Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad spin-off, Better Call Saul, set out to tell the story of how wayward young attorney Jimmy McGill ended up becoming the morally bankrupt *criminal* lawyer Saul Goodman. As it turned out, Saul wasn’t Jimmy’s only alias. He’s been switching in and out of personas throughout his entire adult life. Before he studied law, he was a con man known as “Slippin’ Jimmy,” and after fleeing from the feds with the help of Ed Galbraith, he became Cinnabon manager Gene Takovic.
The show’s final season, which is currently airing on AMC, has introduced yet another persona into the mix. In the black-and-white post-Breaking Bad timeline, Gene is back to pulling cons on unsuspecting locals. He’s assembled a small crew including the taxi driver who rumbled his identity, Jeff, and he’s now going by the name “Viktor Saint Claire” as he tricks bar patrons out of their money. Some of these personas are a lot more compelling and likable than others.
The Better Call Saul writers have introduced yet another persona into Jimmy’s repertoire in the final season of the show. In the black-and-white post-Breaking Bad timeline, Gene is starting to get desperate for money after learning from his old assistant Francesca that the feds got a hold of all his hidden assets. All he has as Gene is the cash he brought with him. So, he’s back to pulling cons on unsuspecting bar patrons, this time under the alias “Viktor Saint Claire.”
As Kim pointed out, Jimmy used to pull these scams and tricks for fun. But now, it’s his whole livelihood. Viktor is arguably Jimmy’s darkest persona yet. He has no qualms about conning a man with cancer, despite his partners-in-crime having reservations about it. Viktor is every bit the monster that Saul was, but without any of the redeeming flash.
The opening flash-forwards in Better Call Saul’s first few seasons focused on the new identity that Jimmy adopted after recruiting the services of “the Disappearer” at the end of Breaking Bad. As prophesized by Saul in Breaking Bad’s penultimate episode, Gene Takovic is a mild-mannered manager of a Cinnabon in Nebraska. He keeps a low profile so he won’t arouse suspicion. For the most part, Gene doesn’t ruffle any feathers, although he can’t resist telling a shoplifter to “get a lawyer!” after he’s been caught by mall security.
Thanks to his past as Saul Goodman, a close confidant of the infamous Heisenberg, Gene is one of the most wanted people in the United States. Gene isn’t as unlikable as Jimmy’s new Viktor persona – he’s friendly to all his colleagues at Cinnabon – but he’s nowhere near as exciting as scheming personalities like Saul Goodman and Slippin’ Jimmy.
Back in Jimmy’s aimless youth, he was a street-level con artist who went by the name “Slippin’ Jimmy.” Like a modern-day Johnny Hooker, he pulled off elaborate scams with his partner-in-crime Marco for a bit of walking-around money. These scams are so ingeniously crafted and executed that the marks rarely even realize they’ve been conned.
In the season 1 finale, Jimmy reconnects with Marco, spends a few days pulling their old cons on people, and is inspired to bring some Slippin’ Jimmy antics into his law career. The “Slippin’ Jimmy” persona might not have been sustainable, but it was certainly a lot of fun.
Audiences were first introduced to Jimmy after he’d already renounced the name Jimmy and begun practising law under the name Saul Goodman. As Better Call Saul’s final season has revealed, Jimmy doubled down on his Saul persona after being left by his wife. Fans waited years for Jimmy to turn into Saul, but when that moment finally came, Kim’s departure was so devastating that it left those fans feeling empty and heartbroken.
Saul is undoubtedly Jimmy’s most entertaining persona. What he lacks in scruples, he more than makes up for in showmanship. Kim summed up the Saul alter ego perfectly: “That guy has a lot of energy.” He talks fast, he never misses a beat, and he’s filled to the brim with pop culture references.
The tragic irony of this character who wears so many masks is that he’s at his best when he’s just himself. Jimmy is far from a straight arrow, but he’s at least conscientious about doing the right thing. He tampered with Chuck’s documents, but only to help Kim. When Chuck collapsed and hit his head in the copy store while investigating that tampering, Jimmy stepped in to save him, even though he knew it would give him away.
The best version of Jimmy is the original version, but he spent his life trying to escape from himself. At first, he adopted personas like Slippin’ Jimmy and Saul Goodman because his brother never truly loved him for who he was, but he always went back to Jimmy mode after a long day. He turned to the Saul persona full-time after Kim left him and revealed that she was just using him for the fun of the con, breaking his already-fragile heart.