The first season of Better Call Saul found creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould crafting a story more patient and nuanced than the frenetic drama of its mother show, Breaking Bad. Jimmy McGill — the eventual Saul Goodman — as played by Bob Odenkirk, is a frustrated ne’er-do-well who, for all of that first season, stubbornly maintains a heart of gold. In “Switch,” the first episode title of the series to not end in ‘o,’ that all changes.
“Switch” opens right around the end of last season’s finale, “Marco,” which ended with Jimmy telling Mike, “I know what stopped me. And you know what? It’s never stopping me again.” What was it that stopped Jimmy? His brother, Chuck? Sure. His conscience? Probably. But, regardless of what it was that stopped him, the second season premiere finds Jimmy giving zero fucks about anything at all.
Jimmy’s new intentions, and the bulk of his story in this episode, are on display at a bougie-but-nondescript hotel where he eats pool nachos and talks Kim into working an easy, low-stakes con, which is this: pose as two siblings, Viktor and Gisele St. Clair, on the verge of a $1.4 million inheritance, and corner an investment banker into giving advice while he pays for their several-hundred dollar bottle of tequila.
The sequence is simple, suspenseful in its nakedness. Jimmy stays on his toes throughout, unsure whether or not Kim will continue going along, or whether the financial bro will take the bait through to the end and actually grab the bill. There’s a moment of doubt when he calls the two back to the table to have them sign some useless paperwork, but from then on out, it’s cake, straight through to the next morning, when Jimmy brushes his teeth with Kim’s finger before hitting the hotel pool again.
“Wouldn’t it be great if we could do that every night?” Jimmy asks. “Yes, it would. But, we can’t,” Kim says. How will this affect their relationship? Will Kim aid in the creation of Saul, or will she cut ties before then?
Meanwhile, in the land of Mike: the IT drug dealer Daniel, whom Mike guards during deals with Nacho, has bought a flaming Hummer H2, the audacity of which sets off Mike’s asshole alarm, so he drops out of the deal. Daniel goes it alone, then, believing Nacho to be a good guy/his new buddy, and the transaction that eventually takes place makes Daniel’s ineptitude so gruelingly evident. First, he puts on his best cool-guy ‘tude and talks to Nacho about the car’s climate control capabilities, claiming that you could drive around with two girls — one in a bikini, the other in a parka — and they’d be equally comfortable. Second, he invites Nacho into the car, leaving him there to go count his money. While Daniel is distracted, Nacho proves Mike’s necessity, looking into the glove compartment to find Daniel’s address, leading to yet another awkward set piece in which Daniel proves his idiocy by calling the cops to report a stolen baseball card collection — a ploy, really, to get them to find the person who stole his money.
The cops catch on, of course, though the scene ends before we can see them confront Daniel. It will, no doubt, result in something that forces Mike back into the picture, creating conflict with Nacho. Hell, Jimmy might even get involved.
That might prove difficult, though. Because Jimmy, after lounging in the pool for another afternoon and failing to cajole Kim into participating in another con, checks out of the hotel, suits up, and accepts the job offer from big-time law firm Davis & Main, headed by Ed Begley Jr. Jimmy is welcomed broadly and happily, and he’s paraded through the dimly lit, well-appointed law office, greeted by smiling coworkers who shake hands and hug in slo-mo, like some nightmare of an online school commercial. (“We guarantee your success!”) He’s taken to his primo corner office and his assistant asks if he needs anything. Just a cocobolo desk, Jimmy says.
And then we see the switch. Whether or not this literal switch is to thank for the title of the episode, or whether the title is more figuratively named for the switch in Jimmy’s approach to life or work, is tough to know. But the literal switch, in the corner of Jimmy’s office, is fixed in an on position, secured that way with tape and a sign that says “Do NOT turn OFF!” and so, of course, Jimmy turns it off. He waits a few seconds, and nothing happens. What could it be? The switch to a light in a faraway room? Or, and this is just a guess, a switch that somehow powers security cameras that monitor Jimmy’s office and will somehow, in episodes to come, end up forcing Jimmy out of his job and one step further down the path that turns him into a full-time Saul Goodman? Or, it could very well be nothing, just a direct metaphor for Jimmy’s tendency to do exactly the opposite of what he’s told. But it seems likely that Gilligan and Gould, two writers who slip these sort signifiers of character into small spots of every episode, wouldn’t waste an episode title/end scene on a do-nothing light switch, so it’s best we don’t forget about it.