Better Call Saul's Biggest Surprise, According To Vince Gilligan

Most TV spinoffs retain some sort of familiarity with their flagship shows, be it a central motif or breakout characters, as is the case with Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. Although Bob Odenkirk stars on both shows, he’s not exactly playing the same character, and that was cause for concern for co-creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould. But to their major surprise, some people actually favor Jimmy “pre-Saul” McGill to his future shyster.

When Better Call Saul was in development, Gould and Gilligan had the misconception that people would tune into the new prequel expecting to see the Saul Goodman persona front and center, and I was definitely one of those who thought that’d be the case in those earlier days. But, to their great pleasure, people quickly got used to seeing the put-upon Jimmy McGill, who spent most of Season 1 trying to prove to everyone around him that his skills were better than the reputation that preceded them. Here’s how Gilligan put it when talking to THR.

Folks invariably tell me, ‘I really like Jimmy McGill, but I didn’t really like Saul that much.’ Especially women. Jimmy seems to be catnip to them.

Is it really Jimmy that women are attracted to, or is it “Jimmy lying about being Kevin Costner?” Because I’m pretty damned certain that the Chicago Sunroof doesn’t come into play there at all. There’s definitely something charming about Jimmy, from his underdog status to the way in which he genuinely wants to make something better of himself, especially by the time you get to the end of the season and realize exactly why he’d been kept down all these years. He’s like the puppy dog at the very back of the shelter, just waiting to be appreciated.

That fan-favored essence is in danger of getting tarnished by the time Season 2 comes around, though, since we last saw Jimmy telling Mike that the thing that stopped him from not keeping their $1.6 million take from the Kettlemans – basically human decency – was never stopping him again. That makes it sound like “next stop, Saul Goodman!” is coming, but maybe Jimmy has some more growing to do before making that next step. The fact that he didn’t take his future pseudonym by the end of Season 1 was another big surprise to the creators. Here’s what Gould had to say about it.

We really thought Jimmy McGill would change his name to Saul Goodman by Episode 10. What that meant was that a lot of our plans had to go out the window, and usually when that happens, there is that moment of panic because you have all these set pieces and scenes you’re working toward, but the characters aren’t ready for them. That was the hardest part but also the most rewarding part. It was an organic struggle.

Considering AMC put in an order for two seasons before Season 1 even began, it probably allowed them some freedom in developing the story, knowing that they could stretch any particularly plot points out as needed. Now if only we could get Bryan Cranston involved somehow.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.