ROBBING PETER TO PAY SAUL
“It could be argued that all of life is one great coincidence,” Jimmy McGill theorizes in Hero, the fourth installment of AMC’s new hit, Better Call Saul. What doesn’t seem to be a coincidence are the running references to ancient Hebrew scripture. Over the past two weeks, we’ve seen well-known Biblical characters invoked as well as a curious reference to a lesser-known New Testament passage. Here’s a guide to the recent onslaught of mentions from The Good Book.
Jonah and the Whale
In Episode three, Nacho, we have a loose re-telling of the story of Jonah. For those who haven’t been to Sunday School in a few years, Jonah is sent by God to warn the people of a city called Ninevah that they are in danger unless they repent from their evil deeds. Jonah is reluctant to carry out the mission and goes to great lengths to avoid it – he doesn’t create a sexy robot voice machine, but still, as Mike suggests it’s human nature to want to stay close to home. After spending a few nights inside a big fish, Jonah rises to the occasion, warns the people of Ninevah, who actually heed his advice, which in the end causes more trouble for Jonah. In an homage to the story, we even see Jimmy intently watching a fish in the huge tank at the Asian nail salon, while debating whether to warn the Kettlemans of their impending doom.
The Good Samaritan
In Hero, when Jimmy tells Nacho, “You should be thanking this good Samaritan,” his use of the term couldn’t be more appropriate. Even the most unfamiliar with the Bible recognize the concept of good Samaritans. In modern culture, it simply refers to someone who helps or does something nice for a stranger. However, when Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37, it had an even deeper significance. At the time, Samaritans were considered the lowest class of people in Israel. It was accepted practice to look down on them. Jesus was making an ironic point, if the people you look down on can still find it within their heart to do you kindness, you better have a fairly broad definition of who your neighbor (who you’re commanded to love) is.
David and Goliath
Also in Hero, we watch Jimmy go toe to toe with the legal behemoth, Hamlin, Hamlin, and McGill, specifically the firm’s driving force, Howard Hamlin. Kim warns Jimmy, “You can’t win this fight.” We’re unsure if his confidence is blind or if he actually has a plan. In case we missed the direct connection, Jimmy spells it out for us, invoking the story of David and Goliath. Again, even the staunchest Atheist is likely familiar with the story of young David using stones and a slingshot to defeat the vilest giant in the land. What is often forgotten, however, is that the showdown between David and Goliath took place in the context of a strategic military battle. Saul’s use of custom silk suits and billboards is just as strategic. I don’t think we’ve seen the giant of Hamlin slain by any measure, but I do think the first stone has been slung.
Upon This Rock, I Will Build My Church…
Thus far, Jimmy McGill has held his ethical ground. As he stated in an earlier episode, he’s no longer Slippin’ Jimmy. However, when thousands of dollars he desperately needs suddenly become available to him via the Kettlemans’ theft, we begin to see him crack. The negotiation begins with Jimmy telling the Kettlemans he doesn’t take bribes. He tries to do the right thing. He tries to take the money as a retainer for his legal services. This entire mess has come about as a result of Jimmy simply trying to score the Kettlemans as clients, and now it seems like that might again be a possibility. But the opportunity slips between his fingers when Betsy Kettleman pronounces, “You’re the kind of lawyer guilty people hire.” After Jimmy takes the hush money, we see him back in his tiny office trying to justify what he’s done – calculating if the cash might add up to the most liberal billable hours and services. Finally, he gives up. He places the money he couldn’t possibly justify on his desk and declares, “Upon this rock, I will build my church.” The saying is uttered by Jesus to the Apostle Peter in Matthew 16 of the New Testament. Earlier in the same chapter, Jesus makes the only New Testament reference to Jonah in the Bible (see the section on Jonah above). Peter has proved to be an imperfect person to build an empire on throughout the book of Matthew and things only get worse before they get better. Like Peter, Jimmy will use this imperfect catalyst to launch something great. He’s taking this money for a purpose beyond greed – at least at this point. He WANTS to do good by it. Jimmy has a plan. Upon this rock, he will build his church.