Throughout the first two seasons of Better Call Saul, there’ve been hints aplenty about Jimmy McGill’s impending transformation into Saul Goodman, from Jimmy’s strip mall law office to his love of brightly colored suits and ties. But with the AMC drama’s third season currently in production, and Season 2 hitting Blu-ray and DVD this week, Saul has yet to appear.
Saul creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould talked to Yahoo TV about that very matter, as well as what they think about the other McGill brother, Chuck — villain: yes or no?
Yahoo TV: How is Season 3 progressing? You guys are fully into it now, right?
Vince Gilligan: Yeah, we are fully engaged.
Peter Gould: Hopefully, the water hasn’t gotten over our heads yet, but actually, Vince just got back from Albuquerque, where he directed the first two episodes, and right now we’re shooting Episode 4, which Tom Schnauz is directing. We’re in full swing.
I remember talking to both of you before Saul Season 1 premiered, and you said that you thought Jimmy McGill would become Saul Goodman by the end of Season 1. We’re about to get into Season 3, and Jimmy is still Jimmy. Was there was more storyline than you originally thought? More to these characters, things that you saw in the actors, the chemistry between them, that made you want to explore those things?
Gould: Everything you just said. I think the biggest single thing is, the better we got to know Jimmy, the bigger the distance between Jimmy and Saul became. Really, when we wrote the pilot, we thought that this character was not that far away from Saul. The guy with the brown suit, he was scheming, he was already scheming, he was talking about his past as “Slippin’ Jimmy.” But the more we got to know him, the more we saw his good intentions, his big heart, his attachment to his brother. At the time, his unrequited passion for Kim. All those things led us further and further away from Saul Goodman. We started asking ourselves, “What is the difference between these guys?” and certainly one of the differences is morality. Morally, Jimmy … there are a lot of things that Saul Goodman does that Jimmy just wouldn’t do.
Gilligan: Jimmy wouldn’t represent a meth dealer. He wouldn’t say to him, “Hey, we can make more money if you do this and that to sell more meth.”
Gould: Or kill somebody. It’s embarrassing to say that maybe we should’ve thought of all this before we talked to you, before we sold the show.
Gilligan: Better late than never.
Gould: I have to say, it’s also seeing Bob. Bob Odenkirk is such an interesting actor. He is so intelligent, and there’s an earnestness to the way Bob plays this character. I don’t think that we would’ve ever done the show without the little touch of earnestness that Bob brought to Saul Goodman, because if you just read the words on the page, he could be a Simpsons character. Those are great, but you notice, they’ve never done a lawyer spin-off from The Simpsons. I think the real difference is that, even when he’s Saul Goodman, there was a little vulnerability there. Saul really wanted people to like him; it wasn’t just about the money. He also wanted everyone to be happy and to like him … we say that that little crack that we saw in Saul Goodman was really Jimmy McGill showing through.
Then, we realized that we had a longer journey to go, and of course, you’re absolutely right about the characters and the chemistry … especially Rhea Seehorn. There’s so much more that she brings to Kim, and there’s so much more to say about her, and we ask ourselves constantly, “Well, if she falls in love with Jimmy McGill, what on earth is she going to think of Saul Goodman?” We ask ourselves these big questions, and we don’t have any answers to them, but that’s what helps us inch forward in this story.
Gilligan: Also, I would add to all of that, and this is a very mechanical thought on my part, when we started, we named the series Better Call Saul … it’s funny thinking back on this, I feel silly saying this, but I figured people who were going to watch the show wanted to see Saul Goodman. They wanted to see the loud tie and the crazy office with the Constitution on the wall and all this stuff. I think, to a certain extent, folks do, but I was worried that people would think, “S*** or get off the pot here, just show this guy already, the damn show is called Better Call Saul, this is a bait and switch.” I thought, maybe worse case, we’ll wait until the end of Season 1, but then we’ll see him, and the show will really kick in. Then, lo and behold, I came to realize the show had already kicked in, and Jimmy is more interesting, to me, than Saul is. In fact, when he becomes Saul, it’s going to be a tragedy, it’s going to be a sad thing.
