Better Call Saul – Season 2 – Episode 3 – Amarillo (2016) – The price of excellence
The Cost of Excellence:
In the third episode of the second season of Better Call Saul, Chuck McGill, played by Michael McKean, delivers a powerful line that speaks to the often-unseen price of excellence: “The price of excellence is eternal vigilance.”
Chuck is a lawyer and the older brother of the show’s protagonist, Jimmy McGill, who goes on to become the infamous Saul Goodman. Chuck is a high-functioning lawyer, but he suffers from a rare condition called electromagnetic hypersensitivity, which makes him sensitive to electronic devices. As a result, he lives in near-total isolation, shunning all forms of modern technology, including cell phones, laptops, and even electricity. Despite his condition, Chuck remains committed to his profession, and he is respected and admired by his colleagues for his legal expertise.
In this particular scene, Chuck is discussing the importance of vigilance with Jimmy. The two brothers have a complicated relationship, with Chuck often feeling resentful of Jimmy’s perceived lack of work ethic and professionalism. But in this moment, Chuck reveals a deeper appreciation for the value of hard work, and the need to remain vigilant in pursuit of excellence.
The phrase “the price of excellence is eternal vigilance” is actually a quote from a speech by Thomas Jefferson. In the speech, Jefferson was referring to the need to remain vigilant in defense of liberty and democracy, which he saw as under constant threat from external and internal forces. In the context of Better Call Saul, Chuck is applying this same principle to the legal profession, emphasizing the need to remain vigilant in the pursuit of justice.
The phrase speaks to the idea that achieving excellence requires constant effort and attention. It is not enough to simply be good at what you do; you must always be working to improve and refine your skills. This requires a level of commitment and dedication that can be exhausting, and it is a price that not everyone is willing to pay.
In the world of Better Call Saul, Chuck is a shining example of the kind of person who is willing to pay that price. He is a man who has sacrificed his personal life in pursuit of professional excellence, and his dedication has paid off in the form of a successful legal career. But his commitment has also come at a cost, both to his personal well-being and his relationship with his family.
Overall, the scene in which Chuck delivers this line is a poignant moment that underscores the central themes of the show: the price of success, the sacrifices that must be made in pursuit of excellence, and the toll that such pursuits can take on our personal lives. The line is a powerful reminder that achieving greatness requires constant effort and vigilance, and that the price of excellence is one that must be paid every day.