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Characters / Breaking Bad: Saul Goodman

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"Saul Goodman" / "Gene Taković" / Jimmy McGill

Portrayed By: Bob Odenkirk, Blake Bertrand (young, "Inflatable"), Cole Whitaker (young, "Lantern")

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    Saul Goodman 

Saul Goodman
"Better call Saul!"

"If you're committed enough, you can make any story work. I once told a woman I was Kevin Costner, and it worked because I believed it."

Saul Goodman (real name James McGill) is Walt and Jesse's attorney. Before even introducing Saul to Walt, Jesse explains why he will be the perfect lawyer for them: "You don't want a criminal lawyer... you want a criminal lawyer". Such is Saul, who operates out of a strip mall office and runs late night TV ads advising potential clients they'd "Better Call Saul" when in trouble with the law. Saul is humorous, extremely cynical and very greedy. Saul's partnership with Walt and Jesse is problematic, yet usually successful... but how long will it take before Walt and Jesse's crimes and sins finally bring them down, and take Saul along with them?

  • Affably Evil: Saul is a corrupt lawyer involved in a massive drug operation that involves extortion, intimidation, money laundering, theft and even murder, but he's still a charming and jovial fellow who's hard to dislike, even if he is sleazy.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Saul certainly isn't too proud to beg, as evidenced several times in both shows, such as when Walt and Jesse kidnap him and later when Mike threatens to beat him. After Jesse figures out that Walt poisoned Brock, he beats a confession out of Saul at gunpoint. The entire time, Saul is begging for mercy and trying to say that he didn't know what Walt was planning.
  • Ambulance Chaser: Oh, yes: on the surface, at least. But, his practice is also waaaay more complex than just using frivolous lawsuits and compensation claims as business streams, though. His image of simply being one of these is carefully cultivated, as he plays up his sleazy attorney persona to hide the fact that he's an intelligent, very savvy conman.
  • Amoral Attorney: As Jesse puts it, "Seriously, when the going gets tough, you don't want a criminal lawyernote . OK? You want a criminal lawyernote , know what I'm saying?" Played With: Saul may play fast and loose with the law, but he never betrays a client.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    Saul: Is there a God? How could He let this happen? Who did this to me? Who can I sue?
  • Artistic License – Law: Invoked in-universe. Saul, who definitely knows better given his prior attempts to go straight before Chuck derailed him, will do things like put people at ease by claiming that attorney-client privilege prevents him from betraying his clients. This in real life is not true; attorney-client privilege doesn't apply if a lawyer actively assists their client in the commission or concealment of their crimes, which is what Saul is doing. Ironically, his clients are safe from betrayal, not because of the meager legal protection of handing him a dollar as a "retainer" (and theatre), but because Saul actually is loyal to his clientele, and not just to his pocketbook.
  • Baldness Angst: One of his trademarks is his incredibly obvious combover. In his very first episode we see it flipping about in a sandstorm after Walt and Jesse kidnap him and drive him out to the desert. In the Breaking Bad webisode "Live Saul Cam" he is seen frantically trying to fix it in place before allowing a visitor into his office.
  • Berserk Button: Don't even think about lighting up in his office.
  • Breakout Character: Is popular among fans for his humorous honesty and surprising amount of depth and loyalty, to the point that Vince Gilligan got him his own spin-off show. Thanks to that show, he's actually now appeared in more episodes of the show's world than Walt or Jesse.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Saul comes off like a sleazy, cheap, two-bit lawyer, but he's actually a sleazy, cheap, surprisingly competent one. His legitimate (not respectable) lawyer business has him deal with frivolous lawsuits and class-action suits, sure, but behind closed doors he's connected and savvy like no one's business. He's the one that basically allows Walt and Jesse take the first step into creating an actual drug empire instead of merely selling their product however they're able. When he first meets Skyler, Walt has to reassure her afterwards that Saul is a lot more competent than he seems to be.
  • Catchphrase: "Better call Saul!"
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: "I once told a woman I was Kevin Costner, and it worked because I believed it additionally ."
  • Con Men Hate Guns: Prefers to let Mike handy any dirty work requiring firearms. As he finds himself in more danger towards the end of the series he starts wearing a bulletproof vest under his flamboyant shirts. When he is eventually forced to get a gun he chooses one so small it could be mistaken for a novelty cigarette lighter.
  • The Consigliere: Saul is more than just a lawyer. He acts as Walt and Jesse's advisor and handles all of their business arrangements. He even lampshades it:
    Saul: What did Tom Hagen do for Vito Corleone?
  • Deadly Euphemism: As of "Buried", he now refers to killing people as sending them to Belize. In "Rabid Dog", he even refers his suggestion to put down Jesse as "an Old Yeller type situation".
    Walt: You're full of colorful metaphors, aren't you, Saul?
  • Deadpan Snarker: If there's a sarcastic line said, there's a ninety-seven percent chance Saul is the one saying it.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect??: Saul may be in it for his own greed but it doesn't change the fact that he's treated pretty ungratefully by Walter White throughout the show.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: There are several moments where it is possible to realize that Jimmy McGill still exists, buried under the despicable Saul Goodman.
    • After having his secretary call Hank pretending that Marie had been in a car accident to get him away from the RV, Francesca asks for a raise but Saul himself looks uncomfortable with what he's just done.
    • Saul was unwilling to give up Walt and Jesse to Gus, only doing so when Mike threatened to break his legs. And then, we find out that he feeds Mike a false location, protecting his clients.
    • In late Season 4, he puts himself in harm's way and agrees to tip off the DEA to the threat on Hank's life. He was under no obligation to do so, and he could even lie to Walter that he would alert the DEA. Even so, he did.
    • In the Season 5 premiere "Live Free or Die", he is upset when he finds out that his participation in Walt's schemes led to Brock being hospitalized. He's dealt with a lot of criminal clients and has done a lot of amoral things for them, but it seems he draws the line at children.
    • In his final appearance in the series, he attempts to convince Walt to give himself up to the DEA because otherwise, they'll use Skyler as their scapegoat. Again, Saul was under no obligation to advise this to Walt now that the two had had their crimes disclosed to the police and he would gain nothing from it, but he does seem genuine in trying to help Walt's family.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: His voice is noticeably deeper than it was when he was plain ol' Jimmy McGill. He reverts to speaking in his natural register when he isn't at work and "in character" as Saul, such as when Walt and Jesse kidnap him and threaten him at gunpoint ("Better Call Saul"). In "Granite State", when the character of Saul has effectively been killed off for good, he sounds much more like the Jimmy McGill of the prequel series. Essentially, the more evil his actions, the deeper his voice sounds.
  • Evil Sounds Raspy: ...and it's also very, very gravelly, especially when he emits a sleazy laugh.
  • Evil Virtues: For all his sleaze and corruption, he is loyal to his clients and will never sell them out even when threatened with violence and he is damn good at his job, making him a very valuable piece in Heisenberg's empire.
  • Fallen Hero: He used to be a public defender who scraped by, then got a job at Davis & Main, scraped by through advertising commercials and now is an ambulance chaser working out of a strip mall office.
  • Fashion-Victim Villain: Invoked. He was created to be the show’s comic relief and is quite funny both in personality and dressing. We see in Better Call Saul that he deliberately chooses goofy clothes to distance himself from the typical lawyer.
  • Fatal Flaw: In their first encounter Saul clocks Walt as a liability and decides against getting involved with him. Unfortunately his Greed then gets the better of him and he approaches Walt with an offer to launder his drug money. Ultimately his instincts turn out to have been correct, and working with Walt proves to be his downfall.
  • Fate Worse than Death: It's rather clear that neither Slippin' Jimmy, James McGill nor Saul Goodman would ever have voluntarily chosen to live the highly regimented, routine life of Gene, manager of a random Cinnabon, Nowheresville Mall, Omaha unless there was no other option (and, even then, he's regretting it). The grayscale is the first hint; his hangdog expression when hitting the bottle the second.
  • Friend to All Children: Seems to like kids and gets along well with Brock.
  • Hero of Another Story: And that story is now being told.
  • Honest Advisor:
    • Part of what makes him so effective as a lawyer is his willingness to tell hard truths.
      Saul: Look, let's start with some tough love, alright? Ready for this? Here it goes: you two suck at peddling meth. Period.
    • In "Granite State", he tells Walt that it's probably better for everyone if he doesn't disappear.
  • Honest John's Dealership: If CMOT Dibbler ever chose to go into law, he'd basically be Saul Goodman. From the frivolous injury claims taken up on behalf of those who really should know better to tide him over to helping a promising little meth business get off the ground so he can jump on the bonanza bandwagon... Saul is Dibbler all over. Including in his sense of what is appropriate advertising. He might mitigate the careers of crooks (and be very good at that), but Saul manages to not take a direct part in anything truly heinous himself — which just saves him from being the lawyer equivalent of the Friend in the Black Market. Just, though: he's very good at what he does and gives you value for (a lot of) money. He can hook you up with a guy who is that guy, though — and, may nudge you in that direction, off the record, like. For a percentage.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: To Walt and Jesse. Also has one of his own, in the form of Mike.
  • Iconic Sequel Character: He doesn't appear until the middle of season 2 and eventually gets his own spin-off.
  • I Fight for the Strongest Side!: After negotiations with Walt over how much of a cut he'll get from Walt's 3 million deal with Gus...
    Jesse: What in the hell just happened? You're MY lawyer, not his!
    Saul: It's the way of the world, kid. Go with the winner.
  • Ironic Name: Goodman. And it's not even his real name.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: After dressing down how Walt's actions to exonerate Skyler have made it worse, Saul outright says that if he really cares about his family, he will give himself up to the Feds to spare them the suffering they are about to endure. Walt doesn't.
