- 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, set after the events of Breaking Bad. In Omaha, Nebraska, Saul Goodman, assuming a new identity as "Gene", works behind the counter at a shopping-mall Cinnabon. He becomes tense when a customer seems to be staring at him, but is instantly relieved when he passes by him. Later, inside a modest house, Saul is flipping through channels when he decides to retrieve a VHS from a hidden shoebox. The tape's contents is revealed to be a copy of Saul's TV advertisements back in the days when he was still the esteemed lawyer. As the ads play, Saul begins to weep.
In May 2002, Jimmy McGill is a down-on-his-luck Albuquerque public defender representing three teenagers charged with breaking into a funeral home and performing a sex act on a severed human head. Jimmy's argument to the jury is that the youths' 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 teens having sex with the severed head. Several members of the jury, the judge, and the court reporter are unable to look at the tape.
As he fails to win an acquittal for his clients, Jimmy gets a $700 paycheck as a public defender — not $700 per defendant, as he had presumed. He complains about the measly payment, and when a potentially big client calls on his cell phone, Jimmy pretends to be his own mild-mannered, British secretary in an office. 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, the treasurer for Bernalillo County, who has been accused of embezzling $1.6 million, at Loyola's in order to secure a deal. Just as a letter of engagement is about to get signed, Craig's wife Betsy, whom Craig has brought along, stays her husband’s hand and asks for time to think things over.
While Jimmy is driving, 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, threatening to call the police unless he complies. Realizing that the situation is a scam, Jimmy calls out the boys out for their ruse and choice of victim, upon which the brothers run away. Afterwards, Jimmy returns to his office - the back room of a Vietnamese nail salon - and finds no messages on his answering machine. Opening his mail, he finds a $26,000 check from the law firm of Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill (HHM), which he tears up.
Jimmy drives to HHM to confront Howard Hamlin and his partners. He drops the torn pieces of the check on the conference room table and accuses HHM of trying to cheat his brother Chuck -- a founding partner of the firm -- out of his rightful share. Assuring Howard that Chuck will probably not be returning to work, Jimmy demands that HHM give Chuck his $17 million severance package. Howard refuses to concede, stating Chuck is still on "extended sabbatical." On his way out, Howard who tries to pass along some documents for Chuck but Jimmy declines, insisting that he "doesn't work here anymore." Jimmy then notices the Kettlemans stopping in to hire HHM over him. Jimmy maintains enough composure to reach the parking garage before spending his frustration on a trash bin. Noticing Kim Wexler standing nearby smoking a cigarette, Jimmy borrows a drag off it before pleading to her for help. Kim states she can do nothing.
Jimmy visits Chuck, who believes himself to be suffering from electromagnetic hypersensitivity and requires visitors to leave electronic devices such as keys and phones in the mailbox before entering his house. The power to Chuck’s house is disconnected and he works by lantern light on a manual typewriter. Chuck insists he’s going to get better in order to return to work at HHM and declines Jimmy’s pleas to demand a cashout from his partners, as the firm would probably have to liquidate to raise the necessary cash. Jimmy says his public defender work won't keep both of them afloat, but Chuck replies that the experience of helping people is more important than money. Chuck also reassures Jimmy 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. He also relates Howard's concern about Jimmy using his name in his law practice, and suggests that he change it so as not to confuse potential clients. An infuriated Jimmy leaves.
Desperate for money, Jimmy tracks down the Lindholm twins and proposes a partnership. He explains how, back when his hometown of Cicero, Illinois, he was known as "Slippin' Jimmy." Jimmy would find the most slippery patches of ice every winter, stage a fall, and extort money from people. Jimmy enlists the twins in a plan to use a similar gambit on Betsy, staging a similar slip-and-fall scenario at a certain intersection on her daily commute. One of the twins will be hit by Betsy's station wagon, after which Jimmy will come in, having just "happened" to be driving by, and offer his legal surfaces to her. He'll purportedly talk the twins out of suing the woman, later paying both $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 twins execute the plan perfectly, but moments after the “accident” occurs, the car drives off to the dismay of the skateboarders. The twins give chase to the station wagon, skitching on 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, the twins attempt to scam her anyway and follow her into the house. Jimmy frantically searches for the twins - they were briefly in cellphone contact - and happens across the parked wagon. He knocks on the front door, claiming to be an officer of the court. However, when the door opens, Jimmy comes face to face with Tuco Salamanca, who pulls Jimmy into the house at gunpoint.
- 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 ("").
- 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. ("") ("")
- 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. ("")
- When arguing with Walt in the Vacuum cleaners cellar in "", 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.