better call saul

Everything We Learned About Saul Goodman From Breaking Bad: Your Better Call Saul Cheat Sheet

Bob Odenkirk stars in ABC’s Breaking Bad spinoff, Better Call Saul. Photo: Maya Robinson and Photo by AMC

Who is Saul Goodman? The story of how an Irish lawyer named Jimmy McGill became the sleazy, pseudonymous strip-mall ambulance-chaser who checked Walter White and Jesse Pinkman’s attorney-client privilege throughout Breaking Bad will be told in the prequel series Better Call Saul, starring Bob Odenkirk, which debuts with a two-part premiere this Sunday and Monday. But Breaking Bad already gave us a lot of info about Albuquerque’s favorite “criminal lawyer”: his associates, his ex-wives, his alma mater (kinda?), his Xanax connect, and much more. We’ve pulled the files on Saul and arranged every bit of info Breaking Bad gave us on the guy in this easy, episode-by-episode timeline. There’s no better way to find out who you’re gonna call.

First, some background: We meet our man in an episode that shares a title with his solo series. Saul’s a ubiquitous figure in Albuquerque’s pop-culture landscape, thanks to the obnoxious ads for his firm Saul Goodman & Associates, all of which feature the titular catchphrase. Saul initially represents Badger, Jesse’s friend and one of Walt’s dealers, when Badger gets pinched by an undercover cop. Saul’s prepared to help Badger flip on his boss “Heisenberg” to the DEA when Walt and Jesse intervene at gunpoint. But Saul rolls with it, taking them on as clients and arranging for Badger to finger an impostor instead of Walt, all while standing in his own shallow grave. Saul subsequently offers to be Walt’s “consigliere,” recognizing his meth operation as a growing business.

Season 2, Episode 8: “Better Call Saul”
During their first meeting, Saul tells Walt that, to paraphrase “Rocky Raccoon,” his name is McGill, and he’s Irish: “The Jew thing I just do for the homeboys. They all want a pipe-hitting member of the tribe, so to speak.”

Saul tells a client over the phone to make a check out to a front company called Ice Station Zebra Associates “for tax purposes.” (It takes its name from the ’60s Cold War spy thriller.)

We meet a pair of Saul Goodman & Associates’s associates: Francesca, the long-suffering secretary who, in the future, will shred documents and impersonate police on Saul and Walter’s behalf, and James “Jimmy In ’n’ Out” Kilkelly, the ex-con Saul hires to pose as Heisenberg and take the bust in Walt’s place.

Finally, this is the first of many times that Saul suggests killing people — in this case, Badger — to make a problem go away.

Season 2, Episode 11: “Mandala”
“I know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy” — that’s how Saul introduces Walt to the idea of Gus Fring, the drug lord and fast-food restaurateur whose professionalism Saul cites as a preferable alternative either to hotheads like their former partner Tuco Salamanca or the amateur-hour operation of Walt and Jesse themselves. Sure enough, we never see or hear Saul and Gus together; the contact they have is through intermediaries.

Season 2, Episode 12: “Phoenix”
Another “guy who knows a guy” chain connects Saul to a hacker in Belarus, whom he hires to create dummy donations to the fund-raiser website Walt Jr. set up for his dad’s cancer treatment, giving Walt’s drug money legit cover.

Season 2, Episode 13: “ABQ”
When Jesse wakes up to discover his girlfriend Jane dead from asphyxiating on her own vomit, he calls Walt, who calls Saul, who calls a man we come to know as Mike Ehrmantraut. A former Philadelphia cop, Mike serves as Saul’s private eye, fixer, surveillance expert (he bugs Walt’s house), crime-scene clean-up specialist (he helps prep both Jesse and the scene of Jane’s death for the cops), and God knows what else. Mike is also the “guy who knows a guy” Saul mentioned earlier: He’s the head of corporate security for Gus Fring’s fast-food chain Los Pollos Hermanos, which, in addition to the usual tasks, also makes him the chief hit man and enforcer of Gus’s meth operation. Why he still bothers taking jobs from a small-timer like Saul is a bit of a mystery.