    • He's on the money that it would be logical for Walt to eliminate Hank and Jesse and Walt's efforts to protect them won't do him any good. In Jesse's case he also specifically points out how Walt wanting to meet Jesse and say why he had to poison a child is a beyond stupid plan.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Saul may be a sleaze and a boor but he really does care about Jesse underneath his layers of sarcasm and greed. He also tries hard to get through to Walt and stop him from going too far, even though it usually falls on deaf ears. The prequel show establishes that he also has a soft spot for elderly clients and does not want kids involved in his business.
  • Karma Houdini: Downplayed. Saul is one of the few characters in the series to make it out in the end with his life and at first glance, it seems to be the only not emotionally damaged from the events that happened. His big consequence is having to now live the life of a Cinnabon manager. Compared to the suffering of all the other characters, Saul makes it out good. But then the flashforwards of Better Call Saul does show that he hates his new life as a fugitive, does not dare to form friendships or any other relationship in the city where he lives now, and is terrified of being discovered, becoming absurdly paranoid. Now he will spend the last years of his life looking over his shoulder every minute and brooding over the good and nostalgic times when he was a lawyer and celebrity.
  • Knows a Guy Who Knows a Guy: ... Who knows another guy. In most cases, the first "guy" in this line is Mike.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Knows when to beg and plead, knows when to seemingly give in and compromise (and often, how to without actually giving core ground), and knows when to get out of Dodge. Admit it, you probably thought he'd be the most likely one to jump ship once it started sinking the moment you first saw him on screen. Although, he never turns out to do it in the way you'd might've expected, not our Saul, what with not being your common or garden rat.
  • Large Ham: His outfits' color choices say a lot about his personality.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: While he survives the series, his fame in New Mexico comes back to bite him in 'Granite State' due to having to pay extra for a new identity, even though Walt's technically the bigger target. This also means he can't practice law anywhere again, rendering his skills useless. A millionaire from assisting in Walt's drug empire, he expects to spend his remaining days destitute and anonymous.
  • Let No Crisis Go to Waste: As part of his Ambulance Chaser tendencies (and act), Saul runs a commercial calling for people to pursue legal action amidst the Wayfarer 515 tragedy. Said commercial lists every potential reason for lawsuits and compensation. You may even notice that he wears the blue awareness ribbon for a little while longer than anyone else on the show to try to further capitalize on the incident.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Along with being Walt's Lawyer and Consigliere, Saul also tends to serve as the guy Walt vents to about his operations. Walt is ironically more honest with Saul than he is with Jesse or with Skyler.
  • Lovable Coward: In the Season 3 finale, he insists he won't give Jesse's whereabouts to Mike and stands his ground... for about five seconds. Of course, there was never any question that Mike couldn't beat the information out of him eventually. Though, to his credit, the address he gave Mike was fake, protecting his clients.
  • Lovable Rogue: Oh, yes. He's a scumbag. He's a Slimeball. You know he's a scumbag. You can practically smell it off him. Good luck not liking him, though.
  • Mean Boss: For a lawyer, Saul is surprisingly fearless of sexual harassment charges, probably because Francesca is too wrapped up in his criminal schemes and reporting him to the cops would just lead to complicity charges against herself.
  • Meaningful Name: "S'all good, man."
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Saul never technically betrays Walt, but after Walt's cancer returns and he loses his intimidation factor, Saul is no longer scared into being loyal to him.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Saul is not above this when it involves being put at risk of being arrested.
    • He casually mentions to Walt and Jesse that they should just have Badger killed when he's arrested.
    • When Jesse threatens to give up Heisenberg if he ever gets caught, Saul tells Walt that they might need to go over options.
    • He mentions if Walt has given any thought to sending Hank on a trip to Belize.
    • In "Rabid Dog", he recommends this for Jesse, describing it as "an Old Yeller type situation".
  • Noble Demon: Despite mostly being an Amoral Attorney, his refusal to betray a client, which includes making sure to feed Mike false information to protect them as well as the standards mentioned, makes him this as well.
  • Non-Action Guy: Saul has absolutely no fighting skill. Even Jesse and Walt are better in a fight than he is. As he tells Walt Jr. in "To'hajiilee", he even considers the occasional beating "an occupational hazard".
  • Noodle Incident: When he is initially kidnapped by Walt and Jesse he begins screaming something about how "It" was "Ignacio! He's the one [you want]!" and how he's always been a friend of The Cartel, before being told they weren't sent by a "Lalo" he thought was after him. Lalo, Ignacio, and whatever he did are never referenced again in the series. However, Better Call Saul introduces the character Ignacio "Nacho" Varga in its second episode, Nacho being a common nickname for Ignacio. And with the introduction of Lalo in its fourth Season, the incident may find resolution in the prequel.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Saul treats even deadly situations with levity, and is generally out of the firing line when it comes to drug empire conflicts, so on the few moments when even he is fearing for his life, you know that the characters are in serious danger.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity:
    • His outrageously crooked lawyer persona belies his extreme intelligence. This is lampshaded in Season Five, where Walt finds that Saul wears a bulletproof vest under his flashy pink attorney shirt.
    • It's played up almost from the moment of his introduction — comments peppered throughout the series strongly suggest that the Bunny-Ears Lawyer aspect to his character is entirely a sham, to get people to underestimate him instantly. Notably, he's the biggest name in the cast never threatened with arrest.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: When Jesse's parents try to sell the house for 800k, Saul counter-offered for a mere 400k. They are disgusted and about to leave when Saul reminds them that he knows there used be a meth lab in the basement and they can either take his offer or he will encumber the property indefinitely. Jesse's parents cave only to find out who Saul's client is: Jesse himself.
  • Only Sane Man: A rare beast for this show: he's this played as straight as a die. It might sound zany, but whatever he suggests? Has common (if twisty and criminal) sense behind it. And keeps it after Walt's downfall, by ending contact with Walt once and for all.
  • Out of Focus: He appears in just two scenes in the last four episodes of the show. Luckily, they more than made up for it with the spin-off.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: His disguise as "Gene" is nothing more than a hat, glasses and mustache. And on top of that, he looks a lot more like Walter White, the meth kingpin, because of this.
  • Pet the Dog: As corrupt as he is, in the penultimate episode, Saul attempts to convince Walt to face the music, if only so Skyler doesn't get used as The Scapegoat. He also gladly helps Jesse deliver money to Andrea.
  • Phony Degree: His law degree is from "The University of American Samoa". Subverted in that the degree is real and he did pass the bar, he just didn't have the funds or the even the time to get a degree from a more prestigious university. Possibly Played Straighter with the one in his office, considering it has an incorrect seal and displays his "Saul Goodman" alias instead of his real name.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Despite being a surprisingly skilled lawyer, pretty much every other word out of Saul's mouth is hilarious. Invoked by the writers. Vince Gilligan explained that part of the reason why Saul was introduced was because they knew the series would continue to get darker and they wanted to still have some levity.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Saul's no stranger to sexually harassing his secretary and making racially insensitive jokes, especially about immigrants.
  • Properly Paranoid: When things get tense at the send of Season 4 and midpoint of Season 5 he cracks down on security at his office and really wants Walt and Jesse out of his hair. Considering the shanking of Mike's lawyer in the "Gliding Over All" montage, this isn't a bad idea. Also in the very first scene of the premiere of Better Call Saul, he becomes paranoid of people recognizing him after being given a new identity and relocated to Nebraska. Given his minor celebrity status in New Mexico, this isn't that exactly unreasonable.
  • Punny Name: His name sounds like "[It]'s all good, man."
  • Purely Aesthetic Glasses: His very first appearance, in one of his cheesy late-night ads, shows him pretending to read a weighty legal tome before dramatically whipping off his reading glasses to address the viewer. He is not seen wearing glasses again until they become part of his disguise as "Gene Takovic".
  • Put on a Bus: Literally, to Nebraska, as of "Granite State."
  • Sarcastic Devotee: Towards Walter.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: By "Granite State", Saul has finally had it with Heisenberg, and heads to Nebraska using his identity eraser guy. It's not clear if this was him having enough of Walt, and/or him wanting to avoid prosecution for his involvement with Walt's drug empire, since he's almost certainly facing charges of money laundering and criminal conspiracy.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns:
    • Escapes ABQ with the help of his coveted vacuum cleaner repairman before the series finale.
    • His appearance is also an example of this, as he arrives just as Jesse goes from comic relief to being put through the wringer, and his wacky friends fall Out of Focus. Vince Gilligan states that drama and depressing material needs "a levening agent" to keep it from being unwatchable.
  • Shoot the Dog: Makes this suggestion a few times when he suggests doing it to Jesse, he even refers to it as an Old Yeller type situation.
  • The Social Expert: Saul is very good in tense, social situations where a glib tongue and people-reading skills are must-haves. Not his fault Walter's dramatic metamorphosis voided his original judgement of what he was capable of.
  • The Gadfly: He has his moments, especially when teasing Walt about Skyler cheating on him in Season 3, which enrages Walt.
  • Tragic Keepsake: He wears a fake Rolex watch and ring that he got from his late friend Marco.
  • Trash the Set: His last act as an attorney is to literally shred the Constitution-print wallpaper to retrieve caches of money.
  • Vanity License Plate: LWYR UP
  • Villainous Breakdown: He goes through this in 5B. Jesse assaults him having after having found out about Brock, Huell goes missing, and Walter is exposed. Deciding it is too much of a risk, he opts out for a new identity in Nebraska.
  • You Have to Have Jews: Subverted; he's actually an Irish-American whose real name is James McGill, but he uses the name "Saul Goodman" professionally because he believes that criminals will be more likely to hire a Jewish defense attorney.

