Season 2, Episode 1 ends with Jimmy McGill accepting a position at the fictitious Santa Fe law firm of Davis and Main. At long last, he receives all of the trappings of success: company car, fancy desk, money, and respect. If one were to see only the last five minutes of this episode, Jimmy looks like a heroic figure who has overcome overwhelming odds to achieve success through hard work. (Cue “We are the Champions” by Queen).
But we already know it can’t last. We all met Jimmy years ago (or was it years in the future, after all, Better Call Saul is a prequel to Breaking Bad,) when, under the name of Saul Goodman, he became a caricature of a lawyer: corrupt, manipulative, fearless, and utterly remorseless.
But that is in the future. In Better Call Saul, Jimmy is a sociopath in training. He still has a conscience.
As we learned last season, Jimmy McGill earned his law degree while working full time in the mail room at the Albuquerque law firm of Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill. At the same time, Jimmy attended correspondence school at the American Samoan Law School. He also cared for his older brother, Charles, who suffers from an imaginary (or is it real?) hyper-sensitivity to electromagnetic radiation. Jimmy coddles Charles almost as if he is an infant. Jimmy idolizes his brother, who is everything he is not. Charles was also a founding partner of Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill.
Despite the fact that he worked as a mail clerk at Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill for 10 years, despite the fact that he attended law school while working full time, and despite the fact that he cared for his brother, Hamlin, Hamlin, and McGill refused to hire Jimmy after he passed the bar. After working for 10 years to earn his brother’s respect, Jimmy gets stabbed in the back.
So, Jimmy did what many new lawyers do to build a practice: he became a public defender, and attempted to establish himself as an “Elder Law” attorney. In an effort to put himself in a place where potential clients could be found, Jimmy also volunteered at an assisted living center, the Sandpiper Crossing Retirement Home. One of my favorite scenes from Season 1 showed an elderly woman gazing at the bottom of her Jello cup, which read, “Need a Will? Call McGill”.
While volunteering at the assisted living center, Jimmy discovered that the residents were being victimized by systematic overbilling, which led to a class action lawsuit that is the centerpiece of Season 2. (BTW, the “Sandpiper” case has many interesting dimensions, and most of the lawyering done during Season 1 was spot on.)
As a con-artist, we are led to believe that Jimmy was pretty good. Just between you and me, I don’t know much about con artists, but I know something about lawyering, and Jimmy has some skills. (Cue Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild”).