8:00pm PT by Aaron Couch
'Better Call Saul' Writer on Jimmy's "Terrifying" Plan, Saul Goodman "Reveal"
[Warning: Spoilers ahead for Monday's episode of Better Call Saul, "Hero."]
Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) has official broken bad.
The struggling attorney took a huge bribe from the Kettlemans (Julie Ann Emery and Jeremy Shamos) in Monday's Better Call Saul. The payment is hush money so Jimmy won't reveal they are indeed guilty of embezzling $1.5 million from the county. Jimmy used that cash to copy arch enemy Howard Hamlin's (Patrick Fabian) high-dollar look and to purchase a copycat billboard.
The final part of his scheme — faking the rescue of a billboard worker — was an astounding success, with Jimmy looking like a hero. But things didn't go off without a hitch. His brother Chuck (Michael McKean) deduced Jimmy was up to his old tricks when he saw the front-page newspaper story about the heroics.
In a chat with The Hollywood Reporter, writer Gennifer Hutchison shares the harrowing details of that billboard shoot, teases what's next for Jimmy and reveals co-showrunner Vince GIlligan's assistant was the one to coin the instant-classic term "Hamlindigo Blue."
Where did "S'all good, man" come from?"
We had always talked about when would be the first time we heard the name Saul Goodman, and we liked the idea of it being almost something offhand, as opposed to the very first time you hear it on the series as a huge, grand reveal. Being able to put it in the flashback and it being almost a joke to Jimmy originally, that's kind of where that came from.
That was a very late edition, doing the entire flashback, because the episode was running a little short. We had this opportunity to create a new scene and we'd been talking about doing more flashbacks. In three, we see Jimmy in jail with Chuck, and just sort of seeing Jimmy in Cicero, seeing him in his Slippin' Jimmy life. When we started talking about what sort of flashbacks we wanted to see, that came up pretty early on. We liked the idea of him running scams and being a smalltime, beer money criminal. It sort of grew from there.
And when you watch the full episode, it ties to the billboard scene well.
We wanted something that would A) be interesting and B) reflect on the rest of the episode. By the end of the episode, you have the scene with Chuck. This is the Jimmy that Chuck sees. This is the Jimmy that Chuck is worried about coming back. It helps inform the last scene when Chuck realizes Jimmy is not telling him something. That propels him out of his house to get the newspaper. It's not just a fun scene for fans, it's also a way to remind the audience this is the person he is trying to escape.
That Chuck scene was quite sad. Even though he's in pain, he goes to great lenghts to pay $5 for the newspaper.
The $5 thing says a lot about Chuck, that he has that moral character. " I have to obviously pay for her the paper I'm taking." That was something we had talked about for awhile. How do we get Chuck out of his house? How does it affect him? How does he do it? How to we skirt the line of comedy and drama? The space blanket is obviously a very funny image, and I think the way [director] Colin [Bucksey] shot it was very interesting. We're in his head as he's running, and there's all the sound and it's very harrowing. Then you go to the POV of the lady watching him and it's just a guy running across the street.
How did you decide how to reveal the extent of Chuck's illness?
It was important to really show Chuck's perspective of the world that this is a real thing that he feels. It's not just "oh, I'm allergic to electromagnetic fields." It's something that really bothers him. It was a big conversation about how do we not make it too funny and stay in Chuck's head, and also acknowledge that this is kind of a weird thing that he has.
You tricked us a bit with the clothing scene. Many viewers probably assumed he'd be buying the Saul suit.
We liked the idea of him being a little bit ahead of us, of us not entirely knowing what was happening. I think a lot of people would look at it and go "Oh, he's going to get the Saul suit," so we did the little hat tip to him checking out the bright orange shirt with the crazy tie. That was a fun scene to write because I liked the idea of this siren call to what will ultimately become the Saul suit. The other thing about that scene was I specifically spoke to our costume designer and got all the details on Hamlin's suits, so everything he's saying to the tailor is straight from our costume designer and what Hamlin was actually wearing. My backstory was that Jimmy was actually friends with some of the people in the office, because his brother used to work there, and he called in and said "I need details on Hamlin's suit." That whole scene has this enormous back story, and it's a one-minute scene.
The reveal of him with his hair on the billboard was hysterical. What was the whole billboard process like?
The billboard was kind of terrifying. In my head I had seen it as not quite as high. So when we started scouting the locations and I saw just how tall it was, I got really scared. For the actors and just in general. It was like 70 feet up. Clear Channel put up the actual billboard for us, and that was really cool. It leaked so I got to see it everywhere. We had a real prop the entirety of Albuquerque saw.
Were you on set during Jimmy's rescue?
That was three total days of shooting. We were two days on location and one day at the studio because Clear Channel also provided a short version of the billboard that we built on the backlot. It was 12 feet off the ground. I was on set for one of the days on location, and we had a couple cranes because you have the camera on a crane, and then you have the safety crane everyone has to be on. It was pretty scary. You know that such safety measures are being taken that nobody is going to get hurt, but at the same time, you have a guy falling off a billboard. Stunts in general are a little scary because I have an immediate emotional reaction to what we're portraying.
Jimmy has used this billboard scam to get legitimate business. But he's had a taste of his old ways. Does he actually think he can go back to being legitimate?
That's what this episode was about — the idea of can I just do this one kind of bad thing, but I'm doing it for good reasons. It's the whole the ends justify the means idea. What we've been trying to do is have Jimmy tempted by his old, dishonest life, while also trying to make an honest life for himself. He really believes he's just doing this one bad thing, but he's going to do good. Nobody got hurt, so what's the harm of pulling this little trick? He doesn't yet understand the implications of the things he does. As the season goes on, that's what happens — there are consequences to his actions.
Where did Hamlindigo Blue come from?
I wish I could take credit for that, but that was Vince's [Gilligan] assistant, Jenn Carroll. We knew it should be a specific color blue, and the wordplay was just too good to pass up. I loved the way they played that scene.
Mrs. Kettleman compares her husband's employment to slavery. Where did that line come from?
That I believe was a Vince pitch, so that came from the crazy brain of Vince and it fit perfectly. The thing about Mrs. Kettleman is that she totally believes she is in the right. She very much believes they are not criminals and they deserve this money, so that line — she is 100 percent serious when she says stuff like that. I don't think there's anything disingenuous there.
What was the toughest scene to get right?
The scene in the salon was the most challenging. It's one of the first real scenes between Kim and Jimmy. You get to see them alone, and get an idea of their dynamic. At the same time, there's also a big undercurrent of why are you messing with Howard? So there's a conflict as well. It starts out that they have this great rapport, and by the end they are fighting.
Better Call Saul airs at 10 p.m. Mondays on AMC.