    Gene Taković 

Gene Taković
"It's — it's a green light..."

After Walter White's disastrous fall and with the help of an identity-eraser, James McGill has been living out his later life as the manager of a Cinnabon in an Omaha mall. Given the past he has chosen to run away from, he becomes an unassumingly-paranoid shell of a man trapped in a drab, monotonous existence, and horrified at the possibility of the authorities or former enemies finding him.

  • Alas, Poor Villain: Saul Goodman was a despicable and amoral lawyer who helped criminals like Walter White and whose actions contributed to dozens of deaths and tragedies for the survivors. Still, it is obvious that the writers portray his fall as a tragedy, highlighting how pathetic and pitiful he became as Gene in his exile. It is even worse when you remember how Jimmy McGill was a good man who foolishly wasted every chance of escaping that fate.
  • Break the Cutie: In contrast with his real identity, there is absolutely nothing left of his cheery, snarky, and larger-than-life attitude as Saul or Jimmy; now, all that remains is a timid, anxious and, frankly, depressed man.
  • Burger Fool: There are worse things than running a Cinnabon. But Better Call Saul makes it look plain miserable. He's not even providing a useful service anymore; just hauling trash and making nauseating sweets for faceless customers.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Every scene with him. The one exception to the black and white scenery is his old VHS tape footage of his days as Saul Goodman.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Implied to be doing this in the cold open of the very first episode. Gene gets home from work and mixes himself a Rusty Nail, with very generous measures of whiskey and Drambuie.
  • Foil: Gene is this to Jesse Pinkman. Both of them were forced to leave their old lives in New Mexico behind and assume new identities, but whereas Jesse is hopeful and finally free to pursue the life he so desperately craved, Gene is stuck in a boring and repetitive loop of existence that has ground him down.
  • He's Back!: At the Season 5 premiere, after being discovered by an intimidating man with obscure purposes, Gene panics and immediately calls Ed Galbraith to get him out of town and give him a new identity. However, during the call, something happens, and it seems that this was the last straw for Gene, who tells Ed that he changed his mind and that he will resolve the situation alone. The kind of declaration you would expect to hear from Walter or Saul, not from Gene.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: From reliable and surprisingly clever lawyer to hypercompetent consigliere of a growing criminal business/empire... to quiet and paranoid manager of a Cinnabon who refuses to associate with anyone.
    • Gene's encounter with Jeff the cab driver has a sinister undercurrent of this. While Jeff introduces himself as a fan, he clearly recognises this local Albuquerque celebrity as someone who is now powerless and vulnerable and ripe for exploitation. Forcing him to croak out his old catchphrase really just rubs more salt in the wound.
  • Gilded Cage: In true slippery Saul fashion, he escapes the events of Breaking Bad with his life, his freedom and his money, which is much more than what Walter and Jesse ended up with. He soon discovers that he can't actually enjoy any of it- he can't spend his millions without arousing suspicion, his local celebrity status means he can't form any meaningful relationships lest anyone recognises him, and his new job as a Cinnabon manager is soul-destroyingly regimented and boring compared to his colourful and exciting old life where he was his own boss and free to be his own man. He is technically free, but depressed, lonely and paranoid with it.
  • The Last Dance: After being discovered by a mysterious taxi driver, he tries to enlist the help of the vacuum repairman one more time... before he gets a determined look in his eyes and tells The Disappearer that he's planning on fixing it himself.
  • The Paranoiac: Trusts nobody to the point of having absolutely no meaningful relationships in Omaha. Even having to recite his social security number is an arduous process. The stress brought on by this may also be a reason for his health problems, as shown in the Cold Opening to "Mabel".
  • Pornstache: "Gene" got rid of his combover and grew a thick mustache to stay under the radar.
  • Properly Paranoid: Gene does have a justified reason to be scared of interacting with anybody, given that he has authorities that could still be looking for him as much as they are for Jesse Pinkman. Not to mention his criminal connections...
  • So Much for Stealth: As a teenage boy is getting arrested for shoplifting, the old instincts kick in and "Gene" bellows at him not to say a word without a lawyer.
  • Soul-Sucking Retail Job: As the manager of Cinnabun.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Considering that the other choice is to be arrested by New Mexico authorities for his close connections to the Heisenberg empire, there's not much else that he could have done for himself.

    Jimmy McGill 

James Morgan "Jimmy" McGill
"Thing you folks need to know about me? I got nothing to lose. Christ, you should see my office."

"I've been trying to be the person someone else wants me to be for... I don't know how long."

Before he became the amoral Saul Goodman, he was Jimmy McGill, a hardworking attorney struggling to make ends meet. He may not have a Cadillac or a degree from an Ivy League university, but Jimmy's buoyant optimism and quick wit make him a forceful champion for his downmarket clients. Jimmy's a legitimate lawyer, an underdog fighting to make a name for himself, but his moral compass and his ambition are often at war with each other.

