Television

Just How Many Bob Odenkirk Characters Are Secretly Assassins?

How many times has Bob Odenkirk played a killer for hire? The answer may surprise you.

A triptych of still images of Bob Odenkirk in various roles. On the left, he's bruised up and smoking a cigarette in Nobody, in the center, he's wearing a shirt on his head in a still from Better Call Saul, on the right, he's in 19th century garb in a still from Little Women.
A man of many faces, all potentially deadly. Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Universal Pictures, AMC, and Sony Pictures.

Over the course of his career, Bob Odenkirk has played a staggering variety of characters, from a brilliant marching band composer to a sleazy lawyer, but until now, they have all had one thing in common: None of them are hiding a secret life as a ruthless killing machine capable of turning any room into an absolute charnel house in a matter of seconds. In his new movie Nobody, however, Odenkirk has finally played a character who is secretly a highly-trained assassin, and over the course of the movie, he uses his hands, his guns, and an extraordinary variety of improvised weapons to slaughter his way through the Russian mafia, John Wick-style. In the opening of the movie, however, he comes across as a hapless suburban dad—in other words, a Bob Odenkirk character. Which raises the question: Has Odenkirk secretly been playing this character all along? To find out, we took a look back at his career to scientifically determine which of his characters were actually highly trained international assassins. Here’s what we found.

Saturday Night Live

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One of Odenkirk’s earliest television appearances was Tom Hanks’ Oct. 8, 1988 Saturday Night Live episode, in which Odenkirk, two weeks shy of his 26th birthday, played an NBC page during Hanks’ monologue. (A 25-year-old Conan O’Brien also makes an appearance.) However, he is not playing a highly trained killer who is merely posing as an NBC page between bloodbaths. We can be confident about this conclusion because Tom Hanks has gone on to host Saturday Night Live seven more times since then, which would never have happened if Lorne Michaels had had to dispose of two dead bodies in Hanks’ hotel room. That’s why they don’t let Adrien Brody host anymore!

Odds Bob Odenkirk’s Character Is Secretly a Highly Trained Assassin: 0%.

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Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist

In “Fructose,” a 1996 episode of Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, Odenkirk voiced “Bob,” one of Dr. Katz’s patients. While on the wiggling, animated couch, Bob expresses several concerns, as follows:

• His efforts to join a terrorist organization, militia, or violent street gang have come to nothing because no one will accept him.
• He is unhappy with the audiobook version of Where’s Waldo, which he bought for “a long drive.”
• He plays a lot of computer games, which he tells Dr. Katz are “dangerous, I think, ’cause they do bring out the violence in you. For me, I just don’t like feeling that upset—I don’t want to kill anybody.”
• He’s glad that stage magicians don’t have real magic powers, because they’d be able to take over the world.

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So he’s playing a guy who wants his psychiatrist to know (and write down in his notes) that he is not associated with any violent organizations—he couldn’t join one if he tried—and violence upsets him anyway, even in computer games. He also reveals, probably inadvertently, that he goes on long drives and often worries about people having more power than he does, although the only situation where he can imagine being bested involves magical powers. In other words, this character is trying to create a paper trail that suggests he is a nebbish, but is obviously a highly trained killing machine who drives all over the country “painting houses” for the highest bidder.

Odds Bob Odenkirk’s Character Is Secretly a Highly Trained Assassin: 95%.

Seinfeld

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Odenkirk appeared in “The Abstinence,” a 1996 episode of Seinfeld, as one of Elaine’s boyfriends. She initially has the impression he’s a doctor, but he clarifies that he is not because he has repeatedly failed his licensing exam. Later, when someone passes out in a restaurant where they are eating, Odenkirk’s character has no idea how to treat him. Elaine tries to help him study for the exam, but he doesn’t seem to know anything about the topic. At the end of the episode, Odenkirk claims to have passed the exam, but promptly dumps Elaine, telling her, “I always knew that after I became a doctor, I would dump whoever I was with and find someone better.” He then disappears from her life forever. The only way it could be more obvious that Odenkirk is playing a highly trained assassin in New York on business trying to keep a flimsy cover story going long enough to get close to his target would be if we actually saw him assassinate someone. He probably listened to Where’s Waldo on the drive up.

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Odds Bob Odenkirk’s Character Is Secretly a Highly Trained Assassin: 100%.

Mr. Show With Bob and David

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Bob Odenkirk played a wide variety of characters on the cult classic sketch comedy show he and David Cross shared, but none of them were assassins, except for John Baptiste Philouza, who is posing as a marching band composer in order to assassinate the eleventy-twelfth president.

Odds Bob Odenkirk’s Character Is Secretly a Highly Trained Assassin: This varies by sketch.

Breaking Bad / Better Call Saul

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Jimmy McGill, a.k.a. Saul Goodman, a character Odenkirk has been playing for the last eleven years, is not secretly a highly trained assassin in either Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul. Jimmy’s story begins in Cicero, Illinois, where he was a talented con artist—granted, a a valuable skill set for a hired killer, but the kind of thing that attracts unwanted police attention—but has to leave town after getting caught giving one of his enemies a “Chicago sunroof.” As McGill later explains, this involved taking a dump through the sunroof of the guy’s car. That is not how a highly-trained assassin gets his revenge. There is, however, a slim chance that in the flash-forward sequences of Better Call Saul in which McGill is hiding out in Omaha managing a mall Cinnabon, he is taking advantage of his airtight fake identity to work the occasional freelance hit.

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Odds Bob Odenkirk’s Character Is Secretly a Highly Trained Assassin: 22%.

Little Women

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In Louisa May Alcott’s novel, the family patriarch Robert March has joined the Union Army as to serve as a chaplain. But when Bob Odenkirk took over the role for Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation, Jo specifies that her father has joined the army to fight, not to preach. There is only one reason that change would have been made: to slyly suggest that Robert March is secretly a highly-trained assassin for the Union. Although no one explicitly says that Odenkirk returns home for Christmas after killing Jefferson Davis, bringing the war to an early close, you can tell.

Odds Bob Odenkirk’s Character Is Secretly a Highly Trained Assassin: 5000%.

Nobody

He’s a highly trained assassin in this one for sure. That’s the whole premise.

Odds Bob Odenkirk’s Character Is Secretly a Highly Trained Assassin: 100%.

Now that we’ve established that Odenkirk has played a highly trained assassin over and over again, there’s only one question left to resolve: Is he playing the same highly-trained assassin? Fan theorists, start your engines.

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