Better Call Saul Season 2 Premiere Review: S'All Good, Man

Better Call Saul S02E01: "Switch"


I'd bet a cool five bones on the Better Call Saul's writers' room having one of those inspirational IKEA wall ornaments that reads "It's the journey, not the destination" hanging where everyone can see it, because the series moves at an unhurried pace picking up little pieces along the way instead of building to big moments. Looking back on Season 1's "big moment," the reveal that Jimmy's brother Chuck was the man behind his stagnant progress at HHM hit hard, but compared to something like Scandal, it was a plot development that most shows rattle off a few times before the first commercial break. 

Better Call Saul is not that kind of show, and it continued to not be that kind of show in the measured Season 2 premiere "Switch." But it's still one of the—if not the—best character dramas on television because of that fact. Believe it or not, all television doesn't need to make you spit-take your tea or choke on a Gobstopper to be good. And in the deft hands of Peter Gould and his writing staff, Better Call Saul excels at its leisurely pace. Just please, do not call it slow or say nothing is happening, because things are happening, just at a more microscopic level, and that's not how normal television operates.

However, there was an interesting turn in the premiere where Better Call Saul had to succumb to regular TV tricks. Following Jimmy's Deep Purple moment in the Season 1 finale (which was replayed about five or 10 minutes into the Season 2 premiere), when he decided that he wouldn't let doing the right thing get in his way ever again and began a life of hotel pool swindling and anything not involving being a lawyer, the end of the episode pulled him back into the game and onto the case with Main & Davis. This felt like a backtrack from the "progress" Jimmy made—going back to wearing a suit and shaking hands?!?!?—but Gould and company know a few things: Better Call Saul is going to be on TV for a while and Jimmy's story shines when he's in this conflicted environment of doing the right thing. 


Honestly, I don't know where Better Call Saul would go if Jimmy wasn't still tangled with lawyerdom, and specifically HHM. And despite Jimmy's con-man calling pulling him toward Saul Goodman, his real irresistible temptation is being good. If you believe that Breaking Bad's Walter White was always Heisenberg deep down inside, then you can see the same thing happening here with Jimmy/Saul. While most television loves a good hero tempted by the forces of evil, Better Call Saul is a flip of that script; he's a bad man who's trying not to be good (well, that's my interpretation).

And in "Switch," failing at being not good! But the episode gave us good reason to understand why going legit was too alluring, and it's the simple fact that Jimmy, like us, is human. Following a fun con with Kim involving expensive tequila and douche stock man Kent—you may remember him from Breaking Bad when Walt set his car on fire—Jimmy and Kim GOT IT ON. And the next morning neither of them made the "it was a mistake" speech despite the pricey agave being the catalyst (he even brushed his teeth with her finger which was a total veteran relationship move). Before that, Kim said Jimmy taking on the case and working with her firm wouldn't affect whatever they had, but Jimmy either didn't believe her or couldn't make himself take the job in his moment of clarity. Post hook-up, Jimmy dreamed of how great it would be if they could run cons together all the time, but what he was really saying was how great it could be if they could be together all the time. Later by the pool, when he found a new fat mark and dialed up Kim for another round, she wasn't there. And in that moment, Jimmy found new clarity. He couldn't change who Kim was and if he wanted her in his life, he'd have to abandon his new life of floats and marks. 


This may seem like an easy way out. It was because of a girl! Yeah, yeah, but come on. Most of the decisions I've made in my life have been because of a girl. And knowing that Jimmy's road eventually leads to Saul, something big has to happen down the line to get him there. We don't know a whole lot about Saul Goodman, but we can assume that Kim isn't in his life in the Breaking Bad era. We can also assume that whatever happens with Kim has a good chance at being another big event that pushes him toward becoming Saul Goodman. The life of Saul Goodman is a lonely one, and the chicken/egg question is whether Jimmy got lonely first and then became Saul or whether Jimmy became Saul and pushed everyone away. I'd bet it's the former, and now that his family has been cut out of his life (bye, Chuck!), might Season 2 be about seeing love cut out of his life? 

"Switch" also did some great foreshadowing with its black-and-white Cinnabon in the future opening and the final frame of Better Call Saul's current timeline. The episode began with Saul managing his Cinnabon and living like a man in hiding much like Season 1 did. But when Saul got stuck in the trash room and had the chance to get out by pushing the door that would raise an alarm (at least that's what the warning said, do those doors ever actually have alarms?), he couldn't do it. Fast forward to the end of the episode and Jimmy in his new office at Davis & Main when he encountered a "Don't turn this switch off!" warning, and Jimmy had no problem flipping it, as if he just wanted to see what happened despite the printed order not to. It was a tiny gesture, but it was one of those details that Better Call Saul knows how to make absolutely tantalizing. 


