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Better Call Saul knows how much we love a good scam

Better Call Saul knows how much we love a good scam

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The Breaking Bad spinoff is a perfect match for our extremely online times

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Better Call Saul was always going to be a show about a man dying in slow motion. At the start of the series, Saul Goodman — best known as Walter White’s huckster lawyer in Breaking Bad — goes by another name, the one given to him at birth. Jimmy McGill is a different, more earnest person than Saul Goodman, someone who does not exist in Breaking Bad. Unlike Walter White, we know exactly what’s going to happen to Jimmy, and Better Call Saul is a better show for it. 

In the show’s fifth season, Jimmy’s transformation into Saul is nearly complete. McGill is getting his feet under him after the death of his brother and the end of a yearlong suspension from practicing law. Now, he’s back in the saddle and trying to build his practice as fast as possible under his Saul Goodman alias, which he used for much of the last season to build connections with petty criminals he sold burner phones to for fast cash. 

It’s all so very sad, even if Bob Odenkirk’s carnival barker performance as Jimmy / Saul is as entertaining and funny as it’s always been. As a man who lost his brother, Jimmy never gives himself the opportunity to mourn, instead throwing himself back into the world of two-bit hustles that he knows best, working over suckers and building his reputation in the untapped market of low-level criminals in the habit of committing misdemeanors. Bit by bit, Jimmy McGill is being buried alive, and Saul Goodman is holding the shovel. 

Like the show from which it spun off, Saul’s dramatic arc is an inevitable one. We know that things aren’t going to end well from the start — to a degree that Better Call Saul might sound repetitive to people who have seen Breaking Bad. On a superficial level, this is true: both are shows about a man going sour. But the hows and whys of Better Call Saul’s downward slide feel more vital and relevant, perhaps because they are more tragic. 

If Breaking Bad showed us what entitled toxic masculinity looked like when it ran rampant in the life of the most milquetoast protagonist imaginable, Better Call Saul is about a slower, sadder thing: a man who learns that having feelings is for suckers. It’s a show for the irony-poisoned and extremely online where nothing is assumed to be genuine, and everything is probably a scam. 

Better Call Saul is concerned with what happens when people decide that scamming is the only way to win, and the immense harm inflicted by people who have convinced themselves that anyone behaving earnestly is just playing the game wrong. In Saul, this is illustrated by Kim Wexler, Jimmy’s longtime friend and girlfriend / partner, a damn good lawyer in her own right with a bit of a grifter’s streak in her. 

nothing is assumed to be genuine, and everything is probably a scam

Kim, however, is a character of integrity with a sense of justice and lines that she only crosses when that notion of justice is violated. She’s a vigilante scammer where McGill is an equal-opportunity swindler. At the end of the day, she believes in the system and in Jimmy’s capacity to be an honest man. This means, in Better Call Saul’s universe, she’s doomed. 

In this penultimate season — the show will only return for one more — Kim is learning a truth that Jimmy’s in denial of: no matter how much you tell someone that they are capable of being honest or good, once they have decided that truth does not pay, it’s only a matter of time before they stop maintaining the charade altogether. And once someone has lost every reason to believe in earnest feeling or honesty or justice, they slowly start believing everyone else has, too. 

This is what Better Call Saul has been building toward: a fifth season premiere where Jimmy, as Saul Goodman, erects a carnival tent in an empty lot, surrounded by people who he believes are lost causes who will eventually need a lost cause like himself. The descent is more or less complete. As Jimmy builds the Goodman name, the cartel power players from Breaking Bad begin asserting themselves, and the gilded cage Saul Goodman will ultimately try to flee at the end of that series is nearing completion. He’s going to have it good for a while, though. Grifters always do. That’s part of the problem: we love a good scam. Feelings are for suckers. 

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 23 minutes ago Striking out

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Andrew Webster23 minutes ago
Looking for something to do this weekend?

Why not hang out on the couch playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good time for it, with intriguing recent releases like Return to Monkey Island, Session: Skate Sim, and the Star Wars spinoff Andor. Or you could check out some of the new anime on Netflix, including Thermae Romae Novae (pictured below), which is my personal favorite time-traveling story about bathing.


A screenshot from the Netflix anime Thermae Romae Novae.
Thermae Romae Novae.
Image: Netflix
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Jay PetersSep 23
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Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.


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Tom WarrenSep 23
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Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.


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Nilay PatelSep 13
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If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.


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Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.


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Spain’s Transports Urbans de Sabadell has La Bussí.

Once again, the US has fallen behind in transportation — call it the Bussí gap. A hole in our infrastructure, if you will.


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Doing more with less (extravagant holiday parties).

Sundar Pichai addressed employees’ questions about Google’s spending changes at an all-hands this week, according to CNBC.

“Maybe you were planning on hiring six more people but maybe you are going to have to do with four and how are you going to make that happen?” Pichai sent a memo to workers in July about a hiring slowdown.

In the all-hands, Google’s head of finance also asked staff to try not to go “over the top” for holiday parties.


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Insiders made the most money off of Helium’s “People’s Network.”

Remember Helium, which was touted by The New York Times in an article entitled “Maybe There’s a Use for Crypto After All?” Not only was the company misleading people about who used it — Salesforce and Lime weren’t using it, despite what Helium said on its site — Helium disproportionately enriched insiders, Forbes reports.


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The model seems rudimentary (the renders aren’t amazing quality and seem limited in their variety), but generative AI models like this are only going to improve, speeding up work for all sorts of creative types.


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Japan will fully reopen to tourists in October following two and a half years of travel restrictions.

Good news for folks who have been waiting to book their dream Tokyo vacation: Japan will finally relax Covid border control measures for visa-free travel and individual travelers on October 11th.

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Sony starts selling the Xperia 1 IV with continuous zoom lens.

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Here’s Allison’s take on Sony’s continuous-zoom lens when she tested a prototype Xperia 1 IV back in May: 

Sony put a good point-and-shoot zoom in a smartphone. That’s an impressive feat. In practical use, it’s a bit less impressive. It’s essentially two lenses that serve the same function: portrait photography. The fact that there’s optical zoom connecting them doesn’t make them much more versatile.

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