TV Review: ‘Better Call Saul,’ Season 2

'Better Call Saul' Breezes Into Second
Courtesy of AMC

Having survived the not inconsequential “What can you possibly do for an encore after ‘Breaking Bad?’” question, “Better Call Saul” returns for a second season, looking as relaxed, unhurried and somewhat disheveled as before. Spooning out story at a time when many shows race through it, the AMC dramedy continues to operate on the breezy two-tier track it achieved in the second half of season one, following attorney Jimmy McGill on his descent to the dark side, and former cop Mike Ehrmantraut on his parallel, occasionally intersecting course. If it’s not all good, man, happily, it mostly is.

Season two uses the same framing device that initially set the show into motion, with black-and-white footage of Saul (Bob Odenkirk), the sleazy attorney formerly known as Jimmy, hiding in plain sight, always with an eye over his shoulder. One suspects those mini-scenes will slowly tease out that sequence to its logical end, whenever that might be.

From there, it’s back to Saul/Jimmy’s early years, when he still harbored illusions about toeing the straight and narrow, and actually had feelings for someone — colleague Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn). In one of the more arresting interludes in the first two episodes, he even drags her into an impromptu scam involving an obnoxious money manager, turning his one-time con-man ways into a kind of peculiar foreplay.

Still, despite the opportunity to forge ahead and get ahead by pursuing the big lawsuit he landed in the first season, Jimmy remains conflicted about taking that path, insisting, as if trying to convince himself, that he is, as Mike (Jonathan Banks) describes it, “morally flexible.” As for Mike, he’s still functioning as a small-time enforcer, albeit with a client so inept that he violates simple rules of drug deals — like, for instance, you shouldn’t show up for an exchange in an absurdly tricked-out Hummer.

Under Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould (with a premiere written and directed by Thomas Schnauz), “Better Call Saul” continues to display many of the same qualities as “Breaking Bad,” including its disarming quirkiness and embrace of stillness and quiet, as well as its unpredictability and occasional bouts of menace. That said, it’s so laconic, and less urgent in terms of its stakes at this stage, as to at times become a little too sleepy. That’s especially true during those lulls when Banks – whose season-one flashback episode was surely the program’s apex – is absent for too long, despite how good Odenkirk is in what’s fast becoming a career-defining role for the comic actor.

Admittedly, trying to get a bead on a commodity as slippery as “Better Call Saul” off two episodes isn’t easy. The story gained momentum as its first season progressed, and based on these opening chapters, there’s reason to believe that will be the case again.

For all the accolades the show has garnered, it likely will never match the highs its sire delivered; still, as season two begins, “Saul” has more than demonstrated that it can stand on its own. And even a diluted version of what made “Breaking Bad” so addictive, it turns out, is way better than nothing at all.

TV Review: 'Better Call Saul,' Season 2

(Series; AMC, Mon. Feb. 15, 10 p.m.)

Production

Filmed in Albuquerque by High Bridge, Crystal Diner and Gran Via Prods. in association with Sony Pictures Television.

Crew

Executive producers, Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Thomas Schnauz, Mark Johnson, Melissa Bernstein; co-executive producer, Gennifer Hutchison; supervising producer, Nina Jack; producers, Diane Mercer, Bob Odenkirk, Robin Sweet; writer-director, Schnauz; camera, Arthur Albert; production designer, Anthony T. Fanning; editor, Kelley Dixon; music, Dave Porter; casting, Sharon Bialy, Sherry Thomas, Russell Scott. 60 MIN.

Cast

Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Michael McKean, Rhea Seehorn, Patrick Fabian, Michael Mando, Ed Begley Jr.

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  1. Tim Keough says:

    I think 7/10 is low…beautifully written and acted and yes the pace is slow but that’s not a problem for me…it’s moving along the way it should..naturally and with a style that’s different than breaking bad so let the comparisons go…I find this review somewhat diluted….10/10…!

  2. So Saul was a pragmatic all be it sarcastic master of problem solving who always had us laughing in Breaking Bad, but after watching writers try to develop a story for a full a year I have found this show to be as exciting as I imagine watching a Dr Stephen Hawkin real time web cam would be. Its like sitting there waiting for an eye to blink and getting nothing but a second chance to see it next week

  3. Nathan says:

    These comparisons are at times interesting, but a distraction; this being a totally different ‘beat’. This show is to be celebrated for it’s attention to great writing and acting, all at the same time as engrossingly interesting. The minutia of life’s aberrations is something not usually recognised, at times by the Coens, but not many others. I like the style. I like unhurried, I like depth of perspective the characters provide. Ed Begley Jr is a force to be reckoned with. They’re all good. These actors and the likes of David Morse are treasures that define the art, though rarely recognised other than as living under the shadow of BB. Just step away, go on another ride …

  4. 85wzen says:

    I was sure surprised how good Saul was, I didn’t think it would be anywhere near as good as it was. Looking forward to the 2nd Season!

  5. 62757daf says:

    What most critics probably haven’t even thought about is that Better Call Saul will have the save story line at the end that Breaking Bad did. The first episode had Saul working as a pizza guy? That was because it was his new identity after the fall out from Walter White’s epic ending.

  6. Toad Groan says:

    i like better call saul way better than breaking bad and i loved bb. i’m hooked. can’t wait!

  7. Greggan says:

    Metaphorically, Better Call Saul is the methadone to Breaking Bad’s smack. BCS helps to wean us off the BB hard stuff by replacing the high with something that feels familiar, but is not the same thing. BCS is hugely entertaining, but the BB high is hard to replace … so we’ll take the nearest alternative. BCS is rehab for BB. May the treatment be successful for many more seasons! Thanks Dr. Gilligan — both for getting us hooked, and for providing the cure! Nice work if you can get it. (If I really knew anything about drugs this would have been much wittier.)

    • nobody cares says:

      We know breaking bad is classic,but that does not mean bcs will be the same thing,please be objective ,bcs is merely a good show(not a great show )so far.hugely entertaining? We must watched a differrent show,showtime’s ray donovan is doing the same thing with bcs ,that’s called entertaining.at last,saul goodman this character is created by peter gould,how that glory all goes to vince gilligan.bb also has a lot of writers like sam catlin,george mastras etc,not one man’s job,please be objective.

      • Greggan says:

        I wasn’t writing a review. Just expressing an opinion in a tongue-in-cheek way. I do find the show hugely entertaining and part of that pleasure is indeed because of it’s connection to BB. What’s your definition of objectivity? Your opinion? Opinion’s aren’t fact. You mean other people work on the show other than Vince Gilligan? Wow, I had no idea!

    • Bonjz Laronjz says:

      I thought it was pretty witty and spot on. Looking forward to Season 2.

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