Throughout the show Better Call Saul, Jimmy (otherwise known as Saul Goodman) finds himself in shifty situations where his actions are in the grey area between good and bad. For centuries, people have debated on the definitions of good and bad with the intention of reconciling the in between. For the purposes of this article, I will be using the idea of good and bad intentions to analyze whether Jimmy from the show Better Call Saul is truly good or truly evil in the trial story line of season 3. Please note that there are spoilers in this article from season 3 of Better Call Saul.
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In season 3, Jimmy and his brother, Chuck, have a falling out which was a result of a nasty feud that played out during a legal trial between Jimmy and Chuck. Chuck recently lost a legal client due to a small but significant error in the paperwork completed for the client. Chuck’s client had been stolen from Kim, Jimmy’s girlfriend, which infuriated Jimmy because he saw it as wrong that a big legal firm, Chuck’s legal firm HHM, would steal business from a struggling sole practitioner. Not only that, Kim used to work for Chuck’s firm but she left earlier in the show. To make things right, Jimmy took all of Chuck’s paperwork related to the stolen client and input an error to make Chuck look bad in front of the client so that the client would rehire Kim. Jimmy denied doing so when confronted by Chuck which caused Chuck to become angry because he knew it was in Jimmy’s nature to do something sly and cunning such as what had just happened. Leading up to the trial, Jimmy found it impossible to convince Chuck that he was being unreasonable for what had happened and passively admitted that he did it to avoid trial and bring Chuck down from an evident mental breakdown. In order to save Jimmy’s reputation as a lawyer and prevent permanent disbarment as a result of the trial, Jimmy and Kim worked together to gather evidence regarding Chuck’s serious mental illness thereby ‘proving’ his ‘irrational accusation’ about Jimmy. During the trial, Jimmy publicly exposed Chuck’s serious, ongoing mental illness to everyone involved in the trial. Chuck was naturally very embarrassed and humiliated causing a serious riff with his brother Jimmy.
It’s obvious that Jimmy has done two ‘wrong’ things here. First, he intentionally input an error into Chuck’s paperwork to cause the client to leave Chuck’s firm and go back to Kim. Jimmy injected himself into a situation that was otherwise external to him. Second, Jimmy, with Kim’s help, publicly revealed Chuck’s serious mental illness to all of their friends and family. I agree that these actions are deliberately hurtful and wrong, but let’s dig a little deeper.
Jimmy’s intention with inputting the error into the paperwork was to help his girlfriend Kim, a struggling, relatively new sole practitioner of law. Jimmy has an interesting concept of justice and what is right. It appears that Jimmy felt that Kim needed the client more than Chuck’s successful law firm did. Chuck’s law firm is never short of business due to their fabulous reputation. On the other hand, Kim is struggling for work despite being an excellent lawyer who is diligent and hardworking. Because of this, Jimmy purposely input the error into the paperwork to serve justice. It was wrong towards Chuck but right towards Kim in Jimmy’s eyes. Does this really make Jimmy bad? I would say no because often one’s benefit is at the expense of someone else’s benefit. Jimmy thought that Chuck would brush off the incident and understand that clients come and go all the time. Jimmy’s intention was to do something good without hurting anyone, however, the situation evolved for the worst.
In order to save Jimmy’s reputation and legal license, Kim and Jimmy gathered evidence against Chuck to prove his mental illness. The trial was very public, exposing Chuck to all his friends and family. On the surface, it seems evil that Jimmy would expose his brother’s mental illness publicly to win the trial. Although, it’s important to remember what’s at stake for Jimmy. If Jimmy lost the case, he would lose his legal license which he worked so hard to get. Wouldn’t you do the same to protect your career and reputation? Jimmy’s only other career option would be working at his old job in a mall for a fast food service chain. Jimmy had no choice but to use Chuck’s mental illness as a defense for the trial. The outcome was adverse, Chuck refuses to talk to Jimmy and feels extremely angry for what Jimmy has done to him. It’s important to remember that Jimmy tried to avoid the trial by talking to Chuck and reasoning with him, but Chuck’s stubbornness and mental illness influence ruled. Again, I ask, is what Jimmy did wrong? Jimmy’s intentions were good, he had to defend himself in a situation that could not be avoided. The outcome was problematic, but this may have been deterred if it weren’t for Chuck’s stubbornness and mental illness, both are external factors out of Jimmy’s control. Jimmy tried to help Chuck throughout the entire show, the trial was simply the breaking point of the strenuous relationship between the brothers.
Throughout Better Call Saul’s seasons 1 through 4, Jimmy gets into many situations where his actions fall into the grey area of good and bad. I propose that his intentions are good but his actions often cause a bad outcome that may or may not be directly attributable to Jimmy. The show vastly demonstrates the complexity of life and how our response to problems can result in adverse outcomes even if that wasn’t our initial intention.