Better Call Saul, Better Call Saul Season 2, Bob Odenkirk, Breaking Bad, Jimmy McGill, Jonathan Banks, Kyle Bornheimer, Mark Proksch, Michael Mando, Michael McKean, Netflix, Netflix Original, Rhea Seehorn, Saul Goodman, Switch, Television, Television Review, Vince Gilligan
“Better Call Saul”, last year’s prequel to Vince Gilligan’s seminal series – “Breaking Bad” – was a surprisingly restrained affair which surpassed my expectations. This season’s premiere was equally reserved, but it failed to capture my interest, as the momentum which had built at the end of the previous season fizzled out like a faulty firework.
In last season’s finale Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) had had enough – Chuck (Michael McKean), a man who he cared for and admired, revealed that he had attempted to sabotage Jimmy’s career because in his mind he didn’t deserve it. This was framed as the catalyst for Jimmy’s descent into villainy, as Chuck was Jimmy’s idol; a shining example of what could be achieved through hard work and an honest living. Jimmy chose to be a lawyer because of Chuck, so having lost faith in his brother he had also lost that thing which kept him on the straight and narrow. It seemed like Saul was born.
However, that didn’t come to pass in this premiere. “Switch” saw Jimmy in the middle of what he called ‘mid-life clarity’; lazing around on an inflatable pool toy in the middle of a lazy river. He had no plan whatsoever, he was just waiting around for the world to give him a break, and whatever that break happened to be he was going to take it. He was still a long way off becoming Saul Goodman – he was inclined to break the rules and rebel, but he didn’t have the proclivity to become involved in a meth amphetamine empire.
This episode focused on Jimmy’s relationship with Kim (Rhea Seehorn), which is obviously important for establishing his character moving forward, but to me feels incredibly pointless because we know that it won’t last. This is Jimmy’s story and it has to be told separately from Saul’s to be properly effective, but in my opinion the romance just isn’t necessary. I don’t see what Kim could do to Jimmy that would have a greater impact on him than Chuck’s betrayal, so I would be very disappointed if she was the reason that he ended up becoming Saul. The only other role that I could see her playing in this story is the victim, with Jimmy letting her down in some sad way to signal that his character had fundamentally changed. This might be interesting, but ultimately I don’t think that it could ever be believable.
“Switch” improved when Jimmy wasn’t on screen, as we saw the less intellectual side of criminality. Pryce (Mark Proksch), Mike’s (Jonathan Banks) employer in the previous season, and Ken (Kyle Bornheimer), a loud-mouth stockbroker, brought comedic life into the episode. Arrogance was once again displayed to be the biggest problem that a criminal can face, as Pryce told Mike to hit the road and Ken bragged about his profession for an entire bar to hear. By doing these things the two men left themselves vulnerable to their more tactful exploiters, as Nacho (Michael Mando) discovered Pryce’s home address, and Jimmy used Ken as a free tequila dispenser. Watching this stupidity play out on screen was funny, and Pryce’s scenes above all the others felt as though they served a purpose in the larger narrative, but that’s as far as they went.
When all is said and done, this season premiere simply didn’t serve its purpose. It wasn’t an entertaining episode of television, nor did it do anything substantial to further the story. On top of that, Jimmy’s revelation at the end of last season was shown to be a form of giving up rather than a massive change of character, which significantly reduced the impact of last year’s finale.