Better Call Saul Premiere Recap: Don’t Hate the Playuh

Better Call Saul

Season 2 Episode 1
Editor’s Rating 3 stars
Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill - Better Call Saul _ Season 2, Episode 1 .

Better Call Saul

Season 2 Episode 1
Editor’s Rating 3 stars
Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill. Photo: Ursula Coyote/Sony Pictures Television/AMC

If only Jimmy had been able to exercise the same restraint as his future assumed persona, Gene. That guy knew what to do when faced with the option of going through an emergency-exit door or biding his time by the dumpsters until a custodian passed through. But the Jimmy we reconvene with in the opening bow of Better Call Saul’s second season doesn’t foresee eminent danger as a comeuppance for his every minor moral slip-up. He’d rather gamble with house money than live deluded by what he describes to Kim as the “sunk-cost fallacy” — toiling ahead for some nebulous, supposed reward.

For this Jimmy, light switches affixed with “always leave on” warnings or customer-only cucumber water are bluffs begging to be called, small steps toward an absolute belief that we either create our own reality or succumb to someone else’s. Jimmy isn’t quite Saul Goodman yet, and he’s a long way from Gene (thank goodness), but by the end of “Switch,” he’s anyone but James A. McGill, Esq. Or at least he’s trying to be.

In the interest of getting us back in sync, season one concluded with the following significant events for our fearful protagonist: Jimmy was betrayed by his cuckoo-bird older brother and legal mentor, Chuck; presumably turned down a make-good offer from another firm; lamented leaving more than a million untraceable bucks on the table between himself and parking attendant/criminal co-conspirator Mike because he was doing “the right thing”; and watched his old Cicero con-running buddy, Marco, kick the bucket rather ingloriously as they reenacted one of the trivial scams that marked the high point of Marco’s life.

Now, about that consolation gig: It would have actually been pretty sweet. Driven to get Jimmy out of their hair, Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill facilitated an opportunity for their longtime nuisance to snag a plum desk with Davis & Main, headed by partner Clifford Main (Ed Begley, Jr.). They were ripe and ready to work with the man who led the charge against fraudulent retirement home Sandpiper Crossing — or that’s what Howard Hamlin told them he did, anyway. Jimmy, to Kim’s great dismay, flatly turned down their offer and sauntered in the other direction. But alas, had Kim given him any indication that working for Davis & Main freed them up for romance, he could have put aside his pride and considered it a win-win. Instead, when pressed with the question of their romantic future, Kim did what she often does: Get flustered and wait for things to feel less uncomfortable.

And that’s the missing scene we didn’t see in last year’s finale: the one that bridges the gap between a tentative Jimmy rubbing Marco’s pinky rug for insight and him peeling away from Mike’s booth, determined to do wrong. We’ll see plenty more of Clifford and Co. in the coming weeks, as Jimmy eventually relents and accepts a corner office with Davis & Main, complete with errand boy Omar, his choice of cocobolo desk, snazzy abstract art, and a working fireplace. Though, that’s only because throughout the course of “Switch,” Jimmy realizes you can’t immediately swap out the version of yourself that people have come to expect — even if that was never the real you. Kim certainly won’t go all bush-league Bonnie-and-Clyde with Jimmy just because swindling a traveling Wall Street scumbag was enough of a rush to make her swoon. As everyone’s favorite Seinfeld guest might say while referring to himself in the third person, “Jimmy’s gotta take this thing slow.”

If only the saddest sack of them all, Daniel Wormald, had been so wise (let alone as prudent as Gene). Remember Daniel? He’s the guy who very much deserves his surname — a twerpy IT guy at a pharmaceutical company who peddles pills to cartel liaison Nacho, with Mike shadowing him as hired muscle. Well, Daniel has gotten a bit too laid back about his arrangement with Nacho; he’s leased a ghastly, flame-detailed Hummer with spinning rims that looks more like a Hot Wheels monster truck than something you’d dare be seen with at a clandestine drug deal. Mike knows better than to hitch his ride to this sap, and the two of them part ways. Shockingly, Daniel survives not only his solo encounter with Nacho, but also its immediate aftermath. Nacho prefers to rob his place blind, leaving not so much as a fingerprint behind. He’ll let the cops connect the dots about Daniel’s boutique narcotics operation.

Once you’ve made the choice to break bad, you’ve got to have survival instincts, business savvy, people skills, and, yes, modesty in order to take what’s yours. Daniel couldn’t see that. Hell, you could argue that good ol’ Walter White lacked that last attribute, hence his spectacular undoing. But Mike knows better, Jimmy’s catching on quick, and circumstance is about to marry them in the mission to get ahead. (And eventually, the tightrope of trying to stay ahead.) If you ask me, Gene has no reason to apologize. Unlike his one-time colleagues Mike and Walt, Gene/Jimmy/Saul is still breathing. Even if no one else lives to acknowledge it, he knows anyone who tosses garbage into that dumpster should be impressed to realize that “SG was here.”

Apart From All That

  • Yes, Cinnabon mirror, I would like that fine mustachioed man to serve me.
  • Hey, Odenkirk: You been working out?
  • Nice touch with the mall’s replica Apollo 13 shuttle, as if Gene needed any further reminders of America’s misleading grandeur.
  • If I’m Jimmy, I’m outta there at “Charlie Hustle.”
  • “Midlife clarity.” I’ll have to remember that one.
  • Kudos to Rhea Seehorn (a.k.a. Kim) for actually brushing Bob Odenkirk’s teeth with her finger.
  • Loved the Almost Famous, Pulp Fiction, and Corky Romano references. We’re in 2003, after all, and that’s what pop culture’s recent past looks like.
  • “Douchey stockbroker guy” is the role Kyle Bornheimer (a.k.a. not Rob Riggle) was, ahem, born to play.
  • Was that a Buck Jones poster in Kim’s room? If so, then she definitely has a renegade streak.
  • Indeed, Schwarzenegger was essential in bringing Hummers to the civilian mainstream. Thanks, Arnold! Now look what you did to Daniel Wormald.
  • This was very much a season premiere. I look forward to things heating up.
  • “Switch” was dedicated to Todd Sopher, who also appeared on Breaking Bad.

Better Call Saul Recap: Don’t Hate the Playuh