A review of tonight's Better Call Saul coming up just as soon as you fetch my other solid gold blimp…
“You're going to have to make a video.” -Jimmy
Because last week's season premiere had to devote so much time to unringing the Saul Goodman bell from the end of season 1, not much happened, plot-wise. Of course, there are very few shows, or creative teams, better-suited to devote an entire hour to a guy floating in a pool and hustling a jerk out of tequila money, so I've got no issues with “Switch.” But “Cobbler” feels like the proper beginning of Saul season 2 – even though, ironically, it climaxes with Jimmy pulling his most Saul Goodman stunt to date.
A lot happens in this one in both of Jimmy's worlds. Chuck returns in all his odiousness – and I remain impressed by how easily and convincingly the show reversed our sympathies about him and Howard, and how much my skin now crawls whenever Chuck speaks(*) – because he just can't accept, or understand, the notion that his brother is of value to his firm and Davis and Main. (Jimmy's success taunts Chuck just as much as the metronome does.)
(*) They've flipped our sympathies so much that, where it once seemed a kindness that everyone else would put their phones and watches in a plastic bin to make way for Chuck's arrival at the office, it now seems like an indulgence for a smug absentee despot who, as we know, doesn't even suffer from the physical condition he thinks he does.
Even before Chuck arrived at the HHM offices to sour Jimmy's mood and make him more receptive to Mike's question about his moral flexibility, the episode mined a lot of tension from our hero's new job. On the one hand, this is peaceful, relatively easy, lucrative work for Jimmy, alongside people who already like and respect him. On the other, we know that he winds up as the most criminal of criminal lawyers, working out of a strip mall. So even when things are going relatively well, that question of what went wrong, and whether Jimmy will intentionally blow up his cushy life or have it blown up for him, hangs over everything. This should be the perfect life for him, but like his new Mercedes with a cupholder too small for the new travel mug Kim bought him, the fit's not right, and it's going to keep nagging at him until, I fear, he makes a big mistake, consciously or not.
Or maybe he already made it. Again, Mike's call came at the perfect time, with Jimmy ironically driven to prove Chuck's opinion of him right by going to hustle Daniel/Pryce out of a jam with the ABQ cops. As a dismayed Kim points out afterward, Jimmy crosses a line when he goes from spinning a yarn to falsifying evidence, and could have ruined his sweet new gig if anyone were to find out. The show keeps riding an emotional roller coaster with Kim, who's giddy hearing the story one minute, nauseous the next after hearing one detail too many, and Rhea Seehorn has done a great job playing her very complicated, and rapidly-shifting responses to this man.
And yet… as much as I want Jimmy to somehow rewrite history and enjoy these legit rewards… I watch a hysterical scene like the one where Jimmy serves up a pie-ful of lies to those detectives, and I'm reminded of why everyone wanted to make a Saul Goodman show in the first place, and why the creative team assumed they would have gotten to Saul well before now. Bob Odenkirk has been a revelation as a dramatic actor on this show, and I look forward to many and more opportunities for him to make me feel deeply about Jimmy/Saul/Gene's plight. But in that scene, I was so delighted at his comic delivery, and how he was treating this absurd fetish – with its many, many, many alternate names – with the utmost gravity, that if the hour had ended with him tendering his resignation to Davis and Main and moving into the strip mall, I don't know that I would have minded. This was the funniest Breaking Bad universe moment since Jesse thought Walt was going to build a robot, and the show sending a reassuring message that it will do just fine whenever the switch in Jimmy's office flips permanently to the Saul position.
Some other thoughts:
* If you want to know more about the origin of the cobbler scene – and, specifically, of how the thing ended up with so many names – here's Peter Gould to give us another example of Odenkirk's comic genius.
* Michael McKean and Ed Begley Jr. have yet to share a scene together, but given how often the two have worked together over the years, I assume it's coming. In the meantime, each Spinal Tap alum got to show off his musical chops, with Chuck's piano struggles opening the episode and Clifford's guitar providing an interesting soundtrack to the Davis and Main offices.
* Nacho's dad is an honest businessman, trying to talk Mike (who he doesn't know isn't a real customer) out of buying expensive upholstery he very obviously doesn't need. I wonder how he'll react if/when he finds out what Ignacio does when he's not working at the family store. But despite Nacho's irritation at Mike tracking him down there, the two of them seem well-matched as potential future collaborators, given their cautious, laconic personalities.
* Chekhov's Name-Drop? Once Mike mentioned Tuco as a threat to keep Nacho in line, I began wondering if we should be expecting Raymond Cruz's return anytime soon.
* Again, Odenkirk has the episode's funniest material, but the way Jonathan Banks plays Mike's reaction to the cops calling Daniel again (and to Daniel's “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” ringtone) is pretty hilarious in its own right.
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org