Better Call Saul is back for a second season. This is terrific news for a number of reasons, not the least of which that Bob Odenkirk spent a solid chunk of the premiere lounging in a lazy river with a bowl of dip and an umbrella drink, only diverting his attention from them long enough to answer the flip phone that was floating next to him in a watertight Ziploc bag. We have much to discuss.
When we left off last season, Jimmy was hauling ass away from the courthouse and the job Kim (Rhea Seehorn) helped line up for him at Davis and Main. What we didn’t know then — what we couldn’t have known — was that there was action between his moment of hesitation outside and his “Smoke on the Water” escape, in which he asked Kim straight up if he had to take the job for a chance to be with her. And what we learned is that he asked for and promptly turned down the job, because Jimmy — still fresh off burying his con man buddy in Illinois — wanted to grift and get the girl instead. Best of both worlds. Kind of.
The result of Jimmy fleeing of a conventional life was twofold. One, for the purposes of the character, it means we got a fun little abbreviated midlife crisis that saw him use his flim flam expertise to pull off a fun tequila grift — more on this is a bit — and have a drunken victorious hookup with the lady of his dreams. (You could have a much worse night.)
The second result is that it allows the show to hit the air brakes a bit on the Jimmy-to-Saul transition. At the end of season one, when he told Mike he knew what stopped him from taking the illicitly obtained money and it was never stopping him again, the implication — seemingly — was that it was full-on Saul time. But it turns out what it really meant was leaving the law for his old life of small-time cons again, albeit temporarily.
I say temporarily because, by the end of the episode, there was Jimmy strolling into his fancy new office at Davis and Main after all. But notice a couple things: One, he’s still wearing his buddy’s ring, the one that reminds him of who he was and reminds us of who he’ll become. Let’s call this a baby step toward Saul. And two, at the very end, he flips the light switch off even though the sign clearly says not to. And despite this ominous warning about switch-flipping, he faces no immediate consequences. Let’s call this a metaphor.
Because Better Call Saul is the story of two men on journeys that only occasionally intersect, it makes sense to cover Mike’s arc from the premiere separately, so let’s do that. Actually, no. First let’s post a GIF of his employer’s new shiny spinning flame-emblazoned Hummer, because if you can come up with a better sight gag than a nerdy IT employee at a pharmaceutical company using the proceeds from selling the drugs he stole from his job to upgrade from a wood-paneled minivan to this between seasons…
… then you should probably stop reading here and start writing your own show. Especially if you have a better way for him to describe the car to a drug dealer than by pointing out that the climate control would allow him to have one girl inside in a bikini and another inside in a parka and still keep both of them comfortable. I am dying to know more about how this scenario plays out in his head. Why is one girl wearing a parka in New Mexico bikini weather? Does she have the flu? Dammit, quit tinkering with your heat settings and get her home to rest, dummy! This is why you need Mike around!
Another reason you need Mike around? To prevent the drug dealer you’ve been working with from sneaking a peek at your registration and using your home address to come rob you of your drugs, cash, and baseball cards. And to talk you out of calling the cops, who might be a wittle bit suspicious about the IT pharma guy with the $80,000 Hummer with the DRUG DEALER body kit in the driveway and the empty stash hole behind his couch. Call Mike, dummy!
For the second season in a row, things opened up with a black and white montage of a post-Breaking Bad Jimmy/Saul working at a Midwest Cinnabon, this time set to a cover of Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away.” The short scene showed him getting stuck near a Dumpster, between a door that locks from the inside and one that sets off an alarm that alerts the police. Kind of a rock and a cop place, if you will. While these scenes are beautifully shot, and it’s always fun to see Bob Odenkirk with a mustache — man oh man, are they ever sad. And it’s not because we see Saul Goodman as a defeated man. Saul did what he did, and this is more or less what he gets, karmically. It’s so sad because we see Jimmy McGill’s future, which is still a bit disassociated from Saul. At this point in his journey, he’s still kind of hopeful. He’s optimistic. He’s someone you can root for. Knowing that is where this guy ends up one day is a heck of a bummer.
Odds and ends:
– Last night after the episode ended, we ran a post pointing out that the high-end tequila Jimmy and Kim grifted from the investment douche was actually the same brand of fictional tequila Gus used to poison the Mexican cartel in Breaking Bad. What I didn’t put together at the time was that the investment douche had a Breaking Bad history, too. He was Ken (Kyle Bornheimer), also known as KEN WINS, the loudmouth from the season one episode “Cancer Man” who had his white BMW turned into a fireball by Walter White, in one of his first acts of aggression. The layers on this show.
– Viktor and Gisele St. Clair. Strong fake names.
– I love that Jimmy’s first real act as an emancipated, unstoppable, “Smoke on the Water”-humming force of nature was to chug that cucumber water straight from the tap. Look out, world!
– Quick notes about cocobolo desks: It is the same kind of desk that Jimmy wanted for the big huge office space he was ready to buy with his illicit cash from season one. And the wood they are made from comes from a tree native to… wait for it… Belize! The temptation here is to call this a coincidence, but with this damn show — and everything we just saw with the tequila callback — there’s really no way to rule this one out.
Okay, one episode in the books, and we’re off to a great start. Your thoughts below. Rest in peace, Uncle Humphrey!