TV Review – Better Call Saul Season 2

Better Call Saul Season 2 (2016)
Written by Thomas Schnauz, Gennifer Hutchison, Jonathan Glatzer, Gordon Smith, Ann Cherkis, Peter Gould, Heather Marion & Vince Gilligan
Directed by Thomas Schnauz, Terry McDonough, Scott Winant, Adam Bernstein, John Shiban, Michael Slovis, Colin Bucksey, Larysa Kondracki, Peter Gould, and Vince Gilligan

Our personal values can often clash with what we want to become. I taught elementary school for a decade and genuinely loved working with kids. It’s a special thing to watch students grow into themselves, gaining confidence in areas they once thought they were terrible at. But, with COVID-19 and the poor decisions made by my district’s leadership, I knew my personal values were not in line with the myopic view of those in charge of American public education. So I left. I say all this because Jimmy McGill goes through a similar experience, being forced to conform to a system that gatekeeps his ambitions. While me teaching children is not the same as being a slightly crooked lawyer, both instances are about staying true to oneself.

In 2002, Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) feels his law career is over. He closes his practice and rejects an offer to work for Davis & Main, an established law firm in New Mexico. His friend/lover/colleague Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) spends the day joining Jimmy in conning a stock trader to get their drinks paid for. Kim knows what they are doing is wrong, but it has a certain thrill. Eventually, Jimmy reconsiders Davis & Main’s offer and takes it. Throughout the season, he finds that his lawyering style clashes with the firm’s conservative ethos. Jimmy commissions a commercial related to the Sandpiper class action suit without informing his boss, Cliff (Ed Begley, Jr.). This eventually leads to such bad blood between Jimmy and the rest of the office that he begins to manifest what will become his Saul Goodman persona later.

The supporting characters have so many subplots this season that the series begins to feel like an excellent ensemble piece. Mike (Jonathan Banks) continues helping Pryce (Mark Proksch), who gets too big of a head. This leads to a complication, with Nacho and Mike calling in Jimmy to help the clueless man out. Nacho and Mike’s alliance becomes ever more complicated when they stage a fight to get Tuco thrown in jail. Hector Salamanca becomes involved and backs Mike into a corner where he accepts one of Tuco’s charges as his own. The seeds for what is to come in Breaking Bad are planted.

One of the factors that I think is leading me to enjoy Better Call Saul more than Breaking Bad is its attempt at grounding things. No everyman is rising to be a master criminal here. In fact, a lot of the show is about the day-to-day work of a defense lawyer. For example, the big Sandpiper case is about the financial exploitation of senior citizens, nothing too melodramatic. In this context, we learn to really love Jimmy. He certainly breaks the law but is warmhearted toward his elderly clients. Does he do this expecting a big payday when Sandpiper settles? Yes, but he still seems like a decent enough guy. He’s not trying to get rich by ripping off these seniors; he wants to sue on their behalf and profit in the process. 

The special ingredient in this series is clearly Kim. While season two doesn’t use actress Rhea Seehorn to her full potential, I am confident something big is being set up here. Jimmy’s Davis & Main storyline gets wrapped up around the halfway point and where the show is going next interests me. I can’t help having this feeling of dread knowing that Kim is never mentioned once in Breaking Bad. Realistically, this is because the character hadn’t been thought up yet, but from a narrative perspective, this means she could possibly not be in Jimmy’s life when he crosses paths with Walter White. It’s just as plausible that Jimmy compartmentalizes his Goodman gig from his personal life. I can’t imagine it wouldn’t get messy, so I am moving forward with much trepidation that something terrible will happen to Kim. I’m not one of those audience members that will pillory the creators over killing off a beloved character; it’s just that if they do, it will rip my heart out & stomp on it.

The dysfunctional relationship between Jimmy and his older brother Chick continues this season and reaches a fever pitch. Chuck suppresses his allergy long enough to do cruel things to Jimmy and Kim. Jimmy responds by doing something highly illegal, and Chuck attempts to find proof. Episode 9 of this season has one of the tensest moments of the show thus far, a scene where Jimmy, doing something good, puts himself in a position that could ruin his life forever. It was one of those moments where even Ariana, who takes a lot for a show to get her to react like this, was out of her seat yelling, “Nooooo!” Chuck’s fate also fills me with a sense of dread, he is a character that just doesn’t traditionally get a happy ending, so I imagine things will get worse for him. 

Season Two felt like two smaller seasons pressed together in some ways, but it ends on a note that promises things will be off to a bad start in season three. I’ve also picked up on the fact that the black & white, “present day” sequences with Gene always set up the overarching theme for the season. In this instance, it is about Jimmy feeling trapped, locked into something by accident. I expect that at some point, we’ll get these as more than just a season-opening bit and start to see more of how Jimmy’s life has fallen apart. Two down, four more to go.


One thought on “TV Review – Better Call Saul Season 2”

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