As Better Call Saul ended its excellent debut season, it seemed Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk), broken by the betrayal of his brother Chuck (Michael McKean), was driving straight toward his destiny of becoming Breaking Bad's sleazy Saul Goodman. While that is where Jimmy's ultimately headed, Season 2's early episodes prove that there's still much more road to cover than the Season 1 finale made it seem.
"It is not an instantaneous light switch that turns him into Saul Goodman," executive producer Peter Gould tells TVGuide.com. "What you'll find as soon as you watch the first episode is that there is more to that last scene than meets the eye. There are some dimensions to Jimmy — what Jimmy cares about, and what's in his heart — that we delve in to much more deeply, especially in the first few episodes of the new season. We did a few things that surprised us, and a lot of it came out of thinking very carefully about who Jimmy is, and what he wants at that moment."
Indeed, the Season 2 premiere revisits that climactic scene, only this time, viewers are privy to a conversation that makes it a little more clear why Jimmy was comfortable walking away from a solid job at the Davis & Main law firm. And as for what Jimmy "wants"? It seems a little R&R is on the docket. "You're definitely going to see Jimmy McGill kicking back," Gould says. "The question is: If he's not going to take that job at Davis & Main, what is he going to do? One of the things you'll find is that there's a certain amount of liquor and crab dip involved."
Adds Odenkirk: "He's in a recuperative state. He's in that weird state of limbo that's relaxing and gives you some perspective, and yet he's disconnected from all the things he's been striving for. He's trying to call that a vacation or he's trying to pretend that he's happy, but he's not really happy. He's got to figure this out just like all of us do."
Someone else who is likely to be unhappy is Jimmy's friend Kim (Rhea Seehorn), who got Jimmy the interview with Davis & Main in the first place. Much of the early Season 2 episodes focus a great deal on Jimmy's relationship with Kim, which will take some big turns almost immediately. But can Jimmy stay in Kim's world if he's spending his days in the pool rather than practicing law?
"You're really watching a guy who's caught in between a lot of drives and desires and he's getting pulled in a couple directions," Odenkirk says. "Yeah, he wants to be around her, he wants to be with her. While it's true that he doesn't need to stay involved in the high-end world of law to stay close to her, he also can't just cut loose entirely because that's the world she lives in. I don't think she respects the choice he makes to just kind of indulge himself. He wants her respect. He loves her. Of all the things in his life, especially after losing Chuck, he doesn't want to lose her."
Speaking of Chuck, has Jimmy really "lost" him? "I don't want to say [the relationship] is severed, but it's certainly changed," Gould says. "It is certainly disrupted now that Jimmy knows that his brother stabbed him in the back. But does Jimmy still feel an obligation to Chuck? If Chuck's in trouble, is Jimmy going to help him? When these two do meet face-to-face what will be the circumstances? I think that there's enormous pain and hurt from Jimmy, but I think there's also a connection between these two guys."
Adds Odenkirk: "Family pulls you closer as those ties bind. He doesn't not love Chuck. He is mad at Chuck. He couldn't be more ashamed and more hurt for having trusted Chuck, but Chuck's still his brother and that is not going away any time soon. Jimmy is genuinely a good guy. He still feels some responsibility, even if he hates his brother, to just make sure he's safe."
Elsewhere this season, look for the not-so-villainous Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) to be pulled between Chuck and Jimmy and for the introduction of Ed Begley Jr. as Cliff, who becomes a bit of a mentor for Jimmy. And yes, we will see a lot more of Mike (Jonathan Banks). "Mike Ehrmantraut doesn't spend quite as much time in the parking attendant's booth this season," Gould says. "He has a journey that is not what he expected. He goes to some very dark places this season."
In a weird way, Mike also draws out Jimmy's darker side. Early in the new season, Mike requires some of Jimmy's "morally flexible" lawyering, which while giving Jimmy a bit of a thrill, also stands to jeopardize his relationship with Kim. So even though Jimmy might still be a long way from Saul Goodman, he's constantly battling that part of himself that wants to be let out.
"He lives in this ethical limbo a lot more comfortably than he lives in the pretense of the upright, respected legal world," Odenkirk says. "He just can't help himself to want to go there. But I think there's some self-awareness. Jimmy realized that he wasn't a full-blooded criminal, and he thought, 'Maybe I can earn my brother's respect and fly right.' Now, we find a guy who's learned that he can't entirely fly right either. So where does he belong?"
That's the question Gould, co-creator Vince Gilligan and all the writers are constantly asking themselves as they explore Jimmy's backstory while keeping in mind the character's ultimate destination. And that tricky balance is at least part of the reason the journey toward Saul Goodman will take longer than the creative team first thought. "It's a little bit like if you're building the transcontinental railroad," Gould says. "One side starts from New York, the other side starts from Los Angeles and you hope to God that the tracks meet in the middle. We certainly have an eye to where this character's going, but if we try to push him... he doesn't really necessarily want to go where we want him to go. It's something that we struggle with daily."
But one thing's for sure, Jimmy can't straddle that line between the two sides of himself forever. "I think so much of this season is about characters trying to have it both ways, trying to have their cake and eat it too," Gould says. "The truth is that sometimes in life you have to just make a decision and decide on one thing or other. But the truth is that when you decide on one thing, sometimes there are sacrifices that are very difficult to make."
Better Call Saul premieres Monday at 10/9c on AMC. Watch a sneak peek from the premiere below.