This article contains spoilers for BETTER CALL SAUL season 5 episode 10.
Howard Hamlin means well. Sure, the Better Call Saul supporting character may come across as materialistic, smug, and self-serving, but I believe he genuinely cares about his employees and Jimmy McGill. Howard was painted as an antagonist in his early appearances on the show, but he only ever acted on Chuck’s behalf. Howard liked and respected Jimmy but followed the orders of his partner.
Chuck’s suicide hit Howard hard and he felt partially responsible. Howard believed that effectively firing Chuck, due to a proposed insurance hike that would bankrupt HMM, led Chuck to take his own life. However, Jimmy was the man responsible for causing that insurance issue. Jimmy knew this but never tried to absolve Howard of the guilt that he felt. Howard was plagued by insomnia, and he saw a therapist to cope with the remorse he felt over Chuck’s suicide. He deeply cared about his partner.
Jimmy’s grudge against Howard has less to do with the man himself and more to do with with Chuck. He associates the two together. It’s also just the way that Howard gives off a golden-boy aura. I wrote about Howard back during his appearance in “Namaste,” writing, “After five seasons, I’ve come to like Howard. Don’t get me wrong; out of the characters on this show that I’d like to spend time around in real life, Howard has to be toward the bottom of the list. Still, I like Howard because I know a lot of people like Howard. I think that Howard means well, and at this point, has sort of established that there’s mostly good intentions behind those sharp three-piece suits and veneers.
“He’s also polite, personable and genuinely listens to people when they speak. Howard is a nice guy. That said, he’s also a massive tool who is clearly more concerned with material things and how he presents himself to the world than he does about any intellectual or philosophical ideas. Howard carries himself like a person who seems unlikely to spend time doing any self-analysis. So little has gone wrong in his life to make him reflect inward. His license plate unironically reads ‘Namaste.’ I like Howard, but he and I are not alike, and he and Jimmy are definitely not alike.”
If anyone has a legitimate bone to pick with Howard, it’s Kim. He treated her unfairly back at HHM, tried to take credit for her professional success, and in the recent Season 5 finale, belittled her decision making. Howard and Kim have always clashed. Kim has legitimate gripes that go deeper than surface level resentments or Howard acting on someone else’s behalf.
Kim’s dislike of Howard is important because it now appears that it will play a major role in the final season of Better Call Saul. Kim hatches a devious plan in the finale; if she and Jimmy were to ruin Howard’s reputation with something heinous, the optics would be so bad that Cliff Main would be forced to settle the lingering Sandpiper case early. That means that the lawyers involved would finally get paid. Kim could start a new pro bono firm and Jimmy could buy his dream home for them to live in. Kim only sees ruining Howard’s reputation as a “a career setback.”
Even Jimmy sees that Howard doesn’t particularly deserve to be used as a sacrificial lamb. Yet, the prospect of receiving millions may be too hard for Jimmy to pass up. Howard has always been a compelling tertiary character, but now he could be pivotal in the Better Call Saul endgame. The golden boy could be heading for the slaughter. After bowling ball attacks and unexpected visits from prostitutes, some may say that Howard has suffered enough. Unfortunately it looks like he has more bad luck coming his way. The only person that may be more dangerous than a scorned, scheming Jimmy, is a indifferent, scheming Kim.