Better Call Saul S 1 E 1 Uno / Recap - TV Tropes (2024)

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Season 1, Episode 1:

Better Call Saul S 1 E 1 Uno / Recap - TV Tropes (1)

I should have known there'd come a day when you'd be gone...

Written by Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould

Directed by Vince Gilligan

Air date: February 8, 2015

"Do you feel doomed? Have opponents of freedom wrongly intimidated you? Maybe they told you you're in serious trouble, and there's nothing you can do about it. I'm Saul Goodman and I'm here to tell you that they're wrong. It's never too late for justice. Better call—"

Saul Goodman

Following the events of Breaking Bad, Saul Goodman now lives a humdrum life under the alias of "Gene Taković", the manager of a shopping-mall Cinnabon in Omaha, Nebraska. Saul is evidently still very paranoid about getting recognized, getting tense when a customer appears to be staring at him, only to become instantly relieved when he passes by him. After work, he returns home to his modest residence and watches tapes of the television ads he made when he worked as an attorney. As the ads play, Saul begins to cry.

In May 2002, Jimmy McGill (Saul's real name) is a struggling public defender in Albuquerque, New Mexico, representing three teenaged boys accused of breaking into a funeral home and performing a sex crime on a severed human head. Jimmy tries to use the old "boys will be boys" defense, to which the prosecutor merely responds by playing a home video the teens themselves recorded of their crime. The video visibly nauseates the judge and several members of the jury.

In addition to failing to acquitting his clients, Jimmy also discovers to his frustration that he is only paid $700 in total for his service in the case, rather than the $700 per client he expected. While walking to his rather run-down car, a potentially big client calls on his cell phone; trying to prevent her from discovering his dire straits, he pretends to be his own British secretary, and asks her to meet him at a cafe instead. As he drives away from the courthouse, Jimmy gets stopped by Mike Ehrmantraut, the parking lot attendant, because his validation is one sticker short. Jimmy tries to talk his way out, but Mike is unmoved, and forces Jimmy to go through the extra paperwork to get his validation, much to Jimmy's outspoken annoyance.

Latter, Jimmy meets up Craig and Betsy Kettleman to retain him in a somewhat high profile case, in which Craig, a county treasurer, is accused of embezzlement. Craig is about to sign a letter of engagement with Jimmy, but Betsy stays her husband's hand and asks for time to think things over.

While Jimmy is driving back to his office, he suddenly hits a skateboarder, Cal Lindholm. Cal's twin brother Lars, who videotaped the incident, rushes up to confront Jimmy. The brothers demand an instant settlement of $500. Jimmy, however, quickly realizes that the two brothers are trying to pull a scam on him. He calls out the boys out for their ruse and choice of victim, saying that he is just a broke lawyer, and not only will he not give them any money, he demands that they pay for the damage they did to his windshield. Upon this, the two brothers panic and run off.

Jimmy finally gets back to his office, located in the back room of a Vietnamese nail salon. There he sorts through his mail, a pile of overdue bills. Except for one: a large check from the law firm Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill. Oddly, he is annoyed by this and tears it into pieces.

Jimmy confronts Howard Hamlin of Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill (HHM), the firm where his brother Chuck is a partner, though not an active one at the moment. Howard has been attempting to buy Chuck out, but Jimmy demands HHM pay Chuck for his partnership's full value of $17 million. But Howard refuses to concede on this, because the way he sees it Chuck is still on an "extended sabbatical." Howard asks Jimmy to pass some documents along to Chuck, but he refuses, saying that he doesn't work for the firm any more. Jimmy then notices the Kettlemans stopping in to hire HHM over him. Greatly frustrated by the meeting and the loss of lucrative clients, Jimmy maintains his composure, until he's in the car park stairwell where he takes his anger out on a trash bin. A woman from the meeting taking a cigarette break there is unfazed by this, or by Jimmy taking the cigarette from her lips, taking a drag and replacing it, showing how familiar they are. Thus enters Kim Wexler. Jimmy begins to ask Kim for her help, but she cuts him off and states she can do nothing, before walks inside again.

