Thursday, April 6, 2017

Better Call Saul Season 2 TV Review

Better Call Saul (2015-)
Season 2 - 10 episodes (2016)
Buy Better Call Saul Season 2 on Amazon Video // Watch Better Call Saul on Netflix
Created by:  Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould
  Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Rhea Seehorn, Michael McKean
Rating: TV-14

Jimmy McGill is a former grifter who is now a lawyer. He wants to do the right thing, but at the same time, becoming a lawyer hasn't been the dream he imagined. 

The second season of what may be one of the best spin offs succeeds because it doesn't try to be Breaking Bad. It's less of a spin off and more just a story set in the same universe. 
We know where Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Mike (Jonathan Banks) end up, but getting there is quite the journey. There are plenty of cameos from Breaking Bad, including Hector, Tuco, and Nacho among others.
Jimmy has a job in a legitimate law firm now, but following orders and rules isn't his strong suit. Mike wants to provide for his daughter in law, but the kind of high paying jobs he can get come with big consequences. We're beginning to see the foundations of story arcs that will eventually get them to Breaking Bad, and the writing in this is good. There are ample moments of humor, action, and victory for all of the characters.
The introduction of each episode deserves a mention. They often feel like short films, tangentially related to the episode and always well done.
Watch it.

This season starts like the first season did (read my season 1 review), with Jimmy's future alter ego Saul Goodman working in a Cinnabon under an assumed name after the events of Breaking Bad.
In episode one, Jimmy wrestles with whether he even wants to be a lawyer, but a corporate offer complete with a cocobolo desk and Mercedes wins him over. You know Jimmy won't stay there, somehow things always seem to go south for him and his aptitude to bend the rules can get him in trouble quickly. Most of that is his own doing, though some of it is Jimmy's brother Chuck (Michael McKean). Chuck is jealous that Jimmy is successful using short cuts. I don't think Chuck will ever overcome that. He wants Jimmy to work as long as hard as he did and will accept nothing less. Chuck also harbors deep seated resentment from childhood. Episode five expands on that, giving us a little bit of insight.
The overall conceit of this show seems to be that con men make the best lawyers, or that lawyers are con men. Jimmy cuts a few corners, but he can put in the work when he needs to, though he often works harder at shortcuts than playing it straight. The ends always justify the means, but not everyone agrees with him, especially his new law firm. While Jimmy is netting many new clients, the law firm doesn't approve of his methods. He decides working in a firm isn't for him, but he can't quit or he'll lose his bonus. He begins dressing flamboyantly, practice poor hygiene, and even plays the bagpipes to goad a firing. The wardrobe choices seem more like Saul Goodman.

Jimmy does a few favors for Mike this season, the first one in episode two is extricating Mike from his wanna be drug dealing client with a "squat cobbler" admission on his client's behalf.
While you can't deny the charms of Jimmy, Mike's scenes are solid. I feel like this season is a bit more Mike, and that's a good thing. He's the older guy who can still play the game well, his wisdom making up for any loss in reflexes, and yet he'd rather be reading the newspaper.
He ventures deeper into the drug world, forging an alliance with Nacho. That breaks bad for Mike, and he ends up with Tuco and Hector as enemies.
Jimmy and Mike are very different stories, but it keeps the show's pacing quick. Mike has numerous small moments of triumph as he bests tough guys half his age. Jimmy's triumphs usually come after bending the rules. While Kim constantly chides him, Jimmy finally admits that he can only be who he is. He beseeches Kim to start a law firm with him, she having enduring intern work because she vouched for Jimmy and helped him get his job with the Mercedes. Of course Jimmy didn't pan out.

The final episode ends on a bit of a cliff hanger. How far will Chuck go to knock Jimmy down a peg, and how far will Mike go in fighting Hector? Mike and Jimmy are both in precarious positions.

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