  • Ambition Is Evil: Anything unsavory he does is motivated by a desire to better his lot. And it backfires on him spectacularly.
  • Amoral Attorney: Zig-zagged. Although we know that Jimmy will eventually become Saul Goodman, he starts out fairly gray. As a former con-man, he's not above using amoral tactics and outright breaking the law to further his career. However, he's often presented opportunities to do something underhanded, or to put his own needs ahead of his client's, but instead takes the high road. His motivations to break the law are sympathetic (stopping the elders from being scammed, preventing a stupid crook who's way over his head from getting killed by the cartel or doing jail time, and gaining fame so he can reach his clientele instead of going bankrupt), but they should have gotten him reprimanded and outright disbarred after a point. Season 2 has him tread down this path further, forging evidence to put the cops off of Daniel Wormald. By Season 5, when he practices as Saul Goodman, he's seen resorting to underhanded tactics to get the obviously guilty freed, such as intentionally inducing a mistrial.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis:
    • Uses a single detail about the crime to deduce the Kettlemans are behind their own kidnapping. The detail? The daughter's beloved doll is missing.
    • A single word gets his major scam-detector jangling when he visits the nursing home: "allowance". Awesomeness ensues as he follows the rest of the trail like a bloodhound.
    • He can guess that someone is a drug dealer and has a thousand dollars hidden in his socks just by looking at him.
  • Anti-Hero: An Unscrupulous Hero for the time being, he's a tad self-centered and fails to completely shake off the sleaze, but also true to himself and a likable enough fellow with usually good intentions and an asset to elder law. Even Chuck admits that for all of Jimmy's flaws, he means well. Seems to be heading into Nominal territory with his insistence on going after Chuck when he's still down through his con on the insurance lady.
  • Anti-Villain: Has shades of Noble Demon with a Well-Intentioned Extremist side dish, has lines he won't cross, such as scamming the elderly — although even then, he scammed the elderly in Season 3 — and has a few morality pets to watch over, such as Kim Wexler. To say his Mesa Verde scam to 'help' Kim was extreme would be like saying tornados are more violent than normal wind.
  • Badass Boast: After talking down Tuco from executing the skateboarders, instead convincing him to break their legs instead:
    Lars: You're the worst lawyer ever!
    Jimmy: Hey, I just talked you down from a death sentence to six months probation. I'm the best lawyer ever.
    • Gets another one in Season 5 when confronting clients that would rather get public defenders over paying him his fees.
    Jimmy: Do you twerps even know who I am? I am Saul Goodman!
  • Badass Pacifist: What else can you call a Non-Action Guy that takes on Tuco with nothing but words and cunning alone? He doubles down when he bluntly calls out Nacho on his stupid strategic mistakes with the Kettlemans leading to him getting caught in response to the latter threatening to kill him for "ratting on him".
  • Bait-and-Switch: Throughout Season 1, there are many nods towards his future as Saul Goodman, such as his clients being obviously guilty and his walking past a Cadillac over to his Suzuki Esteem.
  • Baldness Angst: While Jimmy has some way to go before adopting Saul's trademark combover, that extra-wide Sebastian hair side parting ain't fooling anyone.
    • The promo art for season 1 includes an image of Jimmy worriedly checking out his thinning fringe in the Esteem's wing mirror. Jimmy is also seen doing this while on an outing selling drop phones in "Something Stupid".
    • In "Breathe" he prepares for his job interview at Neff copiers by checking out his appearance and smoothing back his hair. He seems somewhat perturbed when several loose strands come away on his hand.
    • He even projects a bit of this anxiety onto Howard:
    "This place is all you've got - that and your hair, which- let's face it- clock's ticking there too."
  • The Barnum: He slowly morphs into this over the course of the series. His cons start off with little damage, but over time with more heartbreak piling up, he starts caring less about who gets hurt and how. He's a bit more blatant at the start of Season 2, explicitly stating that he won't let doing the right thing hold him back and wanting to abandon being a lawyer in order to con people constantly.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • For all his sleaze and bastardly-ness, Jimmy is very good at pulling these off against everyone. He's not perfect in getting away totally Scott-free, but just how often he does mostly get away with it is telling, given the oddball, and downright dangerous, nature of the jams he finds himself in.
    • He pulls a savage counter-gambit on his brother in court, Jimmy hires Huell to secretly plant a cell phone battery in Chuck's pocket. He then secretly has Chuck dig his own grave when he has him describe his electromagnetic sensitivity in detail — claiming that his body will physically detect any electronic device — before revealing Chuck is carrying the battery, proving that all of Chuck's claims about his condition were either pathological lying or signs of mental illness. Chuck then goes into an enraged tirade against Jimmy in public, basically destroying any credibility as a witness.
  • Because I'm Good at It: Not vocalized, but by the end of Season 1, after having his good intentions and hard work dumped in the garbage, and spending a week working cons with his old buddy, Jimmy decides no, he's not going to play by the rules anymore, he's going to do what he loves doing and does best. In season 2, he tells Kim that he doesn't need to be a lawyer for doing what he likes. The points he listed are all things a con man can do.
  • Being Good Sucks: A lesson Jimmy learns. Over and over... Though some of his bad luck is down to his inability to play by the rules as well.
  • Benevolent Boss: Towards Omar in Season 2 as well as Francesca, praising her for her hard work. A far cry from his Mean Boss harassment tendencies as Saul in Breaking Bad. He does veer into Pointy-Haired Boss territory when hiring Francesca on the spot without checking for other candidates however.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Whenever shit happens to Kim, like getting put in doc review, or getting a client stolen from her by Chuck, it's gloves off for Jimmy.
    • In Season 4, feeling sorry for Chuck after his death or even acknowledging his big brother gradually becomes one for Jimmy, eventually leading to a blazing row with Kim.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Flies off the handle when he realizes Chuck's tape. His schemes can be downright vicious, especially when the person on the receiving end very much deserves it.
  • Big Brother Worship: At the start of the series, he sees Chuck as the smartest man he knows and tries to clean up his act so he can be proud of him. The reveal that his brother repeatedly sabotaged his career as a lawyer and always resented Jimmy for being (in Chuck's eyes) the prodigal son is a devastating blow for Jimmy and the first step toward embracing his Saul Goodman persona.
  • Blood-Splattered Innocents: Gets covered in his would-be executor's neckblood in Bagman.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Well, not a surprise if you've seen Breaking Bad, right?
    • His first appearance in his own show as "Jimmy McGill" is actually an Inversion. He wears a plain suit and actually tries to defend his clients with according conduct. As loud and bombastic as he is, the most he's seen doing is a personable argument and appeal to emotions. Unfortunately, for as straight-laced as his act is, the defendants were decisively guilty before the hearing began. Still, his failing to get a "not guilty" verdict can't be attributed to his skills as a lawyer.
    • Played Straighter in the more general scope of Season 1. While he's just doing public defender work, got his degree from online courses, and operates from the back of a nail salon, he's also shown to have the tenacity and work ethic to see his schemes through, both as a lawyer and as "Slippin' Jimmy".
    • He later dresses in flashy white suits akin to Matlock to appeal to elderly clients. It also doesn't take away from how good he is at elder law.
    • It's got a pretty significant twist in Season 2, however: most of his incredibly, Saulishly bunny-ears traits as a lawyer started getting deliberately invoked, if not outright overblown to bouncy-castle levels (that juicer!), to try getting himself fired, as it turns out.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: As Slippin' Jimmy, despite having intelligence and planning skills rivaling those of his brother Chuck's, he engaged in lots of short-term cons, doing just enough work to keep himself in beer and weed money, something he backslides into for a short while at the end of Season 1 and the beginning of Season 2.
    • It's Played With in his identity as Jimmy McGill, Esq. Jimmy will happily put hours of work and extensive planning into doing things his own way, but he still wants success to come quickly and inevitably stops trying to do things the right way in favor of seeking immediate gratification. More generally, whenever he's presented with a legitimate opportunity, his first impulse is to bend the rules and take shortcuts even though more patient, meticulous work would create fewer complications for himself. Essentially, Jimmy has plenty of short-term work ethic and can even keep a scam going for quite awhile if he enjoys it, but he lacks the sort of patience and perseverance needed to build a solid, dependable career. This is shown most clearly during the year after he is suspended by the bar and Kim is injured; Jimmy goes for the quick buck with his phone scam and keeps getting into trouble with criminals and the police, while Kim patiently builds a career that offers her job security and personal fulfillment. As the show goes on, Jimmy's own chronic inability to do things patiently and legitimately starts to undermine him personally and professionally as well.
  • Broken Pedestal: Jimmy always looked up to Chuck, respecting him for his being the responsible sibling and bailing him out as a lawyer. Working in HHM's mailroom in return, Chuck is one of the biggest reasons for Jimmy choosing to become a lawyer, thinking he'd be proud throughout season 1. The revelation that Chuck was sabotaging Jimmy's career the whole time ripped out most of the respect Jimmy had for the man, eventually losing all of it with the taping of his confession and being told that he never mattered to Chuck when he tried to make amends with the man. As a result, his grief and mourning process after Chuck's death is complicated. Jimmy eventually goes on to ignore Chuck's influence on his career and abandons the McGill name.
  • Brutal Honesty: When dealing with Nacho. And, later on, with Howard.
  • Cain and Abel: Jimmy and Chuck's relationship and rivalry is an underlying the theme for the entire series. It's up to you to figure out which brother is which. It's arguably a Deconstructed Trope given the emphasis on how psychologically damaged this rivalry leaves both McGill brothers, as well as the way both "Cain" and Abel" sink to similar depths over the course of the show.
  • The Cassandra: In regards to the Kettlemans faking their own kidnapping.
  • Catchphrase: "Let's get down to brass tacks here."
  • The Charmer: As Jimmy tells the skateboarding twins in "Uno": "When he strolled down the street, all the corner boys would give him the high five. All the finest babes would smile at him and hope that he would smile back. They called him "slippin' Jimmy," and everybody wanted to be his friend." This isn't just an idle boast- we have seen his easy charm in action enough times, and we know he was married twice before winning the heart of Kim Wexler. This crosses over into The Casanova in "Marco", during a sleazy episode in which he convinces a woman he is Kevin Costner in order to sleep with her.
    • He is a charmer toward elderlies, in particular. Sure, it's predominantly to sell his service; but, he is really nice to them and they are clearly glad to see him. That he genuinely cares more than most comes across about as loud as his Lovable Rogue-ness does. This gets horrifically deconstructed when he's able to charm the elderlies into turning against Irene so as to pressure her into settling the Sandpiper case early, speeding up Jimmy's pay day.
    Jimmy: FYI, old people adore me.
  • Chronic Villainy: An Invoked Trope. Chuck sees Jimmy as an addict who just can't stop conning people or looking for a quick score. He is right, as Jimmy believes he can play loose with the law to get results and doesn't seem to see the problem.
  • Character Development: He genuinely wanted to reform, but after too many heartbreaks, he realized he wanted to reform for other people's sake — first Chuck, then Kim — but being a crook is one of the few things he truly enjoys. There are many situations in the early episodes where Jimmy could have taken shortcuts to get rich fast, but wanted to do the moral thing instead; in later episodes, he forced his Benevolent Boss to fire him with his bonus by being a pain in the ass and threaten to ruin a military man's career over a commercial.
    • His style also changes accordingly across the series. Starting with brown and black conservative suits expected of a lawyer, he dresses in more showy clothing to attract certain clients. His commercials began with professional quality, but over time grew into the corner-cutting style we're more familiar with.
  • Character Tics: Will often put his hands out and move them up and down when trying to make a point.
  • Con Men Hate Guns: Gets freaked out by guns, most noticeably in 'Bagman' when he picks up one of the cartel's guns but clearly doesn't know what to do with it and promptly throws it back with a look of horror. This continues in Breaking Bad—when Saul Goodman eventually caves in and gets a gun, it is the tiniest one imaginable, and he hides it in a desk drawer rather than keeping it to hand.
  • Consummate Liar: He is a natural at grade-A bullshitting.
