- This article is about the pilot episode for Better Call Saul. For the Breaking Bad pilot, see Pilot.
The pilot begins as a monochrome flash-forward sequence showing Saul Goodman, after the finale of Breaking Bad, assuming a new identity as "Gene", working behind the counter at a shopping-mall Cinnabon located in Omaha, Nebraska. He becomes tense when a customer seems to be staring at him but is instantly relieved when he passes by him. Later, inside an old, modest home, Saul fixes himself a Rusty Nail and watches TV, flipping through channels. He then rummages around for a VHS from its hiding spot inside a shoebox and pops it in the VCR. The tape's contents is revealed to be a copy of his TV advertisements back in the days when Saul was still the esteemed lawyer. As the ads play, Saul begins to weep.
The episode flashes back to circa May 2002. Saul, doing business under his real name Jimmy McGill, is a very underpaid public defender in an Albuquerque courthouse representing three teenagers charged with performing a sexual act on a freshly severed human head, apparently after hours in a funeral home. Jimmy's justification to convince the jury is that their actions were simply "boys being boys." In response to this, the prosecutor -- without saying a word -- plays a video which contains footage of the three teenagers having sex with the severed head. When several members of the jury, the judge, and the court reporter are unable to look at the tape, it's clear Jimmy’s clients are going to face jail time.
As he fails to win an acquittal for his teenage clients, Jimmy gets a measly $700 paycheck as a public defender — not $700 per defendant, as he had presumed. Jimmy complains about being paid only $700 for his effort on the defense, and when a client calls on his cell phone, Jimmy pretends to be his own mild-mannered, British secretary in an office, arranging an appointment with a potentially big client. As he leaves the courthouse parking lot with the check, he gets stopped by Mike Ehrmantraut, the parking lot attendant, because he doesn't have proper validation.
Jimmy meets Craig Kettleman, a Bernalillo County treasurer, who has been accused of embezzling $1.6 million, and his wife Betsy at Loyola's on Central Avenue in order to secure a deal. Just as a letter of engagement is about to get signed, Betsy, whom Craig has brought along, stays her husband’s hand and asks for time to think this over.
Later that day, as Jimmy is driving, he's talking with someone on his cell phone about ordering the couple "classy" and expensive flowers, only to to find out that his credit card is maxed out. As he's going around a corner, he suddenly hits a skateboarding teenager, Cal Lindholm, with his car, who bounces off the windshield and lands on the pavement. Cal's brother Lars, who videotaped the incident, rushes up to confront Jimmy. The brothers demand an instant settlement of $500, intent on calling the police unless Jimmy pays them. Realizing that the situation is a skam, Jimmy chews the boys out for their ruse and choice of victim, adding that “The only way that entire car’s worth $500 is if there’s a $300 hooker sitting in it!”, upon which the brothers run away.
Afterwards, Jimmy returns to his office - the backroom of a Vietnamese nail salon, only to find no messages on his answering machine. Opening his mail, he finds a $26,000 check from the firm of Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill, which he tears up.
Jimmy drives to the firm to confront Howard Hamlin and his partners. He drops the torn pieces of the $26,000 check on the conference room table and accuses Howard and his partners at HHM of trying to find a way to cheat his brother Chuck -- apparently a founding partner of the firm -- out of his rightful share. Assuring Howard that his brother will probably not be returning to work, Jimmy demands that HHM gives Chuck his $17 million severance package. Howard, however, is unwilling to concede, stating Chuck is still on "extended sabbatical." On his way out, Jimmy is followed by Howard who tries to pass along some documents for Chuck but Jimmy declines, insisting that "Chuck doesn't work here anymore." He then notices the treasurer and his wife stopping in to hire the firm over him. Jimmy maintains enough composure to reach the parking garage before flying into a rage and kicking and denting a wastebasket. Noticing Kim Wexler standing off to the side smoking a cigarette, he borrows a drag off it before pleading to her for help. Kim of course can do nothing.
Jimmy goes to visit Chuck. Chuck is in the middle of a breakdown -- he's convinced he is suffering from electromagnetic hypersensitivity. To that end, he requires visitors to leave their keys and phone in the mailbox and ground themselves before entering his house. Chuck’s house has no lights or refrigerator and he works by lantern light on a manual typewriter. Chuck, aware of his illness, insists he’s going to get better in order for him to return to work at HHM. He declines Jimmy’s pleas to demand a cashout from his partners, pointing out that the firm would probably have to liquidate to raise that much cash, putting 126 people out of work. Jimmy tells him his public defender work isn't going to keep both of them afloat, which just results in a lecture from Chuck about how the experience of helping people is more important than money, despite the protests from Jimmy. Chuck also reassures Jimmy that he does not have to provide for him, since Howard stopped by and gave him a check over $857, the first of a new weekly stipend. He also relates Howard's concern about Jimmy using his name in his law practice, since it could be confusing any potential clients. Chuck suggests that Jimmy change the name of his firm out of professional courtesy. "Wouldn't you rather build your own identity? Why ride on someone else’s coattails?" he asks. An infuriated Jimmy gets in his car, holding up one of the "James McGill" matchbooks that annoyed Howard. "You wanna dance, Howard? Let’s dance." he says.
