Published on February 22nd, 2016 | by Michael0
Better Call Saul – Switch
Better Call Saul might be the story of how Jimmy McGill becomes Saul Goodman, but the season two premiere ‘Switch’ opens the same way Uno did a year ago, with a flash forward to Jimmy’s depressing post- Saul life as Gene. As before, we see him as a worker in a Cinnabon in some godforsaken Midwestern shopping mall. Through those slow, close-up shots of machine processes that Vince Gilligan loves so much, we see the soul crushing work Jimmy has been reduced to since he was forced to flee New Mexico at the conclusion of Breaking Bad. The focus stays on post-BB Jimmy for a little longer this time out, as we seen him suffer the extra indignity of being locked in with the bins. There is a way out, but to open that door would trigger an alarm and summon the police. Jimmy hesitates slightly, before instead deciding to wait for the cleaner. So on top of loss of status and a dead end job, we can add paranoia and unrest to Jimmy’s travails. Apparently hours later, when the late night janitor opens the locked door, Jimmy bolts wordlessly to freedom. But the camera lingers in the bin room, slowly zooming in on the piece of graffiti Jimmy etched into the wall.
After the opening titles, we’re back in the past, which is the show’s present, although just to be a tad more confusing, the first scene is set mere moments before the end of season one. Thanks to his work on the Sandpiper case, Kim and Howard have got Jimmy a job interview with another prestigious law firm. But due to some combination of his feelings for Kim, the machinations of his awful brother, Marco’s death and the fact that he had $1.6M in his hand a few days prior and decided to turn it in, Jimmy feels he can’t take the job. In a reprise of a scene from the first season, he tells Mike ‘I know what stopped me [from keeping the money]. And it’s never stopping me again’.
Throughout Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul we’ve already seen at least four distinct versions of this character. We’ve seen Saul Goodman, shyster extraordinaire. We’ve seen plucky, tryhard lawyer James McGill Esq, whose tenacity earned him the nickname Charlie Hustle. We’ve seen Gene, the down at the mouth, defeated looking Cinnabon worker. But casting a shadow over the lot of them is the myth of Slippin’ Jimmy, the con-man from Cicero. Early in the first season, Jimmy told the skateboarding twins the tale of Slippin’ Jimmy in the third person. His influence was also felt in Jimmy’s relationship with his brother Chuck, and in his occasionally less than ethical antics to drum up business (think the heroic billboard rescue). But it wasn’t until the final episode of the last season, ‘Marco’, that we saw Slippin’ Jimmy in full flight, pulling a rare coins scam with his old partner in crime back in Cicero. Marco’s death during the scheme seems to have had a profound effect on Jimmy, who has taken to wearing his friend’s signet ring. It serves as a visual clue to the audience in two ways – first, that Marco and Slippin’ Jimmy are always on Jimmy’s mind, and second that Jimmy’s Saul Goodman wardrobe is starting to come together.
Jimmy’s first foray back into the world of full blown confidence tricks takes him to a hotel, where he lounges in the pool and charges drinks to some unknown schmuck’s room. Kim is able to track him down, but unable to tear him away from his new path. Indeed, Jimmy is even able to convince her to join in with a low grade scam in the hotel bar. The unfortunate mark is the obnoxious investment broker Ken, whom you might remember from the early Breaking Bad episode ‘Cancer Man’. If you don’t, he was an irritating blowhard and Walter set his car on fire. Here, Jimmy and Kim suck him in with a tale of inheritance and how to invest it. Ken decides to give them some schooling in diversifying, over a bottle of tequila. The rub is that the tequila is $50 per shot, and Ken is stuck with the bill as Jimmy and Kim skip out. (Oh, and if you thought Kim could scarcely get more wonderful, her chosen alias is ‘Giselle St Clair’). The tequila itself has played a starring role previously, it being the same type that Gus Fring used to poison Don Eladio and all his goons.
Meanwhile Mike has got his own shit to deal with. The drug dealer he was charged with protecting, ‘Price’, has only got more stupid, lazy and greedy since going into business with Nacho and turns up to a meet in a gigantic, flame covered Hummer, which Mike sensibly refuses to go anywhere near. Price, real name Daniel, seems to have walked straight into town from Fargo given his Midwestern accent, his feeble morals and his peculiar brand of uptight incompetence. ‘Switch’ surely marks the start of his downfall after his carelessness with his car registrations leads to Nacho finding his address and tossing his house, stealing some priceless baseball cards and probably the drug money. When the police come to investigate, Daniel is so obsessed with the baseball cards (which, to be fair, I’m lead to believe can sell for a pretty high price) that he doesn’t spot that the officers are very suspicious about Daniel himself. Daniel certainly ain’t no Walter White and Mike may have to tie up some loose ends sooner or later.
After the tequila heist and the ensuing drunken hook-up with Kim, Jimmy decides that he might go for that job after all. And the obliging folks at Davis and Main are more than happy to take him, even after he walked out on them before. He even goes from a dingy little room behind the cucumber water to his own private office, complete with bespoke art collection. In a vicious parody of the opening scene, where a sign about an alarmed door stunned Gene into inaction, Jimmy sees a switch with a note taped to it. ‘Always Leave On!! Never Turn Off!!’, it reads, so naturally Jimmy switches it off to see what happens. Apparently nothing. But the point is, unlike Gene, no sign is going to tell Slippin’ Jimmy what to do.