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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.
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.