The season 1 finale of Better Call Saul left Jimmy McGill at a crossroads, metaphorically, and on the road, literally, as the hustling huckster/lawyer drove off with a look on his face that indicated that significant change was upon him.
In season 2, AMC’s Breaking Bad prequel spin-off — which chronicles the transmogrification of Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) into Walter White’s consigliere, Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) — delves deeper into his complex relationship with fellow attorney and ally who is something … more, Kim (Rhea Seehorn), while introducing a new figure into his professional life, Clifford (Ed Begley, Jr.), who is described by Saul co-creator Peter Gould as “an authority figure with the power to make many of Jimmy’s dreams come true, if Jimmy can only play ball.”
Let us also not forget that Jimmy’s gifted-yet-ailing brother, Chuck (Michael McKean), torched Jimmy’s chances of joining his plush firm, Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill, despite his tenacious work on the Sandpiper case. Meanwhile, Jimmy has started an unlikely, not-exactly-legal alliance with Bad fixer and former cop Mike (Jonathan Banks). Before AMC throws the “Switch” on the season 2 premiere (Monday, 10 p.m.), read what Odenkirk has to say about Jimmy’s next set of identity-shaping adventures.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When we last saw Jimmy, he seemed to be a changing man, rejecting the law firm job and saying that he knows what prevented him in the past from crossing the line, but it was not going to stop him again. Where do we find him when we resume the story?
BOB ODENKIRK: He is reveling in his big eff-you when we start. Of course, that isn’t going to last forever. You can’t tell the world to f— off forever. You have to find your way back in. On the other hand, he has some self-awareness, and I think that’s where he’s a more fun guy to watch this season — at least so far. He did learn some things from last year. He learned a little bit about himself and he’s okay with it. He also knows that he loves this girl and finding a way to keep her in his life is going to be the challenge for him right now. … I just couldn’t believe how upbeat [the season premiere] was. It had a light energy to it that I didn’t see much last year. I think the character is finding himself. So because he knows himself a little bit, he’s not wandering in the dark now. He’s got a little bit of wind at his back. [The premiere] was the most fun episode of the show I’ve ever seen.
What new shadings of Jimmy can we expect to see? When I talked to Peter, he said we see a romantic side of Jimmy, and that his relationship with Kim was “the beating heart of season 2.”
Yeah, it is. Two things happen: He has gained a little self-awareness and he knows that he can’t just shove down his desire to be ethically ambiguous. He’s got to work with it somehow and allow himself to kick ass with the talent that God gave him. He realized that Kim really does appreciate that side of him, so he has a real shot with her and he wants to take it and see how far it can go. So he’s really motivated by a self-awareness and also a positive feeling of acceptance from her. That’s a lot of good stuff motivating him. The other aspect of season 2 is that there are more stories happening. We’re just talking about the Jimmy story, but there’s other stuff happening now, so that’s pretty great.
What are the overall themes of season 2?
It’s important to know who you are, and it’s important to try to please people, but not too hard. [Laughs] I think Jimmy learned that lesson, but I don’t know how willing he is to disappoint people. That would be the bigger question.
How would you characterize the first time Chuck and Jimmy cross paths again?
Well, I would characterize it as a completely understandable and expected shock. Of course, your family never leaves your orbit, even though you wish they would, or you wish you’d have gotten out of theirs, but they never really leave your universe. And when you both live in Albuquerque, you’re going to see each other again.
How intertwined in each other’s lives will they remain, despite the severing of ties that we saw after Chuck’s betrayal?
More than either of them wants to be. [Laughs] One of them is trying to win this battle of the brothers. Until someone is declared a winner, they’re going to stay in each other’s faces.
One of the things that fans were interested in last season but didn’t get enough of was enough Mike and Jimmy together. What can you tell us about their dynamic this season?
