Back in the Saddle
We should really count ourselves as lucky. A spinoff to the wildly successful Breaking Bad series featuring the origin story of Saul Goodman sounds like fanfiction, and in many ways it is. Season one did a great job of proving Better Call Saul could stand on its own, while maintaining the style of the original show we fell in love with.
Now that we got that out of the way (seriously, stop pinching yourself, the show is actually this good), let’s dive right into season two. Actually, let’s start at the end of the episode, where Jimmy McGill is settling into his new law firm. Here he eyes the titular switch on his wall, the one that is clearly not meant to be turned off. There’s no indication of what it does or what it connects to. Jimmy, smirking, of course flicks the switch, looks around to make sure the world hasn’t ended, then turns in back on.
I’d wager this moment is the crux of this season, and really the core of Jimmy’s character at this point. Think about how torn and directionless Jimmy is at this moment. He turns down the biggest job offer of his life, then closes down his law firm, then floats idly in a pool, turning down more job offers. He’s back to conning, charging drinks to poor hotel guests, using the pool liberally, and getting a cocky stockbroker to buy the most expensive tequila on the planet. Yet, this all seems somewhat superficial.
There’s no tension to these cons at all, and that’s the point. The stockbroker sequence in particular was effortless. Jimmy confidently strikes up a conversation with the man and we know exactly where he’s going. Kim watches, tentatively at first, and then participates herself. It’s pure fun, and watching fifty-dollar shot after fifty-dollar shot go down, unbeknownst to the stockbroker who’s going to be paying for it, is almost relaxing. Jimmy is in his element, Kim seems to be enjoying herself, and the two end the night with each other.
The following morning, before leaving for work, she asks him if he’s okay. Jimmy clearly isn’t, and I’m not sure Kim believes him when he says he is. He flirts with the idea of running a con every night with her, and even though she’s receptive, both know it could never work out like that forever. Herein lies Jimmy’s problem: does he try and continue living a life that he’s good at, but has no real future? Or does he try and “do the right thing,” which is infinitely more difficult for him?
Season one had Jimmy trying to prove to himself and his brother Chuck that he could indeed do the right thing. Up until Chuck’s betrayal, it looked like Jimmy might actually make a good lawyer. This setback has clearly sent him spiraling, unsure of which path to take. He can’t have the cucumber water because he’s not a customer, so he turns the spigot and drinks from it directly. He turns down a job, and then accepts it by the end of the episode.
It seems that Better Call Saul is certainly taking its time to show us where Jimmy’s heading, and the show is all the better for it. Consider that we already know where Saul is going to end up, even post-Breaking Bad. The extended opening scene of Saul working in a Cinnabon, only to be locked inside the trash room, is a perfect bookend to start the episode. The show does such and excellent and precise job of conveying what kind of man he is in this future. He refuses to push the fire exit door because he knows the alarm will trigger a police response. Compare this to the Jimmy we see at the end of the episode, who defiantly flicks the switch, smirking all the while. A lot has to happen for a man to change in such a way, and if this episode is any indicator, Vince Gilligan and company know precisely what they’re doing to get him there.
It’s a relief to watch a show that is so carefully crafted. Considering we almost got a thirty minute comedy or a case-of-the-week format, the fact that the creators took the difficult path – giving us the backstory of a very complicated character whose end point we already know – is really something special. The fact that it’s also as engaging as its predecessor without retreading the same ground is astounding.
Odds and Ends:
- I didn’t even talk about Daniel, or Mike, but I’m curious to see how this all intersects later.
- I’m not exactly sure what Nacho planned to achieve by ransacking his house. Doesn’t he still want the drugs he’s supplying?
- I love the committal to the time period. Flip phones? H2 Hummers? Can a show set in the early 2000’s be considered a period piece?
- Kim and Jimmy have extremely good chemistry. I’m curious how and it what manner their relationship ends, but I suspect we have a long while yet.
- Actually, the whole dang cast is phenomenal, right down to Daniel’s innocent Fargo-esque bumblings.
- It wouldn’t surprise me if Jimmy has a long con planned for the law firm, but only time will tell.
Steve kind of misses his flip phone. Follow him on Twitter.