The metamorphosis of Saul

Have you ever wondered why Better Call Saul is so popular … and so binge-watchable? Well, once again, with my mythologist’s eyes on it, I can see how its scaffolding is constructed from the oldest story ever told, and the one guaranteed to get bums on seats every time. It’s the story we never ever get tired of hearing. It’s the story of the mythological hero.

There’s a telling scene that encapsulates the ethos of the whole series. It is in effect, the Invitation to the Challenge.

Little Jimmy is behind the counter in his father’s shop, after watching him get ripped off by a con-man. Jimmy can see the con-man’s game, but his father cannot. It hurts Jimmy to the quick, to realise that he can see what his father cannot, and that his father won’t heed his warning. When his father leaves the scene, the conman says to him:

“Son, you’re going to learn in life that there are only two types in this world, wolves and sheep. You’ll have to decide which one you’re going to be.”

However, he wasn’t quite right. He didn’t know that there’s a third option.

You can become a sheep dog… a dog that hasn’t lost touch with its own inner wolf, otherwise known to Jungians as the Shadow. This inner realisation means that the sheep dog knows exactly how the wolf thinks; it knows all its ‘plays’ and so it knows how to protect the sheep from it. This is when knowledge is gnosis… it’s not just informational …it’s more about cunning, in the original meaning of the word.

The sheep dog transfers its burning, indestructible loyalty from the wolf pack to its master. It merges its consciousness into that of its master, the shepherd. So it knows pretty well instinctively what the shepherd will want at all times. This is why we see bishops and popes carrying crooks. But that’s exactly what they are … crooks. The real Shepherd is the beat of the rhythm that sings this creation into being.

Mike is an ex-police sheep dog, trying to shield the family of his son that had been shot dead by bent cops. Jimmy becomes the sheep dog lawyer Saul Goodman, to protect the drug addicts from the worst excesses of ‘lawfare’ and prison state America. Kim Wexler loves him because she’s sees her own embryonic inner wolf in him. Nacho Varga is acting solely to keep the Salamanca wolves away from his father. Gus Fring uses his profits from the cartel to anonymously create a peaceful idyllic community in the Mexican desert.

But you can’t just decide to become a sheep-dog, and that’s that.

Better Call Saul shows scene after scene of the trials and challenges necessary to get in touch, and fully merge with, the inner wolf or Shadow, and they are not dissimilar to the trials of the mythological hero.

All of them have to face death, in different and sometimes terrifying forms. They are confronted with their worst fears, trials of endurance and unbearable heartache. Sometimes they are literally lost in the wilderness – the desert over the southern border, the Shadowlands, the badlands.

So being a sheep-dog isn’t for everyone, and you might just prefer to stay a sheep. On the other hand, if your inner wolf is stirring and starting to howl on a full moon, then that’s the Call of the Wild and so, speaking from experience, you won’t have much choice!