BETTER CAUL SAUL: S02E01

SWITCH – 8/10.

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Slipping Jimmy returns to our screens in season 2 of Vince Gilligan’s Better Call Saul. The story follows the exploits of charismatic but morally bankrupt lawyer, Saul Goodman in the days before he became entangled with Heisenberg’s meth empire. But he wasn’t always that way, once Saul was a decent man named Jimmy McGill, or at least he wanted to be a decent man and that is where the real pathos of the show lies. For all of his attempts to do the right thing, Jimmy is still destined to become Saul. Many people came to Better Call Saul expecting to see a sequel to Breaking Bad. While that’s not what season 1 turned out to be, it was still a beautifully crafted, expertly paced character study and it looks like we can expect more of the same from season 2.

While it’s not a sequel that’s not to say we don’t see a bit of Saul before delving back into Jimmy’s past. The episode starts with Saul still lying low following the events in New Mexico, working under a pseudonym as the manager of a Cinnabon outlet. When he accidently locks himself out of an alarmed area he’s forced to wait patiently to be released, giving him time to reflect on his life both as Saul and Jimmy. When we last saw Jimmy he had come to the realisation that the brother that he idolised, Chuck, not only didn’t respect him but had been actively undercutting his career as a lawyer. This inspired Jimmy to take a payout offered to him by his former rival, Howard, and to simply let the money roll in. Slipping Jimmy had finally found the deal of a lifetime, in theory anyway.

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Disinterested and disillusioned, Jimmy has more interest in drinking cocktails in the pool and running grifts on yuppies than taking the job at a major law firm lined up for him by long suffering friend, Kim. Things aren’t going much better for Mike, who continues to work as a heavy for the world’s worst drug dealer, Warmolt. That is until Warmolt shows up to a drop off in an ostentatious, yellow Humvee. Ever the rationale thinker, Mike walks away, while Warmolt ends up going it alone, allowing Nacho to discover his address and subsequently rob his house. When Warmolt calls the police to help recover his stolen baseball cards it doesn’t take them long to realise that the robbery isn’t the only crime to have been committed in the thieving pharmaceutical employee’s house.

The episode focused heavily on the relationship between Kim and Jimmy; which thus far has been a warm one and she seems to be the only positive figure in his life. Part of the reason for him rejecting the position at law firm, Davis and Main, was because it suddenly dawned on him that it probably wouldn’t improve his chances of a romance with Kim. While Kim undoubtedly cares for Jimmy, she clearly does not share the same romantic feelings for him. This only makes it all the more tragic when they sleep together after conning an obnoxious stock broker into buying them a bottle of $50 a shot tequila. You just know this won’t end well for Jimmy and leaving multiple unanswered messages on Kim’s voicemail will only make matters worse.

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Despite Jimmy’s claims that he no longer cares what anyone thinks (especially Chuck), it is only when he sees himself through Kim’s eyes that he decides to stop his descent back into the life of a con man. While they may have had fun fooling the stockbroker together Kim will never be the partner in crime that he wants, but perhaps he can be the successful peer that she wants. So Jimmy puts his suit back on and accepts the job at Davis and Main; complete with his own office, company car, extensive selection of modern art and a cocobolo desk. While Jimmy should be happy, he isn’t, allowing himself a moment of rebellion by ignoring a polite sign and flicking off a switch that is supposed to stay on. Of course this being Jimmy, nothing actually happens but he turns it back on anyway.

While a completely different beast from Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul does share many similarities with its predecessor; it’s beautifully shot, the pacing is deliberate, it effortlessly blends humour and drama, and it is carried by the carefully measured dramatic characterisation of a gifted comedic performer. Bob Odenkirk is Saul/Jimmy, he has been since 2009 and he has every minutia of his character down to a tee. This makes Jimmy feel very real for the viewer, it also makes his every poor decision and misfortune feel all the more tragic. We almost feel humiliated for him as he does his best to convince Kim to help him run another scam, leaving desperate message after desperate message for her to ignore. We don’t want to see Jimmy fail but we can’t look away.

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This was a strong return for the show, helping to ease us back into the story while creating a sense of intrigue. Even things that shouldn’t work still do within the context of the story, like the frankly ridiculous Warmolt character for example. Every character and element is part of the fascinating puzzle that is slowly coming together to form Saul Goodman. The episode leaves us with a lot of questions moving forward; what will happen between Kim and Jimmy? Where is Chuck? What will happen to cause Jimmy’s departure from Davis and Main? What will happen to Warmolt and how will it affect Mike? One thing does seem clear though, at some point Jimmy, Mike and Nacho will find themselves entangled in each other’s lives, but under what terms is anyone’s guess right now.

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POINTS OF INTEREST

  • As if using the name Saul Goodman wasn’t brilliant enough, Jimmy has apparently taken to using the name ‘Mr. Cumstain’ when scamming hotels.
  • Did anyone else notice the CGI humming bird that flew into frame while Warmolt was waiting for Nacho to arrive? Does it maybe have a deeper meaning or is it simply something that Vince Gilligan thought would make for a cool shot.
  • Loved this exchange between Jimmy and Kim:
    “So this is what a mid-life crisis looks like.”
    “Not Crisis, clarity. Mid-life clarity.”
  • Nacho doesn’t seem like the kind of man to be satisfied with just a few baseball cards. I wonder who will find Warmolt’s relocated stash first, Nacho or the police.
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