‘Better Call Saul’: Howard Hamlin Was Insane to Think Jimmy Would Ever Work For Him — Here’s Why
It’s not immediately obvious that Walter White and Saul Goodman have a lot in common. The former is a chemistry genius who starts out trying to earn a little money for his family and winds up becoming consumed by his quest for power. The latter is a sleazy criminal attorney who thinks nothing of suggesting killing people who get in the way (like Badger). But Better Call Saul fans are starting to learn there’s more to Saul — or Jimmy — than meets the eye.
The major thing that Walt and Jimmy have in common is that they were both offered one last chance to save them from themselves. For Walt, the moment came during Breaking Bad when his former partner Elliot offers him a job. And for Jimmy it comes in the form of an apology and similar job offer from Howard Hamlin.
[Spoiler Alert: Spoilers ahead for Better Call Saul, Season 5, Episode 4: “Namaste”]
Jimmy McGill has a long, complicated history with HHM
We see through a series of flashbacks on Better Call Saul that Jimmy starts out working in the mailroom at HHM, the firm where his brilliant older brother Chuck is a founding partner. Chuck wants to help Jimmy succeed but never sees him as an equal and is shocked when Jimmy obtains a law degree through a correspondence course. But even after becoming a real lawyer, HHM won’t hire Jimmy.
Chuck uses Howard Hamlin to block Jimmy from getting a job at HHM and forces Jimmy to open his own solo practice. The two go to battle over the next several seasons, especially when Howard uses his power as Kim’s boss to punish her for his feud with Jimmy. Eventually, Howard changes his whole outlook following Chuck’s death.
Howard offers Jimmy a job but it’s too late for that
In Episode 4 of Season 5, Howard takes Jimmy to lunch and offers him a job at HHM. It’s the moment Jimmy was waiting for his whole career — only now after all the drama between them, it’s too late to accept. Jimmy doesn’t trust Howard and after his disastrous time at Davis & Main, another swanky firm, he can’t imagine being a lawyer who follows the status quo. But mostly it’s a matter of pride.
During lunch, Howard says he admires Jimmy and calls him “scrappy” and a “go-getter.” But Jimmy is skeptical that Howard believes what he’s saying. Like Chuck, Howard has always seen himself as better than Jimmy even though he professes not to.
Jimmy doesn’t answer Howard’s proposal immediately. But later, we see Jimmy go to Howard’s house and start lobbing bowling balls at Howard’s vintage car which bears the license plate “Namaste.”
We already knew there was no way Jimmy could take the job. After the bowling balls, the path to Saul Goodman, criminal lawyer opens up.
Walter White could have avoided becoming Heisenberg by accepting a job at Gray Matter
When Walt first gets into the drug game on Breaking Bad, it’s all a ploy to make enough money for his family to live on once he’s dead from terminal lung cancer. We learn that Walt helped found a very successful company, Gray Matter Technologies, along with his business partner Elliot Schwartz. But Walt left the company and his former girlfriend, Gretchen, behind because he felt inferior.
Elliot and Gretchen get married and the value of Gray Matter skyrockets. Walt sold his one-third share of the company for a mere $5,000. But when we see Walt reconnect with Elliot, the company is valued at 2.1 billion, making Walt’s original ownership stake worth $720 million.
At a party, Elliot learns of Walt’s cancer diagnosis and offers him a lucrative position with Gray Matter plus insists on paying for Walt’s treatment himself. But instead of seeing the move as a gesture of friendship, Walt feels offended by the pity and turns down Elliot’s offer. He’s too proud to accept.
Neither Walt nor Jimmy was willing to overcome pride to accept job offers from their former nemeses. And the consequences for both decisions lead to lives of crime, morally questionable decisions, and even death. Should they have just taken the jobs? It’s hard to say.