Monkey TV Review – Better Call Saul (Ep.1) – “Switch”

With “Switch”, Better Call Saul enters Season 2 after solid first Season.  As a spinoff of Breaking Bad, Saul includes foreshadowing, the interesting camera angles and cinematography that you came to expect from its predecessor – in addition to exceptional characters that have their own backstories that periodically cross paths.

** WARNING – MAJOR SEASON 1 SPOILERS **

Season 1 Recap (at 10,000 feet)

Last season it was established that Saul Goodman from Breaking Bad was actually named Jimmy McGill and early in life was a con artist known as “Slipping Jimmy” in his home town of Cicero, Illinois.  He would feign injury slipping on ice, forcing organizations to settle instead of facing a lawsuit.  Later in life, also back in Cicero, he partnered with his friend Marco (Mel Rodriguez from Last Man on Earth) to con people in his local bar. Since then, Jimmy has been desperately  trying to make it in the legal business after being bailed out by his brother one last time.

michael-mckean_w529_h352_2xDuring the season we met Jimmy’s brother Chuck (wonderfully portrayed by Michael McKean) who used to be an exceptional barrister, is a partner in his law firm but now has a serious fears of EMF’s and thus is a recluse in his home, constantly under a foil blanket.  Jimmy spends his free time faithfully providing  food and supplies to his brother.

Jimmy decides to pursue “seniors” law, and while assisting retirees he notices something odd about their residence, which is named “Sandpiper”. He then lands a case against the assisted living complex  and with the help of his brother Chuck turns it into a case so large that Jimmy cannot handle it alone.  He turns the case over to his brother’s firm with the hope of working alongside his brother.  Jimmy is shocked to find that his brother doesn’t want him working at the firm.  Chuck considers Jimmy a shyster, feeling that he has never cleansed himself of his Slipping Jimmy leanings. Later, Jimmy is offered a key position in another large law firm called D&M where his brother cannot stop him from obtaining a partnership.

d44a6a7a-8cae-bc68-bf39-2f6b40571799_Mike_Jimmy_Faceoff-938x535We meet Mike (from Breaking Bad)  who is a parking lot attendant that is not unnerved by Jimmy’s ploys to avoid paying for parking.  He and Jimmy develop an interesting relationship.  You get the feeling Mike actually likes Jimmy.  Or at least doesn’t hate him. Mike is a former police officer who has a daughter whose police officer husband is killed by dirty cops in Philadelphia.  It breaks Mike’s heart, and he does his best to provide financial and moral support to her and his granddaughter.

We see Jimmy nearly killed by a gang leader named Taco when Jimmy attempts to extort money using a fake hit-and-run ploy with the assistance of two skateboarding small time shysters, but mistakenly accosts Taco’s aging mother.

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Mike is offered a bodyguard position by Pryce, who works at a pharmaceutical company in IT and smuggles drugs that he sells to Taco.  Yes the same Taco.

464825dd-284e-1c0c-99d3-5aa8f1730c78_BCS_104_LJ_0724_0138.jpgKim (Rhea Seehorn) works at Jimmy’s brother’s law firm and is an up and coming lawyer who possibly has some affection for Jimmy, but at the very least is good friends with him.  She first encourages Jimmy to work at his brother Chuck’s law firm and then when she finds out that Chuck doesn’t want him, encourages Jimmy to take the position at D&M.  She’s a solid rock for Jimmy to lean against and he often calls her for advice and support.

Jimmy stumbles onto a case where a city manager is accused of embezzling $1.5M dollars and seeks Jimmy’s defense.  In the end, the embezzling turns out to be true, and Jimmy, with the help of Mike, are able to take this money from the city manager who attempts to abscond with it.  However, Jimmy ends up returning the money, revealing some integrity.

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At the end of the sea

son, Jimmy returns to Cicero one more time and pulls off a few more cons with Marco, until Marco dies of an apparent heart attack, having done nothing with his life during all this time.  This causes Jimmy to decide that he would no longer live by rules and was only out for himself.

Whew!

In this second season, the first episode is called Switch and we’re again given a foreshadowing of Jimmy working at a Cinnabon store in Omaha, NE.  Breaking Bad viewers will remember that at the end of the series, Jimmy (known as Saul Goodman) changes his name (in this case, to “Gene”) and says he will be heading to Omaha to hide out from drug mobsters.   Check.

better-call-saul-renewed-for-season-2-will-gus-return-i-know-it-s-not-a-breaking-bad-pr-381429.jpgHe accidentally locks himself in the Cinnabon dumpster area but when faced with the option of pushing open an emergency door that will also call the police, he tellingly decides to simply wait many hours for someone else to come by, dump trash and release him. Why is he afraid of the police?

In “current time”, Jimmy decides initially not to take the offer at D&M to run the case against Sandpiper, having instead decided to live by “his own rules”.  Instead he hangs out at a resort pool and convinces Kim to con an annoying stock broker out of a very expensive meal.  This titillates Kim, and she and Jimmy end up romantically involved at the end of the evening.

Later, Jimmy takes the position at D&N and is given a lavish office, company car and many other perks.  He notices a switch that says “do not turn off” and instinctively he turns it off, and nothing appears to happen.  Hmmm…

As a side plot, Pryce (IT guy who sells drugs to Taco) decides to “fire” Mike and go it alone, against Mike’s advice.  Bryce has purchased a flashy Hummer with the proceedings from his drug sales and during the most recent sale, shows it off to Taco.  Taco surreptitiously sneaks a peek at the title of the vehicle and finds out where Bryce lives.  Bryce’s home is then burglarized and all the money Bryce was hiding is taken, along with some valuable baseball cards (that seem more of a concern to Bryce than the loss of the money).  The police is called by Pryce, but they notice something is odd about the burglary.  The burglars left behind many expensive items.

The episode is written by Thomas Schnauz, who is both a Breaking Bad and X Files alumni.

“The writing and acting is crisp and lively.  It’s a reminder, too, of what good casting will do for a series”  

Bob Odenkirk perfectly conveys a sliminess along with a likability. Rhea Seeborn as his “girlfriend” Kim is a natural actress – she doesn’t appear to be acting.  She’s smart and confident, but also is charmed by Jimmy. Jonathan Banks, the other Breaking Bad alumni “Mike” is able to convey a serious and cold exterior, but also the gold-lining he appears to  possess as well.

From an expository perspective, we are seeing the slow but deliberate transformation of Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman.

There are a few missteps, such as after the conning of the stock broker, Jimmy and Kim rather nonchalantly walk out of the resort.  Are they never returning to the locale?  Are they not concerned that the ruse will be discovered?  I also didn’t expect Kim and Jimmy’s relationship to take the next step in the very first episode of the season.  She’s a key character and I don’t believe they will kill her off, but given the predecessors of this series, it could happen.  In the flash forwards, we have not seen Kim.

But otherwise, a very well done episode.  The series continues to be a worthy successor to Breaking Bad.  Could Bryan Cranston appear in a cameo as Walt?

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Monkey sez, do check it out!

 

 

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