The Urge to “Fix”

By now you all know how much of a fan of both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul I am. As it turns out, I’ve been wondering when the third series of Better Call Saul will be shown and just saw an article that gave me hope it will be soon.

But the reason I’m telling you about this is because of something actor Bob Odenkirk said in his answer to one of the last questions he was asked in this interview. In many of our discussions we have noted that MC always asserts that they never want to “fix” Martin Ellingham. Nevertheless, many viewers seem to have trouble restraining their urges to turn him into someone more affectionate, or more socially adept, or who smiles more.

This sort of inclination goes also to the idea of whether people can change, a topic we’ve discussed continuously because it has been addressed in the show.

Well, Bob Odenkirk plays the role of an anti-hero in both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul and his assessment of his character comes extremely close to what we could say about ME. First he says:

“Saul Goodman, to me, is kind of a guy who’s shut down a lot of his emotional life, because I guess his feelings have been hurt, and he’s decided to play tough with the world. In this season, some pretty bad things happen to Jimmy, and we see him starting to shut down those connections, the way his emotions flow. He starts to shut down in this season—not completely, but it’s like you feel these gates closing around the character, and he’s just getting darker and tougher.

It’s wonderful because that is the journey we’re on, and we’re getting somewhere. But it’s also kind of sad to play him, and to feel a person whose response to disappointment is to close himself off more and more from the world, and from hope.”

Then he’s asked: “Do you ever find yourself being driven mad by Jimmy’s behavior? He’s a guy who’s so easy to root for, and yet he’s also exasperating.” (FYI, Jimmy is his actual name, but he adopts the name of Saul Goodman later in the show.)

And he answers: “Yes. You want to give advice to him. It’s like the way you feel about a friend or a sibling who maybe has…you know, we all have different broken responses to our circumstances. It’s like having someone like that in your life, that you’re close to, and you want to instruct them on not making the same mistake again and again. So I do have those feelings, and I think what’s important for me, as part of a creative team in this effort, is that this desire to fix him is the same desire you have when you watch [Breaking Bad’s] Walter White. You say, ‘Don’t do that! Just take the money and go!’ But he’s on a path, and he’s going to stay on it, and you can’t change it. And the psychological truth that these guys establish and follow is pretty strong and deeply thought out. So, similar to your friend or your family member, you just have to bite your tongue, and suffer, and let them go on their road and root for them.”

What I infer from that is even the actors portraying these troubled characters have an urge to “fix” them and stop them from heading in the wrong direction, but they understand the demands of the plot and accept that changing the characters would damage the storyline. Thus, whether or not we believe that people can change, and whether or not we have this humane desire to warn the character that he is headed in the wrong direction, a fictional story doesn’t allow for that. Not only that, but it’s exactly because we want to “fix” these characters that they are so compelling.

And now I think we are back in the scope of our discussion of the post titled “Should Martin and Louisa Stay Together.” We should not lose sight of the fact that it is a story contrived precisely to cause a wellspring of emotions. We cannot meddle with the story no matter how much we might feel the urge to!

Originally posted 2017-02-16 10:43:52.

2 thoughts on “The Urge to “Fix”

  1. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    As the saying goes…whatever turns you on! I prefer to examine what’s put in front of us, even if they put us on a track that is headed for a cliff. (In this show we are more likely to end up hanging from the nearest limb, stupefied by how we managed to grab it!)

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