What's happened between now and then to change Jimmy's willingness to test the unknown? Was he scared of being sniffed out by the cops if he opened the alarmed trash room door? Or has something more fundamental broken inside of him where he has no initiative or courage? These are the questions that Better Call Saul seeks to answer, and by now, these are the questions that viewers should have. How does Jimmy turn into Saul turn into Cinnabon manager? Character, character, character. 

As for the technical stuff, Better Call Saul still has the best dialogue currently on television. Snappy but not showy, charming but not self-righteous, impressive but not unbelievable. It hits all the right notes. And the cinematography is as still as good as anything Breaking Bad did. From a production standpoint, it's hard to see any other show on a similar level doing it better. 

Thank goodness Better Call Saul is back.



BETTER READ THESE NOTES


– Another very cool thing "Switch" did: in the ending of the Season 1 finale, Saul pauses outside the courthouse and the next shot we see is of him pulling up to Mike in the parking attendant booth, as if he turned around and just left. That's how it looked to us, at least. But in "Switch," when the scene is replayed, they added another scene in between his pause and his talk with Mike where he refuses the job and talks to Kim. I don't think that chat with Kim was what the writers had in mind when they wrote the Season 1 finale, but because they can play with time, they added it as an important component of Season 2. That's a neat way to adjust their story on the fly.

– Our catchup with Mike showed that he's still working with Price/Daniel (I think Price is his fake name), the guy selling cheap pills to Nacho. Daniel is doing well for himself with a new blown-out Hummer and zero sense of shame. But when Mike refused to go with him on the job because of the new pimped-out ride, Nacho took advantage, got his address from his car's registration, and robbed all the money he gave Daniel for the drugs. And his baseball cards! We're still waiting to see how Nacho fits into Saul's story again, and it looks like it will come through Mike.

– Bob Odenkirk already seems better this season than he was last season. As a lifelong Mr. Show fan, It's very exciting to see him develop into this caliber of actor. 

– What was up with that hummingbird just before Price's meet with Nacho? That was neat.

– Cocobolo! i just want to hear Jimmy say "cocobolo" over and over again.


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Feb 21, 2016
It was everything I wanted it to be - enough threads from S1 and BB to whet the "Easter Egg" hunter in me, a great con, and a look at how uncomfortable two people attracted to each other can be. Loved that Jimmy couldn't express his feelings in words but felt strongly enough to show Kim his true colors through actions. Loved that Kim enjoyed the thrill ride but knew that the amusement park that is Jimmy's world could only be a distraction from life, not a life itself.
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Feb 19, 2016
I said it to my friend immediately as we were watching this episode: "that's the tequila from salud!" Check out a screen grab from Breaking Bad's fourth season episode, Salud. Jimmy and Kim are drinking from a very expensive tequila that just so happens to be the very same bottle Gus uses to poison Don Eladio. The obvious similarity is with the bottle tops...

It makes one wonder: is this simply an awesome subtle homage to Better Call Saul's universe of origin? Or is there a story driven reason for this coincidence? The latter's implications, even with the first bite, are tantalizing.
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Feb 18, 2016
I enjoy this show and that unlike Breaking Bad where you watched Walt's descent with various degrees of twisted glee or just, I don't know, like a car accident, there is a sense of dread. Heck, there is sense of dread with Mike's story too and just that I got initially worried when I saw the hummer in those colors. Because we know who he gets involved with, I actually sense sooner than Jimmy becomes Saul.

I worry because I actually think something very bad might happen to Kim. Something that causes Jimmy to hide, but not entirely. Really, its becoming clear that certain aspects of Saul are who Jimmy really is, so it was kind of just a name change (I actually suspect Chuck might get found out too). But, he's still nearby, he's still practicing law. Its not like the present time scenes where he is alone and nervous.
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Feb 17, 2016
So good again ! , Better Call Saul is a piece of art
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Feb 17, 2016
I loved the premiere and I love this show. I think maybe I didn't fully appreciate it last year, the shadow of Breaking Bad was really present but now I'm really digging it. There are a couple of things I see differently to Tim.

First of all Tim seems to think Better Call Saul is about how he's gone from Jimmy McGill to a Cinnabon manager - it's not, it's about how he's gone from Jimmy to Saul. We know how he went from Saul to Cinnabon there was a show about that. These are a new kind of flash forwards for the show (nothing like the toy in the pool or Live Free) they're not teasing future events that will eventually make sense. There's nothing mysterious about the Cinnabon stuff, instead it's there to provide counterpoint and contrast to Jimmy's breaking bad.

Secondly I don't think the show was backtracking by having Jimmy go back to lawyering. His ultimatum was to stop letting doing what's right get in his way, not to return to scamming full time - that didn't exactly work out all that great at the end of season 1. After all he went through it made sense character-wise for him to have a break and some fun and really take some time to assess his options but I was never in doubt it was short term. We do know that he will be a different lawyer this season, presumably a little more mischevious and unscrupulous.

