Will Jimmy make a go of being a legitimate lawyer in season two of Better Call Saul or will the lure of easy money and his finely honed con-artist ways send him sprinting to what we know is his preordained destiny?
Hit the jump for our recap and review of “Switch.”
Harking back to the season one premiere, we open the new season again in the Omaha, Nebraska Cinnabon shop. “Gene” chugs along in his menial job, cleaning and shutting the store down for the day. As always, Better Call Saul is shot beautifully, in black and white for this opening number. Not a word is said and yet so much in conveyed through the artistry that is Vince Gilligan and Co.
Man, I’ve missed this show.
It’s 9:20 pm and Gene/Jimmy/Saul is taking out the trash. Unfortunately for our beleaguered hero, nothing can ever go right, and the door closes on him, leaving him locked in the trash room. Fluorescent bulbs hum and tension rises as Jimmy debates the merits of pushing open the emergency exit door. Clearly still reeling from the events in Breaking Bad that led him to his current life situation, Jimmy thinks better of it, instead choosing to wait it out. Is he afraid of getting the police’s attention? Is he worried his cover isn’t good enough? Jimmy seems a broken man as the clock ticks and he waits. It’s 11:45 pm when a janitor finally arrives and saves our main man from his prison. Slowly, ever so slowly, we zoom in on the wall behind where Jimmy was seated. On it, scratched in the concrete is a message. “SG was here.” Is Jimmy reconsidering his undercover life, or just pining for the good old days? Do I feel bad for him, or hopeful that he might be considering a comeback? Why does he miss Saul and not Jimmy? Is it wrong that I feel hopeful he would rather return to a life of crime? We’re 5 minutes in and already this show is making me question my life.
Cut to the credits and a squeal of excitement from me. Did I mention how much I’ve missed this show?
We pick up where we left off last season as Jimmy needs to make a decision. At the courthouse, he meets up with Kim, Howard, and a team of lawyers from Davis and Main. Much schmoozing takes place before Jimmy requests a moment with Kim. He needs to know if he takes the job offer from Howard, will a relationship between him and Kim happen. She’s speechless, and avoids the question, claiming one thing has nothing to do with the other. Jimmy being Jimmy takes that as his cue to decline the offer and take his leave. Well then… that was a short foray into normal and gainful employment for our boy.
Leaving the courthouse parking lot, he meets up with Mike at the booth. He questions why they didn’t split the embezzled 1.6 million from last season and run. Mike claims he was hired to do a job and that’s as far as he will go. Jimmy, on the other hand, decides he isn’t so altruistic. His morals won’t ever be stopping him again.
Humming “Smoke on the Water,” Jimmy makes his way to his office at the back of the beauty parlor, a free and happy man. When the owner berates him for drinking the customer’s cucumber water, in a show of defiance, Jimmy sets his mouth below the spigot and chugs. It’s delightful to watch this man break all the rules with such glee and another great throwback to the pilot where Jimmy heeded her warnings and left the water alone. Saul is slowly peeking through the many layers of Jimmy McGill.
In a parking lot, Mike meets up with his pill-pushing buffoon of a client from last season. Ever the idiot, Daniel (Mark Proksch) is driving a bright yellow hummer. Not exactly low-key for a meeting with drug dealers. When Mike balks at the ride, Daniel claims he can meet with Nacho alone. He offers Mike a last chance to come along in the shaggin’ wagon and Mike walks away in disgust. This can’t possibly end well for Daniel.
At the meet, wearing obnoxious yellow sneakers to go with his obnoxious yellow ride, Dan meets with Nacho (Michael Mando). Nacho is intrigued by the lack of Mike and makes his move. He wonders if he can check out the Hummer and in his naivety Daniel is all too happy to give Nacho full access to his truck while he wanders off to count the money from their deal. Nacho pulls out the registration and takes note of Daniel's address. This really can’t end well for him.
We catch up with Jimmy, chilling in a hotel pool. He’s the picture of relaxation and chill. He receives a call from a client but puts them off, claiming he’s no longer a lawyer. This is when Kim appears to read him the riot act for turning down the job offer from Clifford at Davis and Main. He’s taken on yet another persona, and annoyed, Kim says she’ll meet him in the bar if he wants to explain himself.
Naturally, Jimmy is quick to follow Kim even if she does smell a rat and is looking for a fight. Kim wants to know why he’s acting this way after he was ready to take the job; she’s wants to know why he wanted to know if they have a future and she wants to know if something happened when he went home. The chemistry between these two is electric, painful, and charming, all wrapped into one swoony package. But Jimmy isn’t about to be swayed by her arguments and he certainly isn’t spilling the beans about his friend’s death back home. “Chuck, Chuck, Chuck,” he says. He’s totally done with the law; he’s over it and is still clearly bitter about his brother's betrayal. Kim counters with the fact that Jimmy quitting the law is what Chuck wants but Jimmy doesn’t care. He claims he doesn’t have to be a lawyer to use his skills and he’s about to prove it in the most entertaining way possible.
