Ask the Fans: ‘Better Call Saul’ Eps Peter Gould, Vince Gilligan Respond to Your Thoughts

Kimberly Potts
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
Bob Odenkirk in ‘Better Call Saul’ (Photo: AMC)

Nope, it’s not just you; three days later, and we’re still mulling that Better Call Saul Season 3 finale, too.

The good news: after we talked with series creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould about the finale, they generously agreed to keep the Saul talk flowing and respond to the incredibly thoughtful answers viewers had submitted to Gould’s “Ask the Fans” questions about the series.

Read on to get more of their insights into some of the major themes of the Saul universe, and find out why you, like Gould and Gilligan, will be so impressed with what your fellow Saul fans have to say about the Emmy-deserving AMC drama.

PETER GOULD ASKS: Now that you’ve met Jimmy McGill, do you still like Saul Goodman?

ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: Liking Saul Goodman wasn’t the issue for several fans who answered this question. For many viewers, it’s about understanding Saul, and getting the chance to see his backstory unfold has led to a bigger appreciation of Saul in Breaking Bad.

Jackie L. wrote, “I actually didn’t like Saul Goodman much in BB, but I might like him a bit more now that I have his backstory. I’ll have to watch [Breaking Bad] all over again.” Added reader and Saul viewer C, “I like him more than I did in Breaking Bad, knowing a little more about why he is the way he is,” while Gus G. responded, “Like Saul Goodman? No. But now I understand him.”

Added Yahoo TV commenter Ski, “I do. It’s really hard to say where Jimmy stops and Saul begins. It’s not as cut and dried as, ‘Jimmy is the good side of Saul, and Saul is the bad guy.’ To me, the difference is confidence. Saul knew the entire deck of cards he was playing with and what the consequences would be for each play, whereas Jimmy seems to be more or less throwing down cards and raising the stakes to get him out of immediate danger.”

Wrote Jack J., “I still love Saul, but I definitely like Jimmy better. For the first few episodes, I would refer to him as Saul. Now, I cannot think of him as anything other than Jimmy. He’s still the same guy. I think we see him under a more comedic lens in Breaking Bad than we do in Better Call Saul, where we are able to see him in depth and as a real person, not just this sleazy, but funny lawyer.”

PETER GOULD AND VINCE GILLIGAN RESPOND: Their first response? They were impressed with how thoughtful Saul fans are. “We need all these people in the writers’ room,” Gilligan said. “They’ve got more insight into this than I do!” Gould understood Jackie L.’s desire to re-watch Breaking Bad now. “Because we were always talking about the show as a spinoff from Breaking Bad, in a weird way it seems like this show is becoming a frame around Breaking Bad,” Gould said. “I’m interested in watching Breaking Bad again just to see how the Saul Goodman scenes play from Saul’s point of view.”

“I was asking the question, really, in the honest quest to find out the answer because I’m changing my opinion of Saul Goodman as we go,” said Gould, who created the Saul character for the BB Season 2 episode “Better Call Saul.” “Saul Goodman always seemed like a lot of fun to me, but he didn’t seem to have a lot of depth. Now I’m taking another look at him, and just like these folks are saying, I’m changing my views a little bit.”

Both of the show’s creators agree that Jimmy’s evolution, and the fans’ response to that, have given them confidence in their commitment to let their characters guide them through their storytelling. “There’s a lot of different ways to write something, but what always has worked for us is letting the character lead us, and not the other way around,” Gilligan said. “As a writer, you try to lead your character around by the nose, you’re destined for failure.”

Bob Odenkirk in ‘Better Call Saul’ (Photo: AMC)

Gould added, “It’s easier to say than it is to do. We often have things that we like to have happen, or we have ideas about what the character should be doing, and when we get stuck, it’s usually because we’re trying to force the character to do something that doesn’t make sense.”

PETER GOULD ASKS: Have you ever done the wrong thing for the right reasons? How did you feel about it afterwards?

ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: The overwhelming majority of fans said, Yes, of course. It might come as a surprise to some just how many people are able to make peace with their actions pretty quickly afterwards, though. (Unlike, say, a certain Ms. Wexler, who celebrated after the bar hearing with Jimmy, but certainly continued to feel guilty about Chuck’s breakdown almost immediately afterwards.)

Said Ski, “Sure. You can’t feel too bad about any decision you make if you’ve thought it out and believe it will be the best for everyone in the long term. That doesn’t mean it can’t backfire and there aren’t repercussions, but you have to be able to sleep at night knowing in your heart you were looking out for everyone involved’s best interests.”

