Review: Season 2 of ‘Better Call Saul’ goes out on a high note

When Better Call Saul was announced I wasn’t sure what to expect. Saul Goodman was a character that I had love from Breaking Bad but didn’t expect to see a spinoff from. One thing I knew for sure was that this would not be some cheap cash-in to extend the Breaking Bad brand. No, Vince Gilligan (who created BB) and Peter Gould (who created the character of Saul) would give us something worthy of our time.

Flash forward to now and Better Call Saul just wrapped up its second season. I was sold on the show from the get go but I was not expecting the show that we got this year. Better Call Saul has not only justified its existence, it has become the next must-watch drama in American TV. I have a review of the season two finale “Klick” below.

SPOILERS BELOW. So only read if you’ve watched the episode or don’t care (which you should). 

The tragic and twisted relationship between brothers Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Chuck (Michael McKean) was thrust even further into the center of the show than in season 1. At the end of last season we learned it was Chuck that kept Jimmy from becoming a lawyer at HHM and thus informing many of Jimmy’s struggles in season 1. Little did we know, that was that just the tip of the iceberg.

This season, through great use of flashbacks, acting, and writing we learned that while Chuck is the more successful of the McGill brothers, he has been living in the shadow of his infinitely more likeable brother for their entire lives. The hatred Chuck has for Jimmy extends so far that Chuck would lie to him about their mother’s last words. As we saw in the flashback that opened this episode, the late Mrs. McGill’s last words were “Jimmy.” Chuck couldn’t even tell his brother the truth. He lied and said their mother said nothing before she died.

But all that said, Jimmy has done some terrible things to deserve some of that hate. He stole money from their father when they were kids and most recently altered court documents to steal a client from Chuck so they would go back to Kim. Chuck knows his brother and knows full well what he is capable of but despite all of Jimmy’s cons somehow Chuck is still the one I hate.

So Jimmy’s scheme to steal Mesa Verde from HHM worked but it drove Chuck off the edge, landing him in the hospital with a nasty cut on the head. Jimmy himself couldn’t just stand by and even though it risked undermining his scheme he rushed in to help his brother because he loves him more than anything. In a nut shell, Chuck is Jimmy’s kryptonite. Chuck will do everything in his power to bury Jimmy and all Jimmy ever does in the end is protect his mentally ill brother.

Which makes the final scene that much more crushing.

At the end of the episode Chuck returns home from the hospital and decides that the embarrassment he faced over Mesa Verde has left him with no option but to retire from the law. So when Howard (Patrick Fabian) calls Jimmy to tell him he received a resignation letter from Chuck, Jimmy rushes over to Chuck’s house to fix the situation.

Jimmy refuses to accept that Chuck, even with his psychosomatic sensitivity to electricity, would completely withdraw from being a lawyer. Jimmy even goads Chuck with the prospect of continuing his witch-hunt against him. He encourages his brother to make sure he get’s disbarred if that means Chuck would stay a lawyer. Jimmy won, thanks to the lie that Ernie told on his behalf, no one was going to believe Chuck accusing Jimmy of altering the court documents. Jimmy has everything going for him and he would throw it all away to save his brother’s sanity. 

So then Jimmy tells Chuck the truth.

“Jimmy, you do realize you just confessed to a felony.”

“I guess, but it made you feel better.”

That’s the tragedy of Better Call Saul in a nut shell. As Jimmy leaves the house the last thing we see this season is Chuck turning off a tape recorder. I hate him.

Alan Sepinwall at Hitfix.com summed up Chuck and Jimmy the best:

To put it simply, Jimmy has made protecting his brother from the world his top priority, while Chuck has chosen to protect the world from his brother at all costs.

I can’t wait to see where the amazing drama goes next. This season has cemented the show’s place in the pantheon of amazing TV.

Elsewhere in the episode…

Mike’s (Jonathan Banks) storyline continues to remain separate from Jimmy’s while also beginning to feel more and more like Breaking Bad. That has a large portion to do with the introduction of Hector Salamanca and The Cousins from Breaking Bad. To be honest, both parts of the show are so excellent I couldn’t tell you which I liked more.

The finale sees Mike preparing(*) to take out Hector Salamanca for murdering the innocent bystander who got hurt as a result of Mike’s truck heist. These scenes once again make incredible use of the New Mexico landscape (a hallmark of BB) while also conveying so much without any dialogue. I was on the edge of my seat as I watched Mike silently peering through his rifle scope to take out Hector. Jonathan Banks is an incredible actor and I could watch Mike just doing anything and be satisfied. With Mike, Gilligan and Gould have shown a true level of restraint. Knowing when add action and dialogue and knowing when not to. It’s fantastic.

(*)With the help from Jim Beaver’s friendly neighborhood arms dealer, Lawson. That is one BB character I am so glad they’ve made use of this season. 

Where we leave Mike this year has me incredibly excited for season 3. As he is preparing to take his shot, a car horn goes off. So Mike returns to his car to find a tree branch propped up against the seat, pressing on the horn. There’s a note on the windshield. “Don’t”

IT’S GOTTA BE GUS FRING RIGHT? Oh I sure how so(*). But we’ll have to wait until 2017 to find that out.

Until next time Better Call Saul.

Odds and Ends:

  • I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how excellent Rhea Seehorn has been as Kim this season. She has owned every scene and every conflicting emotion she is asked to portray. It’s tragic (there’s that word again) how good she is but how she keeps getting trapped in Jimmy’s orbit. Her smile at his commercial despite all he’s put her through was just beautiful. I could write another 200 words about her alone but I’ll just leave it at that.
  • My first thought was that Nacho (Michael Mando) wrote the note on Mike’s car but further thought rendered that an impossibility.
  • Vince Gilligan’s direction of the scene were Chuck is being looked over by the EMT’s was absolutely terrifying. Chuck may have a psychosomatic condition but the pain and terror he feels from it is very real.
  • “I miss the mailroom” – Me too Ernie, Me too.
  • Also some eagle-eyed conspiracy theorist realized that if you take the first letter of every episode this season and rearrange them they say “FRING’S BACK.” Gilligan and Gould both confirmed that was intended but that they didn’t mean for people to figure it out so quickly. The Chicken Man is coming everyone!!!!

So what did you guys think? Were you satisfied with this season and how it both continued to be different from Breaking Bad while also bringing is closer to it? Let me know in the comments!

 

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