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Better Call Saul – Bali Ha’i Review

"An enjoyable episode because it ignores the premise of the series."

It says a lot when one of the stronger episodes of Better Call Saul: Season 2 doesn’t really focus on the title character. As I said last week, I’ve been waiting for something to act as the narrative “through-line” to make me care about Season 2’s story, but I didn’t expect Jimmy to be sidelined for this to be a possibility. Granted, putting Kim and Mike in the spotlight made for a largely entertaining episode, but it’s not promising that the central conceit of the series – Jimmy’s transformation – continues to drag the show down.

In spite of this, “Bali Ha’i” actually opened with a very interesting scene featuring Jimmy. He began the episode having a hard time sleeping in his new bed, so he went to watch TV (“Ch-Ch-Chia!”), resulting in him finding out that Davis & Main replaced his commercial with something more “corporate.” Instead of Jimmy’s anger at this move driving the episode, he again tried to go to sleep, only to once again find he cannot, leading to him using the decorative basket balls as actual ones – kicking, throwing, and bowling them to pass the time. Even though Jimmy having difficulty sleeping was a cliché device to say something’s not right with his life, I really enjoyed him kicking the decorative balls. Maybe I’m not doing things right, but it felt like something you do in a hotel, like jumping on the bed, not something you do at the place you call home. Again, the framing of the wrong bed and the right bed at the nail salon was kind of easy, but it allowed for a more nuanced way of saying that something’s off.

- Better Call Saul _ Season 2, Episode 6 - Photo Credit: Ursula Coyote/ Sony Pictures Television/ AMC
Better Call Saul Season 2, Episode 6 – Photo Credit: Ursula Coyote/ Sony Pictures Television/ AMC

Compared to last week, Mike’s storyline began to pick up. Not because of the added danger (which was expected), but because it had a certain flair missing from previous moments in Mike’s Season 2 storyline. While the “Welcome” of the welcome mat felt like weak irony when Mike first put it down, the fact that he used it to see if anyone had come to his house was pretty awesome. Even if Mike’s journey already feels played out, it gave me hope that whatever comes next will have some redeeming qualities. My reception to the threat itself, though, was a little more mixed. The Better Call Saul debut of the Cousins introduced a sense of danger similar to when Tuco first appeared in “Uno”; however, I’m disappointed that more and more Breaking Bad characters are showing up. It makes Better Call Saul feel a little too beholden to its forerunner, and I hope it doesn’t come at the expense of more original characters making an appearance.

Meanwhile, Kim’s storyline is accelerating much faster than I expected. Instead of her leaving HHM at the end of the season (involuntarily, somehow as a result of Jimmy), as was indicated last episode it looks like she’ll be leaving herself, and soon. The progression of her storyline still doesn’t feel completely thought out, but I loved how the series made HHM out to be a poor fit for her. Rick Schweikart’s story about when, like Kim, he was left in an unwinnable position felt so real and interesting, particularly that line: “it never really sat well with me.” In terms of weight, his conversation with Kim actually made me think of Mike’s speech about morality in “Pimento,” which has been one of my benchmarks for the difference in quality between the seasons.

- Better Call Saul _ Season 2, Episode 6 - Photo Credit: Ursula Coyote/ Sony Pictures Television/ AMC
Better Call Saul Season 2, Episode 6 – Photo Credit: Ursula Coyote/ Sony Pictures Television/ AMC

I also appreciated the conversation between Kim and Jimmy. As someone who thinks that “Switch” was an unnecessary step backward for the series, it was nice for Kim to say that Jimmy “knew what [he] wanted” when he was floating in the pool, and that she got in the way. It doesn’t make what has happened as a result of this move better, but the almost-acknowledgement made me hopeful that the series can reset itself at some point.

Better Call Saul managed to deliver an entertaining episode this week. The use of some obvious scenarios and metaphors hampered the experience, but substantial dialogue and moments kept me engaged. The series refocusing on Jimmy will likely bring back every problem I have with the current season, but for now I’m just happy the episode wasn’t the chore I expected it to be.

- Better Call Saul _ Season 2, Episode 6 - Photo Credit: Ursula Coyote/ Sony Pictures Television/ AMC
Better Call Saul Season 2, Episode 6 – Photo Credit: Ursula Coyote/ Sony Pictures Television/ AMC

Chicago Sunroofs

  • Better Call Saul: Season 3 – I can’t believe it, either.
  • Since the season finale won’t be the last we see of these characters, it’ll be interesting to see if they make another awkward characterization jump like they did in Season 1.
  • I hope the show stops trying to anticipate everything that happens in Breaking Bad.
  • The title sequences are starting to get a little like, “what other Saul Goodman-related thing can we throw in here?”
  • Regarding the welcome mat, it was pretty cool that Mike was already preparing for someone to come by. Kind of standard procedure, I guess, but still awesome.
  • It was kind of strange that Jimmy’s usual charm was ignored in his interactions with Mrs. Nguyen.
  • Even though it was a small moment, the reminder that Jimmy doesn’t want his current job was frustrating.
  • Despite thinking the introduction of the Cousins was cool, there was something weirdly fake about the shot of them on the rooftop with Mike in the foreground. Maybe it was because there was only one short scene that separated Mike telling Hector’s muscle to do better, them being on a rooftop seemed weird, the music emphasized it too much, or the framing was too perfect, but it felt off. (I’m inclined to think it was the music.)
  • It was awesome that Kim always had a response to the lawyer from Schweikart and Cokely.
  • The dynamic between Erin, Jimmy, and Omar is pretty interesting. I hope we see more moments with them all together in the future.
  • “I took that job because it was the right decision. A steady paycheck… done. A place to live that’s more than, oh, five square feet… boom. A car that’s all one color… nailed it.” – It must be so fun to watch Bob Odenkirk deliver his lines.
  • It’s cute that Jimmy and Kim kissed each other goodbye. I appreciate that the show doesn’t try to push the characters toward a more conventional relationship.
  • Like Jimmy having difficulty sleeping, the cup not fitting in the cup holder stuff felt cliché.
Rating
7.0
Pros
  • Not focusing on Jimmy's story avoided the problems associated with Jimmy's story
  • Rick Schweikart's dialogue
  • The almost-acknowledgement of the problems with "Switch"
  • Mike's crafty use of his welcome mat
  • The Cousins!
Cons
  • Not focusing on the title character's story was to the benefit of the episode
  • The series starting to feel beholden to Breaking Bad
  • Use of obvious and easy metaphors

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