Better Call Saul: The Complete Second Season
- Street Date:
- November 15th, 2016
- Reviewed by:
- Luke Hickman
- Review Date: 1
- December 12th, 2016
- Movie Release Year:
- 459 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Release Country
- United States
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Previously on 'Better Call Saul': our antihero, the shady lawyer from 'Breaking Bad,' has not yet become the successful and crooked lawyer that we love and adore. Instead, he's broken and unsuccessful James "Jimmy" McGill. Constantly attempting to impress his hypochondriac brother and win the affection from his up-and-coming laywer friend Kim, he's not yet the out-for-himself truth-bender Saul Goodman. After the death of his best friend and losing a gem-of-a-case, one that is destined to become a class action lawsuit, alongside Mike Ehrmantraut, he vows to stop helping others and selfishly only do what's best for him. The flawless ten-episode first season ends with us finally seeing Jimmy take his first step towards consciouslly becoming Saul.
Just as the second season of 'Fargo' managed to, the second season of 'Better Call Saul' is even stronger than the first. On page, there's absolutely nothing about 'Saul' that signals it as one of the best currently-running television series – but proving its greatness is the fact that day-after-airing watercooler conversations are just as common for 'Saul' as they are for wildly popular series like 'The Walking Dead.'
The down-and-out depressed Jimmy from the season one finale carries into the season two opener, but by revealing his true colors, he makes progress in one way that he was previously unable to. After closing up shop, he heads to a high-end hotel and starts conning again. While lounging at the pool and charging his drinks and meals to an unknown person's room, Kim stops by to talk some sense into him. When she realizes his poolside con, she curiously explores just what he's capable of and ultimately gets caught up in the game. The two scam a yuppie stock broker and have a wonderful evening that ultimately ends up with the two sleeping together. To this point, Kim has been genuinely driven by integrity. As a viewer, we know where Jimmy is headed, so seeing him negatively influence Kim is bittersweet. He's a good man; we want to see him succeed - but considering Kim Wexler is nowhere to be found in 'Breaking Bad,' we know this is going to end badly for her. The relationship with Jimmy is likely going to be her demise.
Following the first episode, the season quickly deviates from where you might have thought it was going. It looked like we were heading into in a direction that would show Jimmy do his own thing and immediately walk down the path that leads to Saul, but we instead follow him into the submissive world of high-end law. Heeding Kim's advice, he takes a high-paying position with a reputable firm outside of town. The season progresses with the ups and downs of the Jimmy-Kim romance. Their individual careers have ups and downs. The Jimmy-Chuck dynamic expands. We learn why Chuck resents Jimmy so much. We watch Jimmy give Chuck the proverbial finger. Once again, through all of the slow-rising character drama, it's absolutely gripping. There's plenty of tension in this season, but little of it stems from Jimmy's central tale. Despite that, it's just as strong as the non-Jimmy content that delivers intensity.
Mike's story turns out to be quite a thrilling one in season two. Tuco's untrustworthy henchman Nacho makes some unpredictable moves that ultimately place Mike smack-dab in the middle of danger – and we're not just talking about one dangerous moment, but a scenario that's just as twisted and screwy as any of the corners that 'Breaking Bad' painted itself into. In a very fun way, small connections are made with more elements from 'Breaking Bad.' Mike's season two tale ends with a bit of a puzzling cliffhanger. We may all have our own guesses as to what it means, but if I'm connecting the dots correctly, then we're about to see a whole lot more of 'Bad' become a front-and-center element in 'Saul.'
Without a single frame of footage or story hitting the net, the third season of 'Better Call Saul' has already poised itself for greatness. Assuming that the conclusions I'm jumping to are accurate, them season three is going to be even better than one or two. Who knew that a spin-off lawyer drama could be this astoundingly enjoyable?
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Sony has placed the second season of 'Better Call Saul' on three Region-free BD-50 Blu-ray discs and included a code for Digital HD versions. The packaging and layout is 100% consistent with that of the first season Blu-ray set. All discs are housed in packaging that mirror those of the 'Breaking Bad' three-disc sets – within a slightly fatter-than-usual blue keepcase, a hard plastic hinge arm holds two discs and the third disc rests on the back inside cover. Artwork has been printed on the back of the cover art sheet and can be seen through the case. This artwork also episode names, episode synopsis ans special features by disc. The finale episode of the season is uncensored and features language that was censored when it originally aired. A nice cardboard slipcover is included and nothing but a Sony Home Entertainment reel plays before the main menu.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
Season two of 'Better Call Saul' arrives on Blu-ray with a visual quality that perfectly matches that of the first season. Thanks to the 6K source formatting of Red Epic Dragon cameras, the Blu-ray transfer is absolutely gorgeous.