Next, Jimmy visits his brother, Chuck, who requires Jimmy's care, as he is semi-reclusive and refuses to go outside due to him believing that he has electromagnetic hypersensitivity. Chuck has shut the power off to his house, does all his writing on a typewriter, and also requires visitors to leave personal electronic devices outside. Jimmy pleads with Chuck to push for a payout from his partners, as he cannot support both of them on the measly fees he gets for his public defense work. Chuck refuses, saying citing his fear that the firm would probably have to liquidate itself to raise the necessary cash, and he chastises Jimmy for focusing too much making money, telling him that experience of helping people is more important. Jimmy points out that Chuck is practically broke, and stands to lose his house if he doesn't do something to get some kind of income, but Chuck assures him that he does not have to provide for him, since Howard stopped by to deliver a check over $857, the first of a new weekly stipend. This angers Jimmy, who accuses Chuck of allowing Howard to play him for a chump. Upset, Chuck fires back that he agrees with Howard, insisting that he will eventually get better and able to go back to work any day now. Deflated, Jimmy apologizes for his outburst, and Chuck also calms down, as he says that he understands that Jimmy is just trying to look out for him, and in spite of everything he appreciates his concern. Chuck then relates Howard is concerned about Jimmy using the McGill name on his law practice, believing that it could confuse potential clients looking for the service of the HHM firm, and suggests that Jimmy changes it. A visibly infuriated Jimmy leaves Chuck's residence, mumbling to himself that he will not allow Howard to push him around like this.

Jimmy seeks out the nearest skatepark, where he manages to track down the two twin scammers, Lars and Cal. He tells them about his past as a Con Man: in his hometown of Cicero, Illinois, he was known as "Slippin' Jimmy", as every winter, he would find slippery patches of ice, stage a fall, and extort money from people. He explains that he believes the two brother have potential in the field, and he wants to recruit them to help him out with a new scam. He wants them to stage a slip-and-fall in an intersection where Betsy Kettleman commutes every morning. One of the twins will be hit by Betsy's station wagon, upon which Jimmy will come in, having just "happened" to be driving by, and offer her legal aid. Jimmy will then appear to talk the twins out of suing Betsy, and will later meet up with them to pay them $2,000 for their help. Jimmy will then exploit Betsy's gratitude, and use it to convince her and her husband to drop HHM and hire Jimmy for the embezzlement case.

The twins execute the plan perfectly, but accidentally target the wrong car, which drives off without stopping to check on its victim. The three of them chase the car home, where an elderly Hispanic woman steps out. Despite now knowing that the woman is not Betsy, Lars and Cal believe that they can still pressure some money out of her, and follow her into her house as she calls for her "mijo." Jimmy arrives soon afterwards; he knocks on the door, claiming to be an officer of the court. But when the door opens, Jimmy is met with a gun in the face. He is beckoned into the house, and Tuco Salamanca, "mijo", checks for witnesses and closes the door behind them.


  • The Alleged Car: Jimmy's Suzuki Esteem.

    Jimmy: The only way that car is worth $500 is if there's a $300 hooker sitting in it!

