‘Breaking Bad’ Spinoff ‘Better Call Saul’ Impresses Viewers

By Henry Schecker
Contributing Writer

WARNING: Spoiler alert!

When AMC network pre-emptively ordered two seasons of the Breaking Bad spin-off, “Better Call Saul,” I was skeptical.

Is this just to capitalize on the runaway success of Breaking Bad?

How could they order two seasons of a show that isn’t even made yet?

Can you create an entire series around a sleazy side character like Saul?

However, AMC’s faith in the team of Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould seems to have paid off in spades, as “Better Call Saul” is one of the better dramas on television right now.

Season one of “Better Call Saul” gave us the skinny on James “Slippin’ Jimmy” McGill, the soon or not-so-soon to be “Saul Goodman.”

The show gives the character a fair amount of depth and shows that there was once a straight-laced man underneath the cheap cologne, tacky suits and sheen of sweat of Saul Goodman; I can’t believe I never realized is a pun of “it’s all good man.”

Not to spoil anything, but Jimmy has a history of being a scam artist.

After a set of circumstances, he winds up in jail and his lawyer brother Chuck bails him out, which sets him down the path to studying law.

Jimmy struggles with the moral dilemma of staying on the straight and narrow, and slipping into his old ways (hence the nickname “Slippin’ Jimmy.”)

After reuniting with an old conning partner, Marco, and pulling off a successful con; Jimmy ends the season by deciding that he’s going to live on his own terms and accepts his bad traits.

So the question going into season two is, “will Jimmy stick to his guns and ‘break bad’”?

The episode opens with Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) turning down a high paying position at a law firm.

He declares to parking lot attendant, Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), that he’s done “doing the right thing.”

He reiterates that statement to co-worker Kim (Rhea Seehorn) whilst lounging in a pool at a luxury resort, announcing his intention to quit being a lawyer, and roping Kim into a scam.

They con a fast talking investor into a free meal and drinks by pretending to be a brother and sister who’ve just come into a large inheritance.

It’s a scene that’s played for laughs, but Jimmy shows Kim how he can survive without practicing law.

Jimmy’s refusal to become a suit and tie comes from his realization that he can make a lot more money as a successful con artist than as a struggling lawyer.

After showing Kim his skill at separating a fool from his money at the resort, and the drunken one night stand they share after ducking the bill, Jimmy feels confident in his choice to go back to his con man lifestyle.

Seeing that it won’t last, Kim goes back to work and can’t indulge in Jimmy’s day-to-day survival. Jimmy caves and takes the job.

After Jimmy fails to convince Kim to continue conning people, he has a moment of realization while floating in a pool at sunrise scouting for potential targets.

Jimmy gathers himself up and accepts the job at the law firm.

While sitting in his new office surveying the environment, he notices a switch labeled “never to be turned off.”

He peels the label off, hits the switch and waits, but nothing happens. He rolls the “never to be turned off” sticker back on, grips the ring given to him by Marco and the episode ends.

The implication at the end is that Jimmy has found a way to combine his passions. He’s done doing the right thing; he’s going to use the law to further his own schemes and plans.

Jimmy has made new identities for himself in the past and that’s what he’s figured out this is.

“James McGill, Lawyer” is just another costume for him to slip into, another way to play another sucker.

Marco’s ring is the reminder to Jimmy that it’s all a long con, and here is where we see the seeds of Saul Goodman beginning to take root.

Email Henry at:
hschecker@live.esu.edu

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