Desperate for money, Jimmy devises an elaborate scheme and tracks down the Lindholm brothers, suggesting a partnership. To convince them, he explains how back when he lived in Cicero, Illinois, he was known as "Slippin' Jimmy." Slippin' Jimmy would find the most slippery patches of ice every winter, stage a fall, and earn himself enough money to "keep him in Old Milwaukee and Maui Wowie through Labor Day." Jimmy's plan is to go after Betsy Kettleman, whose route to pick up her kids at school always intersects at a certain cafe and therefor places lots of convenient witnesses. One of the brothers will be hit by Betsy's Mercury Sable station wagon, then Jimmy will come in, having just "happened" to be driving by, and offer his legal surfaces to her. He'll be talking the brothers out of suing the woman, later paying both of the brothers $2,000 for their troubles. In her gratitude, Betsy will then convince her husband to drop HHM and hire Jimmy for the embezzlement case.
The Lindholm brothers are convinced that Jimmy can help them with their scamming procedures, so they sign on for his plan. The brothers execute the plan perfectly, but moments after the “accident” occurs, the car drives off, to the dismay of the skateboarders. The brothers give chase to the station wagon, hanging on to the back of a truck. Jimmy sees this as an opportunity to gain more money at the prospect of defending a felony hit-and-run case. The car pulls into a driveway, where a Hispanic elderly woman exits the car. Despite knowing that she is not Betsy Kettleman, the brothers attempt to get money out of her anyways and follow her into the house. Jimmy frantically searches for the brothers — they were briefly in cellphone contact — and he happens across the parked Sable. He knocks on the front door, claiming to be an officer of the court. When the door opens, Jimmy comes face to face with Tuco Salamanca, who pulls Jimmy into the house at gunpoint, then looks outside to make sure no one's seen him before closing the door.
- This episode marks the earliest chronological appearance of Saul, Mike and Tuco, who first appeared in Breaking Bad.
- First appearance of Chuck McGill, Kim Wexler and Howard Hamlin.
- This episode is written by showrunners Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould and is directed by Vince Gilligan. It is the first part of the two-episode premiere, which aired on February 8, 2015 and February 9, 2015.
- It is known that in Breaking Bad, Jimmy was first seen in the 8th episode of season 2. Apparently, it is not a coincidence that the Better Call Saul's premiere aired on February 8. "08/02" (episode/season, day/month)
- The scam skaters' blunder mistaking Tuco's grandmother's Taurus for the Kettleman Sable wagon is the key element that sets up the course of events for the rest of Jimmy's life. He might never have met Tuco or Nacho Varga, hence would never have met Jesse or Walter. IE, no Saul, no Breaking Bad, no Better Call Saul. He would have higher "Esteem" not enduring Chuck's oppressive ridicule [Slippin' Jimmy] being better able to establish himself legitimately and happily. A "what if" or "if only..." dilemma of chance vs fate. Of course it demonstrates life is made up of many of those moments in his [and other's].
- Jimmy's "office" is in the Vietnamese nail salon. In season 3 of Breaking Bad, he tries to convince Jesse to launder his money through a nail salon ("Kafkaesque").
- The act of Jimmy kicking the dented trash can is very similar to Walt punching the paper towel dispenser in the doctor's office bathroom. ("4 Days Out") ("Gliding Over All")
- Jimmy is parked next to a white Cadillac similar to the one he will be driving during the events of Breaking Bad.
- During the teaser, Gene becomes nervous upon noticing a suspicious-looking stranger watching him in the Cinnabon (although this stranger turns out to be innocent as he is seen hugging a woman as he walks outside). This is similar to Jesse becoming nervous after noticing a suspicious-looking stranger watching him while he speaks on the payphone with Walt, although the stranger was really watching his daughter in the park. ("Rabid Dog")
- When arguing with Walt in the Vacuum cleaners cellar in "Granite State", Saul states "If I'm lucky, best case scenario i'm managing a Cinnabon in Omaha", where he did end up working as shown in the flash-forward at the start of the episode.
- His red key chain is the same Walter use to open the trunk of his car and kill the nazi crew in Breaking Bad last episode. Also when he enters the court lobby the hat and jacket of Walter can be seen on a hanger.
- The very first scene shows Saul aka "Gene" working at a Cinnabon. This is a tie in to the end of Breaking bad where Saul tells Walt "If I'm lucky, a month from now, best-case scenario, I'm managing a Cinnabon in Omaha." The filming was done at the Cinnabon located inside Cottonwood Mall, 10000 Coors Blvd, Albuquerque NM, 87114.