Mike C. said, “Yes, it is called self-sacrifice, and sometimes you sacrifice yourself for the good of others. I didn’t like myself afterwards, but understood why I did it in the first place.” Terrie said, “Yes — who hasn’t? Felt terrible, because the person I did it for didn’t appreciate it, but yet, I kept doing it anyway, like a fool.” Our favorite response came from Jacob, who wrote, “Yes. Many times I’ve felt the end justified the means. World is a tough place, and I rarely see things in black and white.”

PETER GOULD AND VINCE GILLIGAN RESPOND: This question seemed particularly relevant to the recently concluded third season of Better Call Saul, and characters like Jimmy and Kim. Gilligan joked, “I, for one, am a bit disappointed in those answers, because I wanted a lot of gory detail that I could live vicariously through.”

And Gould said, “It’s interesting, because the things that we struggle with in real life are those moments where you have two options, and neither one seems like a good one. That’s where drama often lies. This audience is being painfully honest about everything. These folks are really smart.”

PETER GOULD ASKS: Is it a good or bad idea for romantic partners to work together?

ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: The majority of responders thought the risk of complications, especially if the romantic relationship didn’t work out, made this proposition a bad idea. But it wasn’t a landslide, with nearly as many people saying it could work, and some even suggesting that being able to mix business and pleasure is a good test for potential long-term partners.

Joshua V. said, “I think it’s a great idea. I believe that romantic partners would probably understand each other a little better than an unromantic pair, which could make for a more effective working team. Working together could also strengthen the union, and I think it’s good for romantic partners to experience all aspects of life together.”

Gus G. wrote, “Depends on their compatibility under pressure. Generally speaking, I think it’s a bad idea. To successfully make a romantic relationship work, each partner needs to have a certain degree of emotional distance to maintain a healthy balance between the competing pressures of work and the relationship. Combining the two is a recipe for a train wreck.”

PETER GOULD AND VINCE GILLIGAN RESPOND: “I’ve got to go with Gus G. on that one,” Gilligan said. “I think it’s a case by case thing. I’ve got a buddy, one of my oldest friends from back in Virginia, his mom and dad, they spent pretty much every minute of their lives together, because they were married, and they ran an insurance business back in Virginia, so they were sitting side by side, matching desks, all day long. They just were never apart, and that worked like gangbusters for them for decades. But then there’s other situations where folks work together… it’s got to be really tough, depending on the work. If it’s a job where inevitably the people, the job makes the folks feel like they’re in some sort of competition with one another… actors come to mind. If husband and wife are in some partnership somehow, a couple of spouses are acting in the same movie, as we’ve seen time and time again, which one gets the most screen time? Which one gets the best reviews? If it winds up feeling competitive, that’s a tough gig.”

Added Gould, “I think there’s also a question of how far along the relationship is. I’m thinking of the Kings, Robert and Michelle King, who did The Good Wife and now do The Good Fight. I don’t know them that well, but they certainly work together and do a great job.”

Gilligan: “The short answer is, it’s great until it all goes to s**t, and then it’s terrible.”

“Like so many things,” Gould said.

Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut and Laura Fraser as Olive Chapman Thomas in AMC’s Better Call Saul (Credit: Michele K. Short/AMC/Sony Pictures Television)

PETER GOULD ASKS: Is it ever a good idea to go into business with someone you don’t fully trust?

ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: No, no, no, no, no, was the answer, pretty much unanimously, but many responders said it was often necessary to go into business with someone you don’t trust. “No, I wouldn’t want to be in business with someone I don’t trust, but that’s not always a possibility in this time in our history, ‘cause everyone has something that makes them untrustworthy even if they don’t reveal it,” Heather said.

Said Kris, “No, not really. One has to do it, time and time again, no doubt; however, it is always exhausting. If one goes into business with someone untrustworthy, it is a good idea to have an exit strategy planned out in advance, and a method to cover one’s own butt in place.”

Leslie added, “Determining trust is tricky. My husband went into a business agreement with his brother, because he ‘fully trusted’ his brother because they were family. But his brother viewed my husband as a partner, because as he said later, he didn’t trust his brother. So one person might believe there is trust whereas the other person may not believe that trust is even necessary for there to be a business relationship. You need good legal advice and well-written contracts instead of trust. Trust is subjective; contracts are objective.”

And Michael P. shared his opinion using Kim and Jimmy as his example: “Going into business with an untrustworthy partner can have its risks, your reputation can/will be affected. But if you know who you’re getting in bed with… like Kim, she has separated her clients and accounts, her side of the business from Jimmy’s, so as to lessen any blow back.”

