Warning: Storyline and character spoilers ahead for the second season of Better Call Saul.
We’re three episodes into the sophomore season of Better Call Saul, and so much has happened. Jimmy McGill has begun a romantic relationship with his good friend and colleague Kim, but he continues to make moves that put their future in jeopardy. Ditto his sweet, perks-heavy gig on the partner track at David & Main. Then there’s everyone’s favorite future hitman, Mike Ehrmantraut, the parking lot attendant whose association with local criminal Nacho, and fear about the safety of his granddaughter and widowed daughter-in-law, may send him down the path that leads to having cohorts like Walter White and Gustavo Fring.
That makes it a perfect time for a little “state of the Saul” check-in, so Yahoo TV chatted with BCS showrunner Peter Gould, who shares some hints about Jimmy’s evolution into Saul, what’s really behind Chuck’s bitterness towards his little brother, and what could really tank the love affair between Jimmy and Kim.
And Gould also gives us the lowdown on the Hoboken Squat Cobbler, the latest proud Better Call Saul entry in the Urban Dictionary.
There’s so much that you know about Jimmy and the others that we don’t.
[Laughs.] Vince [Gilligan] and I were talking about it, and we’re both so happy with this season, and we can’t wait for people to see it, But there’s also a nice moment of feeling like you know a secret. We’re really proud of the season and actually just watched an episode that I think is… it just knocked me on my a–.
Given the standards you and Vince and everybody involved with the show operate by, to hear you say something like that is really exciting.
I hope the rest of the world agrees. I certainly don’t take it for granted that they will, but we’ve got some… I don’t want to be coy, but there’s some amazing work from the cast and from the crew and some really wonderful, wonderful things this season. We had a big meeting where we do this thing called sound spotting, where we watch an episode scene by scene and work with our really talented sound crew, talking about what we should be hearing. We all just felt so good about it, where we were. That was nice.
We’re almost a third of the way through the season, and so much has happened in three episodes …
That’s true. Jimmy has taken this job at Davis & Main, and in episode two, in some ways, he tried to have it both ways. He felt that maybe as long as he had the job at Davis & Main that Kim would be fine with him doing whatever Hoboken Squat Cobbler action might be on the side, and then in [episode three] he uses his talents to make a commercial with interesting results. It has been moving awfully fast. Also, of course, the Mike side of it, which runs in parallel. A lot has happened to Mike. It’s pushing him in a direction that I think we’re all very interested in seeing.
Let’s start with the cobbler, because we can’t not. How does that discussion even begin in the writer’s room? How does that thought come into anyone’s mind? And are the Better Call Saul writers secretly behind Urban Dictionary?
I think we’re trying to get as many terms into Urban Dictionary as we possibly can. I’m glad the Chicago Sunroof made its way in last season. This season we have Hoboken Squat Cobbler. In all seriousness, it always starts for us with trying to solve problems. We don’t really sit around thinking about what would be funny to happen. We had an episode where we knew that Jimmy had to get Pryce out of trouble with the police. He had to allay their suspicions. I have to say, we were pretty far through breaking that episode, and it was still an open question, what on earth would Jimmy do? One of the questions is always how elaborate a scheme does he need? We saw on the first [Breaking Bad] episode where we met Saul Goodman that he had this very elaborate scheme where he had a character who would go to jail on Badger’s behalf. This felt like he would talk him out of it, and we spent a lot of time trying to figure out how Jimmy talks Pryce out of trouble.
Of course, one of the things that we thought about is that you’re trying to explain a whole series of circumstances where he’s got this ridiculous vehicle, and he’s got this hidey hole, and his baseball cards have been stolen. Always the question is, what’s the most embarrassing explanation for that? I don’t really remember the details, and maybe [Gennifer Hutchison], who wrote the episode, does. But it led us all to start thinking in terms of what Pryce might have done that wasn’t drug-related and wasn’t illegal. In fact, in Ginny’s first draft, which was wonderful, it actually doesn’t mention the name “squat cobbler.” Bob [Odenkirk] read the script, and Bob gives us, as a rule, not an awful lot of feedback on the scripts. He works on them and tries to perform them and he’s a wonderful performer, but he’s also — and we don’t get to make use of this very often — one of the great comedy minds of our time. He’s not just a great comedy performer. He is a brilliant, Emmy-winning comedy writer. We were literally on, I believe, day one of episode one of Season 2, and he said, “I love this script. Ginny did such a great job. Do you think this thing would have a name? Don’t you think?“ That was that. That set Ginny and the rest of us off in the direction of figuring out what the name would be and how that would come up, and the rest is history. Bob just acted the hell out of it, and Terry McDonough, the director, directed the hell out of that scene. I have to say, in my career as a writer, this is one of the scenes that people have talked about the most. I have heard so much feedback on this. In its own way, it reminds me of the pizza on the roof in Breaking Bad, which wasn’t something that we necessarily thought would turn into a big deal, but it actually did.