  • Answer Cut: Lars and Cal ask Jimmy "How did you find us?" Cut to a wide shot of the two skaters in the skate park with the sign "SKATE" over the entrance.
  • Aspect Montage: The episode opens with a montage of the daily routine at a Cinnabon shop.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": The skater brothers are not terribly convincing about having been accidentally hit by a car and Jimmy sees through them pretty quickly.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Okay so a prequel about Saul Goodman. He's going to dress flashy and pull underhanded tricks to get his clients off right? Not yet, as Jimmy is introduced in a bathroom, wearing a cheap, brown suit and practicing his (at worst, heavily playing to sentiment) speech so he looks like he has the confidence he needs to pull it off.
    • Having established that Jimmy lives paycheck-to-paycheck as a public defender with a law practice that has no clients, he barely pauses to tear up Howard's $26,000 cheque to Chuck.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: HHM implicitly threaten Jimmy with a lawsuit if he carries on practising law under his current name, claiming that "James M. McGill" sounds too similar to "Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill" — and Chuck agrees with them. They'll eventually get their wish, when Jimmy starts practising law as Saul Goodman.
  • Black Comedy: The teens on trial in the beginning, who broke into a morgue and had sex with a severed head
  • Brick Joke: In Breaking Bad's "Granite State", as he was preparing to go into hiding, Saul made a joke that the best he could hope for would be managing a Cinnabon in Omaha. That's precisely what he's wound up doing.
  • The Bus Came Back: Tuco is the first Breaking Bad character (not counting Saul or Mike) to return for Better Call Saul.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: To viewers who watched chronologically and thus haven't seen Breaking Bad, Mike, as he presents himself as just an unassuming parking attendant before providing crucial advice for Jimmy a couple episodes later and elevates to full-blown Deuteragonist of the entire show when he later gets his own episode and his backstory is revealed.
  • Cliffhanger: Ends with Jimmy being dragged into Tuco's grandmother's house at gunpoint by the man himself.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The two skaters try their stunt on a brown car very similar to Betsy Kettleman's car. The skaters follow after it. And that car happens to belong to the abuelita of none other than Tuco Salamanca.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Jimmy delays his first defense case in the episode to practice his lines in the bathroom, working on an entire speech about how people make mistakes in their youth. However, his clients were dumb enough to record themselves not only illegally sawing off a corpse's head, but sticking their dicks in it. The prosecutor doesn't even say a word between Jimmy's defense and popping the tape into the player.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Done in the beginning to depict the mundane life that Saul lives working as the manager of a Cinnabon. When Saul puts on the tape of his own commercials, they can be seen reflected on his glasses in full color, indicating to the audience that without the Saul Goodman persona, there's no color to the life he lives.
  • Distant Prologue: Begins after the end of Breaking Bad with Saul in Omaha, managing a Cinnabon under a new identity.
  • Downer Beginning: The opening emphasizes how alone Jimmy is after the events of Breaking Bad. He's working at his dead-end job, he's paranoid that someone from his old life might find and kill him, and his silence throughout this opening contrasts with the character's previously-established talkativeness and charisma. To emphasize this, the camera frequently cuts to wide shots that dwarf Jimmy within the frame. His house has no personality; the walls are bare and the spotless, impersonal living room is mostly empty seats. Then, when Jimmy puts on his old Better Call Saul ads, we watch him quietly tear up as he watches everything he's lost.
  • Dramatic Irony: Jimmy tells the Kettlemans that he doesn't go looking for guilty people to represent, with only the audience aware that that's exactly what he'll do once he becomes Saul Goodman.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Not counting the Flash Forward, Jimmy is first seen preparing his legal argument in the court restroom, whispering to himself to psych himself up. He then goes into the courtroom and gives a very passionate defense of his clients, channelling the persona that made Saul Goodman so effective. He then loses the case anyway because his clients did something so stupid that all the prosecution had to do was show the jury a tape of the incident to convict them.
    • The Kettlemans consult with Jimmy on their upcoming case, but just as Craig is going to sign the contract Jimmy provides them, Betsy stops him and asks to sleep on it. The next we see them, they’re taking their case to HHM instead.
    • Chuck McGill is introduced in a completely dark house (which requires Jimmy to leave his cell phone and watch outside before he can enter) and in the house he remains adamant that he will eventually best his condition and return to work, even though he’s been out of work for over a year. He also acts condescendingly towards Jimmy, hinting at their eventual Cain and Abel relationship.
    • Kim Wexler is unruffled by Jimmy's kicking the bin, or taking the cigarette from her lips, showing that the two of them are closely connected. In particular, she goes out of her way to put the bin back in its spot, showing both her upstanding nature and her willingness to clean up Jimmy's mistakes.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Jimmy makes sure that the skaters know the make, color and license plate number of Betsy Kettleman's car. Not only do they get it wrong, but the thought never enters their heads that the elderly Latina woman that gets out of the car they targeted probably isn't named "Betsy Kettleman."
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The Kettleman's family sedan has stickers on the rear window, depicting the family and a camping tent.
    • Jimmy’s first scene features him giving a genuine defense on behalf of some teenagers. Despite his good defense, his clients were stupid enough to record their crime, meaning all the prosecutor had to do to convict them was play the tape. Jimmy’s good deeds and skills being ruined by other people’s bad decisions and stupidity is a recurring theme of the series going forward.
    • Chuck brings up Howard wanting Jimmy to change the name of his own practice, so people won't make an association between him and Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill. Jimmy is incredulous over the idea of not being referred to by the name he was born with, a point Chuck ends up leaning towards. This even irks Jimmy to ask, "Whose side are you on?"
    • Chuck expresses a hesitancy to cash out his interest in Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill, citing the repercussions of numerous people losing their jobs as a result. That possibility will drive a narrative turn or two down the road.
    • Jimmy's defense speech leans heavily on the angle that the defendants were young, dumb rascals who shouldn't be held responsible for a stupid mistake forever. People judging him for sketchy stuff he did in his youth will turn out to be one of Jimmy's biggest hangups.
  • For Want Of A Nail: While it ultimately would turn out that the skaters targeted the wrong car, the fact that the driver proceeded to flee the scene is what winds up setting up the path for the rest of the series.
  • Glory Days: The great Saul Goodman has become the manager of a Cinnabon in Omaha, and spends his nights watching tapes of his old commercials, alone.
  • Henpecked Husband: Betsy Kettleman is very clearly the dominant one between her and Craig.
  • Mugging the Monster: The skaters try to pull a Staged Pedestrian Accident on Jimmy, not realizing that he would see right through their scam. They also then accidentally target the grandmother of Tuco Salamanca when Jimmy hires them to scam Betsy Kettleman.
  • The Noisy Straw: The litigation typist slurps from her drink while the court is waiting for Jimmy.
  • Oh, Crap!: Jimmy's reaction to having a gun pointed squarely between his eyes at the end of the episode.
  • Only Bad Guys Call Their Lawyers: Discussed Trope. When the county treasurer Craig Kettleman is implicated for embezzling $1.6 million, Jimmy explains that what gets innocent people wrongly convicted is they're concerned about looking guilty, but they're mistaken about what makes a person look guilty in the first place.

