Better Call Saul‘s Jimmy McGill just gave a speech that directly mirrored a famous Walter White scene from Breaking Bad. With a little over one season left, Better Call Saul is rapidly approaching its endgame, and that became even more apparent in season 5’s latest episode, “JMM.” At the request of the cartel, Jimmy takes the impossible job of representing Lalo Salamanca, who is charged with a murder he committed in last season’s finale. Ramping up the stakes further, Jimmy and Kim have married, meaning the couple legally won’t be forced to testify against each other, and Jimmy subsequently revealed his dealings with her cartel to his new wife, right in the middle of foreplay.
Jimmy repeatedly eyed the victim’s grieving family during Lalo’s bail hearing and looked distinctly uncomfortable as he weighed up the moral conundrum unfolding. Jimmy’s crisis is neatly summed up by the “JMM” motto on his briefcase, doubling up here as the episode’s title. Does the slogan represent Jimmy’s original acronym, “Justice Matters Most,” or is Lalo’s suggestion of “Just Make Money” closer to the truth? Jimmy proceeds to ensure Lalo’s bail is granted, but continues to look ruefully towards the family of the deceased… and that’s when the eternally-chirpy Howard rears his head.
Howard again pesters Jimmy about the HHM job offer, but soon reveals that he knows about Jimmy’s recent pranks, prompting an outburst from the newly-christened Saul Goodman. In an almighty rant, Jimmy unleashes on Howard about how he has eclipsed the need to work for HHM, delivering gems such as, “you’re a teensy, tiny man in a teensy-weensy little bubble,” “I travel in worlds you can’t even imagine” and “I am a God in human clothing.” The intention and tone of this outburst bears a striking resemblance to Walter White’s “I am the one who knocks” speech to Skyler in Breaking Bad.
In their respective scenes, Walt and Jimmy are both ranting at people who see them as the person they used to be, whether that be a mild-mannered chemistry teacher or a lawyer desperate for a chance at the big time. Howard and Skyler both fail to recognize how much Jimmy/Walt have been transformed and are given a stark dose of reality in return. The two speeches also mark turning points for the characters delivering them; Walt could’ve accepted Skyler’s proposal to go to the police, but embraced his Heisenberg persona. Jimmy could’ve done the right thing by the victim’s family, but instead doubled-down on being Saul Goodman. Both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul use these speeches to highlight the moment their lead characters became consumed by ego – where the lure of criminal activity and earning lots of money became paramount to all else.
However, there is an intentional key disparity between Walt’s “I am the one who knocks and Jimmy’s “I am a God in human clothing.” When Walt dropped his truth-bomb, he came across as menacing and intimidating, stunning Skyler into still silence. Delving into Heisenberg’s book of tricks, Walt’s words chill, as the character bubbles with a barely-controlled rage. While Jimmy’s monologue is similar in intention and content, the effect is markedly different. Instead of fearsome, Jimmy comes off as faintly ridiculous, exploding in public and flailing his hands wildly, while also taking his use of metaphor to the extreme with biblical comparisons. This is very unlike Walt, who was precise, calculated and subtle in his verbal attack. Moreover, Walt had the evidence to back up his claims – a history of violence and a stack of cash. Jimmy’s situation is a little different; the lawyer is only taking his first tentative steps into criminality and hasn’t earned anywhere near what Walt did during his pomp. As a result, Howard simply walks away unmoved, leaving Jimmy to ramble on maniacally.
The simultaneous parallels and diversity in Walt and Jimmy’s two landmark scenes serve to highlight how different the pair are as characters. Even as Jimmy looks set to become a “friend of the cartel,” he’s a timid, behind-the-scenes cog in the criminal machine. Walt, on the other hand, was a hands-on meth cook who deployed any means necessary to achieve his goals in Breaking Bad, sinking to depths that would make even Saul think twice.