The Sneaky Greatness of Saul Goodman

The first time we see Saul Goodman in the Season 5B premiere of Breaking Bad, it’s via an unbuttoned shirtsleeve — the color of an impossibly obnoxious neon green — peeking out of his office door to summer Jesse Pinkman into his office. As the catatonic Jesse slumps into Saul’s office with $5 million separated into two duffel bags we see Saul buttoning up his dress shirt as a middle age Asian woman packs up her massage therapy equipment. Leaving his office she scoffs at Saul, “Front dooor.” Saul’s fly is open. He got a happy ending. Jesse just rolls his eyes. Oh the comedy. This happens almost 30 minutes into the episode and, funny enough, it wasn’t until I was graced with Saul’s comb-over and jittery, sleazy smarm that I thought, “OK, we’re officially rollin’ now.”

Breaking Bad will go down as one of the greatest television dramas of all-time. There is no critical mass of dissent on this matter. Walter White, sublimely played by Bryan Cranston, will be mentioned alongside Homer Simpson, Tony Soprano, Mary Richards, Stringer Bell and a handful of others when magazines like Time, Rolling Stone and TV Guide create lists of the greatest TV characters of all-time. Giancarlo Espositio’s Gus Fring is a landmark TV criminal. And, if the 5B premiere is any indication, Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) is morphing into one of the more memorable protagonists of this era.

But we sleep on the sneaky, subtle greatness of Saul Goodman.

Bob Odenkirk is a comedy great. Mr. Show with Bob and David, which ran on HBO for four seasons, is your typical cult favorite. t was a smart comedy before America was really ready for smart comedies. He gets the cult-love for his role in the one fleeting season of The Ben Stiller Show, too. What else…oh, shoutout to Porno Gil from the first season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. And I never thought I could ever want anyone other than Steve Carrell playing Michael Scott, but when Odenkirk made a late appearance in the final season of The Office, he made me think twice (Carrell reportedly beat out Odenkirk for the Scott role). The point is that Odenkirk is one of the more influential and sought after comedic minds of his generation.

The whole world — not just comedy nerds — see this now via Saul, who is, by far, the funniest character on a drama that has given us plenty of laughs. You might fool yourself into thinking this title belongs to Badger, but Saul is not merely a buffoon. He’s a cunning criminal, too, and Odenkirk manifests the amoral, no, immoral greasiness of Saul’s character with surprising depth for comedian. Check some of his great moments below…

When pondering the sly greatness of Odenkirk’s Saul, it got me thinking about some of the other more under-appreciated great characters of recent memory. The following characters below would round out my top five favorite…

Arthur (Rainn Wilson), Six Feet Under: Before Wilson was the iconic Dwight Schrute, he was Arthur — a severely awkward young man bedding a 60-something widow of a funeral home. He played it with panache.

Bodie Broadus (J. D. Williams), The Wire: Bodie begins to hit his stride in Season 1 with this “the king stays the king” scene. But, at this point, we the viewers were still more invested in Wallace and D’Angelo. Bodie just seemed like a semi-grimy soldier with a cold heart. By the end of the series, he was my favorite character on the show. This was why…

Paulie Walnuts (Tony Sirico), The Sopranos: Paulie was a complex character. He was a classic bully. He was a sycophant. He wore sweat suits so tight you could see the outline of his junk. He was unmarried and lonely. He was loyal. He also wasn’t to be trusted. He was a hothead, but he was also the “cooler heads prevail” voice of reason in many instances. And he was hilarious. Go to this link for some of his best quotes.

Dexter’s sister Debra Morgan: Uh, yeah right. As Kristin Wiig’s SNL staple Judy Grimes would say “just kidding, just kidding, just kidding.” This woman can’t make it a scene without breaking out her quiver-lip and turning on her cry-voice. And there’s her cry-face. She’s the WORST in all caps.

…Meanwhile, did you know Vince Gilligan might be giving us a Saul Goodman spin-off?

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