- The coffee shop location in the scene where Saul aka "Slippin Jimmy" and the Skateboarders stage the car accident was filmed at "Cafe Lush" 700 Tijeras, Albuquerque NM, 87102.
- In the final scene Saul ends up at Tuco's Grandmas House instead of the Kettlemans House. Its located at 12204 Manitoba Dr, Albuquerque NM, 87111.
- "Address Unknown" by The Ink Spots & Ella Fitzgerald
- "Liar's Game" by Jim Wolfe
- "When Blue Days Are Gone" by Arthur Smith
- "Se Bruciasse La Città" by Massimo Ranieri
- "Milestones" by Shook
- "Drop" by Firstcom Music
- "Shared Smoke" by Dave Porter
- "Ass over Tea Kettle" by Dave Porter
References to other media
Jimmy makes many references to other media during the series. In this episode, he makes references to:
The episode became the highest-rated series premiere for a scripted series in U.S. cable history, with 6.9 million viewers according to the Nielson ratings. The show placed second for the night among U.S. cable networks, behind only its lead-in show The Walking Dead, which as of February 9, 2015, ranks as the second-highest rated entertainment broadcast with adults 18-49 in the U.S., behind The Blacklist post-Super Bowl broadcast.
The episode gained generally positive reviews:
- Roth Cornet of IGN gave the episode an 8.7 out of 10, saying "Can Saul compete with Walter White? No. But he doesn't have to. Better Call Saul poses one simple, but fascinating question: What happened to Jimmy McGill that forced him to transform himself into the ruthless, hardened, yet entirely entertaining *criminal* lawyer Saul Goodman? The man that we came to know and love on Breaking Bad. I, for one, look forward to watching that story unfold."
- Erik Kain of Forbes said of the episode and series: "[It] isn't just a spin-off of a popular TV show. So far, it's a terrific TV show on its own merits. It covers familiar ground, but it still manages to be its own unique snowflake."
- Hank Stuever of The Washington Post graded it a "B+" and wrote the series "is right in line with the tone and style of the original, now-classic series" and that it "raises more questions in two hours than it will readily answer".
- Kirsten Acuna of Business Insider declared the initial episodes "everything you could possibly want from a spinoff television series".
- "Oh, to be nineteen again! You with me, ladies and gentlemen? Do you remember nineteen? Let me tell you, the juices are flowing. The red corpuscles are corpuscling, the grass is green, and it's soft, and summer's gonna last forever. [Chuckles, inhales sharply] Now, do you remember? Yeah, you do. [Clears throat] But if you're being honest...I mean, well, really honest, you'll recall that you also had an underdeveloped nineteen-year-old brain. Me, personally, I...it...If I were held accountable for some of the stupid decisions I made when I was nineteen... [chuckling] Oh, boy, wow. And I bet if we were in church right now, I'd get a big "amen!" Which brings us to these three...Now, these three knuckleheads. And I'm sorry, boys, but that's what you are. They did a dumb thing. We're not denying that. However, I would like you to remember two salient facts. Fact one: nobody got hurt, not a soul. Very important to keep that in mind. Fact two: Now, the prosecution keeps bandying this term "criminal trespass." Mr. Spinowzo, the property owner, admitted to us that he keeps most portions of his business open to the public both day and night. So, trespassing? That's a bit of a reach, don't you think, Dave? Here's what I know: These three young men, near honors students all, were feeling their oats one Saturday night, and they just went a little bananas. [Chuckles] I don't know. Call me crazy, but I don't think they deserve to have their bright futures ruined by a momentary, minute, never-to-be-repeated lapse of judgment. Ladies and gentlemen, you're bigger than that."
- ―Jimmy defending his clients.
- "Employee of the Month over here! Yeaaah! [claps his hands] Hooray! Give him a medal!"
- ―Jimmy to Mike.
- "Lawyers – you know, we’re like health insurance. You hope you never need it. But, man oh man, not having it – no."
- ―Jimmy to the Kettlemans.
- "The only way that entire car is worth 500 bucks is if there's a $300 hooker sitting in it."
- ―Jimmy on the blackmailing of the two skateboarders.
- Jimmy: "You can tell me what this, uh, $26,000 is supposed to be for."
- Howard: "That's money for Chuck. Isn't that what you wanted?"
- Jimmy: "A measly 26 grand? Jesus, you're like Peter Minuit with the Indians. Throw in some beads and shells while you're at it."
- ―Jimmy and Howard arguing over Chuck's severance.
- "You got to stop putting bacon on the list, 'cause that cooler's looking like a trichinosis stew."
- ―Jimmy to Chuck on the contents of his cooler.