Gould: It’s so funny you bring this up, Vince, because I think that was one of our great fears all through Season 1 … “What are people going to say when we get to the end of the season, and he’s not Saul Goodman yet? Are they going to get mad at us, are they going to be carrying torches outside the offices saying, ‘We want Saul’?” Just on its face, it’s a little bit weird to have a show named after a character who doesn’t appear. It’s just odd, it’s like, what is that, Waiting for Godot? You never see Godot.
Season 2 ended with that surprise moment of Chuck manipulating Jimmy’s confession and recording it. I think viewers all along have debated whether or not Chuck is a villain. Like everyone in the Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul universe, he is a fully fleshed out character … do you see him as a villain?
Gilligan: There are a lot of people who hate Chuck, and I would never argue with them, but what you said is the way I see him. He wears a gray hat, not a black hat, not a white hat. Most of the characters in both these shows wear gray hats. They’re more like real people. “Bad guys,” in real life, don’t think of themselves as bad guys, they think of themselves as good guys. Everyone has their reasons for what they do. Chuck wraps himself in the cloak of correctness and a love for justice, a love for the legal system, humanity’s greatest invention, the rule of law. It’s a real argument to be made for not respecting anyone who besmirches that, and it’s a great source of pain for Chuck that he sees his own brother doing exactly that. He takes that feeling and he uses it to do terrible things to his brother. “Well, you know, my brother’s not worthy of being a lawyer, so therefore, I’m going to work against him at every turn, in secret, and I’m going to cut him off at the knees.” It’s reaped some bitter fruit.
Like you said, it’s not completely black and white, because then Jimmy at some point has had enough, and he plays this terrible trick on Chuck, he reverses the numbers 1261 to 1216, and he makes Chuck look like a fool, he cuts him down. It’s just sad. And certain folks will watch and say, “Yeah, stick it to Chuck!” and that’s fine. I wouldn’t try to change their minds, but for me personally, I feel sorry for the guy. He’s a bit of a tragic character, and so is Jimmy. The way they tear each other down makes me sad. Having said that, our first job is to be entertaining; we don’t want to ladle on the sadness too thick, but I think, even at our funniest moments or our most dramatic moments on Better Call Saul, I think there’s a core of sadness, and that speaks to me.
In the last week, there have been a couple of crazy Breaking Bad universe stories on the Interwebs: the theory about how Walter White’s meth created the zombie apocalypse on The Walking Dead, and the rumor that Vince gave an interview saying Walter White isn’t dead and that there’s going to be a sixth season of Breaking Bad. Clearly, we all love the characters in this universe so much that we’re willing to do anything to keep them alive, stay connected to them.
Gilligan: That’s a wonderful and heartening realization. It’s been 10 years now, it’s going on 10 years, since this whole thing got going. I can’t believe how time flies, but what I really can’t believe is that this thing became what it became, this world of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. I keep wanting to pinch myself, I keep assuming I’m dreaming.
When this whole thing started, I was amazed I was getting to do a pilot, and that I was being allowed to direct it … that was it for me. I just thought this would be great. There’s no way this show will ever go on the air, but I’ll make the best pilot I can make, and that’ll be a good thing to put on my résumé. I’ll put it on a DVD, and I’ll go around and show it to people, and say, “Hey, let me direct again, please. I did this one pilot…” And then lo and behold, almost 10 years later, this thing … I don’t know, I sound like a broken record, but I can’t believe that people love it as much as they do, and God bless them. It’s really given me a fulfilling career and made me a happier person. I, who am generally unhappy (laughing) … it has made me feel very good. I couldn’t be more appreciative of folks all over the world who love these characters.
Better Call Saul Season 2 is now available on Blu-ray and DVD from Sony Home Entertainment. Season 3 will premiere in 2017 on AMC. Season 1 is available to stream on Netflix.