  • Contrasting Sequel Main Character: Of Walter White.
    • Jimmy and Walt have both wasted potential due to silly choices they made in life. A big difference is that while Walt builds his criminal empire through pride and self-delusion that he has it under control, Jimmy builds his career by embracing the truth, and the truth is that no matter how hard he tries to do otherwise, at heart he always will be Slippin' Jimmy.
    • It goes deeper. Where Walt would try to use moral excuses to justify his amoral actions, Jimmy tries to convince himself that his moral actions are being done only for the sake of himself.
    • Walt's defining flaw for most of the series is his selfishness, and his inability to look past his own satisfaction in favor of treating others like pawns and foisting blame and responsibility on others. On the other hand, especially early on, Jimmy's problem is that he's too selfless, and he stretches himself to the breaking point for others and does terrible things to save those around him.
    • Walt spent his series building something and desperately holding onto his family and friends. Jimmy can't help but destroy every good thing that everyone wants him to have, including his opportunities, relationships, and career.
    • Walt is surrounded by family and friends who genuinely care for him and are all rooting for him to survive his cancer- hell, even his ex-girlfriend is prepared to see their past as water under the bridge and stump up the cash for his treatment. In return, Walt's Pride leads him to throw their generosity back in their faces. Jimmy on the other hand has lost his parents, his childhood best friend and his brother, and his pleas for support from his brother were all cruelly denied. His Only Friend in the world is Kim Wexler, and as she doesn't appear in Breaking Bad he may well end up losing her too.
    Jimmy McGill: "My brother is sick! And he's alone! I spent years caring for him, and now he hates me! He's the only family I got left, and he hates me! He hates my guts!"
    Walter White (responding to Gretchen's offer to fund his cancer treatment): "Fuck you."
    • Walt is cold and emotionless and, as confirmed by Word of God, an actual sociopath. Jimmy is much more emotional and empathetic. He may not always be the nicest character, but when his actions hurt innocent people, or people he cares about, he actually does feel guilty and will at least try and make things right as shown with the Season 3 finale. He also has something of a Berserk Button for people who hurt or upset Kim.
    • Walt is a Bad Liar who comes out with elaborate and implausible excuses to try and cover up his criminal activity, utterly failing to fool Skyler. Jimmy is a Consummate Liar so skilled at bullshitting that he has managed to build an entire career around it. Notably, Saul is never threatened with arrest and is the only member of Heisenberg's empire to successfully flee Albuquerque before the DEA cotton on to his involvement in Walt's meth operation.
    • Walt and Jimmy both adopt alter-egos for their criminal enterprises, but while Walt chooses "Heisenberg" because he wants everyone to know how intelligent and badass he is and he craves notoriety, Jimmy develops the more clownish "Saul Goodman" persona because he wants people to underestimate him and he wants to keep his criminal activity under wraps.
    • Walt was an okay-ish guy trying to be a bad guy, and succeeds. Jimmy is a former bad guy trying to be a good guy, and fails a lot of the time, but is a lot more Affably Evil compared to Walt's Faux Affably Evil nature towards Skyler. He also takes less pleasure in his revenge towards his opponents, especially Chuck, whilst Walt is more vindictive.
    • Walt's journey had him apply the chemistry skills he used to make major breakthroughs for science into cooking meth, while Jimmy's story has him take his skills as a conman into a lawyer's world. Both characters adapt their abilities into new professions with impactful results, but Walt goes from a legitimate career into a criminal one while Jimmy wants to transition from criminality into professional work.
  • Crocodile Tears: Being Prone to Tears means he can use this to great effect. He does so when he is temporarily disbarred and attempts to negotiate a refund from his malpractice insurance provider. As he pours his heart out to the clerk about his recent misfortunes, his genuine tears give way to fake ones after he mentions caring for his sick brother and decides to really run with the mental illness angle. As he leaves the office, his tears give way to a Psychotic Smirk, revealing that it was all an act:HHM use the same insurance provider and by informing them they have been holding back the truth about Chuck's mental health he has just intentionally torpedoed Chuck's career.
  • Cynicism Catalyst:
    • Jimmy declares that he will not let "doing the right thing" get in his way again after the death of one of his friends, Marco, which hit him even harder because it came at the heels of his seemingly-trustworthy brother secretly holding him back because he doesn't trust Jimmy to be an honest lawyer.
    • The end of Season 3 offered another turning point to Jimmy's outlook with Chuck's suicide.
    • Season 4 presented the gradual disintegration of his relationship with Kim as the final nail in the coffin, which leads him to con the bar association (and Kim in the process) into reinstating his law license by invoking the memory of his dead brother, and deciding to no longer practice under his own name immediately afterwards.
  • David Versus Goliath: Has a habit of jumping into these situations. Guess which role he usually gets to play.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Like we're even a little surprised...
  • Death Seeker: Not usually, but he shows signs of this during a very low point. His plan to take out a gunman looking for him is to attract him to a point where Mike can snipe the guy; on the surface, it seems like it's a case of Heroic Second Wind, but he also mutters "Come on" and closes his eyes as the gunman's car is moments away from running over him. It's not clear if he's talking to Mike aiming for the car or the driver.
  • Determinator:
    • In "Bingo" Mike and Jimmy conspire to return the Kettlemans' stolen funds to the state. As it all has to be accounted for, Jimmy also has to surrender the Kettlemans' bribe. Jimmy had planned to spend the money on a palatial office space, hoping to establish himself as a more respectable lawyer and impress Kim. Now forced to abandon his ambitious plans, he takes one last look at the office he can no longer afford, throws a brief tantrum and breaks into tears. And then he picks himself up and answers the next client calling.
    • He WILL find proof that Sandpiper is bilking its residents, even if it means dumpster-diving into a pile of soiled adult diapers to get the evidence. Even if all the evidence is actually in the recycling bin right next to it.
    • After escaping the wrath of an Ax-Crazy kingpin he unwittingly crossed, Jimmy goes back to save the two idiots who threw him under the bus earlier — they're his clients, after all.
    • In "Bagman", Jimmy winds up exhausted, sunburned and dehydrated, with nothing to drink except a bottle of his own piss, and seems ready to abandon all hope of escaping the desert alive. He announces "I'm done!" and lies on the ground, seemingly awaiting the sweet release of death. Then after Mike takes out the one surviving attacker Jimmy gets a second wind, takes a big swig from his bottle of piss and picks himself up, now determined to make it home to Kim.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Jimmy is noticeably shocked when Kim suggests framing Howard at the end of Season Five as the way of getting the money she feels they deserve.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Has this as a main flaw; he often has clever ideas that backfire on him because he forgot to account for one very obvious detail that would've stopped him if he'd thought it over for just a minute.
  • Dirty Coward: Bails out of Davis and Main for fear of losing his bonus as opposed to doing the honorable thing and staying on for the rest of the year. Averted when showing Nerves of Steel up against Tuco.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Okay, so Howard and Chuck take Kim's clients back; the best way to retaliate is to conduct a forgery scheme to throw all of HHM into chaos and humiliate them.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?:
    • He rants about this to Howard when he brings HHM the case of a lifetime and still can't get a job with them. Unfortunately, the roadblock he should be mouthing off at is Chuck...
    • In Season 4, his attempt to get out of his suspension with the Bar Association ends up unsuccessful, as they determined his interview to be insincere for not including a single mention of Chuck. When they meet up after, he rants with Kim about how people like them and Chuck will never forgive him for his checkered past and will always try to keep him down, and it spurns him into accepting the sleazy perception everyone has of him.
      Kim: Jimmy, you are always down.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Worriedly taking his time in a court bathroom practicing his speech to the jury, pacing around anxiously and quietly talking to himself. He then enters the courtroom confidently and does a stellar job at defending his clients. He loses the case anyway, but only because his clients were monumentally, unforgivably stupid.
    • The pilot offers another one later. When Jimmy can't get the Kettlemans as clients because they see him as "the kind of lawyer guilty people hire," his first move is to try to force them to retain his services with an elaborate con. It demonstrates both his barely suppressed past identity as Slippin' Jimmy and his need for immediate success and gratification.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: After getting sent to jail for doing a Chicago Sunroof, he used his free call to cry and break down to his mom. Later, he joined Chuck in visiting the hospital when she was drawing her last breaths.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • As immoral as he becomes, Jimmy never stops trying to be a good boyfriend and later husband to Kim.
    • Before The Reveal, he always respected his older brother, especially after Chuck miraculously worked his legal expertise to bail him out. The incident inspired him to stave off being "Slippin' Jimmy" in both the mailroom and as a lawyer to make him proud.
    • Despite growing resentful of his father for being a pushover for grifters, Chuck notes that nobody cried at their father's funeral harder than Jimmy. Also, during his arrest for the "Chicago Sunroof", Chuck comments how Jimmy bawled over the phone with their mother, who then called him in.
  • Everyone Has Standards: In general, Jimmy refuses to go after people who don't consent to get involved. For example:
    • Jimmy does not want kids involved in his business. One of his worst moments was when he defecated through a sunroof of a car, not knowing that kids were inside, and is willing to turn his life around to avoid things like that from happening.
    • Smarming business (for things they may not desperately need in the here-now, for all they will get both attention and value with him down the line) out of the elderly is one thing. But Sandpiper's industrial-sized, naked, and outright neglectful scamming of them to the point where they can barely afford anything extra in their lives at all ground his gears when he found out about it. Heck, targeting people who really can't afford the loss bugs the hell out of him in general, but this broke the scale. In fact, this seems to carry into Breaking Bad, since there seem to be a lot of elderly people in his waiting room at different points, suggesting that even after he becomes Saul, he still dabbles in elder law.
    • After deliberately getting fired from a promising legal job in order to keep his bonus, Jimmy feels some regret after it's pointed out that he was given a great opportunity and was hardly mistreated before he started playing fast and loose.
    • It may have been pretty cruel of Jimmy to gaslight Chuck, but even he's genuinely horrified upon seeing Chuck collapse and hit his head on the table.
    • Jimmy absolutely refuses to ever take or give handouts, given how he saw his father get used by grifters.
    • In Season 5, he's appalled at Lalo's murder of Fred Whalen and vents his frustration over the situation he's gotten into with Mike.
    • While he doesn't mind hurting people financially or mentally, physical violence makes him wince. He's visibly shaken after Tuco cripples 2 men in front of him, and an ambush that almost gets him killed before Mike bloodily dissolves the situation with a sniper leaves him in a state of shock.
    • For all his increasingly mean behaviour towards Howard, he thinks Kim's plan to sabotage his career is a bit much.
  • Evil Is Petty:
    • Now broke thanks to his practice being shuttered, and learning that the premiums for his malpractice insurance will go up when his suspension finally ends, Jimmy decides to spread the misery by making sure that the insurance company goes after Chuck when Chuck is already down. It's the first time in the series where we are expected not to side with Jimmy, as it's Jimmy's turn to be the petty one, not Chuck.
    • After Chuck kills himself, Jimmy starts acting like a complete dick to Howard for very little reason. In season 5, Howard at one point sincerely asks if Jimmy would like to be the new McGill in HHM - for this, Jimmy wrecks his car, tries to ruin his reputation by hiring two prostitutes to make a scene during a public meeting, and then gaslights the hell out of him when finally called out on it.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Kim had to explain to him that you don't build fake evidence and even less talk about it. Chuck says that in a twisted way, Jimmy thinks he is doing good, since his con doesn't have an obvious undeserving victim.
  • Evil Virtues: Jimmy's not the most ethical person ever, but damn it if he is not creative, tenacious, determined, resourceful, and stunningly loyal to a load of oddballs. It takes an awful lot of kicking to get him to turn on somebody he cares about, whatever their morality might be.
