AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 2, Episode 1: “Switch”
Directed by Thomas Schnauz
Written by Peter Gould & Thomas Schnauz
* For a review of the Season 1 finale, “Marco” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Cobbler” – click here
The lead-up to Season 2 is promising an even further shift in the nature of Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) – the man many of us first knew as Saul Goodman. But we’re still on our way to the days of Saul.
Season opener “Switch” begins as another flash into the future of Jimmy, the obvious change in identity which follows his business with Walter White and Jesse Pinkman throughout AMC’s Breaking Bad. I love that we see these future flashes because it parallels the flashback through Jimmy’s life that is Better Call Saul overall. In a sense, what happens in the future almost negates anything Jimmy did previously, the whole change to another person in his new life as Saul that he cultivates in this series basically becomes moot due to Walt and Jesse’s operation. There is some sort of tragic and also funny mix to the whole thing. Especially when Jimmy gets locked out where the dumpsters are at his workplace, and we can see his obvious reluctance to open the Emergency Exit; he sees on the door a note stating the police will be called if the door opens and the alarm goes off. Jimmy won’t do it because his new life working for Cinnabon is of an inconspicuous, low-key nature. Eventually he gets out when a janitor comes back, but to see him sitting there, unable to or unwilling to push that door open, it’s an excellent and powerful statement about him. Even better, a long, drawn out close-up comes up against the wall and we see what he left: “SG was here” scrawled on the paint.
Back to where we currently know Jimmy McGill in 2002, he’s over at the office of Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) to see Clifford Main (Ed Begley Jr), as well as his associates Brian and Erin. Then before any business Jimmy calls Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) aside to ask about their relationship, and how his new case might affect any of that. “One thing has absolutely nothing to do with the other,” she tries to reassure him. Still, though, Jimmy refuses the job and walks out.
Heading through the gate, he stops to talk with Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) about the money; the stuff he decided not to take. Mike lays down some rules of criminal code. “Well I know what‘s stopping me,” Jimmy tells him: “And you know what? It‘s never stoppin‘ me again.” He drives off humming Deep Purple to himself, showing up at the spa from where he does all his business. I love this whole location, such an awesome look to the whole thing. Best scene so far comes quick when Jimmy wants some cucumber water but the spa owner replies, as always, it’s “for customers only“. So Jimmy lets the tap loose and drinks straight from it, letting lots spill to the floor. Is this a new James McGill? I believe so. He even rips the makeshift sign off his office door.
In other news, Mike waits in a parking garage where a terribly flashy Hummer pulls up, spinners on the wheels, huge flames all over the side, and the entire thing painted in yellow. Ehrmantraut scolds Daniel (Mark Proksch) inside his car does not illustrate “restraint“, especially considering they’re headed to a job. Daniel says fuck it, he won’t pay Mike any longer to supposedly protect him on deals against Nacho Varga (Michael Mando), he’ll go alone. Mike advises otherwise, and he’s most likely right. Out on the meet, wearing shoes to match his vehicle, Daniel meets Nacho, the latter of whom declares the Hummer “interesting” and asks to take a look. Things seem friendly, as if two buddies were checking out a car in the garage. But while Daniel counts his cash, Nacho looks in the glovebox to find the man’s registration; home address and all. Trouble’s definitely on the horizon, at least for Daniel.
Jimmy’s busy doing his own thing now. Floating in a pool with a drink, some dip, the whole nine yards. He gets a call and claims he’s “no longer a lawyer“. Arriving soon after, Kim is pissed about Jimmy passing up the big opportunity with Clifford Main. For his part Jimmy doesn’t appear too phased: “I just finally decided to be me,” he tells her. At the bar they talk a little. Jimmy hammers home the point he went into law for all the wrong reasons. He wants to use his talents elsewhere. Across the bar while they chat, Jimmy keeps hearing an asshole stock broker (likely the same man whose car Walt blew up in Breaking Bad‘s “Cancer Man“) speaking loudly into a Bluetooth headset, swearing, laughing like a dolt. So the new Jimmy heads over and asks a question about investments on stocks, pretending they have money to put somewhere, which eggs the guy on a little. Jimmy’s essentially showing Kim his powers of persuasion, his gift of gab. And those of us who’ve followed Odenkirk from Breaking Bad to now know this guy has got the goods. He could’ve been a great, straight lawyer, but his abilities certainly tailor him to a specific line of business re: law. Funny how Kim falls in line quickly while Jimmy spins his magic. They pull a fast one on Mr. Wall Street then bounce, leaving him with a massive bill. Jimmy and Kim hook up, too, but it’s clear he wants it to become something bigger, something more.
Little Breaking Bad reference – Kim orders the trio a bottle of the fictional tequila Zafiro Añejo, which people will remember from Season 4. Love how little bits and pieces of the original show come out here, adds little dashes of spice to an already fun series in its own right.
Not surprisingly, Daniel’s house has been broken into and ransacked. He calls the police and two officers come to investigate. His baseball card collection, “a major collection“, was taken. A bunch of cash was taken, as well. Daniel doesn’t seem too intent on revealing how much cash was taken, diverting the conversation back to his cards. The cops look pretty damn suspicious, as Daniel rambles on about his collection. They ask about what Daniel does for work – he’s an I.T. guy at a pharmaceutical company, naturally, which they find a little interesting. When the two officers discover Daniels’ couch was moved they further find a stash spot along the baseboards of the wall; inside, nothing. Clearly there used to be something important in that spot, that we already know. But the police know now.
Jimmy is over at the pool, again. He floats and makes a call on his cell, then admires a beautiful women poolside who shows up to tend to a large gold chain wearing man, who also happens to be clothed in high priced clothing. Jimmy wants to use this guy as a “mark“, the next one on his new road trip to a new life. Seems being a criminal comes naturally to a man who once tried upholding the law. Mostly, he’s calling Kim, hoping she’ll come down and have fun with him. She doesn’t call back, but he decides to call Davis & Main, obviously where Clifford practices.
Cue Jimmy at his office, checking things out. A far cry from the pool where he previously lounged. He’s always doing things for other people, not for himself, just as he stated earlier to Kim about his brother being the reason he practiced law. Now it’s as if he is only doing this for Kim; to impress her, to have her in his life. There are two ends of the rope tugging – Jimmy is a criminal at heart, but these other people in his life pull him towards a stable, more professional and most importantly legal state of living. Just seeing Jimmy at the office in front of a big desk, strange art on the wall, he doesn’t belong. No matter how hard he tries to fit on, no matter if he wants to. Regardless, the clash of his two lives brews more and more.
Most interesting is the light switch on the wall. It has a sign that declares ALWAYS LEAVE ON. But the small screaming rebel inside Jimmy won’t let it be; he tears it off. Of course, nothing really happens, not that he notices. Yet it speaks louder than words, this action: Jimmy cannot, he will not, conform to the fully straight and normal life. He will always have to tear that tape off, do things his own way. Always.
Looking forward to the following episode in this new season, “Cobbler”.