The Real Difference Between Saul Goodman And Jimmy McGill, According To Bob Odenkirk

better call saul jimmy in green shirt
(Image credit: Photo courtesy of AMC)

Spoilers below for the latest episode of Better Call Saul, titled "Slip."

Even though Better Call Saul's latest episode started off with a flashback to Jimmy's days with his best friend Marco, was titled "Slip," and literally featured Jimmy slipping in the music store in order to inspire litigious guilt, some loyal fans probably saw this episode as a step in Saul Goodman's direction. But according to star Bob Odenkirk, the transition is nowhere nearly that simple, and there's a major difference between Jimmy and Saul that would need to change before his Breaking Bad identity could take control, and it's the character's view on repercussions.

I think Saul is the guy who really doesn't care about the collateral damage, and knows it, and is aware of it. Jimmy sometimes does things to hurt people, and that's what the purpose of his scheme is, to hurt Chuck usually, but he seems to be oblivious to the collateral damage, or not wanting to look at it. Saul is kind of more mature, fully aware of who is going to get hurt, and he doesn't care. It's about him, serving himself. So, when he makes those emotional choices, to me, that's when we're getting in touch with Saul. It's not the name. It's not the fast talking. He did that when he was 16. He's done it his whole life. It's the growth of the character to an awareness of 'people get hurt by my schemes.'

If anybody is going to know the ins and the outs of Jimmy McGill and Saul Goodman, it's...creator Vince Gilligan. But if there's anybody else that knows, it's definitely Bob Odenkirk, who has portrayed some form of the rule-dodging lawyer for seven years now. And all it takes is a few brief memories of what we've seen from the character over the years in order to see where Odenkirk is coming from.

One of the reasons why Saul Goodman was such a standout character within Breaking Bad was his ability to smile and finger-gun his way through problems while providing solutions that, while not the most honest, are often the most effective. Completely unlike Jimmy's worry-wart behavior. In the B.B. world, where Jesse mourned a girlfriend and got held hostage by neo-Nazis, and Walt dealt with cancer by breaking with everyone in his life, viewers could always count on Saul to show up and add some brightly colored optimism, however blind, to the proceedings. And that sense of humor was able to exist because the character had wittingly drowned all of his more virtuous instincts in the name of self-preservation.

Even if he didn't mean to do it, Bob Odenkirk kind of opens a can of worms with that answer. Since the evolving Chuck and the just-about-to-crack Howard are two people that Jimmy sees as inspirations for his abject misery, he doesn't mind taking them on without thinking of consequences. But when it comes to someone like Kim, Jimmy is a lot more thoughtful and hesitant about some of the irreproachable things he does. And so in order for him to fully turn into Saul, would Kim have to necessarily be gone from his life? I don't even want to think about worm cans like that, so we're moving on.

While there are plenty of questions and ideas about Breaking Bad that we're fine with not learning about from Better Call Saul, watching Jimmy's slow-boiling descent into becoming Saul Goodman is absolutely needed and priceless. And unlike the origin stories for lots of TV heroes and villains, Saul's doesn't involve science labs or giant family tragedies, but rather just a bunch of people being dicks. Here's what else he said about the Saul turn during the most recent episode of the always excellent Better Call Saul Insider Podcast (opens in new tab).

And that's just from his feelings being hurt over and over and over. You know, people learn the wrong lessons from life. [laughs]

Now that Saul Goodman exists in commercial producer form, it'll be interesting to see how Season 3 ends things, as far as that persona potentially showing up again. There are just two episodes left of Better Call Saul, and you can watch them Monday nights on AMC at 10:00 p.m. ET. And then head to our summer TV premiere schedule to see all the new and returning shows popping up on the small screen soon.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.