Better Call Saul to ATX Television Fest

Vince Gilligan and Bob Odenkirk get into flashback mode

To quote Jesse Pinkman, “When the going gets tough, you don’t want a criminal lawyer, you want a criminal lawyer." That’s what Saul Goodman is, a lawyer for criminals, eventually made out to be a criminal himself.

Vince Gilligan and Bob Odenkirk at the ATX Television Festival special screening of Better Call Saul's season 4 premiere (Photo courtesy of ATX Television Festival)

Better Call Saul creator Vince Gilligan and star Bob Odenkirk, who plays Saul Goodman, aka James, aka, Jimmy, aka Slippin’ Jimmy, joined the ATX TV Festival on Saturday night for the premiere of its fourth season. The new season continues to answer fan questions about the original Breaking Bad series while simultaneously expanding the storyline around its pivotal character, Saul Goodman.

If you feel a sense of déjà vu during the episode, it's probably because you’ve watched the events depicted before on Breaking Bad, season 2, episode 8, in the episode "Better Call Saul," where meth dealers Walter White and Pinkman seek out a criminal attorney who turns out to be none other than our disheveled friend, Saul Goodman.

The Breaking Bad episode was supposed to be just that – a single episode – but when the wildly successful television drama came to an end in 2013, Gilligan decided he was not done.

That’s when he began working on the canon spinoff based around the relatively undeveloped supporting character. During the Q&A after the screening, he explained, “We finished the last of Breaking Bad on a Friday or a Saturday and then that Monday, two days later, we were opening the writer's room for Better Call Saul."

Saul's origin story was initially created to be a comedy, with the intent of expanding on his bungled hijinks and attempts to expunge criminals of their wrongdoings. Gilligan pointed out that many aspects of the set, including Saul's office, fully decked out with Declaration of Independence wallpaper and a giant inflatable Statue of Liberty, are odes to their original aspiration of creating a humorous spin-off.

“I’m starting to feel bad that he’s gonna be this guy who has abandoned any idealism he had, and the hope of being a good person.” – Bob Odenkirk
Much like White's initially unremarkable character, previous seasons of the show explore James "Jimmy" McGill’s life as a struggling yet earnest lawyer. In season four, faced with a series of ill-fated events, McGill unequivocally begins his transition into the Hyde to his Jekyll, Saul ('is all) Goodman, even referring to himself as “Saul” rather than James or Jimmy during the episode.

Although the show was originally spearheaded as a comedy, Gilligan’s knack for constructing fraught storylines came all too naturally, diverting the script into yet another Albuquerque-based drama, laced with just enough comic relief to lighten the white-knuckled tension. “The show morphed into what it’s become,” Gilligan said. “With every season it becomes less and less funny.”

Odenkirk said Jimmy's transformation into Saul felt personal and painful. “My problem this past year was that I saw myself trying to change his journey a bit because it’s sad,” he said. "I’m starting to feel bad that he’s gonna be this guy who has abandoned any idealism he had, and the hope of being a good person."

Now that Gilligan has handed over his brainchild to co-creator and writer Peter Gould, he can finally sit back and enjoy the show that helped breathe new life into TV drama. "Gould and the wonderful writers we have, most of whom were on Breaking Bad, are just killing it," Gilligan said. "I can unabashedly say, without feeling like a jackass, this show is so good, I’m a fan now."

Breaking Bad: Saul's Origin Story, Paramount, June 9

ATX Television Festival 2018, June 7-10. Tickets and info at

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ATX TV Fest 2018, ATX Television Festival, Better Call Saul, Breaking Bad, Bob Odenkirk, Vince Gilligan

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