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Review: ‘Better Call Saul’ Season 2 Episode 1, ‘Switch,’ Throws Some Big Changes Into the Mix

Review: 'Better Call Saul' Season 2 Episode 1, 'Switch,' Throws Some Big Changes Into the Mix

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW: ‘Better Call Saul’ Season 2 Might Just Break Our Hearts (In A Good Way)

Case Summary

Last season ended with Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) walking into the Albuquerque courthouse and then walking right out again, declaring to Mike (Jonathan Banks) at the exit gate that whatever kept him from stealing a million dollars before, “It’s never stopping me again.”

This season begins in the same place, but with a twist. We see what happens inside the courthouse, namely Jimmy getting a dream job offer from a Santa Fe law firm… and turning it down. Having decided to quit the law entirely, Jimmy decides to live it up at a local hotel (something made financially possible in part thanks to the deal he made with HH&M for the Sandpiper case), which is where Kim finds him.

Kim confronts Jimmy over passing on the job, and Jimmy explains that he’s giving up on the law to find what he’s really good at. “I’ve been doing the right thing for all these years and where has it gotten me? Nowhere.” She thinks he’s making a mistake, but then Jimmy drags her into conning an annoying finance guy at the bar with a story about having inherited a tidy million from a long-lost relative. The finance guy buys them many, many $50 shots of tequila, and Jimmy and Kim slink away into the night full of adrenaline and giggles… A moment which leads to them kissing and then spending the night together (for the first time we’ve ever seen on screen, anyway). 

It’s a new level of intimacy for the pair of them, but both seem pretty happy about it. And it might be part of why Jimmy gives up on giving up on the law, taking the new job with Davis and Mane, and requesting the desk he dreamed of last year: “cocobolo.”

Opening Credits Extreme Close-Up

Inflatable Lady Liberty, a familiar sight from Saul Goodman’s storefront days, bobs in the breeze. Appropriate enough for an episode where freedom is under deep consideration.

What’s Up With Mike?

Mike’s been continuing his side business in protecting fledgling criminal Pryce (Mark Proksch)…until this week, when Pryce proves himself to be a real dumb-dumb by buying a flashy car (and the sneakers to match). After Pryce refuses to listen to reason, Mike decides to bail, which doesn’t work out great for Pryce because without a heavy like Mike on his side, Nacho (Michael Mando) decides to steal Pryce’s prized baseball card collection, which Pryce, the dumbest guy around, reports to the police, not realizing it’s going to get them asking him a lot of questions…that could end up affecting others.

The Least Legal Move

There was nothing strictly illegal about the con that Jimmy and Kim ran on the sleazy stockbroker, but it certainly wasn’t all that nice. Really, the biggest offenders this week were Pryce and Nacho, especially when Nacho escalated the situation once he saw that Mike was out of the picture. Given that last season one of Nacho’s priorities was doing his side business without attracting any trouble or attention, it’s interesting to wonder what might have changed for him to escalate things like this. (Or maybe he just really doesn’t like Pryce. Hey, we get that.)

Remembering What Hasn’t Happened Yet (The “Breaking Bad” Tie-In)

The future is present here — which is to say, at the very beginning of the episode, we’re back to the black-and-white Cinnabon in Omaha, Nebraska where Saul is still living under the radar. How deep is his fear of being caught? He spends hours locked by accident in a dumpster room rather than open an emergency exit that would summon the police. It’s a key scene for those who might need the reminder of where, exactly, “Better Call Saul” is headed.

Oh, That’s Right, It’s a Period Piece

The cell phones are a bit old in nature, but otherwise this is an episode that could be set in modern times. That’s maybe a bit disappointing because when done well (as “Saul” often does) those touches do add some extra flavor. But at the same time better no references to the time period than ones which distract.

On The Journey From Jimmy to Saul

This week, Jimmy yo-yos from one extreme to the next, but one thing is clear: Kim makes Jimmy a better man, or (to paraphrase “As Good As It Gets”) at least want to be a better man. Joining up with Davis and Mane is going about as legit as you could ever possibly go. That being said, he’s still wearing Marco’s pinky ring at the end — a symbol that clearly demands our attention.

Also, it was hard to hear on the screener we watched (which does not have subtitles), but in the opening minutes it almost sounded like one of Saul’s Cinnabon employees called him Jimmy. [UPDATE: He’s called “Gene,” according to the Hollywood Reporter, which also has details on the stockbroker that Jimmy ends up conning.] Either way, there’s something kinda extraordinary about the idea that he’s switched back around again for this latest iteration of self. Then again, the initials he scrawls on the dumpster room’s wall are not “J.M.”

Cocktail Hour

Intrigued by the idea of a $50 shot of tequila? Well, varieties at that price point totally exist, if you’re hoping to try Zafiro Añejo at your local bar, you’re out of luck because it doesn’t exist. It’s the fictional brand of tequila that Gustavo Fring poisoned in order to take out the Juarez cartel in Season 4 of “Breaking Bad.” (It was apparently necessary to create a fictional tequila because real brands weren’t leaping at the chance for product placement in this context. The name seems to roughly translate as “vintage sapphire,” if you were wondering.)

“It’s From a Movie!”

When Kim calls out Jimmy’s new plan for living after quitting the law as, “like Jules at the end of ‘Pulp Fiction,'” it’s a bit of an unexpected reference; mostly because when Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) reveals his plan in the Quentin Tarantino film, he also couches it in a movie reference. Specifically, here’s how he explains it: “You know, walk the earth, meet people… get into adventures. Like Caine from ‘Kung Fu.'” We’ve now reached the level of pop culture references within pop culture references, everyone. Maybe someday somebody will reference this “Better Call Saul” scene in a similar context. (Maybe in a remake of “Kung Fu,” just to bring things full circle.)

Best Quote

“People tell me how they see me, and it’s not as a lawyer.”

With Jimmy at a crossroads this week, this line stuck out as one of those clean simple moments where a character says so much with so few words. One thing that “Saul” has always committed to is the idea that practicing law is something genuinely honorable (even while exposing how very much it isn’t at times). We’re pretty sure that’s what Jimmy means here. But it could have a lot of meanings.

Honorable mention, by the way, for “I said lioness because it’s the females who do all the hunting. I just wanted to be species-accurate, irrespective of my own sex. It’s a National Geographic thing.” That’s a level of nerdity we respect.

In Conclusion, Your Honor

“Switch” is ultimately a quiet episode that lays a lot of track for weeks to come, but while it doesn’t shout, there are so many lovely moments to consider, especially when it comes to Kim and Jimmy. Was that their first kiss? Their first time together? “Saul” doesn’t specify, but it doesn’t have to. What matters is that there’s a new energy to the journey because now Jimmy has someone he cares about — and someone to lose.

Grade: A-

READ MORE: ‘Better Call Saul’ Season 2 Joins 2016 Berlinale Special Series

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