Better Call Saul: Season 2, Episode 2 – Cobbler Review

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★★★★★

It goes without saying that there are spoilers in this review, so don't end up looking like one of Slippin' Jimmy's marks.

Time is a factor in the second episode of Better Call Saul's new season. Starkly shown by the first image to hit our screens – a metronome. It belongs to Chuck McGill (Michael McKean), seen for the first time this season. He's playing the piano in the shadowy darkness of his little house, but can't manage to keep the tune together. He's annoyed with himself, but is distracted by a knock at the door. It's Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian), his partner at HHM, arriving with some supplies. Chuck enquires after his younger brother Jimmy, and is surprised – and troubled – to learn that he's working at Davis & Main, collaborating with HHM on the Sandpiper case that was set up in the wake of his investigation. He tries to sound like he's happy for the younger McGill, but can't quite pull it off. After promising he'll try to come into the firm one day this week, he sees Howard out and goes back to the piano... But he's still distracted.

After the credits, we're in one of the HHM conference rooms, where pastries and folders are laid out for a meeting. Kim, studying the layout, moves Jimmy's folder next to hers. The meeting is about the case, and Jimmy and Kim are playing a subtle game of footsie under the table like teenagers.

We cut to them taking a smoke break in the parking garage at the firm, and Jimmy's talking about possible places he can live now that Davis & Main are paying him a proper wage. Though the couple talks about their plans, there's some vague tension between then that's hard to clarify. Still, Kim has a present for Jimmy: a mug that read's World's (2nd) Best Lawyer... Cute. A quick kiss and they go their separate ways.

Talking of separation, Jimmy is finally able to ditch his grotty old car, as he's trading up to a shiny new company Mercedes. He seems to love the new vehicle, but there's just one issue – perfectly relayed via one of the show's trademark shot from through something, in this case the cup holder – the new mug doesn't fit. A sign of trouble ahead? Anything's possible in this show.

Mike, meanwhile is working his usual spot at the parking lot serving the police station and court. A Jurassic Park-style vibration in his water glass heralds the arrival of Daniel Wormwald in his embarrassing rolling pride-mobile. Seems the police, still investigating the theft of his baseball cards, have asked to speak with him again. Mike being Mike immediately twigs what's going on and orders Wormwald to park up in the lot. The police, he explains, are on a "fishing trip", looking to find out what's really going on with Daniel. Despite Wormwald's disbelief, Mike convinces him that he will find the cards, but it'll cost Daniel. Grumpily, Dan agrees.

Over at Davis & Main, Jimmy is quietly working, but keeps hearing a guitar playing. He wanders the open plan office beyond his walls to find Clifford Main (Ed Begley Jr.) strumming away. It helps him decompress, apparently. Jimmy talks up an idea he's had, some financial double-dealing going on that targets the Sandpiper care home residents and might be something they can exploit to help with the case.

Mike has headed to an upholstery facility where, surprise, surprise, we find Nacho working with his father. After spinning some tale about getting new seat covers, he finds a way to get Nacho alone and threatens him... Well, more offers him a deal that would be hard to refuse. If Nacho (who found Wormwald's real name and address last episode) agrees to return the cards, he would also pocked $60,0000. Nacho wonders how that might happen.

A brief check-on with Chuck, who has decided to head to HHM and we're at the far-flung meeting place that Wormwald, Mike and Nacho have been using. And here's how Nacho will get his money: Daniel has to hand over the keys to the car. It's fun to watch Wormwald squirm as Nacho explains that he'll be taking the Hummer to the nearest chop shop. The business between Nacho and Daniel – in all manners of speaking – is now concluded. But the police are still calling Wormwald's phone.

At HHM, Jimmy is explaining his potential case exploit when an assistant arrives and everyone has to hand in their phones and other devices. The lights are switched off meaning only one thing... Chuck has arrived. Jimmy's clearly not pleased as Chuck takes a seat at the end of the table and listens as the younger McGill returns to talking about his idea.

With the meeting concluded, Chuck and Jimmy square off at least, hiding their real feelings behind base pleasantries. But the undercurrent of tension shines out even as Jimmy gets a call; it's Mike, offering a side job. If Jimmy hadn't had the sudden pressure of Chuck's return, he might have turned him down. As it is, we get a flash of Slippin' Jimmy – or even Saul Goodman – as he asks where and when.

Turns out, Wormwald has shown up at the police station, aiming to tell the police that it's all settled and he found the cards. The detectives are still suspicious of him, and start asking about the hidden hole that the officers found in his place last episode. And here's where one of the funniest scenes the show has ever filmed kicks in. Jimmy, acting as Daniel's lawyer, sends him out of the room and spins a wonderful, meandering tale of what the hiding place is really used for. It suffers a little if you can't see Bob Odenkirk deliver the lines, but it boils down to the idea that Daniel has been making weird (clothed) fetish videos for a wealthy patron, in which our luckless wannabe drug kingpin sits in pies. Jimmy rattles off a list of amazing names for this particular fetish, including "Squat Cobbler", which partly gives the episode its name. It's hilarious, and the police, who are baffled by the concept, agree to let Wormwald loose. There's just one thing, Jimmy tells Daniel as they walk through the parking lot.... He'll have to make one of the videos.

Cut to Jimmy taking boxes from his car to his apartment, and then sitting on the bed with Kim, eating one of the leftover pies. He explains his gambit to his initially amused lover, but her brow furrows when she realises this means he fabricated evidence. The old ways are still lurking for Jimmy. She can't hear about any of this again, or they're done. Note that she says she can't hear about it. Not that he can't do it. There are some things even she can't control.

Some have described Better Call Saul as frustratingly slow burning, which can be true occasionally. But this is a show that likes to take its sweet time, much as the early days of Breaking Bad were in no hurry to push Walter White to his dark side. We know that Saul is in Jimmy's future, but the series finds pleasure in detail and carefully crafted character moments. Not every show has to have an explosion each episode... Saul's genius is in finding the magic in minutiae, metaphor and tone, drawing human drama from the smaller scale and delighting in the simmering bundle of contradictions that is Jimmy McGill.

Odenkirk, McKean and the rest do great with what they've given, and when you're allowed the sheer awkwardness of a scene such as Wormwald handing over the keys to his beloved car or Jimmy's amazing pie fetish story, there's no reason to feel impatient. Things will ramp up in their own time – witness the end of last season. This is building the structure that creator Vince Gilligan and co. will enjoy knocking down later. For now, simply wallow in the joy of a show that unfolds more like an indie comedy drama than an action thriller.