    Jimmy: This is sounding like a lot of work.
    Chuck: No one ever accused you of being lazy. Every other sin in the book, but not that one.
  • Face–Heel Turn: What will ultimately become of him once he fully embraces his 'Saul Goodman' persona, becoming an Amoral Attorney involved in a crystal meth empire. Subverted in that he had his Saul Goodman persona before moving to New Mexico and was trying to clean up his act after almost being registered as a sex offender. After too many heartbreaks, he goes back to being Saul Goodman, but this time with a law degree.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: In the beginning, absolutely nothing seems to go right for Jimmy. We later find out that Chuck actively stacked the deck against him, so there's a reason beyond Ex-Con Syndrome. Although, that certainly doesn't help.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job:
    • When Jimmy has been disbarred, Jimmy begins to conduct TV commercials. He is a natural talent on it.
    • Jimmy's job at CC Mobile, a retail job at a location that he describes as "deader than disco".
    • The job at Neff Copiers would also have been beneath him. This is Lampshaded by Mr Neff at his interview: "I see you used to be a lawyer..."
  • Fatal Flaw:
    • His need for showmanship and Greed for going for the quick score leads to some very Wrong Genre Savvy decisions and ultimately costs him his cushy job at Davis and Main. This also leads to his nasty Batman Gambit with Irene. The showmanship element also leads to a serious row with Kim halfway through Season 5.
    • His impulsiveness, as Jimmy often doesn't quite think through the long-term effects of his short-term gratifying actions. In other words, a good tactician, but a weak strategist. Case in point, in Season 3, despite Kim's advice to stay calm and wait to see what Chuck does with the tape recording of Jimmy's confession, Jimmy rushes over to Chuck's house to destroy the tape. In doing so, Jimmy basically implicates himself in breaking and entering, destruction of private property, and potential assault, all according to how Chuck predicted Jimmy would act.
  • Foil:
    • To Walter White; as a protagonist, Jimmy is a man with a good heart buried under crooked schemes, who is forced again and again onto the low ground. Walter White is a man from an average upstanding life with a dark side, who repeatedly refused to take the moral path out of pride.
      • It goes a step further. Both characters are seen to gradually devolve into a criminal version of themselves over the course of each show. Walter makes a clear, defined choice very early on to enter the criminal world and accepts his criminal undertaking right from the beginning. What he doesn't and cannot accept (until the end) is his justification for doing it. He constantly lies to himself and tells himself it's for his family, but in the end, Walter finally admits that ultimately he was doing it for himself and to have some success and power in his lost love of chemistry. Jimmy, on the other hand, doesn't accept his decision to enter into the criminal world and is in constant denial of that fact. Whereas Walter says "Yes, I am a criminal, but I'm doing it for my family", Jimmy is the opposite in saying "No, I'm not a criminal, but maybe I don't do things for the best reasons." Whereas Walter takes power and strength in his illicit activities, for Jimmy it is more like a guilty pleasure. Whereas Walter chooses to call himself Heisenberg right from the beginning when he is essentially still a high school teacher, it takes Jimmy four seasons of illicit activities to admit he prefers working as Saul Goodman.
    • To Chuck. Both brothers are skilled as lawyers, but what differs is where their personalities affect them most: Jimmy is a good person at heart when off-duty, but he's an Amoral Attorney. Chuck is a good, honest lawyer on-duty, but is a dishonest, judgmental person behind the scenes. Jimmy is Nice to the Waiter and offers Omar a drink as well as money on top (which Omar politely refuses), whilst Chuck straight-up fires Ernesto once he's no longer useful to him.
    • By Season 4, he's clearly one to Kim, as she spends the nine months following her car accident and his disbarment figuring out how to keep her lucrative job with Mesa Verde while doing the fulfilling legal work she wanted to, while he falls back into cheap con games and seems to believe that he and Kim will go right back to the way things were before his license was suspended, right down to the side-by-side offices and Wexler-Mc Gill logo. She responds to misfortune by growing as a person, while he stagnates.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: The Foolish to Chuck's Responsible. Jimmy is working his tail off to rise above his crooked past, though. And Chuck is secretly undermining Jimmy's struggle, believing him unworthy of practicing law, and angered by the shortcuts Jimmy has taken along the way.
  • Forced to Watch: He tries not looking at the skateboarders getting their legs broken, but Nacho non-verbally tells him to look.
  • Foreshadowing: In Jimmy's first scene, he delivers a brilliant closing statement, full of honesty, charm, and the signature Slippin' Jimmy razzle-dazzle, all in the service of a good cause. He fails horribly because his clients did something so reprehensible it's impossible to overlook their transgressions. Jimmy's hard work, skills, and good deeds being brought low by other people's pettiness and self-sabotage will be a running theme of his series.
  • Freudian Excuse: When he was little, Jimmy had to help his father at their family business while Chuck was out making something of himself. While he did, he watched his father get repeatedly scammed by drifters due to his good nature.
  • Gaslighting: Does this a lot to Chuck. In season 5, he starts doing this to Howard.
  • Go-to Alias: Before he adopted it as his professional name, "Saul Goodman" was the name Jimmy would give whenever he didn't want to reveal his identity.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: It's implied that Jimmy is extremely bitter about the success of all those around him while he himself suffers the indignity of being pretty much paid by the hour. Then came The Reveal.
  • Guile Hero:
    • Displays Nerves of Steel and great resourcefulness when he manages to talk Tuco into sparing the lives of his two captives.
    • Despite being a down-on-his-luck loser with minimal contacts and resources, he still manages to play cops and criminals of all stripes like two-dollar banjos with nothing but fast thinking and even faster talking when Nacho is arrested.
  • His Own Worst Enemy:
    • Jimmy is a terrible self-saboteur. While he would have everyone believe that he wants to put his criminal past behind him and make an honest living, and would have done so if only outside forces hadn't conspired against him, he is actually given numerous opportunities to reform and still manages to screw them all up. In season 2 he gets the best job he's ever had, with a chance to become a name partner at a big law firm, only to deliberately get himself fired when he objects to (perfectly reasonable) attempts to discipline him. In season 4 he petulantly rejects a job offer and insults the interviewers because they remind him of his father and the numerous marks he has pulled scams on.
    • Jimmy's impulsiveness also gets in the way of his success. There are many occasions where he could have avoided getting into trouble if only he had just taken the time to think things through. Examples include airing the unauthorised Davis & Main commercial instead of waiting a day to run it by Clifford Main, and getting arrested and temporarily disbarred for breaking down Chuck's front door and destroying the tape of his confession, all because he hadn't stopped to realise that Chuck couldn't actually have used it against him.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: One of Jimmy's tragic flaws. He works hard when he needs to and is very intelligent, but he's always too aware of how much easier it would be to cut a few corners to get where he wants to go. In the legal profession, this can create a lot of opportunities and also a lot of problems.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: What Jimmy's career usually gets on top of his manfully trying to practice the straight and narrow(ish) way, despite his own baseline instincts undermining him: repeatedly. When it's not directly due to fallout caused by his own decision to cut corners giving weight to the swinging of the door, it's others slamming him in the face. The Kettlemans do it by insulting him and turning him down for rather petty, cosmetic reasons. Howard ostensibly did it when he tried to leave the mailroom (he didn't have to be quite such a prick about it, either). But, by far the worst and most terminal is what Chuck does with the regular doses of slow poison. Is it any surprise that Jimmy gives up on the straight dream and goes all Dark Side turning into an Honest Saul?
    • In "Lantern", he patches things up with everyone, apologizes for scamming the elderly, and seems to be on the road to redemption... and then his brother kills himself.
  • Heel–Face Turn: He was a real slimeball as Slippin' Jimmy, but agreed to turn his life around if his genius lawyer brother got him out of serving prison time.
  • Heel Realisation: Jimmy has had several of these in his time. And, he's honestly tried to change his ways. But, time and again, he backslides. One time you can see him wince and realise he's gone way too far is when he realises just how badly his wish to score the big one (and stick it to his brother) has impacted Irene and her friends in Sand Piper. He goes out of his way to, if not fix things, than at least give them a face-saving, sellable narrative they can move forward together as friends on. While deliberately painting himself as nothing but that no-good rogue, Saul Goodman, in the process. Specifically to help them as a group.
  • Heroic BSoD: Spends most of the Season 4 premiere in a depressed funk, barely saying anything, after learning about his indirect role in Chuck's death.
  • Heroic Second Wind: In Bagman, Jimmy is ready to lay down and die when a brutal trek in the desert goes From Bad to Worse. Mike lifts him out of his torpor by telling him the reason he does what he does, the reason he has to survive. Jimmy perhaps realizing the same applies to him, gets to his feet and gives a rare but unquestionable display of courage by intentionally getting the attention of the lone gunman so that Mike can shoot him off-guard. And even though the gambit fails (in the sense that, while the gunman was killed, they now can't use his car to leave the desert), he picks himself up and continues the long trek home with no more complaints.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Despite his lovable coward persona, Jimmy can be pretty hardcore when he needs to be.
    • On a lighter note, his work on his pre-Saul Goodman commercials shows that he's surprisingly competent as a director; churning out something of professional quality with only a student film crew and guerilla shooting tactics. He also knows a lot of film jargon, suggesting he's done his research on the medium and isn't just a natural at it.
  • High-School Hustler: His Slippin' Jimmy days reach all the way to his youth. Chuck accuses Jimmy of swapping the numbers on Mesa Verde's address in his documents and cites the times when Jimmy would forge fake ID's for students for underage drinking using the same method.
  • Hypocrite: He admittedly does cross into this from time to time.
    • He's annoyed that he can't get ahead being a lawyer, and that Howard won't hire him at HMM. Then Howard and Kim help him land a better lawyer position than he could have ever reasonably hoped for. What does he do? Make a huge error in judgment, then decide almost immediately that he doesn't like it there, and act like a complete jackass so he gets fired but gets to keep his signing bonus.
    • He can't stand how spiteful and cruel Chuck is towards him. He thinks Chuck is being immature and feels he's being treated unfairly. After Chuck's suicide, what does he do? Let Howard think he's to blame. And that is not counting the bullying campaign he did to Irene that looks like Alpha Bitch material for high school dramas.
    • His outrage at Sandpiper skimming from the elderly is quite hollow when, needing the case to settle, he decides to have an elderly woman ocstracized by her group of friends just so he can get paid. In this case, it demonstrates just how far his morals have dropped since the first season.
  • Hollywood Tone-Deaf: In "Winner", his attempt to sing the titular 'Winner Takes it All' is painful. Given that he was trying to convince Chuck to get up and sing the entire time, it's entirely possible that he was intentionally invoking this so Chuck would sing in his place.
  • I Have Many Names: As his nature as a conman, Jimmy adopts several aliases when dealing with his marks. One of the most prominent ones happens to be "Saul."
  • Innocently Insensitive:
    • For someone who is so good at reading people, Jimmy is either completely oblivious to how uncomfortable (and upset) telling blood-sucking lawyer jokes to his brother's wife seemed to make Chuck, or he's doing it on purpose.
    • He has no idea that he ended up insulting Kim along with the Bar Association. When she tells him that he made her the sucker again, Jimmy asks what she means by "again."
  • In-Series Nickname: Before Saul Goodman, he was known around his hometown as "Slippin' Jimmy." There's also Howard calling him "Charlie Hustle" thanks to his hard work.
  • Insecure Love Interest: To Kim, in that he often worries that Kim is attracted to him for his bad boy lifestyle and not because she seems him as relationship material to settle down with. This is especially emphasised in 'Wiedersehen", and the argument nearly ruins their relationship outright.
  • It's All About Me: To a fair extent, yes, but not to his brother's levels at least. As Chuck puts it, he will genuinely feel bad about hurting people for his own gain, but only after the deed is done, and he will redo it again if it is at his advantage.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Jimmy will break laws and disrespect a lot of lawyer's basic ethics, but it's easy to see where he is coming from.