It’s a Better Call Saul instant classic.
I like that term. We can all aspire to be instant classics.
The serious part of episode two, though, is the look on Kim’s face that suggests she’s realizing something that she really hadn’t realized before about Jimmy, that maybe he’s going to do something to mess up this great situation he has going, with work and with Kim. It’s a little heartbreaking, because they really have this classic movie kind of romance. It’s unlike any other romance on TV, so fun and playful. They have such amazing chemistry, and just genuinely like each other.
I agree. I’m so glad to hear you say that. Kim opened up a world of possibility in episode one of Season 2, because I think it’s pretty clear, although it’s never said in Season 1, that Jimmy was carrying a torch for her. He’s wanted their relationship to go further for a long time. He’s been the struggling lawyer who’s tried to do, in his mind, the right thing, but the thing that finally brings them together is a scam. Obviously, that scammy, trickster Saul Goodman-ish side of Jimmy does appeal to Kim. It’s not like she’s trying to force him into the straight and narrow, but I think you’re right. I think that there’s a moment in that scene where she is wondering, why would he do this thing when everything else is so good? Is he going to screw up, not just his life, but their life together? There’s a lot of open questions there.
You just touched on the scam they pull on Ken the creep in the season premiere, which Jimmy brings up to her in “Cobbler.” Do you think he has a point when he asks her why she’s ticked off about the Pryce scam when she just participated in the Ken scam with him. She makes the point that that didn’t involve work, but certainly know no one at HHM would be happy to find out she had pretended to be someone else and scammed this guy into buying a very expensive bottle of liquor, or that she falsely signed a contract. So does Jimmy have a point there?
The great thing about these two characters is they both have a point of view. I think Kim’s point to Jimmy is actually, it’s a little bit subtle, because it’s not simply, “You shouldn’t do the wrong thing.” It’s that, “You’re going to screw up the things that you’ve gained.” She’s never asked him to atone for any of this scams. We got the feeling that she enjoys that side of him. I think we got that feeling in Season 1’s “Hero,” when there’s that billboard scene. Everyone else at Hamlin Hamlin & McGill is looking down their noses at Jimmy’s stunt, but Kim has this little smile on her face. Obviously the walk on the wild side has its appeal, but I think she’s concerned that Jimmy isn’t going to be able to stop himself, and that maybe he’s not doing these things to get ahead. He’s doing them for other reasons. I think that worries her a little bit.
In the Season 2 premiere when Gene is locked in the garbage room, and he carves “SG was here,” he didn’t carve “JM was here.” It makes you think maybe Saul is who Jimmy really wants to be. Everyone else wants him to be this other thing, wants him to be the Davis & Main guy, but maybe being Saul really is what makes him happy, maybe that is his true self. If that’s true, then should we be feeling sad that we know he ends up eventually as Saul?
There’s no question that as we’ve gotten to know Jimmy better, we like him. We really like Jimmy McGill, and we have an affection for him that I think is very different from our feelings for Saul. We’re always amused by Saul Goodman. We always enjoyed watching Saul Goodman, but Jimmy is someone who, at least for me anyway, he can really tug at my heartstrings. He’s someone I have a different kind of affection for. I’d love to have a beer with Jimmy McGill, as sometimes Vince says. Saul Goodman, maybe you’d want to have a beer with him, but you definitely would want to hold onto your wallet.
I think the big difference between the two of them is Jimmy has vulnerability, and he has a soul. Saul Goodman seems to have… his heart is hardened. He may have a soul, but it’s buried down there. You wonder first of all, what happened to him to make him that way, but also it feels like a loss more than a gain. That’s the thing, I think that was one of the things that we learned really from Season 1 that surprised us so much, was that we thought that everything before Saul Goodman was preamble. Now we’re seeing that in a way, it’s, and I hate to use a pretentious word, but it’s tragic, because this is somebody who gains so much. Saul Goodman is so much more confident in himself and comfortable in his own skin, but he loses something else. He loses a slice of his soul, a slice of his humanity, and of course, Saul Goodman doesn’t seem to have a Kim Wexler in his life. This story is not a simple one of a man learning how to have fun or gaining success. There’s something more to it than that, and we’re still figuring that out.
