Slippin' Jimmy Lives On

Arts & EntertainmentTelevision / Movies

  • Author Shannon Demuth
  • Published April 10, 2024
  • Word count 647

Tricksters are ambiguous characters such as the lawyers depicted in Better Call Saul, particularly Jimmy McGill, AKA Saul Goodman, AKA Slippin’ Jimmy. The intricacies of the Trickster archetype were examined by Carl Jung in the landmark work Four Archetypes: Mother, Rebirth, Spirit, Trickster. In order to exemplify customary motifs linked to Trickster, he utilized Mercurius as an example. Trickster adopts the persona of Mercurius, an individual who exhibits a multitude of attributes: a proclivity for cunning jests and malevolent pranks, the capacity to transform into various forms, a mixed-animal and divine essence, and considerable exposure to a variety of torturous practices. Jung posits that the Trickster figure is subjected to many harms; nevertheless, his capacity to metamorphose empowers him to confront any obstacle. This quality makes him resemble a legendary figure whom his cunning wit saved. "These qualities make Mercurius appear to be a daemonic being resurrected from primitive times, older than the Greek Hermes," Jung continues.

Saul Goodman, much like Mercurius, ever existed as an enigmatic figure. He was a con artist from an early age, deceiving acquaintances and committing financial scams. Saul delighted in his role as a swindler; not only did it generate income, but it also demanded street smarts and ingenuity. He delighted in deceiving and observing the victim succumb to the lure. He despised the constrictive sway of conventional routes to success and delighted in advising prominent criminals while being a resourceful and affable swindle artist. Throughout his lifetime, Slippin' Jimmy was presented with a multitude of opportunities to pursue success in the conventional manner. However, he consistently found the sacrifice of his Shadow to be unbearable.

Most notably, Saul fits the Trickster archetype because he is clever. He was a brilliant and resourceful individual who frequently found unconventional and inventive solutions to his problems, whether in his personal or legal life. Also, Saul was deceptive. He consistently employed deceitful and manipulative tactics, leveraging his charisma and wit to achieve his objectives, even if it entails circumventing or violating legal regulations, a hallmark of the Trickster archetype.

Like many Trickster figures, Jimmy operated in a morally ambiguous space. While he often tried to do what he believed was right, he was not afraid to cross ethical boundaries. Moral ambiguity characterizes Jimmy's operations, as it does the majority of con artists.

Throughout the narrative of Better Call Saul, the audience is granted a bird's-eye view of Jimmy's shapeshifter metamorphosis into the ethically ambivalent attorney Saul Goodman. This metamorphosis, frequently observed in Trickster tales, encompasses a persona, character, and conduct shift. One may argue that the true villain in Better Call Saul is Saul Goodman, Slippin' Jimmy's steadfast alter ego, who succumbed to his brother's demands and left the fold as scapegoats do. In time, this sacrifice became too much, and in typical Trickster style, James McGill became Saul Goodman.

Jimmy McGill, like most Tricksters, delights in moral ambiguity. Despite his affable demeanor, he provides counsel to a number of prominent felons and is affiliated with the underworld. He was a con artist in the past, deceiving individuals and attempting to steal their money. Being a swindler was not only enjoyable for him financially but also for the enjoyment it provided. He delighted in deceiving and observing the victim succumb to the lure. Numerous opportunities present James (or Saul, as he would later identify himself) with the chance to become an ethical, practicing lawyer; however, he consistently declines due to the hegemonic pressures and stringent regulations that stifle his creative faculties. Engaging in legal work necessitates the exercise of self-control and the capacity to repress one's emotions, both of which surpass his capabilities. Tricksters can be creators and destroyers, heroes and villains, sometimes all at once, because they embody the chaos and unpredictability of life, often challenging us to learn much about our own decency and morality in dark yet clever and humorous ways.

Shannon Demuth is a faculty member at Eastern New Mexico University. She has taught business law, ethics, and psychology courses in Arkansas, Colorado, and New Mexico, with a special interest in the Trickster archetype found in myths, folklore, literature, and pop culture worldwide.

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