Season two once again kicks off with a cold opening that features high-contrast black & white footage of post-'Bad' Saul Goodman's unsatisfying life. The grading in this sequence makes for gorgeous imagery that carries a drastic and literal contrast with the bright and colorful world that exists in the past tales of Jimmy McGill. The palette is filled with vibrancy that's mildly exaggerated, which adds to the cheap-and-sleezy lawyer look. Black levels are inky, deep and rich.
This season, Jimmy has quite a bit of income, so his wardrobe is upgraded significantly. With that upgrade, we not only get new colors, but new visually impressive textures and patterns in costuming. Detail is still abundant all around. We get it with every frame. From the close-up of the side doors of Jimmy's rusted yellow compact car, to the linens and crusty bandaging found in the final episode's hospital scenes – at any given time, you can spot at least one highly detailed object or person on-screen.
Without any compression flaws, once again, there's no room for improvement in terms of video quality.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
The second season of 'Better Call Saul' hits Blu-ray with the same perfect five-star quality 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio that came from the first season. Performing far above and beyond what other television series are doing, the effects mixing is still the strongest aspect. Environmental effects and ambiance bring the most mundane settings to life. From obviously buzzing locales (like city streets) or vacant, sparce and lifeless settings (like the open desert) every setting uses all channels.
The highlights of the vocal and music mixing are identical to those of the first season. Not only is dialog projected clearly, but it carries a resonance and depth that makes it a delight to listen to - epecially Mike's deep voice. Music is used in a fashion nearly identical to that of 'Breaking Bad.' Although the style of the scoring is quite different from that of 'Bad,' fantastic music montages with excellent song selections are used to make montages cool again.
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
The layout of the special features for this season is annoying. When you visit the Special Features sub-menu on any of the three discs, only four features are listed there. On top that, the same features show under that menu on each disc, although they're only available on select discs. Of the four, three are found on Disc 2 and one is found on Disc 3. That means that when you pop in Disc 1, you can't access any of the four options that show in the Special Features sub-menu. For those who enjoy the play-all functionality, unless you start digging, you might never final the other 11 special features and ten episode commentaries that are spread throughout this set. For those additional 11 features, instead of appearing in the actual Special Features section, they're hidden within the Episode Selections sub-menu. For each of the 11, you have to hunt to find the episode that it's attached to. This makes sense for episode commentaries, but not making-ofs and interviews. Because of that nuissance, the following breakdown will tell you where to find each.
- One Uncensored Episodes – Watch the season finale (Disc 3, "Klick") with a few uncensored F-bombs.
- Cast and Crew Commentaries - All ten episodes carry great cast and crew commentaries. With many of the major players from 'Breaking Bad' returning for 'Better Call Saul,' their commentaries are just as entertaining as they were on 'Bad.' This is still the epitome of perfect commentary tracks.
- 'Switch' Table Read (HD, Disc 1, 40:28) – Found under the Episode Selection menu for 'Switch,' this full-length table read features much better production value than we've seen in other 'Bad' and 'Saul' discs. The tables are dressed and angled for the shoot. All actors wear individual mics. The setting is a like unto a blackbox theater, as opposed to the conference rooms of old seasons. Multiple cameras are used, revealing close-ups and all sorts of various camera angles. It's cool hearing the script read aloud.
- Gag Reel (HD, Disc 2, 6:28) – Found under the actual Special Features menu, you can expect some typical on-set hijinks here, from improved silly dialog and flubbed lines to props problems and unexpected bugs entering the frame. Expect quite a few F-bombs. It closes with "thank you season 2 cast and crew!!!"
- Building the Shot (HD, Disc 3, 4:45) – This feature is found under the Episode Selection menu for 'Nailed.' An awesome long take opens the episode, one that Vince Gilligan calls the most complex shot from both 'Bad' and 'Saul.' Watch some of the set prep, VFX composition and camera logistics planning. It took two months of VFX work to complete this four-minute shot. As cool as this featurette is, it's related Easter Egg (detailed in the Easter Egg section below) is even better.
- Settling the Score: Original Music by Composer Dave Porter (HD, Disc 3, 7:25) – This feature is found under the Episode Selection menu for 'Klick.' Dave Porter introduces a dialog-free scene in which Mike heads into the desert with his sniper rifle. In the final cut version of the episode, no score plays over this scene; however, that decision was made at the last minute. Porter composed a nice piece of score that he was proud of, so now you can watch the scene in full with his lost score via a stereo Dolby Digital track.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
- HSC: Beaches 'n' Peaches (HD, Disc 1, 3:36) – Found under the Episode Selection menu for 'Cobbler,' as partially shown in the episode, this feature is a funny little homemade one-man amateur fettish film for those who get off on sitting on pies.
- Jimmy and Kim: A Complicated Relationship (HD, Disc 2, 8:05) – Found under the actual Special Features menu, this features breaks down the actors' chemisty and accredits them – over the script – for making their characters work.
