This Better Call Saul review contains spoilers
Better Call Saul Season 2 Episode 10
Better Call Saul season two was brilliant; a well-written drama, grounded in reality, about a man trying to keep his self-destructive tendencies at bay long enough to realize his potential and attain happiness. Though it flirted with the danger and vices associated with its predecessor, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul was and is at its best when the action is happening behind the characters’ eyes.
The personal conflict between the McGill brothers is more interesting to me than watching Mike become engulfed in a world that I’ve already explored and have seen destroyed, yet neither story ended this evening in a particularly satisfying fashion. These plots each reached logical points in “Klick,” but they certainly feel more like the middle of a story than the end, and it’s frustrating knowing that we’ll have to wait a year to pick things back up.
Being impatient isn’t enough of a reason to pan this finale. My real gripe comes with the treatment of Kim, the season’s most engaging character and a prime example of why this prequel deserves to exist in the first place. We’ve watched Kim balance her personal ambition with her feelings for Jimmy all season, spending almost more time with her than we have with the titular character the past few episodes, and yet here, Kim is regulated to delivering messages and serving coffee. There’s no conclusion to her story, no real insight into how she feels about taking the leap and working solo, side-by-side with Jimmy.
Sure, there are more episodes of Better Call Saul to come, but looking at last season, and certainly Breaking Bad’s run, co-creator Vince Gilligan always has had a knack for giving each season its own arc. In comparison, Better Call Saul season two feels like it was stopped at the top of the hill. I definitely feel like we’re set up for an explosive third season, but I guess I would have appreciated an ending that would have had more of a unifying effect for Better Call Saul season two’s ten episodes.
Other than faulting the episode solely because no other installments will follow, there wasn’t much else to complain about in tonight’s main story. The battle between the brothers McGill was recontextualized with another flashback in the cold opening. Jimmy and Chuck sit at their mother’s deathbed as Jimmy tries to undercut the grief and tension by suggesting that they leave the hospital for a while. Chuck remains vigilant as his immature brother slips out, and just after he does, their mother awakes, calling out only for Jimmy before she flatlines. When Jimmy returns, Chuck neglects to tell him of his mother’s final words. It’s yet another example of the deep-seated resent that Chuck has for his brother.
In the present day, Jimmy doesn’t leave Chuck’s hospital bedside even once, doesn’t commit him to an institution when given the chance, and does all that he can to get Chuck back at home comfortably. Is it all out of guilt? Maybe, but Jimmy has showed consistently that he genuinely cares for his brother. It’s not unreasonable to say that Chuck’s injury, his visit to the copy shop, his professional embarrassment with Mesa Verde, is all Jimmy’s fault, but Jimmy’s intention was never to cause any harm to Chuck. Jimmy wanted to help Kim, it’s just that he didn’t consider at all how his actions would affect other people, a theme that seems common in Jimmy’s life and one that Chuck cannot stomach. Jimmy was never trying to hurt Chuck, but throughout season one, we know that Chuck was intentionally trying to hurt Jimmy, but was framing it by saying it was out of respect for the law. Jimmy is selflessly selfish and Chuck selfishly selfless, and that selfish need to end Jimmy’s law career and claim it as a moral obligation leads to the con of the season, except Chuck is running the gambit.
By playing up the effects of his disease, and knowing full well that sending a retirement notice to Hamlin would cause Hamlin to contact Jimmy, Jimmy is lured into Chuck’s home and coerced into confessing to tampering with the Mesa Verde files. All it takes is for Chuck to beat himself up over his supposed mistake during a convincing psychotic break, and Jimmy takes responsibility, again only trying to ease his brother’s worries. Little does Jimmy know, the confession has been taped, and now it seems as if McGill v McGill: Dawn of Saul will be the official tagline for season three.
Mike also looks to be busy in season three, it’s just a shame he wasn’t as well utilized this year. Weeks spent stalking the Salamancas is all for nothing, as Mike’s plan to snipe Hector is derailed, first simply by Nacho standing too close to Hector, then by a mysterious car horn. Mike returns to his vehicle to see that someone has forced the horn to go off and has left a note reading “Don’t.” The internet has already been rumbling about a rumor that Breaking Bad heavy Gus Fring was cut last minute from the finale, but it seems to me that this mysterious note couldn’t have been commissioned by any one else other than the unseen villain. Gus surely has a vested interest in the parties involved in New Mexico’s drug trade and this looks like the perfect moment to introduce the character and how Mike became his employee. Still, for all of Mike’s patience and planning against the Salamancas only to amount to a tease for next season is a little disappointing.
Maybe the sum of the parts is greater than the whole in Mike’s story’s case, but I still thoroughly enjoyed all of Better Call Saul season two. The show has reminded me that great television can be made without high-octane action or high-concept plotting, as long as there are compelling characters grappling with real problems. It doesn’t hurt that the show has incredible direction, performances, and music and that it can be funny or heartbreaking at the drop of a hat, but what really matters is that Better Call Saul gives us protagonist that we recognize, and not just because he’s from a show that we enjoyed. Like many of us, Jimmy is caught between who he knows that he is and who he thinks that he can be, trying to see if those two people can have overlapping characteristics. Of course, the journey has a predetermined destination, but I’m immensely enjoying the bumpy road and cannot wait to travel it again soon.
The Best of the Rest
- Shouts out to Ernesto, who helps cover for Jimmy as to why he was so quick on the scene to help at the copy shop. Ernesto is an interesting way to view the whole Jimmy and Chuck dynamic. Even though Ernesto works for Chuck and Chuck essentially pays his bills, he decides to help Jimmy because Jimmy is his “friend.” Jimmy tends to treat those around him with respect, while Chuck has proven multiple times that he can be condescending, smug, and judgmental.
- The decision to linger on Chuck’s face in an inverted shot during the emergency room sequence was incredibly interesting, it really brought an uncomfortable quality to the scene, highlighting the intensity of Chuck’s condition.
- No coincidence that a commercial for the Garden Weasel plays directly after Jimmy’s. Those dolly shots looked great though!
- That’s veteran character actress Clea Duvall (Girl, Interrupted, Carnivale, Heroes, American Horror Story: Asylum) again as Dr. Cruz, a character I am positive we have not seen the last of.
- Is it possible that Nacho knew about Mike’s plan and is somehow involved in the note on Mike’s car (and Gus, by proxy)?
- Chuck uses his garage as storage for all of his old electronics.
- The introduction of Chuck’s wife was an interesting thing that I thought would have come up again by the end of the season, but I guess that remains an unanswered question for season three to tackle.