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’.
The interesting thing with Mike isn’t so much whether Casey is losing her mind or trying to play him into buying her a new house in a nicer neighborhood, it’s that Mike doesn’t seem to care. He’s so invested — and so guilt-ridden over the death of his son — that he’s probably willing to overlook some deceptive theatrics if the end game is making Casey and his granddaughter happier. We don’t know which scenario is playing out yet, and there’s really not much of a reason to suspect Casey of anything untoward (beyond the fact that this is a television show and deceiving your illicit-cash-delivering father-in-law into buying you a new house would make for better drama), but I think this is all a lesson in learning more about Mike more than it is a lesson in learning more about Casey. Maybe it’s both. Maybe this is Casey’s first step toward a life of grifting and we’ll get another spin-off in six or seven years titled Slippin’ Casey. Probably not, but who knows?
And while we’re learning more about Mike, heeeyyyy Nacho. One imagines you have to be pretty impressed with a criminal adversary to seek him out through his crooked veterinarian contact and ask him to come to a secret late-night warehouse meeting to ask him to murder someone for you. And one also imagines that the murder Nacho is trying to hire him for requires a certain level of expertise, because Nacho presumably has access to a handful of trigger-happy shooters who would happily do it quick and dirty. So, the question here, obviously, is who the hell Nacho needs offed in such a sneaky way that he’s trying to hire an outside contractor for the job. Tuco? Some other member of his organization? And is Mike even gonna take the job, or is he gonna try to Mike-up some sort of non-murder workaround to the problem?
Could go a bunch of different ways here.
Odds and ends:
– Circling back to something I discussed last week, the way the show portrays Chuck’s crapping on Jimmy’s success is intriguing. Because as fun as it is to watch Jimmy in a cowboy hat and bolo tie bribe his way onto a transport bus and charm potential clients with stories about fraud and his Nana and Bobo, that was definitely the kind of solicitation that can ruin the whole case. Again, Chuck is being really quite reasonable, whatever his reasons are, but he’s made to look like the villain. It’s kind of like the dramatic equivalent of the relationship between Stewart and Dean on The Grinder.
– Not for nothing, but a band named The Goddamn Arsonists would probably do pretty well on the college circuit. Free idea from me to you.
– Be honest. You wondered, maybe for just a second, if Mike was going to walk into the shady late-night warehouse meeting and the person waiting there for him was Gus Fring, right? Or a representative for Gus Fring? Damn this show and all the future knowledge we have. It makes me want the cool stuff to happen now, even if it makes no sense and would ruin the journey.
– Dustin Rowles will hit you with all the callbacks and foreshadowing later this week (and there were a bunch — welcome back, Mrs. Strauss!), but here were two things I loved: One, Jimmy trying to do his “Ring, dammit” voodoo on his Davis & Main phone, just like he did with the one in his office in season one. And two, the fact that he was watching Ice Station Zebra with Kim, which would go on to become the name of one of Saul’s holding companies.
– Don’t be jealous of Jimmy’s big bowl of balls, okay?