And what a simple yet fascinating way to illustrate that the light switch was. The fact that he went right for it shows his frame of mind all too clearly. He's now getting to let personal desire drive his decisions without letting the rules and what's expected of him get in the way so much. Whereas in the future that drive's been all but exinguished. I don't think even last season that he would have gone straight over and pressed the switch. He may have done it eventually but not straight away. I think this is a new dynamic that he's just starting to realise.

I loved that we got to see more stuff on his relationship with Kim that is so fascinating to watch and I loved the stuff with Mike and Taco. I can't wait for the rest of the season.
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Feb 17, 2016
Daniel's basically a dumb version of Walter no? Loved "Uncle Humphrey"- inspired riff by cool Kim, easily the most together character on the show.
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Feb 17, 2016
Viktor with a "K". Great stuff that scam. Again an excellent episode, entertaining, funny, awesome character development. Any thoughts on the "Cops" that showed up at "Playuh's" house? Methinks they were baddies (or bad cops) looking for pills to steal
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Feb 17, 2016
I don't think the cops are there to steal anything. They just smelled a rat when they saw a car almost as big as the house in the driveway.
Nacho didn't think "Playuh" would be stupid enough to call the cops after a break-in. That's why Nacho checked for the address.
This will probably be the lead in to Jimmy's first foray into criminal law.
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Feb 17, 2016
I love how smart Nacho is, he's smashing stereotypes. Last season he said he liked stealing things that were already stolen and this season he's stealing things that were party to a crime from a guy that looks like he's committing insurance fraud. So good.
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Feb 17, 2016
"do those doors ever actually have alarms?"

Yup. I work out back the alley from a Panera Bread (I'm an assistant crack whore, obviously), and it's so much quicker to duck out the fire door than walk all the way back around the strip mall. I think it's usually off for reasons highlighted in the episode's cold open (people carrying out the trash to the dumpster). But last time I went out that way, I set off the alarm right in the middle of the lunch rush. I put heel to toe pretty danged quick, LOL.
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Feb 17, 2016
What I love about this show is how it acts as a testament to how television doesn't need an explosion every 15 minutes. And yet it still keeps me absolutely riveted to the TV! It's a wonderful thing when a show can make you lose an hour without you even looking away from the set, and do that without a single shot fired.

I've seriously missed Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan, because they show time and again that they really know what they are doing. Each scene has a purpose, but it isn't afraid to be arty in a non-pretentious and subtle way.
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Feb 17, 2016
Sigh, why oh why does this follow up/ prequel to BB feel so forced and absolutely MEH? As a fan of BB, and viewer of the whole first season of BCS, I have to say this show is a big disappointment to me:-/ With a (IMHO) interesting lead being put in dull situations, and being forced to act with even duller co stars. I wasted all these hours of my life watching Saul ( errr... whatever the hell he goes by on this show, Jimmy I think) vying for his cray brothers affections, or scamming people in slightly entertaining, but loooooong scenes. The dim married couple from the first season that stole all that money, to in turn be robbed by grumpy father time. Boring! Jimmy getting involved in with crime feat. the best villain on BB, Tuco Salamanca, only then to in turn, spending the rest of the season being a superhero to senior citizens, ( who this show I think is marketed to, & that's okay...for some) BORING AGAIN! To in turn once again, turn down the very lawfirm, who he so coveted ALL SEASON LONG!?? Boringly a WTF indeed! So what do we see in this season premier? Some of the same scenes from the season 1 finale, to more scenes of Viktor going woe is me, I don't know if I want to be an honest lawyer, or a con man, or a rich dick sitting pool side hitting on new talent for his fake lawfirm!? In conclusion Better Call Saul is a show that has some really funny, good & potentially awesome stuff going on there. Mixed in with a dull character drama, I suppose? I'm happy the show is doing well though, and I am going to get caught up on it one day I suppose, if I hear it finally shows some balls or character's from the o.g. show ( hey AMC that fat bodyguard ain't getting no younger/thinner!!?) or actually starts to go the route of the crooked money hungry worm of a lawyer, who we all fell in love with so long ago. Until then, I am gonna have to take a hard pass on this, Into the Badlands, & possibly the other spinoff of a much better show FTWD!!:-/ PS AMC stop with all the unfunny follow up shows talking about a bunch of nothing, while patting yourselves on the back whilst akwardly talking to guests promoting something else entirely. I mean Talking Saul/Dead or whatever flavor of the month your forcing, Chris HardDick to shove down our throats weekly. K, thx!


