And we’re back! It’s not a superhero show (of which there are roughly a thousand), it’s not a long running fantasy series, it’s AMC’s surprisingly great Better Call Saul, and it’s here for a second season. Spoilers ahead!
The reason I call the first season’s quality a surprise is not to call AMC into question in any way — they consistently entertain and win awards — it’s just that the premise sounded lame. In comparison to the dark, often quirky exploits Walter White and Jesse saw in Breaking Bad, how could a spin-off series based on their lawyer be any good?
Right from the get go of the second season, we are reminded of the soon to be future for Saul Goodman — which is not yet his name in the main timeline — and it is a stressful one. After his shift at Cinnabon ends for the night, he attempts to take out the trash and ends up locking himself in. Saul’s frustration is palpable here, and his paranoia illuminated when he noticed that the only escape is through a security door, a door that just so happens to trigger an alarm that calls the police. It served to remind us that yes, everything we will see in Saul will lead a to post-Breaking Bad Saul: one with far less hair on his head.
The next thing we see in “Switch” is a recap of season one’s finale, as Jimmy (still Jimmy) awkwardly refuses a job with Davis & Maine, which is no Hamlin & McGill, but still a great job. The rest of Jimmy’s story in this episode is soul-searching, a bit of romance with longtime friend Kim and a reminder of just how damn good the man is at tricking people.
We’ve seen “Slippin’ Jimmy” at it before, teaming up with Marco to fool folks into buying overpriced coins, watches, etc. This time, with Marco’s ring on his pinkey finger — a nice touch by the showrunners — Jimmy and Kim get an overconfident, Bluetooth-wearing stock broker to buy them $50 shots — a lot of them. Bob Odenkirk kills it as Jimmy here, making us root for his act to succeed like we’re watching a performer on his stage.
The name of the episode, “Switch,” really comes into play in what Jimmy does next; he decides to make the responsible choice (for now) and accept the job at Davis & Maine. Like a kid in a candy store, he ogles his new desk, paintings and the notion of getting a company car. He’ll play nice for a while.
My main critique of the episode is not a fault of execution, but more of the confusing arc he is going through. I was under the impression that after season one, he was done with the legal system — and laws in general — and would start down the road of criminality. I entirely understand why the writers would double back on this, though, because for this show to have a longer run on television, they need to pace themselves, and pace Jimmy’s transformation. We’ll see if the wait pays off. I’m fairly sure it will.
We got some new developments this week with Mike Ehrmantraut, as he quit being the bodyguard of our whiny, pharmacy drug dealing character after he rolled up in a flashy yellow Hummer. That’s just not Mike’s style. He’s all about subtlety and honor. That little pill-pedaling weasel actually got more screen time than Mike! He let the dangerous “Nacho” look inside his car and discover his identity, who later robbed his house. Basically he’s an idiot. I chuckled at his license plate, which reads, “Playuh.”
Overall, this was a great episode from a show that I have started trusting to be great. The writing, the acting, the humor and characters are all so well realized, that at this point, it’s hard to imagine creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould dropping the ball. A lot of potential has yet to be realized, but that’s why I’ll keep coming back for more.
Oh, and Saul carving his name into the wall at the beginning was bad ass. You know you agree.