    • His early feud with Howard is childish and his billboard stunt borders illegality, but Howard telling him to not use his last name to avoid confusion with his firm is unfair.
    • Controversially, his Davis and Main commercial is an example, because there is absolutely no chance Davis and Main would have attracted any clients to the Sandpiper case with the boring advert they only have on at 2 am in the morning.
    • Although he committed a felony when doctoring the Mesa Verde addresses, he does have a point that Chuck's hard on to catch him for petty reasons is unhealthy. Jimmy is a criminal but hardly one worth dying over.
    • He may be an Ungrateful Bastard for all the times Kim has bailed him out of trouble, but Jimmy rightly calls out Kim for exploiting his Slipping Jimmy side for cheap thrills
    • When he suggests Kim to con her client into accepting a deal instead of trying for an unlikely acquittal. While the client has the final say, Jimmy is right that what the client says could ruin his and his pregnant girlfriend's life and would help nobody.
    • Although going behind Kim's back when producing the Mesa Verde commercial was downright naughty, it doesn't change the fact that Kim has Plausible Deniability protection from both Rick and Kevin when the latter is tricked into watching the video.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: If he gets you into trouble, he tries his damndest to get you out. And, if he cares about you, he'll fight for you. In his own way, and even if you don't agree. But there are limits. He does mean well and is not quite as jerky as he will wind up being as Saul. Yet.
  • Kick the Dog: In order to get fired so he can keep his bonus, he makes Davis & Main's office a living hell, culminating to him playing bagpipe in his office. While funny, this was a complete dick move on a law firm that was more than accommodating toward him. The only silver lining is that it wasn't prolonged compared to Chuck's actions.
    • It's pointed out that Jimmy's forgery of the Mesa Verde documents hurt not only Mesa Verde and its employees by delaying their plans to open a new branch office, but also Howard and HHM as a whole, all in the name of his own conflict with Chuck. After screwing up at Davis & Main (a job that Howard helped him get) and then outright humiliating both him personally and his firm, Howard understandably seems furious and betrayed. However, Howard arguably started it by misleading Chuck that Jimmy and Kim were working together to "steal" Mesa Verde, even though those clients are Kim's by right, as she did do the legwork in bringing them on board whilst working for HHM.
    • He threatens to ruin Bauer's military career if he doesn't let him keep his commercial, blaming him for being fooled by Jimmy the same way the Grifter from his flashback blamed his father's gullibility for his behavior.
    • Further in Season 3, Jimmy starts brusquely dismissing all suggestions to help or pity Chuck and deliberately tries to sabotage his legal career in vengeance. The reason this example qualifies as this trope as well as Kick the Son of a Bitch is because Chuck is already incapacitated after his Anti-Villainous Breakdown in court, so Jimmy relentlessly going after him comes across as overkill to say the least.
    • You thought that was bad, try manipulating the elderly so that they turn on Irene just so Jimmy can make loads of money and Irene becomes a social pariah through no fault of her own. Not so much Kick the Dog as smashing the Moral Event Horizon! He realises what he's done and fixes his mistake in next episode.
    • When Howard indirectly reveals how Jimmy getting HHM in dutch with the insurance company over Chuck's mental problems triggered Chuck's relapse and suicide and blames himself for what happened, Jimmy quickly deflects blame and piles on the guilt onto Howard. Kim is visibly shocked when he does it.
    • He only goes further with his mistreatment of Howard in season 5, not only still blaming him for the spoiler but also going out of his way to make his life miserable and to ruin his reputation.
  • Kick the Morality Pet:
    • Unknowingly does this in the Season 4 finale. He and Kim plan for him to read Chuck's letter to the Bar Association to convince them to reinstate him, and he abandons that plan to improvise and fake mourning for sympathy. She's ready to thank him for being genuine about Chuck, but then he calls everyone who believed the scene he played suckers. He revels in how one particular member was brought to tears, which she also did.
    • In Season 5, he goes behind Kim's back regarding their plans to handle Mesa Verde and continues with the pile-up of potential legal issues to pressure Kevin into giving Mr. Acker his land. He did it so that Kim would be caught off-guard and angered at the meeting, allowing her plausible deniability if Rich Schweikart and anyone else would suspect her of sabotaging the bank. She tells him upfront that she's been made the sucker again.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: When on his good behaviour, he tends to target the greedy or the obnoxious in his con games:
    • He scams Ken Wins and would have made an attempt at the Kettlemans had the skateboarders and Tuco not fucked him over.
    • Gaslighting his older brother was quite naughty, but his brother did steer the Mesa Verde clients from Kim in an underhanded way to spite Jimmy.
    • Not a con but he gets in Chuck's face and threatens him for breaching Jimmy's trust.
    • Starts fighting back truly against his brother in Season 3 when his back is against the wall. He gets Mike to bust out a power drill as part of his handyman to do the repair work. Naturally, this results in Chuck running away to the upper floor. You have to also imagine Jimmy told Mike to bring the loudest drill he could possibly find.
    • His Staged Pedestrian Accident against the two obnoxious music store owners wasn't exactly his greatest sin.
    • Neither was threatening to sue the community service supervisor for being a Mean Boss.
    • Even though his insurance scam targeting Chuck was overkill, the latter was still a complete Ungrateful Bastard towards Jimmy uncovering the Sandpiper case and looking after him all those years.
    • Calculatedly intimidating the nasty street youths who mugged him in Season 4
  • Lovable Rogue: Very much. Jimmy may have been a crook and conman before trying to clean his act up, but even then, you get the impression that he was always affable with it. And, he tried not to fleece those who, in his mind, couldn't afford it (also a sound business/ beer money move). All in all, at different points of his life, he's shifted the weight between "lovable" and "rogue" without being able to fully drop either. Even when he's tried to go straight.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Even before becoming a full-fledged Amoral Attorney, he is a stone-cold prodigy at manipulating people. His big hurdle is his air of desperation and a lack of credentials. Hell, he is even trying to get his brother back to form by dropping off case files for "storage", fully knowing he would go through them. This ends up being a problem: his manipulations can get him outright disbarred if they're found out... and, he genuinely doesn't seem to understand that this is an unnegotiable fact. The show increasingly hints that Jimmy can't stop manipulating people, even people he cares about, in various ways. His fraud with the Mesa Verde documents puts Kim in the unenviable position of either protecting him from Chuck or losing her career as a solo legal practitioner, for example. Chuck may be right when notes that Jimmy "has a good heart, but he can't help himself."
  • Motor Mouth: His tongue is his weapon and he wields it well and has many gears to use.
    Tuco: Wow. You got a mouth on you.
    Jimmy: Thank you?
  • The Movie Buff: He's made a reference to one movie or another at least Once an Episode so far.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • When he realises his attempts to fix Irene's friendship with the other elderlies due to the mess he created are failing, he ultimately goes through with a Zero-Approval Gambit and comes clean.
    • In "JMM", seeing Fred's (the clerk Lalo killed in season 4) family on the verge of tears in Lalo's court session clearly does something to Jimmy.
  • Nice Guy: In Season 1, he's a caring and kind-hearted man compared to the Jerk with a Heart of Gold we all know and love in Breaking Bad, more than willing to save two knobhead skateboarders even though it went against his personal interests to do so, as Tuco had let him go.
    • He more and more often slides into solid Jerkass territory in subsequent seasons however, especially as his feud with Chuck escalates. By season 5, it's getting very difficult to argue he's still one, to the point where Howard arguably suits this trope more than Jimmy does by this point.
  • Nerves of Steel: Which prove to be an invaluable asset when talking Tuco down.
  • Never My Fault: Jimmy has obsessively vivisected and restructured the Chicago Sunroof incident that he believes destroyed his idyllic existence as conman "Slipping Jimmy", putting all the blame squarely on "Chet" for supposedly tinting the windows of his car too heavily and for leaving his kids in said car unattended. His only iotas of remorse regarding his accidental defecting on two children lie in how he was caught and how the act itself was rather vulgar. He even has the audacity to attribute some poetic irony to what he confessed to be a crime of vengeful, shortsighted impulse.
    Jimmy McGill: The guy wanted some soft serve, I gave him some soft serve.
  • Non-Action Guy: Though he makes up for it with sheer bravery, such as in the episode where he successfully talked Tuco down from executing two skaters who made him angry. Downplayed in that whilst he sucks in a fight he's physically fit enough to run away from the nasty street youths who mugged him in the episode before, at least enough to lead them into his trap.
  • Nothing Personal: After spending an extended period of time making life at Davis and Main miserable in order to get Cliff Main to fire him, when Cliff finally does it, Jimmy tries to say this and that he considers Cliff a good man and boss. By that point, Cliff is far too furious at Jimmy to go for it, and tells Jimmy off:
    Jimmy McGill: "For what it's worth, I think you're a good guy."
    Clifford Main: For what it's worth, I think you're an asshole."
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: On the wrong end of this trope when Chuck refuses to let him into HHM despite bringing them the case of a lifetime. Bear in mind it was only after doing all the hard work (including diving into dumpsters with soiled diapers) that Jimmy suggested that HHM consider hiring him, not because of nepotistic reasons.
  • Not Quite the Right Thing:
    • Despite the friction between them, it's clear that Jimmy puts in a lot of time and effort caring for Chuck. Unfortunately, he spends more time caring for his brother the way Chuck dictates, rather than face the fact it's not actually helping. Even when outright told that psychiatric evaluation and a therapy plan needs to be done, he shies away from committing Chuck to get it because it upsets his brother, and him, to even contemplate it.
    • His attempts at doing the right thing usually involve illegal activities and Kim has to tell him to stop telling her about them because she will have to denounce him. For example, instead of coming clean with the Kettlemans' bribe he does the "right thing" of stealing their money, blackmailing them into taking Kim's deal, and handing over his share of the bribe with none the wiser.
  • Obviously Not Fine: Jimmy is horribly prone to this:
    • In "Marco" he assures Kim that Chuck's revelation that it was him blocking Jimmy's appointment to HHM hasn't affected him. He then proceeds to have a very public breakdown while hosting a bingo game.
    • In "Witness" Kim and Jimmy are peeling masking tape off their newly-painted office wall. Kim worries that Jimmy is stressed out about Chuck's plans for his recorded confession. Jimmy tells her "I'm fine"... before she leaves the room and he angrily tears off the remaining tape, damaging the shiny new paint job.
    • In "Breathe" Kim is concerned at Jimmy throwing himself into his job hunt rather than taking some time out of work to grieve for Chuck. He assures her he is ready to resume work and heads out to a job interview, where he ends up self-sabotaging by taking out his frustration on the interviewers.
    • Jimmy's erratic behaviour throughout the whole of season 4 is a manifestation of his grief for Chuck as he struggles to suppress and deny it. He manages to hold it in until the season finale, when he is angered by the HHM scholarship committee's treatment of Kristy Esposito, and then when his car won't start it finally comes pouring out in a a massive fit of sobbing.
    • Throuout season 5 Jimmy makes it abundantly clear to Howard that he hasn't accepted his apologies or forgiven him, via some very erratic and vengeful behaviour. In "JMM" Howard confronts him about the situation, trying to be sympathetic and telling Jimmy "I know you're in pain, Jimmy". Jimmy furiously denies this and lashes out at him with an unhinged rant, which pretty much confirms Howard's suspicion that he hasn't dealt with his pain at Chuck's suicide at all.
  • Ominous Hair Loss: Jimmy is shown to be losing hair a bit more rapidly in season 4, noting a few strands falling out in "Breathe" and then noticing his fringe getting thinner in "Quite A Ride". This may be as a result of stress after Chuck's suicide, and a sign that Jimmy is Obviously Not Fine about it.
  • Pet the Dog: Enough times to keep him sympathetic.
    • In Season 1, he tries to get justice for the elderly being scammed, kickstarting the Sandpiper case.
    • In "Inflatable", Jimmy tries to offer Omar a drink before he goes.
    • In "Fifi", a very dark one is screwing over Chuck by doctoring the address numbers so Kim can get her client back after all the hard work she did whilst in the doghouse.
    • In "Nailed", Jimmy blows his cover to get Chuck help after he hit his head during an EMS episode.
