The Letting Go of Saul…

I was hooked on Better Call Saul after hearing that it became a spin-off from the Breaking Bad series. Even though it can be slow and not as exciting as other television shows at times, it highlights a complex storyline of good intentions but slippery morality that blurs and crosses the line. It portrays the main character making a lot of excuses for his actions to justify his poor and selfish choices. It presents a story of lost and found, of pettiness, revenge, and retribution instead of justice, truth, and mercy. While the main character does ignite frustration and anger from viewers for his egocentric lifestyle and thought pattern, I personally tend to be intrigued by those types of characters because they make good storylines.

Those plots teach me to be patient and wait for divine justice or have hope in conversion. As a priest, I oftentimes pray that those characters will come to recognize their evil ways. I, at times too, pray that divine justice will be served so those who are hurt by their malicious actions can be consoled. I know… I sound so naive because those are fictional characters, but it is just who I am, especially if I am intrigued by the slower and more complex storylines. As a long-time viewer of the series, I got to say that the series finale does not disappoint because it ends on a conversion note. As a matter of fact, I was praying from early on that Saul Goodman would repent and change his way… and was very happy to find out what happens at the end.

Similar to the character of Walter White from the original series, Jimmy (James) McGill starts out with good intentions. He becomes jaded after being dismissed, disvalued, distrusted, and looked down upon by those who are around him, including his very own brother, Chuck (Charles). He comes up with creative ways to find clients in order to pay the bill, even at times including those who are of dubious past and character. Jimmy often goes down the slippery slope path to get what he thinks he deserved and to get revenge upon those he thinks wronged him. That vengeful and destructive path leads him to take on a new alias and persona, Saul Goodman, especially his new approach to “defend” the undefendable and least desirable characters. It leads him to the cartel and many dangerous interactions. He definitely does not feel any remorse when money keeps coming in and he is now better known, trusted, and accepted by many — even if it is the questionable crowd.

This vengeful mindset ultimately leads him to plot a retributive plot against his biggest enemy, Howard Hamlin. He comes up with a very elaborate plan with his wife, Kim Wexler, in order to destroy Howard. Nonetheless, things go sideways, which ultimately causes Kim to leave him and come clean because she could not stand the immense guilt. Saul, of course, is very dismissive of the idea and continues on his way to scam and manipulate others. It leads him to another new alias, Gene Takovic. He lives behind this persona until the very last moment of the series finale. But… something finally happens within him, perhaps he recognizes that he is all alone and the only person that he cares about is resentful and disgusted at his denial. Saul comes clean and accepts his legal punishment, thus ultimately going back to being called Jimmy.

The storyline takes time to get used to. It is not as fast or action-packed as other series. It can definitely be “boring” at times. However, it rewards the viewers with unpacking the main character and his struggle to be accepted, the poor and selfish choices to do that at all costs, and the consequences that cause others to suffer and die. Saul gains a lot more influence and acceptance through worldly means, but he remains lonely until the end. The very people who cared for him either passed away or left him out of disgust. He finally recognizes that he has no one being Saul, thus accepting the real consequences of his selfish actions in order to be who he really is deep from within again — Jimmy.

Perhaps I am reading too much into the story but I do love a story of conversion — no matter how long the journey might seem to take! In similar ways, too, the Acts of the Apostles tell us the numerous stories of conversion through the preaching of the Gospel by the Apostles and early Christians. Their words cut to the heart of their listeners because the Gospel was preached with joy and perseverance through many trials, hardships, and persecutions. As a matter of fact, St. Peter said in his first epistle, that we should learn to be patient through suffering, especially in pursuing what is good. We are able to do this, not just by our own ability, but through the grace of God. It is Christ who taught us how to suffer out of love and for love, giving us an example to follow in His footsteps. He bore our sins and nailed them to the Cross so that we are free to live for righteousness. We are healed by His wounds. We had gone astray but have now returned the Shepherd. (cf. 1 Peter 2:20-25)

Furthermore, the Lord Himself invited us to learn to listen in order to follow Him. This lesson is very important in our very own Christian journey and spiritual life! Why? Because listening is hard! Too oftentimes, we like to come to “prayer time” with a laundry list of things to say, ask, complain, and gripe about. We do not know how to listen because we have become so impatiently irritable in this constantly moving and “busy” world. We are scared of the silence as well as being honest, genuine, and transparent. We have easily become too full of ourselves that we no longer want to step outside of our little world in order to listen, learn, and grow according to His will. Nonetheless, we will forever be lost if we do not learn how to listen to the Good Shepherd who is trying to guide us. (cf. John 10:1-10) If we do not take the time to recognize His voice and respond when He calls, we will forever be lost within ourselves or be ignorantly following the fake voice of strangers, thieves, and robbers who are only interested in controlling, manipulating, and enslaving us by making us dependent on them.

He came so that we might have life and have it more abundantly! Do we believe this?!? Will we seek conversion and change our lives in order to follow Him? The most unfortunate thing is to gain the whole world but lose our souls. (cf. Matthew 16:26) The saddest reality is to have everything that this world is selling to us, being an object of desire and envy by others, yet still lonely and miserable deep from within. There is an emptiness deep within us, and there is no vain matter in this world that can fill it because God has put that desire for the infinite deep from within us. Our hearts yearn and desire for Him! Only He can satisfy the deepest yearning of our souls.

Therefore, let us seek the conversion of heart to return back to Him. No matter how far we might think we have strayed away, let us not lose hope, continue to miserably make up excuses for ourselves, or put the blame on others, but dig deeper to find and become who we are called to be deep from within. May we find joy and contentment in being children of God and love with simplicity of heart. Trust me, this is not easy, but it frees us from endless and miserable wants, envy, and jealousy. Let us let go of our worldly and shallow persona, kingdom, and comfort zone to be who we are made and called to be deep from within. It all begins with conversion, continues with patience and perseverance, and deepens with a life of discipleship through prayer and worship.

Peace be with you.

— (The picture of the character “Saul Goodman” is taken from Better Call Saul television series by High Bridge Production and Sony Pictures) —