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Feb 17, 2016
It definitely has less universal appeal than Breaking Bad, it's not for everyone.
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Feb 17, 2016
OK. Stop watching. Pretty easy to change the channel
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Feb 16, 2016
Tremendous start to Season 2. The b&w opening segment was pure genius, jeez. The "sg was here" he scratched on the wall was awesome, gave me the chills and wicked cinabon craving!!!!
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Feb 16, 2016


O, boy. The magic word of investing. RUN! Don't put all of your eggs in one basket yada yada yada. But if the stock market crashes you're on your own.

In the bird watching community (don't ask) hummingbirds are affectionately called hummers. Pretty cool indeed.


Excellent analysis Tim. Better Call Saul. We missed you so much. S'All Good now. Well, Zafiro Añejo is way above my paygrade
so i have to do with a six pack of homebrew Schraderbräu.
bottoms up :)



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Feb 17, 2016
Bird probably thought that hummer was the nectar mother load besides :D
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Feb 16, 2016
Cinnabun Jimmy probably couldn't take the chance that the cops would come. He is in hiding, after all.

And flipping that switch in his office will have consequences, be sure of that.
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Feb 16, 2016
Is it wrong that I'm entirely curious what the wall switch actually affected, and imagined a whole scenario for that switch and the finicky printer which used to be at the wall socket on the old desk that was over by the window?

Anyway, this is a really good review. I felt the episode stretch juuuuust a little in the middle, but ultimately got beyond that. An 8/10 for a show that for me is nearly all 9s and 10s, but still a strong 8 isn't bad.

Kyle Bornheimer was an interesting piece of casting, I don't generally care for him, he's inoffensive if a little frustrating to watch. Here he played the bluetooth headset-wearing Ken the stock jerk fairly well, but I almost fear his story is incomplete and he'll return with revenge, which would add too much power to a guy who got bilked out of 800 bucks in drinks.

Poor Mike is going to get dragged into Daniel and Nacho's business whether he likes it or not, and then he'll just have to take care of business.
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Feb 17, 2016
Given we know Bornheimer's character reappears in Breaking Bad it would be interesting to see if he shows up any more.
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Feb 17, 2016
Ah. As I haven't watched BB beyond the pilot and finale (friends insisted, it was years apart and different friends too), I didn't realize this was repeat casting. If he crosses paths with Saul again or we see him on BCS at all, I would hope they'd tread lightly.
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Feb 16, 2016
I can't wait to see how Jimmy becomes Saul, more so because he will be Saul in the same city he is Jimmy. It'd be one thing if he moved several hundred or even thousands of miles away to re-invent himself, but it's much more interesting that he'll stick around where HHM and Kim presumably are, unless something happens to the the former and/or the latter leaves ABQ. He obviously won't be low-key as Saul with all the TV and billboard ads. Not that Jimmy has any discriminating clients, but higher end clients would like be put off by their attorney changing his own name and continuing to practice law.
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Feb 16, 2016
This episode went down smoothly. Like a shot of Zafiro Añejo. Cheers.
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Feb 16, 2016
Probably the most entertaining show on tv right now to be honest. It's picking up where it left off in terms of that. Love it.

Pimento sandwich. Always and forever.
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Feb 16, 2016
Best 5 shows on TV:

Better Call Saul - Fargo - Mr Robot - The Americans - Banshe
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Feb 17, 2016
I'd switch in The Leftovers and Rectify for Fargo and Banshee.
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Feb 17, 2016
Replace Banshee with Black Sails and you're pretty spot on. Banshee feels a little too predictable and macho to me.
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Feb 16, 2016
Children everywhere will be crushed by this news!

An icon and role model gone wrong!

Ronald McDonald a drug dealer?!

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Feb 16, 2016
The discreet little hummingbird was a smart and funny contrast to the canary yellow sneaks and the big gaudy hummer.
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Feb 16, 2016
I felt totally lost most of the episode, season one must not have been very memorable because I have no idea where we left off. A more comprehensive "previously on" would have been a big help. Also I was disappointed by how little Michael Mando is in the show last season, they made it out to be like he would be a bigger part of it, maybe he will be this season though.
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Feb 16, 2016
I didn't really remember most of last season, maybe it was too long in between. They were smart to show the entire re run of the first season all that day, I recorded it and caught up. Otherwise, this first episode would have been very confusing. I wish other shows would do re runs, there are several I'd sit and watch again if they'd make them available. I think it's smart programming to show the earlier days of popular shows.
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Feb 16, 2016
Love the show :)
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Feb 16, 2016
I'll be the first to admit Better Call Saul is probably not my ideal sort of series (I love plot-development), but gee is it nice to delve into a series every now and then that is just so confident about what it is doing and taking its time to do it. It's very refreshing.
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Feb 16, 2016
Great review, great episode, great show.
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