Season 3, Episode 4: “Green Light”
Saul’s been married at least twice, which we know because he tells Walt, “I caught my second wife screwing my stepdad.”

Season 3, Episode 5: “Más”
Saul tells Jesse he gets his Xanax, as well as other less pharmaceutical forms of relief, from his Vietnamese “chiropractor” Kim Nu Suong. So, uh, there’s that.

Season 3, Episode 9: “Kafkaesque”
Saul’s apparently a big fan of the work they do at the Zen Nail Spa, since he suggests it as a potential money-laundering front to Jesse and, later, Walt and Skyler.

Season 3, Episode 11: “Abiquiu”
Skyler gets a glimpse at Saul’s alleged educational background when she sees his diploma, from the University of American Samoa, on the wall. It’s not a law degree, though, but a Master of Arts in Political Science, conferred by the undergraduate faculty. It’s also in the name of Saul Goodman, not Jimmy McGill, and it dates back to May 23, 1984, presumably long before Jimmy’s “conversion.” Oh yeah — there’s no such thing as the University of American Samoa. Even if there were, it wouldn’t be located, as the diploma says, on Rose Atoll, a National Wildlife Refuge that’s less than one tenth of a square mile in size and completely uninhabited.

Saul attempts to hook the Whites up with a laser-tag joint called Lazer Base as a means to launder money, referring to its owner, Danny, as a man who can be trusted because he’d do anything to keep his dream business afloat. (Walt and Skyler pass.)

Saul tells Walt he once successfully impersonated Kevin Costner. I dunno, I can kinda see it.

Season 4, Episode 1: “Box Cutter”
Saul hires a bodyguard, Huell Babineaux, a mountainous man of few words. Despite his size, Huell’s a deft pickpocket, a skill Saul utilizes when he has Huell lift a ricin cigarette off of Jesse, a key part of Walt’s plan to drive a wedge between Jesse and his new boss Gus.

Season 4, Episode 3: “Open House”
Another of Saul Goodman’s “associates,” Patrick Kuby, helps Saul and Skyler trick Walt’s old boss Bogdan into selling the Whites his car wash by impersonating an EPA inspector investigating environmental hazards at the site. Marginally more sophisticated than Huell, he’s part of the “A-Team” that later muscles Skyler’s old boss, Ted Beneke, and he participates in Walt’s robbery of a freight train carrying methylamine as well. Steven Gomez, Hank Schrader’s partner, later reveals that, like Mike, Kuby’s an ex-cop, apparently fired from the Boston PD.

Season 4, Episode 4: “Bullet Points”
Saul suggests to a desperate Walt that he use the services of a guy who can make people vanish, setting them up with whole new lives. After a few near-misses with both Walt and Jesse over the next season and a half, the disappearer finally appears as Ed the vacuum-cleaner repairman, a forger and relocation expert played by Robert Forster, in the penultimate episode of the series.

Season 5, Episode 3: “Hazard Pay”
Saul hooks Walt, Jesse, and Mike up with Vamonos Pest Control, roving exterminators whose fumigation tents are a perfect cover for Walt’s mobile meth lab. Saul suggested the company, run by a guy named Ira, because its staff doubles as a burglary crew.

Season 5, Episode 12: “Rabid Dog”
Saul knows karate, or at least he used to: After his ass-kicking at Jesse’s hands, he complains to Kuby, “I never should’ve let my dojo membership run out.”

Season 5, Episode 15: “Granite State”
Our final glimpse of Saul comes in the basement of Ed the extraction specialist’s vacuum-repair shop. He’s briefly sharing the hideout with Walt, who’s also on the run. Saul’s heading out to live under a new identity in Nebraska, where he’ll more likely be working at “a Cinnabon in Omaha” than in the kind of criminally connected position Walt needs to plan his revenge against the people who wronged him. Goodman’s last words: “It’s over.” At least until this Sunday, Saul.

Your Better Call Saul Cheat Sheet