No sign of anything even vaguely resembling a sophomore slump in the second ten-episode run of the effortlessly-classy and often beautifully-filmed Breaking Bad prequel. Better Call Saul is now moving out from under its parent show’s shadow and establishing its own identity but the second season actually borrows a few of Breaking Bad’s narrative tactics to add a bit of spicy edge-of-the-seat tension into what is, at times, a real slow-burn series which is clearly in no hurry to get to its endpoint.
Series Two picks up the slack from the conclusion of Series One. Our anti-hero (and future Saul Goodman) Jimmy McGill (Odenkirk), having become disillusioned with his faltering career as a legitimate lawyer, toys briefly with the idea of becoming a fly-by-night shyster again until he’s tempted back into the path of righteousness by fellow lawyer (and soon-to-be love interest) Kim Wexler (the superb Rhea Seehorn) who procures him a job with big-boy law firm Davis and Main. Here Jimmy carries on gathering evidence in the Sandpiper care home charging scandal uncovered in Season One but his over-zealousness quickly sees him falling foul of his new bosses – and putting his new relationship at risk. As the season progresses Jimmy becomes increasingly maverick and unpredictable and his determination to do the best for Kim – who he persuades to leave her lucrative position at Hamlin, Hamlin and McGill to join him in a new venture as joint sole legal practitioners – leads him into difficult situations with his brother Chuck, still battling an ongoing medical condition which leaves him ultra-sensitive to natural light and electrical power. Elsewhere Jimmy’s occasional verbal sparring partner, the taciturn Mike Ehrmantraut (Banks), drifts ever closer to the dark side as finds himself working for increasingly dodgy sleazeballs and hoodlums as he tries to earn enough money to give his daughter-in-law and granddaughter a better life. Both Jimmy and Mike – the beating hearts of the show despite an increasingly and well-deserved higher profile for Kim – stumble into situations which will be familiar to Breaking Bad fans; Jimmy twists and turns and lies and deceives in his desperation to do what he thinks is right and Mike’s path is – ironically considering the relationship he and Walter will develop – almost identical to Walter White’s as he puts his own safety and life at risk to provide for his family.
Intricate, immaculate, stunningly photographed – this is easily the best-looking show on the box, many of its set-ups are almost works of art in themselves - and its use of music is often inspired. There are at least three wonderfully-edited montage sequences which are simply breathtakingly audacious. Better Call Saul remains intelligent TV for people who like to take their time with a good story, letting it unfold languidly and at its own pace. Fans of fast-paced action and heroics will find little to engage them here but there’s drama aplenty in a wry, clever multi-layered tale that focusses on the struggles of an eternal, wilful underdog who wants to do the right thing but doesn’t really know how to go about it. This impressive and essential boxset not only boasts all ten episodes in rich, evocative high-definition but also reminds us of the potential of the Blu-ray format with its fantastically-generous selection of bonus material.
Thankfully it seems that we’re still some way from seeing Jimmy McGill transform into Saul Goodman and that’s fine by us. Take your time, guys. Roll on Season Three.
Special Features: Ten commentaries / Gag reel / Table read / Featurettes / Commercials
BETTER CALL SAUL - SEASON TWO / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: BOB ODENKIRK, JONATHAN BANKS, RHEA SEEHORN, MICHAEL MCKEAN, ED BEGLEY JNR, PATRICK FABIAN, MICHALE MANDO / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW