Better Call Saul has slowed down the transition from Jimmy to Saul quite a bit so far in its second season, choosing to parcel out little nuggets of his future one at a time instead of in big heaping chunks. It’s been a good decision so far because it’s given us a chance to learn more about Jimmy. And it was a good decision last night, because the nugget they gave us in last night’s episode was a lot of fun.
One of Saul Goodman’s most notable calling cards was his collection of flashy, client-seeking commercials. It’s where the title of the whole spin-off came from — him looking into the camera telling the recently injured or maimed that they “better call” him if they want that big fat cash settlement. So, seeing him shoot that commercial for Davis & Main was like seeing Mozart sit down at the piano for the first time, or Steph Curry lob his first shots at his Little Tykes basketball hoop, or whatever other analogy you want to use for a genius first realizing his or her gift. I mean, what did ever happen to showmanship?
The thing is, with Jimmy, that question is loaded with a lot of meaning. Showmanship doesn’t just mean playing amateur DeMille for a 30-second spot timed to run during the first commercial break of Murder, She Wrote in Colorado Springs. Showmanship also means playing fast and loose with the rules of professional responsibility, what with your various squat cobblers and Texas client-wranglin’ schemes and such. Showmanship means the stuff that drives Kim and Chuck absolutely insane. Showmanship means, to quote Jimmy’s furious new boss, occasionally being “a goddamn arsonist.”
His relationship with Chuck is frayed, and the Davis & Main thing is clearly just a step on the way to his own office in that strip mall, but the one that hurts a bit here is Kim. Jimmy really wants to have it both ways, getting the girl and getting to color outside the lines at work, even though she’s made it explicitly clear — through both words and a refusal to play office footsie — that this ain’t gonna fly. We know she’s not around by the start of Breaking Bad, too, so we know this all ends between them at some point, probably badly. As fun as it is to watch Jimmy go a little Saul (and for the record, this time his intentions — getting new clients using a perfectly legal commercial — were a little more pure than they were last week), knowing that he continues to do so means the heartbreak train is a-comin’.