PETER GOULD AND VINCE GILLIGAN RESPOND: Gilligan had some issues with the “no, but” vibe of most of the responses. “Listen, anything’s possible in this world, and sometimes we’re put in untenable situations,” Gilligan said. “But I think, by and large… just plain ‘no.’ I think one of our jobs in this life is to have as much agency as possible and then to use it as well as possible.”

Peter Gould pointed out that sometimes those who would seem to be untrustworthy can actually make the best allies in certain instances… certain Better Call Saul/Breaking Bad instances, for example. “Character counts,” Gould explained. “I also think about the phrase Ronald Reagan used, which is, ‘Trust, but verify.’ It’s interesting that the responses all seem to center on the Jimmy and Kim of it, but there’s also Hector. Hector and Nacho’s dad. Should Hector be in business with Nacho’s dad if he doesn’t trust him? Trust may arguably be a more difficult thing to come by in the underworld. How do you work with anyone in the underworld? This is something we used to talk about on Breaking Bad all the time. And we always talk about it [on Better Call Saul],  because one of the things that we’re always looking for is chances for Jimmy and Mike to work together. Mike does not particularly like Jimmy, which means they’re only going to work together if they have to. But maybe the one thing that they do have together is they seem to have mutual trust. They’ve more or less proven to each other that they are trustworthy, even in the criminal context, and that could be why that’s a very valuable relationship for both of them.”

PETER GOULD ASKS: Has the way Chuck reacted to his breakdown in the bar hearing changed the way you feel about him? Even a little?

ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: It’s important to note that all these responses came before the Saul Season 3 finale, which perhaps updated some viewers’ feelings about the complicated Chuck McGill. For the most part, though, fans gained some empathy, and a more positive overall feeling, for Chuck after the bar hearing, while some gained empathy, but still didn’t like him, and some stood resolute that he is a bad dude who just wants to destroy his brother.

Ski said, “For sure. I don’t think anything can justify the lifetime of criticism and undue pressure that Chuck put on Jimmy. But, it’s pretty clear that relationship went both ways. Jimmy enjoyed being the only liaison between Chuck and the world back in Season 1. It wasn’t just about tirelessly helping his brother, he literally controlled his world view, since Chuck was so dependent on him. While Chuck wasn’t the best brother, he certainly had valid reasons for treating Jimmy so poorly.”

Valerie said, “I have a little more respect for Chuck because he’s admitted his ‘illness’ is all in his head and is trying to overcome it, but I don’t LIKE him a bit more, no. He’s still a mean man.”

Sharon wrote, “Chuck is vindictive, and takes every opportunity to destroy his brother — who, by the way, idolized Chuck and did all he could to help him. I don’t think the character could do anything to make me like him,” and Kris added, “It has actually made me think less of him than before, which says a lot, because I thought he was a pretentious, hypocritical egomaniac. That hearing definitely knocked Chuck off his high horse; it was painful, but honestly, the best thing for him.”

And there was this incredibly thoughtful response from Mary Alice: “I felt sorry for him during the courtroom scene and afterward, when he was cowering in his home, yes. But on the whole, no. All through this series, I’ve been constantly reevaluating whether I’m justified in hating Chuck. And now, for all of the things that Chuck really gets wrong about Jimmy’s motivations, it’s starting to seem like Chuck might be right about Jimmy at some really basic level, even if he gets the fine points wrong. But ultimately, I keep coming back to this: Chuck — not Kim — is the only person in the world who MIGHT have nurtured Jimmy into Jimmy McGill, the upstanding and happy citizen. (Maybe.) And by instead profoundly betraying Jimmy, he really helped make Jimmy into the worst-case-scenario Jimmy that he currently is.”

Michael McKean as Chuck McGill in AMC’s Better Call Saul. (Credit: Michele K. Short/AMC/Sony Pictures Television)

PETER GOULD AND VINCE GILLIGAN RESPOND: “God bless Mary Alice,” Gilligan said. “I always had more sympathy for Chuck than most viewers. But the folks who don’t like Chuck, I would never try to win that argument with them. I wouldn’t argue with them, because this really is an opinion issue.

