Better Call Saul, Season 2 Review

By Hugo Harris

If you want to immerse yourself into another world devoid of the revision and summatives that currently plague your life, you Better Call Saul. Perhaps, in the strictest sense, this prequel to ‘Best Series-ever’ contender, Breaking Bad, might not totally forgo references to paperwork and exams. After all, Better Call Saul might be set in the desolate hinterlands of Albuquerque, New Mexico, but the show is still stuffed with the stress-inducing travails of lawyer, Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk). Nevertheless, don’t let that deter you. Showrunner Vince Gilligan, with the second season of Better Call Saul, has not only matched the standards he set with Breaking Bad; he has perhaps surpassed them.

To get the oft-mentioned criticism of this season of Better Call Saul out the way; yes, it’s slow, very slow in fact. If you already found Better Call Saul’s and Breaking Bad’s intimate character moments too self-indulgent, season two of Better Call Saul leans on them even more heavily. In the opening episode, there is one scene that is almost completely devoted to our protagonist simply flicking a switch. Yet, in reading ‘Always Leave ON, do NOT turn OFF’, the viewer immediately gets a sense of Jimmy’s emotional state. Despite landing himself a top job at corporate law firm, ‘Slippin’ Jimmy’ just can’t help but break the rules and this leads to an emotional struggle that dominates season two. The motives behind Walter White’s descent into depravity were obvious from the start. Right now, the motives behind Jimmy’s descent are still twisting and turning with enough finesse to make his ride even more compelling, despite the seemingly lower stakes.

Thanks to some Emmy-worthy performances from Rhea Seehorn and Michael McKean – they respectively play Jimmy’s love interest, Kim Wexler, and brother, Chuck McGill, the stakes don’t seem low to either Jimmy or the viewer. For every action Jimmy commits, we clearly see their inner-struggle as to whether they should confront Jimmy in the scene of the ‘crime’, or just deal with the consequences he’s set in motion later. To avoid giving too much away, it’s probably best just to say that Wexler and McGill really do rise in prominence this year. Gilligan’s signature montages and time-lapses only add to the soft underlining rhythm of Better Call Saul season two – they are not as ubiquitous in a more scattershot season one –  making you utterly embroiled with its characters’ individual dilemmas.

It’s thus such a shame that Mike’s storyline, a forever stoic Jonathan Banks, very rarely intersects Jimmy’s. His encounters with some familiar friends from Breaking Bad might be a very welcome aside, but they do not yet come to a head in the narrative showing how Jimmy McGill became Saul Goodman. Season two’s finale does raise some very interesting questions that if answered as some suspect, should really quicken Better Call Saul’s pace and add urgency to proceedings that some have seen as lacking thus far. As such, not to watch season two of Better Call Saul, is a criminal offence akin to presiding over a drug empire.  Don’t expect too great a leap forward in terms of plot, but expect an inconceivably intriguing side-step that promises so much and will go a long way in extinguishing those early summer blues.

Illustration Courtesy of Rick via Wikimedia.

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