Are we all back to watching Better Call Saul? The Season 2 premiere was not promoted with the furor of, say, The Walking Dead, and it didn’t rake in the awards it was nominated for, so maybe it’s less buzzy. But Basket of Kisses is on the case!
Better Call Saul is a comedy (or “dramedy”) permeated by melancholy. Fans of Breaking Bad know the ultimate fate of Jimmy McGill, aka Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), and Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), and it’s not happy. We’re reminded of this in the opening of Switch. We’ve seen Saul at the Cinnabon in Season 1, this is where he ends up following the events of Breaking Bad; it’s the present day, while the entire series is a flashback to 2002.
In the flashforward that opens Season 2, we again find Saul leading a darkly banal life, joylessly managing a mall location, and getting locked in with the dumpsters. He considers exiting through an alarmed door and does not. Does he fear the police, or does he fear allowing himself to break any rule, even slightly? The bookending closing scene shows Saul (still Jimmy) turning off a light switch for no other reason than it’s labeled ‘do not turn off’. This is the switch of the episode’s title, but the title also refers to the switch in Jimmy’s life, from breaking every rule, because a rule is there, to breaking no rules ever, even though it would make a great deal of forgivable sense to exit through the emergency door.
It’s melancholy that Saul’s life is eventually so reduced, but even more so that Saul/Jimmy cannot figure out how to have color and pleasure in his life without breaking all the rules.
Creator Vince Gilligan is a fan of using color to express himself. As in Season 1, the flashforward is in black and white, underlining the colorlessness of Saul’s Nebraskan life in hiding, as compared to the brightness of his hustle and bustle in Albuquerque. The hotel pool is an explosion of color—the swimsuit, raft, drink, snack, all bright and clashing. Later, when Jimmy takes the job at Other Firm, every single person there is dressed monochromatically, in grays, blacks, and whites. Every one. The offices are a warm and welcoming orange, the wall art is fabulous and explosive, but the people are non-entities.
Jimmy turns down the job because, just back from Cicero, he wants to be Slipping Jimmy—the con man he once was. He became a lawyer to impress his brother, but his brother disdains him, so what’s the point? He wants the life that was his life, not Chuck’s leftovers. But his life ends up with Slipping Jimmy in jail; he knows that, so he runs back to the law. That his decision at the beginning of the episode hasn’t changed—that he’s on the way to becoming Saul Goodman—is expressed by turning off the switch.
Mike proves himself the smartest guy around by walking away from a situation that is bound to go south, and advising Silly Client Guy to do the same. Of course, Silly Client Guy doesn’t listen. Obviously this brings Mike in somehow, although I don’t yet know how, but we have a stupid smart guy, a couple of pretty smart cops, and Nacho all in the mix, so I expect it’ll be explosive. Walking away is one of Mike’s specialties. He wanted to, and tried to, with Walter White, but Walter got the better of him, which Mike had time to regret. I like that Mike’s scene with the client opened with him standing in exactly the same position, probably with another pimento cheese sandwich (the caviar of the South).
- Jimmy orders a cocobolo desk, first mentioned in Episode 1.07. Jimmy wants what the Kettlemans had; symbolically, that desk is the money he gave back.
- I had guessed that Silly Client Guy (last seen in Episode 1.09) worked in a hospital. Rather, he’s in IT at a pharmaceutical company.
- PLAYUH license plate. Oh, yeah.
- Last season, every episode was one word ending in “o” (except for Alpine Shepherd Boy, which was originally titled Jello, and probably changed for legal reasons). This year, it’s still one word, but otherwise no pattern appears from the episodes currently listed on the IMDb.