It seems there’s at least a good possibility that it has more to do with Chuck than we know. When Chuck is playing the piano at the beginning of “Cobbler,” we see him run his hand across a woman’s name on the sheet music. Should we be curious about that name?
Rebecca Bois. It could be. All I can say is that you see a man like Chuck, you know that he’s had… there are things that have happened in his life. You’re going to find out a lot more about Chuck this season. There’s a lot more to say about him than we have [said] so far. Maybe he, in some ways, is more similar to Jimmy than he seems.
One of the things I get from that scene is that, as difficult as it is being Chuck McGill’s brother, it’s even more difficult to be Chuck McGill himself. As hard as he is on his brother, he is twice as hard on himself. How did he get that way, and how long has he been that way? We still haven’t seen how. This man has an allergy to electricity. How did that get started? That’s something that we’re very interested in.
A lot has happened with Mike this season already, too. The situation with Stacey, there’s always been a sense that there’s more going on with her than might be on the surface. Is she being genuine with Mike, or is she playing him for money?
I think there’s obviously a lot of complicated feelings that Mike has about Stacey. He still, I think in his heart, he still feels responsible for the death of his son, her husband. I think that it’s so important for him to be part of her life, and especially his granddaughter’s life, that he’ll do almost anything to try to heal those wounds. I think you can interpret the scenes with Stacey [in “Amarillo”] a lot of different ways. I’ve heard people say that they thought Stacey was playing Mike. Then other people think, not too long this woman lost her husband in a violent, terrible way, and it’s not so crazy to think that she might be having a little bit of PTSD. Mike obviously thinks he can solve her problem, and he’s going to do his damndest to try.
The great thing about Mike’s criminal dalliances this season is that it brought Nacho back into his orbit. Does Nacho have a hand in what takes Mike down the path that we know Mike eventually takes?
I think that’s a great question. In “Amarillo,” the vet calls Mike — “I got an opportunity” — and the person who’s reaching out to Mike is in fact Nacho. Obviously Mike has impressed Nacho in some way, and Nacho seems to have a problem he thinks Mike can help him with. I think if you would’ve taken Mike at the end of last season, he probably wouldn’t have gone to that meeting to begin with, but there is this pressure. There’s this feeling, “I need to do something for my daughter-in-law and for my granddaughter.” He’s feeling some pressure, and he’s got a great desire to heal and make things right. I think he’s going to entertain whatever Nacho’s offering. I think Mike is going to entertain it very seriously.
Mike certainly earned a new level of respect from Nacho with the visit to his family’s upholstery shop.
Oh, yes, I think so. Also, Mike and Nacho are united in not wanting to have to deal with that idiot Pryce anymore. These two guys, Mike may be the consummate professional, but Nacho is a professional, too. When you have a clueless armature in the middle… they both can see that working with Pryce has no future at all. That’s definitely something they have in common.
Pryce really is just a sad, funny, but fascinating character. Has his story come full circle now? He got that car because of his little enterprise, and now it’s been taken away, but he did get his baseball cards back. He’s back where he started.
This is another good question. Pryce certainly benefited from his games to some extent, but is this experience he’s had with Nacho and Mike and his baseball cards, and even the cops, is that going to scare him off, scare him away from crime forever? Or… he’s obviously got a source for these pills. Is greed eventually going to get the better of his fear? I know I’m answering all your questions with questions, but I’m fascinated by that, too. I can say for one thing that neither Nacho or Mike is going to easily re-enter a business relationship with this guy. I could imagine that the vet may be aware of what’s happened, and you wonder if the vet may also cut ties with Pryce.
That stupid car really seems to be Pryce’s downfall. He did not see the true meaning, to others, of that car.
He’s willing to go talk to the police in a way that’s stupid. Although, I think it’s understandable, because Pryce really sees himself as a law-abiding citizen who just sells drugs on the side. He doesn’t really see himself as a criminal per se. When you’re truly a criminal, you lose the ability to summon law enforcement and have them right the wrongs that you’ve suffered. It’s something he doesn’t quite seem to get yet. But he does look so cowed in that last scene with Jimmy and the cops that I have a feeling that Jimmy and Mike may have given him a good long talking to. The question is how long is that going to stick?
He also has a bit of resentment. You can imagine that he might sit around stewing about the fact that his car has been taken away and that Mike and Nacho profited from that. That might stick in his craw in a way that would make him doing something else stupid.
Not only that, but he apparently had to do a Crybaby Hoboken Squat Cobbler, which I don’t think is something that any of us could forget being forced to do.
Better Call Saul airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on AMC.