    • Jimmy tanking his reputation with the elderly by "accidentally" confessing to being a huckster that was using them, just so that Irene's friends would stop hating her. Since pre-Saul era Jimmy's specialty is elder law, this basically destroys his firm and namesake.
    • He rescues Ira in "Something Beautiful", whilst he could have left him out to dry.
    • He tries (and with Kim's help, succeeds) to keep Huell from serving a painfully lengthy prison sentence in "Coushatta".
    • He's utterly elated to get married to Kim Wexler and sticks to his promise of telling her when he has the urge not to tell her something, that he's a, "friend of the cartel".
    • In the S5 finale, he vocally worries about Kim's life to Mike which gets Mike to reassure Jimmy that Lalo Salamanca is going to die, "tonight".
  • Phony Degree: Averted, the University of American Samoa is accredited, Jimmy was taught by correspondence and traded some credits of past courses he took who were unrelated to Law, but the point is the the degree is legit if unremarkable and he did pass the Bar exam. This is a point of resentment for Chuck; as a famous lawyer, he finds such a degree preposterous and refuses to see Jimmy as a peer.
  • Poisonous Friend:
    • A Downplayed Trope, but still present. Jimmy gets people to like him, even to become very loyal to him through his natural charm, but between their efforts to help him out of the jams he gets himself into and his attempts to help them through his illicit stunts, he ends up making others complicit in his schemes. This is shown especially effectively in Seasons 2 and 3, when Jimmy's fraud with the Mesa Verde documents, along with Chuck's determination to catch him out, ends up getting Kim and Ernesto involved in helping him escape responsibility with the result (so far) that Kim is wracked with guilt about how she got the account and Ernesto gets fired because he disobeys Chuck's orders to help Jimmy out. Although in Ernesto's case, Jimmy never forced or encouraged him to cover for him or tell him about the tape, those two actions were Ernesto's choices alone.
    • It's further played up in Season 4, when his antics start to directly threaten the substantial, fulfilling career that Kim has built up, even as Jimmy's motivation is to get together enough money for them to become law partners again.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: Just like Walt before him, which sets them up for some rather interesting parallels (and contrasts)...
  • Prone to Sunburn: Jokes that the McGills are "whiter than a pack of albino rats" thanks to their Irish heritage and thus aren't well-suited to life under the blistering Albuquerque sun. Jimmy develops some painful-looking sunburn during his little holiday in "Switch" and in "Bagman" his misadventure in the desert leaves him so seriously burned that Kim suggests a trip to the emergency room.
  • Prone to Tears: Jimmy is often seen blinking back tears when arguing with Kim or Chuck. Often he is completely unable to hold back a fit of Inelegant Blubbering.
  • Pyrrhic Villainy: This being a Vince Gilligan show, Jimmy's bad behavior will inevitably leave him worse off than before. Congratulations, Jimmy: you get to keep your bonus after being fired from the best job opportunity a law graduate from the University of American Samoa could hope for because you just couldn't play by the book.
  • Reformed, but Not Tamed: He can clean up his act and be a good lawyer, but he prefers showing off, and deep down, he can never shake off his sleaze and past as a con man. The rejection below by his big brother does not help.
  • Reformed, but Rejected: Jimmy is trying as hard as he can to be a good, honest attorney, but many people (including Chuck) will never see him as anything more than Slippin' Jimmy the con artist no matter how much good he does.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Jimmy loses it when he learns that Chuck secretly taped his confession to doctoring the Mesa Verde files. He breaks down Chuck's door, pries open his desk drawer, threatens to burn his house down, destroys the tape in his face, and seemingly comes within inches of straight-up assaulting his brother. Unfortunately for Jimmy, this plays into Chuck's Batman Gambit.
  • The Trickster: Slippin' Jimmy is a scam artist turned lawyer. Even in a legit line of work, he keeps a short con mentality, using his great people skills and his capacity to bend the truth for his own benefit.
  • Sanity Has Advantages: He knows Chuck is smarter than him, but if he really wants to Jimmy can just exploit his condition to destroy him; Jimmy is a sane but bitter con man compared to the rest of the cast.
  • Sanity Slippage: It becomes very clear that Chuck's final speech to him, suicide, and post-mortem mockery of him has left Jimmy very unhinged despite his outward bluster. This reaches new heights during his ordeal in a desert with cartel goons, where it's clear he may not even really value his own life anymore. Howard and Kim have both suggested that Jimmy seek professional help, but he refuses, claiming he is fine.
  • Saved by Canon: Being a major and successful character on Breaking Bad, it's guaranteed that he'll make it out okay here. That doesn't mean he'll have it easy, though.
  • The Social Expert: He's usually pretty quick to say the right thing under pressure. A good example is when he assesses the situation in Tuco's home while Tuco has him at gunpoint, right down to referring to the obvious bloodstain on his rug as "salsa", the same excuse Tuco himself made earlier. Another good example is when he wants to get into elder law, he make sure to have the Matlock look because he wants to convey the right image. That's probably why he is such a good lawyer despite his lack of funds.
  • Soul-Sucking Retail Job: While disbarred in season 4, Jimmy takes a job selling mobile phones at a branch of CC Mobile. The store has so few customers that he describes the place as "deader than disco". The severe boredom he endures is arguably a catalyst for him developing a sideline of selling burner phones to criminals.
  • Staged Pedestrian Accident: Earned his nickname of "Slippin' Jimmy" for pulling these off most often in his Conman heyday.
  • Start of Darkness: Perhaps the most significant factor spurning Jimmy into becoming such a sleazy lawyer is discovering how Chuck had actually been trying to sabotage his attempts to climb the lawyering world, and their frequent clashes as a result of how much Chuck resents him for entering it. After Chuck tapes a confession by playing to his worries, Jimmy drops any standards he had, disowns his brother, and makes his schemes way more severe and costly to the mark. It gets even worse after Chuck tells Jimmy that ruining things is in his nature, that Jimmy should just lean into it, and that Chuck doesn't care about him at all during their last conversation before Chuck's suicide.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: Jimmy is constantly denied advancement and great opportunities because people don't trust him despite his hard work, and eventually declares that he won't let doing the right thing stop him again. "The kind of lawyer guilty people hire" indeed...
    • The Season 1 finale deals with the aftermath of Chuck's betrayal. Jimmy talks with Mike about why he hadn't fully reverted to his "Slippin' Jimmy" ways.
      Jimmy: Yeah, well, I know what stopped me. And you know what? It's never stopping me again.
    • Inverted in the season 3 finale. Chuck tells Jimmy that he always ruins things and will never change, so he ought to stop having regrets.
  • Thrill Seeker: Ultimately, Jimmy proves himself to be this. As Slippin' Jimmy, the danger involved in conning people was obviously part of what made being successful at it feel so good. And, as Jimmy McGill, Lawyer... this has not changed one bit. It's just been transmitted into loving doing twisty things with the rules to either help others, or to get out of jams. He's always most animated when matching wits with dangerous people in high-stakes situations (even after things go horribly, he still gets back on that horse), and he's just as clearly completely unhappy with dull routine.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Not overtly in personality but he's much shadier in his lawyer tactics in Seasons 2 and 3 compared to 1. He mostly cleaned up his Slippin' Jimmy attitude at the start of the series and only relied on cons because he was desperate, after reuniting with Marco he starts conning because he likes it. Jimmy becomes noticeably colder and more cynical in Expenses. First in the scene in the bar where Kim becomes unnerved at his proposed con with the rude customer, followed by his dismissal of her concerns about what they did to Chuck. Then, when Jimmy meets the insurance agent, he uses Crocodile Tears while letting slip that Chuck was purportedly "screwing up numbers" for his clients so that the agent will jack up Chuck's premiums and maybe have him investigated. He's also more aggressive and opportunistic in his usage of Slippin' Jimmy tactics such as screwing over the obnoxious music store owners, the community service supervisor, and Irene Landry. As his probation and disbarment stretch on, however, he becomes more and more like Saul Goodman, and eventually starts using the name for his street dealings, proudly selling untraceable phones to known drug dealers and unloading his residual guilt about Chuck's death onto Howard, leaving the latter a broken wreck.
    • Taken even further in Season 5. He is invited to lunch by Howard, who in good faith expresses remorse for siding with Chuck all these years, attempts to bury the hatchet with Jimmy, and offers him a job at HHM. Jimmy's response is to take offense at the idea of Howard pitying him and secretly smash up Howard's car with a bowling ball later that night.
  • Took a Level in Badass: When Jimmy's back is against the wall in Sesaon 3, his Slippin' Jimmy tactical claws come out in full force whether it's against Chuck, the asshole musician clients or the mean community service supervisor.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: He tries to encourage Kim to join him in the thrills of being a conman, and his approach ends up charming Kim.
  • Tranquil Fury:
    • Chillingly calm when he lays out Chuck's fate if he keeps up his behaviour.
      Jimmy: Here’s what’s gonna happen: one day you’re gonna get sick, again. One of your employees is gonna find you curled up under that space blanket and take you to the hospital, hook you up to those machines that beep and whir and hurt. And this time it’ll be too much, and you will... die there. Alone.
    • Also earlier in "Pimento" when after The Reveal that Chuck had been sabotaging Jimmy's career from the beginning, he doesn't rant or blow up like before instead he coldly and calmly informs Chuck of his remaing inventory and makes it clear that they are through.
      Jimmy: I... I got you a 20-pound bag of ice. And some bacon, and some eggs, and a couple of those steaks that you like. Some fuel canisters. It's enough for three or four days. After that, you're on your own. I am done.
  • Tragic Keepsake: The ring on his little finger and the gold Rolex that he sported in Breaking Bad? Both were from his old friend Marco, who died of a heart attack during their last con job together. The Rolex especially was the last of its kind for their signature con.
  • Technician vs. Performer: To Chuck. Jimmy uses the human aspect, trying to make his clients look benign (including trying to have an old lady passing as their "darling, loving mother" to get point in front of the judge) and jokes around to bring sympathy from the jury and the other lawyer. Chuck puts the facts first while pulling the acumen and gravitas out... but, since his illness, he doesn't have enough confidence to look as intimidating as he once did. That's why Jimmy comes across as a varnished Ambulance Chaser, while Chuck looks like a solid professional who is, unfortunately, clearly past his prime.
  • Ungrateful Bastard:
    • Jimmy may have taken the job at Davis & Main just to make Kim happy, as it was made more than clear by that point that he didn't even want it, but this hardly excuses his unwarranted, reckless behavior at the firm regarding that commercial. The clients being attracted is no excuse, and it ends up making Kim and Howard look like fools for recommending him. Cliff even gives him a second chance out of sheer benevolence, when he could have just as easily fired him... only for Jimmy to take advantage and try to get fired without cause just so he could keep his signing bonus.
    • Goes further with this trope when you realize the Mesa Verde scheme with Chuck affects Howard as much as it affects Chuck, whilst Jimmy's anger at Chuck stealing Kim's client may be justified as Chuck did do it for a petty reason, his blanket-scale reckless revenge towards HHM isn't justified considering Howard had a hand in recommending Jimmy to Davis and Main, a job which Jimmy screwed up.
    • In Season 4, Kim calls Jimmy out for being ungrateful towards all the times she has bailed him out of trouble.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: By tipping off the insurance company about Chuck's mental illness, Jimmy starts a series of events which snowball and end in Chuck's suicide.
  • What You Are in the Dark:
    • Faces down Tuco Salamanca and persuades him to spare the lives of his two accomplices, convincing him to merely break one of their legs each instead of torturing and killing them. It was his fault that they were there to begin with, but he had nothing to gain and everything to lose by risking Tuco's wrath for their benefit and did it anyway.
    • Later an even more literal example takes place - Jimmy's offered a bribe to cover for the Kettlemans, it's dark and the words "no one will ever know" are uttered. He accepts, but it takes surprisingly long to convince him.
  • Zero-Approval Gambit: Convinces Erin from Davis and Main to help him out himself to the residents of Sandy Piper as the Manipulative Bastard he was to them in a last ditch effort to reconcile Irene with her friends, after his previous attempts failed. He was fully aware of how much he meant to them, and that he would miss out on a massive paycheck for the settlement from the lawsuit.


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