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‘Better Call Saul’ Season 2: How the Editing Gets More Daring (Emmy Watch)

'Better Call Saul' Season 2: How the Editing Gets More Daring (Emmy Watch)

It’s a slow burn, a dance, watching Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) juggle identities in his transformation as Saul. And it’s a trickier balancing act between surprise and suspense in Season 2 of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” prequel with some nifty foreshadowing (such as scamming Kyle Bornheimer’s obnoxious financial planner, Ken, into paying for expensive tequila).

Creatively, “Better Call Saul” continues to be experimental (including the bravura opening tracking shot in “Fifi” that pays homage to “Touch of Evil”), as Jimmy and Kim (Rhea Seehorn) grow closer, Mike (Jonathan Banks) draws Jimmy closer to his infamous alter-ego and brother Chuck (Michael McKean) brings him down as their rivalry intensifies.

A rule-breaking spirit extends to the editing with Kelley Dixon creating stunning montages that stretch the boundaries of the show. “Editorially, they encourage creativity and new ideas that weren’t scripted,” offered Dixon, who handles the odd-numbered episodes in Season 2 while Skip MacDonald edits the even-numbered ones.

“A lot of the things I did this year editorially were taking montages and changing them up. I did one a couple of weeks ago where Kim was making a bunch of phone calls, trying to generate business. And I threw them way out of sync and had fun with the continuity throughout the scene where it really looked like she was making a lot of phone calls and there’s almost a cacophony but it was only one person and we didn’t have the other side of the phone, so it looked and sounded a lot more busy than if we had done it conventionally.

“And I think that it’s a tough pill to swallow for some people: ‘Wait, this makes no sense: she’s not talking but you hear her talking.’ But it was just a style that we’ve done a couple of times on ‘Breaking Bad’ [not to the extent of that sequence]. And the guys said to come up with something interesting. And they liked it.”

MacDonald concurred: “When we get a chance to work away from the page it’s usually when there is a montage. We can try different styles and transitions in a montage that we wouldn’t normally use in dialogue scene.”

In “Nailed,” there’s a riveting bank hearing that’s a result of Jimmy being conniving and romantic. He screws Chuck out of a big client and hands it to Kim as they set up joint law practices and share office space.

“A bank hearing can be kind of dry and, honestly,” said Dixon, “it’s mostly about the way it was directed by [co-creator] Peter Gould. It was shot where you see characters in frame with other characters, and they all give each other energy. And there are conflicts within the scene, and you get to see how other characters are reacting, even when they’re not talking. So it’s really about raking shots, profile shots and using them in interesting ways.”

Meanwhile, Dixon has received a lot of Tweets about the Jimmy getting fired montage in “Inflatable.”

“He started to bring in all the colorful suits and ties and he spent a good deal of time trying to get himself fired where he could actually keep his signing bonus,” Dixon continued. “I don’t think it was scripted, but in the early stages we thought it was a good opportunity for us to do a montage and also something that we’ve never really done before where we montage, break it up and then go back to montage.

“It was about Jimmy seeing one of those inflatable dudes on a fan and dancing all around. And we use that as his idea about trying to march to the beat of his own drum. They gave me a lot of shots that were framed similar but with different color clothes, and so I just started thinking about putting them all on screen at the same time, using boxes.”

The montage has a ’70s vibe, punctuated by the iconic Dennis Coffey song, “Scorpio,” suggested to Dixon by co-creator Vince Gilligan: “With the bright colors, it gave us a chance to see a little piece of Saul with the clothes. It was a big challenge. We’ve never relied on gimmicks like heavy graphics. But they loved it. 

“It’s a peek into Saul that I want to see more of [next season],” added Dixon, whose biggest fear is tapping out creatively, “because you want them all to look different.”

“Klick,” the season finale, airs April 18 at 10:00 pm ET/9:00 pm (Central).

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