By Matt Berry
Credit in the Straight World
This week, Better Call Saul goes full-on Jason Biggs, engaging its sweet self in some serious man-on-pie action. In other news, Jimmy and Kim are a total couple, Chuck overcomes mental illness and braves the harsh streets of Albuquerque just so he can be a dick to Jimmy, and (believe it or not) Mike gets surly! All this and more happened in…
Better Call Saul, Season 2, Episode 2 | “Cobbler”
After wandering in the emotional and professional wilderness of last week’s Season 2 premier, Saul finds himself, in the sophomore episode, making a go of it in the straight world. He’s got the big office, the big case, and the girl. But, like a giant novelty cup too bulky for your fancy new car’s sheik-ish-ly small cupholder, Jimmy fits into that world about as well as—well, the cup I just mentioned. You get the picture. In any case, even holding on to his dear Kim may not be enough motivation to keep our anti-hero on the straight and narrow, once big brother Chuck comes back into the picture.
THIS WEEK’S BEST BITS
We’re All in the Mood for a Melody
Chuck plays piano to clear his mind and to find focus amid madness. Clifford plays guitar to blow off work tension and relax. Jimmy plays people like a fiddle to feed the ever-widening empty space in the pit of his soul. Boom. Symbolism. De-symbolized.
The Prodigal Jerk
After making efforts last season to pull himself from his suffocating world of isolation and neurosis, Chuck seems to have backslid into staying home and making vague promises to return to the office. He is highly motivated, though, to pop in on the old conference room once he learns that his “not a real lawyer” brother has landed a job with Ed Begley Jr. & Associates and is continuing to work closely with HMM on the Sandpiper case. In other words, Chuck likes the idea of Jimmy succeeding as an attorney (and on Chuck’s own stomping grounds, no less) about as much as Billy Joel likes it when you throw pennies in his tip jar.
When Chuck does actually make an appearance, right in the middle of (surprise!) a meeting about Sandpiper with Jimmy present, the animosity that blossomed between the McGill boys toward the end of Season 1 appears clearly to have now sprouted into a full on mighty oak of bitterness, barely suppressed rage, and resentment. Your typical family tree. Basically.
It would be interesting, I think, to see a flashback at some point to the brothers’ childhoods. I’m curious how far back their sibling issues go and how much their complicated relationship has to do with their parents. The McGill family mater and pater clearly were no June and Ward Cleaver.
The biggest consequence of Chuck’s return is, of course, the push it gives Jimmy towards some very Saul-like behavior. After uncomfortably encountering Chuck for the first time since he effectively walked out of his big brother’s life, Jimmy receives a much-needed call for some good old-fashioned hoodwinking and larceny. Risking everything he has and all the credit he’s gained in the real world, the man who would be Saul agrees right away to a little pro bono dirty work for his old pal Mike.
This episode, more than any in the series so far, shows the forces of light and dark starting to wage war within Jimmy’s psyche. The tango that will take place between Jimmy and Saul should make for good dancing indeed.
Jimmy and Kim Have No Good, Obvious, Couple Name
I totally thought Jimmy and Kim (Jimkim? Kimmyjim? Jimmy Kimmel?) were staying friends, but this week’s episode was bookended by two wonderful scenes that prove beyond a doubt that the two former will-they-or-won’t-they platonics are absolutely making a go of being a raging, epic couple.
The opening scene is a charmer in which the two attorneys spend a little professional time together being unprofessional. How cute was Kim switching the place mats so she could sit next to her squeeze and play footsy? And how adorable is Jimmy trying to go all legit for his lady? This is a scene that plays on the at-ease rapport that these two characters have always had. Jimmy is his truest self, absent of ego, bluster, and hustle, when he’s with Kim, and she is always a snarky, deadpan delight to his colorful storyteller. The show gooses us viewers with the notion that they have made a smooth transition into coupledom and that it’ll be cute as hell sailing from here on out. They, of course, like Saul spinning a pie-centric piece of pulp fiction to the cops, lie.
The episode’s closing scene hints at stormier seas ahead. As Jimmy regales Kim with the story of his defense of Mike’s former associate, Pryce, Jimmy lets slip that he fabricated a piece of evidence to back up the lie he told the police. She is disappointed and professionally outraged by this revelation. When he responds that it has nothing to do with his career, that it was just a little pro bono work for a friend, she tells him pointedly that she is not to hear of these endeavors, that going forward she doesn’t want to know if and when he should indulge this bad behavior again. She also asks what may be one of the most important questions of the entire series: What’s the point in risking your career just when it’s taking off (and your significant other just as you’re starting down a road together) to pull a stunt like this? What’s the point of endangering everything you hold dear for the sake of pulling a fast one?
So, on a Scale of Jimmy to Saul…
Jimmy’s trying to live the straight life, trying, like so many men before him, to find success to impress a certain someone, trying to land the big case in order to land the one that got away, trying to change the world to please just one girl. I could go on. And will. Jimmy’s trying, like so many lovesick fools since the dawn of time, to squeeze himself into a life of pomp and civility in order to prove to the woman he adores that he has a place in that life, that he fits it like an appropriately sized coffee mug fits a reasonably accommodating cup holder, yet all the while his savage man-heart beats to the rhythm of a much more riotous drummer.
Beyond the whole quest to be a better man business vs. the tug of being a lyin’, cheatin’, mean, mistreatin’ con man, Jimmy really does have a kind nature and an instinct to do the right thing. He could be a hero, but he’s angry. He’s one of those guys, deep down, who’s angry at the world for some reason. Whether that anger began with Chuck, his parents, or some other person, place, or thing remains to be seen.
At this moment, though, nearing the end of the episode, he’s mostly just plain mad at Chuck. And when he gets that call from Mike to aid and abet, Saul’s all in.
One of the great delights of being a modern TV viewer is getting to watch Bob Odenkirk channel the side of this character that shucks and jives, bobs and weaves, and pulls the wool over his unsuspecting marks’ eyes with nothing but the silver sheen of his words and the sheer force of his fabricated conviction. That’s the Saul Goodman side. He’s the old Slippin’ Jimmy, playing people like a violin, only now with the law (and all attendant loopholes and parlor tricks) as his instrument.
And the web he weaves in “Cobbler,” a sordid tale of theft, perversion, and unmentionable acts of passion against helplessly crumbling pastries, is a thing of beauty. It is Saul at his best, and in the cheap thrill of defending guilty clients, Jimmy finds not only a way to enact slight rebellion against the oppression of shitty big brothers and morally centered girlfriends, but also a way to clear his head, blow off steam, and to escape even just for a little while from a strangling, alienating world he was never meant to be a part of to begin with.