go back and make a lot of money with him, and Nacho didn't come to him with some grand ideas. If you asked me when we started episode one, how much Nacho we would have had, I would have thought he'd be in every episode.
The early episodes of the season all felt very distinct, and have fallen more into a rhythm. Was that intentional because Jimmy was changing too?
Jimmy trying on all these suits. He's almost like a different guy in every episode. It has a little bit of a feel of "what is this?" I think it was the character figuring out "what am I going to be?"
Better Call Saul airs at 10 p.m. Mondays on AMC.