Well, it’s as great as ever. It’s the most wonderful, angry, oil-and-water, Laurel-and-Hardy [relationship] that ever existed. [Laughs] A great dynamic duo of respect and resentment of each other. I wish they did more together. They do more together but they don’t rule the whole season, yet. But you’re going to get to see them together. They’re going to get a little closer. They have that begrudging respect simultaneously with their very avowed hatred of each other. They have a great little incident that happens in the middle of the season and they spend some time together. But it can’t happen soon enough. It can’t happen often enough for me and for Banks. It’s too much fun. It makes me laugh every time. When they say “Cut,” I laugh because whenever they’re in the room together, these two guys hate each other and frustrate each other so much. I know he’s a character, but it still makes me laugh to think about how mad Mike is at me and my shenanigans.
Let’s talk about this new character named Clifford. Peter says he’s avuncular and sweet, but “you wouldn’t want to cross him.” Does he become a mentor of sorts to Jimmy — and is that relationship volatile?
He is kind of a mentor to Jimmy, but he’s easy to misread. He’s actually a cunning and intelligent guy who’s wrapped his hard-nosed standards in a veneer of New Age-y gentility. I mean, it’s Ed Begley Jr. — the sweetest guy ever. The fact is [Clifford] runs an important law firm for a reason, it’s not because he’s a pussy cat. He just looks like one and acts like one when he meets you. But later we’ll find out that he’s a serious guy about his business; otherwise he wouldn’t have that business.
Will we be seeing more Breaking Bad winks than we did last season as we inch closer to Jimmy’s metamorphosis into Saul and the Breaking Bad timeline?
You’re going to see more Breaking Bad people. I don’t know if you see so much more Breaking Bad story, but you see more Breaking Bad people.
What kinds of people?
Well … they’re not zombies but they have some things in common with zombies. [Laughs] I guess I’d say our version of zombies we get to see.
Last season, we saw the past in flashbacks to Jimmy in Chicago, and we saw the future in flash-forwards to Gene working at Cinnabon. Do we get more of both this season?
You get to see a little more Gene. We see our most youthful Jimmy ever.
And which is more fun for you to play?
Gene’s no fun to play, that poor f—ing fella. You know who’s fun right now? Just playing Jimmy. Jimmy’s the most fun of all because he’s alone, he’s carefree, he’s angry. He’s got a grudge to settle and he’s starting to become aware of his strengths. He’s starting to like himself a little bit, or at least get on his own team. He’s starting to back himself, so he’s becoming more of a fun guy to play and it’s a more fun season overall.
Better Call Saul was a very slippery animal in season 1; the tone differed episode to episode. Some went a little darker and had different focuses. Are there episodes this season that shake up the formula even more? And do any take place outside of Albuquerque?
What’s unique about this season is it’s a big symphony. It’s not isolated stories to me. There are a bunch of melodies or stories going on, but they’re all playing together and coming together. Your point’s a good one. I mean, that episode with Mike you could just watch that alone; that was like its own little movie. We don’t have that this season. We have a big symphony.
In terms of Jimmy’s evolution into Saul Goodman, how much closer to that do we get this season?
Well, it is my theory that the journey to Saul Goodman is a leap off a cliff and he gets there pretty quick. It’s all about getting him to the cliff and having him want to jump. That’s my feeling on it; I don’t know any truth of it because I don’t write it, but my feeling is it’s more of he’s getting there piece by piece. Piece by piece, he’s climbing this mountain and then in a moment of shock and surprise and real painful jeopardy or painful awareness, he decides it’s worth jumping. I don’t think it’s a slow journey at a certain point. It’s a choice and it’ll happen that quick, but he has to get in a place where that choice makes sense to him.
So, how close to the cliff’s edge do we get this season?
He doesn’t realize it, but it’s in view.
Can you give us one final cryptic tease for this season?
You can’t put a shark in a hippie suit. [Laughs]
To see what Better Call Saul co-creator Peter Gould revealed about season 2, click here.