“You and I both know you can do this job, but you have to do it right.”
Better Call Saul continues to put the relationship between Kim (Rhea Seehorn) and Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) at the heart of Season 2 – and it’s a decision that continues to pay off in dividends.
Seehorn and Odenkirk have blossomed into a perfect screen couple, able to communicate their affection for each other with a simple game of footsie under the corporate table. But they’re also very good at communicating the opposite – and there are no points for guessing whose fault that is.
Yes, Jimmy just keeps on sliding down that moral slope and it’s playing merry havoc with Kim’s feelings for him. It’s not just that she expects better from him, but that she also got him his current job at Davis & Main. Her professional life is at stake now, as well as her personal life; if he screws up, it makes her look bad.
That positioning of Kim as Jimmy’s moral compass is deftly done by the show’s writers, giving Seehorn more to do while also giving us something to root for emotionally – as much as we enjoy seeing Jimmy’s showmanship slipping out, it also comes with a reinforced dose of tragedy. After all, by the time Breaking Bad rolls around, we know that Saul Goodman isn’t happily married with Kim by his crooked side.
Saul gets a couple of moments to shine this week, most notably in the opening scene, which sees Jimmy bribe a bus driver to pull over so that he can address all the Sandpiper residents on board. All that does, though, is raise the question of solicitation, which Jimmy is forbidden from doing – something Chuck (Michael McKean) is only too happy to point out.
But there’s an ambiguity to Jimmy’s actions that refuse to paint his Goodman side in a solely bad light. His coach stunt is carried out in a dazzling white cowboy outfit, not just a touch for the Texan punters but a sign of how Jimmy views himself – a knight in white stetson prepared to shoot down the bad guys. When Kim confronts him about cutting corners, meanwhile, she walks away, leaving him in a bright stairwell and her skulking into a shadowy corridor – the very opposite of the way it should be.
The tragedy of Jimmy’s two choices going forward is defined by one simple fact: he’s genuinely good at both, whether it’s the honest lawyering and dishonest conning. And Better Call Saul is brilliant at reminding us of that.
If Kim and Jimmy are the heart of this second run, Mike (Jonathan Banks) is an equally well-observed parallel for Jimmy’s journey. The enforcer is already entrenched in murky waters, but he’s similarly hindered in what he can and can’t do. Here, he wants to help his daughter-in-law Stacey (Kerry Condon), who reports gunshots outside the house at night, but he can’t, because they don’t seem to be real. Is she crazy? Or lying? Either way, she’s still reluctant to accept assistance from him.
Jimmy, meanwhile, wants to do the best job he can for his Sandpiper clients, but can’t, because he doesn’t know where to draw the line. One’s sabotaged by the baggage associated with them, the other by the baggage that’s going to be associated with them. The introduction of a video camera to Jimmy’s plans foreshadows his sleazy ads that will one day make him famous – but it also demonstrates that he’s just as talented at coming up with workarounds that are on the right side of the law. The question, though, is the same as ever: he can do his job, so why can’t he do it right? Episode 3 of Season 2 asks that question more directly than ever. The result is an unexpectedly hard-hitting drama that emphasises just how accomplished Better Call Saul has become.
Better Call Saul Season 2 is available exclusively on Netflix UK, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription. New episodes arrive every Tuesday at 8.01am.