“Back to the sympathy issue, this man has a real burden of mental illness that he deals with, Chuck… I guess I have sympathy for that because it’s quite a cross to bear. Until folks have walked a mile in his shoes, how do they know how it would affect them?” Gilligan said. “On the other hand, he feels guilt for the envy and the nastiness he’s directed at his brother, and it’s brought on this mental illness, this allergy to electricity. We’re not saying this is the way that mental health works in real life. This is just, strictly, in story terms, but that’s the way I always looked at it. So it’s the chicken and the egg thing. Did the mental illness derive from bad behavior? Did it derive from just flat out meanness towards his brother, his own blood? Or did the mental illness come first and bring about the nastiness toward his brother? I think it’s the former, not the latter. I don’t know.”

PETER GOULD ASKS: Do people really change, or do they just reveal new aspects of themselves that were always there?

ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: Overall, viewers do believe people can change, but they also believe changing means revealing something that was already there. “People change, they just don’t always do it on the timetable you might want them to, or in the way you might want them to change,” Sally T. said.

Jacob added, “People do change sometimes, I think, but most perceived changes are just hidden sides of people. Everybody wears a mask in my opinion, depending on their surroundings.”

And Kris wrote, “People change in as far as they constantly evolve; they are a product of what they were, and what they decide to build upon the foundation that is their past. That means new aspects of the persona come into being, as well as old aspects come to light in different circumstances.”

PETER GOULD AND VINCE GILLIGAN RESPOND: “The way that question came about was, that is really the discussion we sometimes have on this show, but it also was a discussion we had on Breaking Bad: was Walter White truly changing, or is what we’re seeing something that was always there?” Gould explained. “I think it’s a little clearer with Jimmy, just because we know he was Slippin’ Jimmy way back when. He started off as a con artist. So the idea that he’s going to eventually become a crooked lawyer isn’t absolutely out of nowhere. But I know it was something we always talked about with Walt. Was that darkness and that rage always there, or is that something that came about during the course of his illness and his descent?

“I always think about the way people change in mobs. When you have a mass of people, they’ll do things that no individual would ever have done, things that would outrage anyone’s morality. I find that fascinating, but also very worrying.”

Gilligan said, “I think there’s some good answers there that had to do with the fact that maybe change is really revealing aspects about ourselves that were previously hidden. But maybe another way to look at that is that are a lot of ingredients to every single person. Much like in chemistry, you can take certain fundamental elements or ingredients or compounds, and you can make them into different things. The same stuff that makes a lump of coal also makes a diamond. So maybe some of this change that we hope for in real life, we hope for the possibility of it.”

Gould to Gilligan: “I think you could write a self-help book.”

PETER GOULD ASKS: If you were in legal trouble, would you rather be represented by Kim Wexler, Jimmy McGill, Chuck McGill, Howard Hamlin or Saul Goodman?

ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: Of course, the answers varied on this one, and the most interesting aspect of the responses is why some responders chose the Saul attorney for their hypothetical legal needs.

Older Rose said, “If I were guilty of a heinous crime, I would retain Saul. Were I not guilty, I would retain Jimmy. Were I embroiled in complex civil litigation surrounding contract employment or personal injury law, I would retain Kim.”

Mike C. said, “Depends. If I am a white collar, Bernie Madoff-type criminal, it has to be Kim. She is going to dig hard. She is going to find the one way to get me out of it. She has prestige. If I am a common street thug? I want Saul (not Jimmy, Saul). He’s slimy. He knows which judges are on the take, and which ones are cheating on their spouses. He has ‘favors’ he can call in.”

Valerie said, “If I needed a lawyer, I’d want Kim. She’s a good lawyer, she throws her whole heart and soul into the work, and she actually tries to do what’s best for the client. I would not want Howard. He’s a smarmy one if I ever saw a smarmy lawyer. Yikes.” Kim A. disagrees: “Howard Hamlin, because I know the least about him, and he seems intelligent, driven, and ambitious.

PETER GOULD AND VINCE GILLIGAN RESPOND: “And Howard’s darn handsome,” Gilligan said.

“I think he’d be very persuasive in front of a jury,” Gould said.

And they agree Howard “dresses impeccably” — Hamlindigo Blue! — and that all the fan responses made perfect sense.

But who would they choose?

“I’d go with Kim, hands down,” Gilligan said. “I think she’s as good or better a lawyer than all of them. At worst, she’s every bit as good as Chuck or Jimmy and on top of that, she’d fight like hell, and she wouldn’t quit until she got the right outcome for her client.”

For Gould: “Jimmy’s a great choice, but I’d be a little worried that I’d end up doing a squat cobbler.”

Gilligan: “Oh, that’s a great answer! Yeah, he’d get me off, but it’d wind up being at the cost of my dignity.”

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