Across the room, a stockbroker is being stereotypically loud and obnoxious. Jimmy takes notice while Kim continues to try and talk him into at least trying the job. Her final plea is to remind him of all the time and effort he put into passing the bar. “I’ve been doing the right thing for all these years, and where has it gotten me?” he asks. Kim is thrown by the question, having no good answer.
“Come with me,” Jimmy says. “Trust me. Follow my lead.”
And so the games begin and the con is on. Jimmy wastes no time manipulating Ken (Kyle Bornheimer), who cockily brags that he’s “practically a money-printing machine.” Kim takes a moment before wholeheartedly playing along. They pretend to be siblings who've inherited a fortune, clueless about investments, while ordering stupidly expensive Tequila shots. At the end of the evening, well-liquored and giddy with the wool they’ve pulled over the smarmy banker’s eyes, they sign fake names on Ken’s contract and quickly dine and dash. It’s then that I swoon as my favorite duo shares a kiss by the pool.
Back in the hotel room, the adorableness continues as they argue about sharing toothbrushes. It’s pretty clear this is a post-coital moment and while I am flailing, I’m also feeling pretty reserved about the possibility of a relationship. We all know how this story ends. Kim refuses to share her toothbrush, so Jimmy takes her finger and uses that. No, really, I’m dying from the cuteness overload.
The next morning is sweet too. Until it’s not.
“Wouldn’t it be great if we could do that every night?” Jimmy asks, smitten.
“Yes it would,” Kim replies with a mischievous smile. “But we can’t.” She sobers and makes excuses. She can’t be late for work.
Meanwhile at Daniel’s house, he’s been robbed. No question, Nacho is behind the break in, but obviously, Daniel can’t let on. Or maybe he’s just that stupid. He’s terribly worried about his collectible baseball cards and doesn’t seem at all concerned that perhaps a violent drug dealer has ransacked his house looking for drugs. The cops don’t seem to be buying his baseball card story, but perhaps even more surprisingly, they don’t pick up on the drug angle when he mentions he works for a pharmaceutical company. The do however notice the Hummer in the driveway and the fact that the couch has been moved, and that’s when they find the smoking gun. Or they would have, had Nacho left any drugs in Daniel's hidey hole in the baseboards. Whoops!
Back at the hotel, Jimmy is back in the pool. A gorgeous woman arrives, much younger and way too pretty for the man she’s meeting up with. Jimmy perks up; it looks like he’s got another scam on the line. He calls Kim, leaving her a message to join him. Before long, though, that pesky conscience of his kicks in and though it pains him, Jimmy abandons his plan and calls Davis and Main instead.
He arrives at their office and accepts the job offer from Clifford. Inside, the place is swanky, it oozes old-world charm and money. Lots and lots of money. Along with the corner office, comes a company car, his use of the in-house art collection, and a personal assistant. When asks if he needs anything else -- he doesn’t, obviously, this gig is sweet -- Jimmy takes a chance and requests a cocobolo desk. Because, why not? Confirming Jimmy has indeed landed in the lap of luxury, the request isn’t a problem.
There seems to be just one rule in his new job. A light switch bearing the bolded and all caps instructions: “Always leave ON!!! Do NOT turn OFF!” In a show of typical Jimmy defiance, naturally, he does.
But nothing happens, yet, and the episode fades to black. I’m left feeling entirely uneasy with what has just transpired.
From Bob Odenkirk’s whip-quick snapping from comedy to drama and back again, Rhea Seehorn’s earnest portrayal of Kim and her chemistry with Odenkirk, to Jonathan Banks’ dry and witty depiction of Mike, enough can’t be said about the acting in this show. My only regret this episode was that there wasn’t enough time to squeeze in a scene with Michael McKean. I cannot wait until Jimmy and Chuck continue with their dysfunctional family relationship.
But acting alone isn’t what sets this show apart, nor is the stellar and slow-burning writing. What sets Better Call Saul apart from a crowd of anti-hero shows in the market is the stunning cinematography. The visuals are rich, precise, and oh so sumptuous. It’s not often I’d praise a show for spending fifty, count them, fifty seconds zooming in on a wall.
“Switch” felt like a pilot episode, a reintroduction, and maybe even something of a reset after the events of the season finale. But in this case, that’s not a bad thing. It feels like Better Call Saul is finding its footing and setting up for an intriguing and compelling second season, and I can’t wait to see how the tragic story of con-man turned good guy turned sleaze ball lawyer turned broken man hiding in Nebraska plays out.