    Craig Kettleman: I just think I'd look guilty if I hired a lawyer.
    James McGill: No actually it's getting arrested that makes people look guilty, even the innocent ones, and innocent people get arrested everyday.

  • Percussive Therapy: Jimmy has a habit of taking out his anger on a garbage bin near HHM's parking garage elevator.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: At Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill, Jimmy reenacts a scene from Network, but Howard doesn't get the reference.
  • Present-Day Past: Though set in 2002, some anachronisms slip through the cracks. When the Lindholm brothers are following what they think is Betsy Kettleman's car, a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited JK and a third generation Toyota Prius can be seen on the road, vehicles that were not available in America until 2007 and 2009 respectively.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Jimmy is clearly on a slow-burn of frustration throughout the entire episode due to his professional failings, but it's when Chuck relays to him the news that Howard is concerned that Jimmy using the McGill name could create confusion with HHM and wants him to change it that Jimmy furiously decides that enough is enough, and to bring a little bit of Slippin' Jimmy back.
  • Real Vehicle Reveal: After Jimmy loses the "sex with a severed head" case, he is seen walking across the courthouse parking lot towards a white 1999 Cadillac Sedan de Ville that looks like his car from Breaking Bad. The camera then pans to him getting into his actual car, parked next to the Cadillac: a beat-up yellow 1997 Suzuki Esteem which even has one differently-coloured door.
  • Rule of Drama: The writers asked themselves "Who is the worst person the skaters could end up scamming?" Tuco Salamanca is the answer.
  • Rules Lawyer: Mike isn't letting Jimmy through his booth without the proper number of validation stickers.
  • A Simple Plan: Jimmy's plan to get hired as the Kettlemans' lawyer seems simple and foolproof. On paper, that is. The skaters will pull a Staged Pedestrian Accident on Mrs. Kettleman and Jimmy will 'just happen' to be driving by and able to come to her rescue. She will be grateful to Jimmy and impressed by his skill as a lawyer and will then tell her husband to hire Jimmy to represent him in his embezzlement case. The skaters screw up and target a similar looking car which just happens to belong to Tuco Salamanca's grandma.
  • Show, Don't Tell: A rare In-Universe example: the prosecutor in the opening scene decides to forego any words and simply show the jury a tape of the incident that the defendants took of their crime.
  • Splash of Color: Though all of the present-day scenes are normally black & white, the faint reflection of the Saul Goodman commercial in Gene's glasses is in color, showing a brief window of escape from his grim reality.
  • Staged Pedestrian Accident: The two skaters try to pull this scam on Jimmy. Unfortunately for them, Jimmy earned the nickname "Slippin' Jimmy" for his expertise at this very racket. He then hires them to pull it on the wife of a potential big client so Jimmy can come to the rescue. They end up accidentally pulling it on Tuco Salamanca's grandmother, who drives a very similar-looking car.
  • Stealing from the Till: Craig Kettleman is accused of embezzling more than $1.5 million from the city during his time as city treasurer.
  • Stupid Crooks:
    • Jimmy's clients in the beginning court case broke into a mortuary, cut the head off a corpse and then had sex with it. On top of it, they made a video of the whole event. The prosecutor only needs to play the tape as his closing statement to get them sent to jail.
    • The Kettlemans also most certainly count.
    • The skaters also deserve a spot here. First, trying to extort money from someone with an old car that's in really bad shape is not the best target for their scam, as Jimmy points out. And while mixing up which car they're targeting with another, similar one is understandable, one look at Tuca's grandmother should have told them that her name is probably not Betsy Kettleman, and she isn't the person Jimmy is trying to get as a client.
  • Surprise Car Crash: Jimmy is on the phone while driving. When he takes a turn, there is a Jump Scare of something crashing into his windshield. Turns out it was a skater trying to pull a Staged Pedestrian Accident on him.
  • Title Drop: We hear the slogan "Better Call Saul" in one of the ads Jimmy is watching early on. It's the only reference to the series title in the first season.
  • Wham Shot:
    • A (darkly) comedic one in the courtroom. Jimmy has just made an argument characterizing his clients' crime as entering an unlocked business at night. The prosecutor then plays a tape from the night of the crime, revealing that business to be...a morgue. Where the boys cut a corpse's head off. And f*ck it.
    • The car that the twins mistakenly targeted instead of Mrs. Kettleman's car is one belonging to an older Hispanic woman. When Jimmy shows up at her house shortly after and knocks on the door, he's greeted with a gun to the face... by Tuco Salamanca.
Better Call Saul S 1 E 1 Uno / Recap - TV Tropes (2024)


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