It fights conventionalism and deftly avoids definition. Is it a journey into the familiar unknown? A comfortable enigma? A cathartic examination of duality? A legal drama centered on morality? A commentary on hubris? What the hell is Better Call Saul? As much as I liked the first season I have trouble categorizing the show. It remained somewhat aimless for much of its early portions, likely a purposeful feel stemming from the various ambiguities of the main character. Is Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), Jimmy McGill as we know him here, a good or bad person? What does he want? What drives him? What scares him? That’s the absolutely fascinating thing about the Breaking Bad follow-up — it’s intrinsically familiar, employing a setting, production team and main character that the audience knows well, but somehow the intent and grander plan of the series is masterfully shrouded by strong scripts, character interplay and cinematography. The opening scene of the Season Two premiere demonstrates the superior craftsmanship by peering forward into the gray toned abyss of future Saul and then quickly snapping the audience into the colorful past of early 2000’s Jimmy. The first season open similarly, debuting the post-Breaking Bad Saul, apparently going by the moniker “Gene,” working at a mall Cinnabon embedded in the inconspicuous American Midwest. Our second foray into this world follows Saul/Gene/Jimmy through another work day that ends with him trapped in the enclosed dumpster area with a lone emergency exit that will sound an alarm notifying police. Not wanting to blow his cover ol’ Jimbo sits and waits several hours until someone else comes and opens the door that locked behind him, and we see that he used the spare time to scrawl a tiny graffiti: “SG WAS HERE.” As I’ve surely pointed out in my previous reviews the stated existence of Cinnabon Gene gives this show a credence and energy that is typically bereft in TV and Film prequels and morphs the narrative into a multi-year epic with an interlude that happens to be one of the best TV programs of all time. The show’s non-linear approach is one of its most consistent threads and it continues the tradition of hopping all over the Jimmy McGill timeline. Last year’s finale ended with Jimmy doing an about face as he was on the cusp of accepting a coveted spot with high level law firm Davis & Main. When we rejoin Jimmy the audience is actually shown him politely turning down the position but only after affirming that doing so won’t hurt his chances with Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn). One of my biggest qualms with the first season was the coyly ambiguous relationship between Jim and Kim as the flirtatious though seemingly platonic rapport seemed to be an afterthought in many episodes. The writers smash through that fog by having Jimmy directly address their chances, which Kim marks as pretty good, and frankly the evolution of their bond is the most significant plot advancement in a rather wayward premiere. The implied impetus for his welcomed aggression toward Kim is that he finally feels free to be himself. In the wake of realizing his brother Chuck (played by Michael McKean who doesn’t appear in this episode) will never truly respect him, and the sudden death of his friend Marco (Mel Rodriguez), the guy back home he ran scams with, Jimmy is letting it all hang loose, chilling in the pool while taking in the Southwestern climate. When Kim tracks him down she’s not able to thoroughly convince Jimmy he’s made a mistake in abandoning his law career to be a bum. He scoffs at this notion, and shows her the correct application of his people skills by roping her into a quick con involving a noisy businessman named Ken (Kyle Bornheimer) and a bottle of Zafiro Anejo, both Breaking Bad callbacks. This scheme energies the romance between Jimmy and Kim and they end up in bed, elevating their playful dynamic to cute levels that only portend tragedy in show that has shown it wants to beat on its main character. I’m hoping the secondary characters of Better Call Saul emerge and develop by huge margins this year; Kim is by far the most important in this regard. With this episode lacking Chuck (who very much was one of the best new secondary characters of 2015) the lesser focus shifts to Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) and Nacho Varga (Michael Mando). Both these roles had some relevancy issues in the first season, though for disparate reasons. Mike, a fan favorite and pet character, nearly attained co-lead status during the initial season, from starring in a flashback episode (which was excellent) to doing nearly all the dirty work in fixing Jimmy’s shenanigans. In this hour the ornery ex-cop is doing what he’s always been doing: dabbling in illegal enforcement work to ensure a better financial future for his granddaughter. Much like last year he’s working (or not working) with the same guy, “Price” (Mark Proksch), the whiny, unassuming pill peddler. When the goober rolls up in a brand new H2 Hummer (remember those?) with spinner rims and flames shooting up the sides Mike refuses to get in. Price decides to go to the drug deal alone and through negligence allows Nacho to discover his name. Later, after the innards of his house are ransacked, Price (aka Daniel) calls the police and demands his valuable baseball collection be located while trying to lie about everything else. Price/David is a pretty entertaining character but it’s Nacho the audience wants. I have to reserve words because we’ve seen very little from him aside from a roughish clever streak. Grading on a harsh scale I did enjoy the premiere even though the whole series is plagued by an insane lack of focus. “Switch” operates well on most fronts but it’s not until the last few moments before it gives any type of mission statement for the season. In fact, a last minute “switch” reminded me this show has the Breaking Bad anything-goes aesthetic baked into its DNA. (The Season Two promo spot where Saul opts to drive forward off a cliff instead of turning left or right is more than an omen, it’s a promise.) Whist again lounging supine in the pool Jimmy spots a nice juicy target waiting to be swindled. He calls Kim and leaves a message inviting her to the hijinks but after a moment of watching the overweight, affluent guy and his hardbody beau Jimmy makes another call to Davis & Main and takes the lawyer job. Is he bored? Does the fat rich guy inspire him? Does he miss Kim and/or the world of law? This show isn’t telling, and I’m just fine with that. With the same magician-like flair the final scene depicts Jimmy settling into his swank new office and flippantly flipping a light switch that’s a above a sign telling him not to do so. It’s clear this guy is looking to play by his own rules while taking the opportunities that are in front of him. That sounds like Saul to me. Can’t wait to meet him. Better Call Saul 2.01 "Switch"Jamil's Rating3.5Overall ScoreReader Rating: (0 Votes)Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.