In the “Better Call Saul” Season One finale, Why Is It Significant that Jimmy Takes Marco’s Ring?


Viewers of Breaking Bad (2008-2013) may have wondered why Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) always wore a ring on his pinky finger. Many probably never noticed the ring. Those who didn’t pay attention to the ring during Breaking Bad may also have overlooked the origin story provided in the first season finale of Better Call Saul (2015- ) for the seemingly innocuous piece of costuming. But in this episode, the show provides a history of the ring that makes the connections between Jimmy McGill’s early pre-Saul days to his Breaking Bad future even more explosive.

The ring belonged to Marco (Mel Rodriguez), Jimmy McGill’s late partner in crime from Cicero, with whom he committed petty thefts and who was easily his truest friend on Earth. At the end of the first season, we see the seeds of Jimmy’s transformation from would-be-straight-shooter Jimmy McGill, attorney at law, to the representative of the criminal underworld: Saul Goodman, criminal lawyer. In the second-to-last episode, Jimmy learns that his older brother, Chuck (Michael McKean), an esteemed lawyer incapacitated by his believed Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (suffering caused by exposure to electricity), has secretly forbidden his firm, Hamlin, Hamlin & Mcgill, from hiring Jimmy because the former conman is “not a real lawyer” in Chuck’s eyes. After the shattering revelation of betrayal by the brother Jimmy has patiently cared for through Chuck’s condition, Jimmy returns to Cicero and relives the old days with Marco, enacting their old schemes until, on Jimmy’s last night there, Marco dies of a heart attack. In the final episode, Jimmy’s taking the ring is symbolic of his decision to do whatever it takes to make money.

Bob Odenkirk in Better Caul Saul (2015- ) and Breaking Bad (2008-2013)

“That’s the ring Saul will wear throughout Breaking Bad, and you can perhaps look at it like the Precious from The Lord of the Rings, corrupting Jimmy and possessing him with the spirit of Marco,” Hitflix writes, “(As he peels out of the courthouse parking lot, he starts humming — just as Marco did while waiting for Jimmy to arrive in the alley for their final scam — the classic opening riff of Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the Water,’ before the song itself comes on the soundtrack.) Or you can simply look at it as a reminder of who Jimmy/Saul wants to be, and how much he has to resist the temptation to do the right thing when it could cost him money. Ex-smokers are sometimes counseled to wear rubber bands around their wrists and snap them whenever they’re tempted to smoke; this is like an addict wearing one to remind them why they’d be stupid to quit.”

Better Call Saul shows Jimmy continually struggling against this “better” part of his nature — his instinct to do the right thing, when he knows he will pay for these moments of goodness.