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Better Call Saul – Gloves Off Review

"Better Call Anyone Else."

Well, it looks like nothing is sacred. Despite my optimism last week, Better Call Saul is running itself into the ground, with “Gloves Off” being comparable to an episode of The Flash: Season 2. For 70% of the episode, I actually wondered if there would be anything to write about, as nothing that happened on-screen was particularly enjoyable or interesting. The remaining 30%, however, confirmed my biggest fear for the season: it will always feel like an unnecessary addition to Jimmy’s story.

In my review of “Amarillo,” I speculated that Jimmy’s actions would result in Kim getting fired at the end of the season. Though it wouldn’t have been as smart as Season 1’s arc, it would have provided a nice through-line to explain what, after everything he’s been through, was able to tip him over the edge. But in a sense, “Gloves Off” went straight to it. No, Kim wasn’t fired, but because of Jimmy not running the commercial by the partners at Davis & Main, she’s stuck doing doc review. This wasn’t surprising given Cliff’s call to Jimmy at the end of last week’s episode, but this move made it feel like the show was progressing his journey too quickly.

In “Cobbler” and “Amarillo,” Jimmy did things that could get him in trouble, and in both episodes, Kim told him to stop, but did he? No. Even when Kim made it clear that his behavior reflects on her judgment, he aired the commercial without consulting the partners, and now she’s suffering for it. As I mentioned last week, I feel like I missed the part where Jimmy’s desire to color outside the lines was fully developed, which makes every turn of the screw on this front seem premature. However, the show doling out an immediate punishment for Jimmy not listening to Kim seems like a bigger misstep this early in the season, as it doesn’t (and didn’t) give him much of a chance to struggle with doing the right thing.

- Better Call Saul _ Season 2, Episode 5 - Photo Credit: Ursula Coyote/ Sony Pictures Television/ AMC
– Better Call Saul Season 2, Episode 5 – Photo Credit: Ursula Coyote/ Sony Pictures Television/ AMC

Not only that, but Jimmy’s successive “mistakes” make Saul Goodman seem like a foregone conclusion. A big part of why I liked Season 1 so much was that Jimmy was really trying to turn his life around. It was crushing when he realized he wouldn’t have the big office he showed Kim, and Chuck going behind his back was the final nail in the coffin. Simply put, he had things to lose. To contrast that with Season 2, Kim is already starting to lose faith in him, and Chuck never believed he would do the right thing in the first place. Where are the stakes when everyone believes you’re a certain kind of person, you barely make an attempt to prove them wrong, and then you become that person? Something that really bothered me about the episode was Jimmy saying he never wanted the job at Davis & Main, as it felt like the series wasn’t even trying to justify Season 2’s existence.

On the other side of this, Mike’s storyline didn’t fare any better. Like Jimmy, Mike didn’t have such an obvious arc in Season 1, but there was so much substance to his every interaction that it probably would have been enjoyable anyway. However, his relationship with Nacho makes his path seem a little too clear, with Nacho’s unanswered “Why?” coming across as more of a delay than a character resisting his destiny.

When I jumped from reviewing The Flash to Better Call Saul, I figured it was a no-brainer. The first season of the AMC series was, for the most part, incredibly smart and compelling television, while The Flash represented a weekly struggle of drawn out plotlines and mischaracterization. After “Gloves Off,” however, this is something that can be said of both series, and I’m left wishing the creators had realized their story was already “complete” with Season 1.

- Better Call Saul _ Season 2, Episode 5 - Photo Credit: Ursula Coyote/ Sony Pictures Television/ AMC
– Better Call Saul Season 2, Episode 5 – Photo Credit: Ursula Coyote/ Sony Pictures Television/ AMC

Chicago Sunroofs:

  • Even as I say their story was complete with Season 1, I remember thinking about what Season 2 would look like. Instead of continuing to show Jimmy’s descent, I thought it would be more about him trying to work out the business side of things; who to get in touch with, how to protect himself, how far he’ll have to go to succeed. Although it wouldn’t have solved that awkward character jump between episodes 9 and 10, it would have been a natural progression of what we saw at the end of the first season.
  • With Kim’s punishment, the showrunners might have wanted to allay our fears that the season would end with her being fired, or ask the question of what could cause Jimmy to break bad when he’s already on such thin ice, but I think this came at the expense of the season feeling well thought-out and planned.
  • The opening scene of the episode had a hint of that awesome Better Call Saul/Breaking Bad storytelling, with Mike throwing money on the table (“did he agree to kill someone?”), then going to grab frozen carrots to ice an injury (“did he already do it?”).
  • The title sequences are really starting to foreshadow Saul Goodman.
  • Chuck looked like a drunk, power-hungry Roman emperor in the boardroom with Kim and Howard.
  • I was really glad that Kim gave Jimmy an emphatic “No!” when he said he would go talk to Howard. “If you go to Howard, you and I are done” – so good.
  • I liked some aspects of Jimmy’s confrontation with Chuck. It was cool that the man the show has been training us to hate was at a disadvantage when Jimmy came around, hearkening back to their dynamic in Season 1. And the idea of Jimmy leaving a career in law behind for Kim was also pretty interesting, if a little excessive and premature. However, while I liked the ideologies of the characters in concept, the exchange of Chuck’s “Life is not one big game of ‘let’s make a deal’!” and Jimmy’s “Yes, it is!” made Jimmy seem kind of daft. It goes back to my issues with his characterization this season, as the Jimmy of Season 1 had a concept of what counts as ethical behavior.
  • “No more Jimmy McGill, Esquire” was a nice little signpost for Saul Goodman, but again, it seems a little early for him to say something like this.
  • Lawson saying he “make[s] [his] living on repeat business” means he’ll likely come back when Mike changes his mind about killing.
  • Tuco flipping the bill around so that it faced the same way as the other $100 dollar notes was awesome.
  • I feel like the show should have made it clear that Jimmy was really trying to work within the system last episode, emphasized his inability to do this previously, and given him more opportunities to struggle with his desires before anyone was punished for his behavior. As it was, we only got him waffling between showing the commercial to the partners and not.
Rating
5.5
Pros
  • Kim shutting Jimmy down
Cons
  • Jimmy's characterization
  • Jimmy's story has no stakes
  • Both Jimmy and Mike's character arcs feeling obvious
  • Despite a lot of big moments, the episode felt very insubstantial

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