‘Better Call Saul’: How A Random Book May Foreshadow Kim’s Arc
This week’s double-barrelled Better Call Saul season premiere was chock full of riveting drama -- from Nacho’s narrow escape from the Worst Western hotel to Jimmy’s daring country club scam to the return of America’s least-favorite couple: the Kettlemans. Conspicuously, the season didn’t open with Gene Takovic, Jimmy/Saul’s Cinnabon-slinging, post-Breaking Bad identity as every other one has. Instead, “Wine and Roses” begins with Saul’s gaudy McMansion being inventoried and dismantled in Jimmy’s future/Gene’s present – and, more confusingly, our past, since the events of Breaking Bad canonically wrapped up in 2010.
Critics have compared this scene to Citizen Kane since Charles Foster Kane’s palatial Xanadu was similarly picked apart following his death. If that’s the case, then Saul’s Rosebud is probably either Kim's bottle stopper, or the conspicuously placed paperback copy of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine (or the box of Viagra, it’s tough to say). The book also makes an appearance in the second episode, “Carrot and Stick,” on the nightstand next to the bed he shares with Kim.
While we may get some more info about the exact nature of this particular item, books have historically been of great importance in the Breaking Bad-verse.
So, why The Time Machine? Maybe it’s because the show itself is a kind of time machine, oscillating between decades, and routinely whisking us, the viewers, back to an era when flip phones were rampant. Or maybe H.G. Wells is a subtle nod to the well from season 5, the landmark where Jimmy picked up the seven million bucks from the Salamanca twins, forever altering his destiny.
Or, here’s an idea, what if it’s all about Kim? Kim’s character trajectory has by far become the most interesting part of the show. Rather than simply have her reject Jimmy as he becomes Saul and cling to her seat in the establishment, or conversely, embrace Jimmy’s scheming and fully break bad, Kim is charting a new personal moral code for herself, which in a way, kind of reflects the ending of The Time Machine.
Kim is now working with Jimmy to smear Howard’s name (planting coke in his gym locker, spreading rumors of drug use to fellow lawyers) in order to push through the stalled Sandpiper settlement from earlier in the series, which will pocket Jimmy the millions he’s owed. But Kim pointedly isn’t doing this out of greed; she’s become disenchanted with spending her days evicting seniors in order to serve the whims of white-collar bankers. She actually wants to use her lawyering skills to do good, hence why she’s focusing only on pro bono work for deserving cases. But since this means having no real income, taking down Howard, a mostly innocent wealthy sap, will ultimately bankroll her more noble enterprise.
In The Time Machine, the Eloi, the wealthy, beautiful elites, live carefree and happy lives – but the grotesque workers, the Morlocks, toil beneath the surface of the Earth. And every once and a while they snatch up and feed on some of the Eloi.
Obviously, Wells meant this as an economic allegory that has produced a multitude of interpretations. But in terms of Better Call Saul, maybe Howard, Clifford Maine, and the other high-priced lawyers, in Kim’s view, are like the Eloi – with Howard’s reputation being the sacrifice that allows the exploited underclass to survive. But things don’t ultimately end well for the Morlocks in The Time Machine. And while Kim’s moral justifications may seem to make sense now, this could indicate that she’s headed for some kind of disaster. Or we’re way off, and we should have been focusing on the Viagra this whole time.
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Top Image: AMC