- Constructing Davis & Main (HD, Disc 2, 8:50) – Found under the actual Special Features menu, the firm's beautiful set it praised. This feature is an in-depth look at how the soundstage set was designed and constructed. The faux firm's branding, art and décor are also discussed. Creator Vince Gilligan calls the set a tremendous accomplishment – especially considering it was made on a modest television series budget.
- The Takedown (HD, Disc 2, 6:07) – Found under the Episode Selection menu for 'Bali Ha'i,' this making-of shows how Mike took down two of Tuco's henchmen. You'll learn about the how the house was blacked-out during the daytime shoot, how it was cut, and how much of the stunts the actors were able to do themselves. The evolution of Mike's character is also discussed.
- Landing "FIFI" (HD, Disc 3, 3:46) – Found under the Episode Selection menu for 'Fifi,' the only flying B-29 bomber is given a nice featurette of its own. The cast and crew – some of whom were able to fly in it – gush over the experience of flying in the vintage war plane.
- In Conversation: Jonathan Banks & Mark Margolis (HD, Disc 3, 31:30) – Found under the actual Special Features menu, the respective Mike and Hector actors discuss their acting careers and experiences. Without a moderator, the two genuinely converse. Banks gets passionate and a little heated (not with Margolis); F-words ensue. This feature shows you just how committed and seasoned these two actors are.
- Davis & Main Mesothelioma Commercial (HD, Disc 1, 1:05) – Found under the Episode Selection menu for 'Amarillo,' this is the full minute-long television ad that partially plays in the episode. It solely feature text on-screen that's read aloud by an unknown voice actor.
- "Who Stole My Nest Egg?!" Commercial (HD, Disc 1, 1:01) – Found under the Episode Selection menu for 'Amarillo,' this is Jimmy's full minute-long black & white commercial that he produced with aspiring filmmakers and a Sandpiper victim.
- Davis & Main Sandpiper Commercial (HD, Disc 2, :50) – Found under the Episode Selection menu for 'Bali Ha'i,' this full commercial follows the format of the Mesothelioma commercial.
- "Your the Greatest!" Commercial (HD, Disc 3, :55) – This feature is found under the Episode Selection menu for 'Klick.' Watch the funny, full and fully patriotic "Gimme Jimmy" television ad.
Easter Egg #1 - from the 'Cobbler' episode menu on Disc 1, with "HSC: Beaches 'n' Peaches" highlighted, push the left arrow. A pie will appear on-screen. Click enter for a silly HD video about editors. The runtime is 35 seconds.
Easter Egg #2 - from the 'Bali Ha'i' episode menu on Disc 2, with "Play Episode" highlighted, push the right arrow to bring up a scribbled sheet of paper. Click enter to access a standard-def single-take through a large set. Without any of the actual actors, I assume this is a lighting and cinematography test. The runtime is 1:17.
Easter Egg #3 - from the "Inflatable" episode menu on Disc 2, with "Play Episode" highlighted, push the left arrow to bring up a wacky inflatable arm guy. Click enter to see a Vince Gilligan hand-drawn sketch dated 8/31/15.
Easter Egg #4 - from the "Inflatable" episode menu on Disc 2, with the commentary option highlighted, push the left arrow to bring up a tie. Click enter to see costume sketches of Jimmy's wardrobe. There are three in total. Push enter to move through them.
Easter Egg #5 - from the "Fifi" episode menu on Disc 3, with "Play Episode" highlighted, push the left arrow for a Regalo Helado logo to appear. Click enter for an HD single-take look at the visual effects that were needed to make the border crossing shot possible. The feature runs for 2:41. Enjoy this awesomeness!
Easter Egg #6 - from the "Nailed" episode menu on Disc 3, with "Play Episode" highlighted, push the left arrow for a drill to appear. Click enter to view an SD video of a high-speed tire blow-out test. The runtime is 18 seconds.
'Breaking Bad' is my all-time favorite television series, so I expected 'Better Call Saul' to be entertaining - but I certainly didn't expect it to quickly earn the same adoration that 'Bad' gets from me. Little happens, yet through excellent writing and lovable actors, this superbly crafted series is playing in the exact same high-quality league as 'Breaking Bad.' Season 2 just might be better than the first, so it's a must-see for 'Bad' fans and anyone who watched Season 1. The video and audio qualities are once again pitch perfect. Even though they're scattered about in the most confusion fashion, all three discs are loaded with special features. If you're not watching 'Better Call Saul,' then now's the time to catch up before Season 3 kicks off.
- 3-Disc Set (Region-free BD-50s)
- Digital Copy
- 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- French Dolby Digital 5.1
- English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Arabic, Dutch
- Audio Commentaries for all 10 Episodes
- Gag Reel
- "Switch" Table Read
- "Settling the Score: Original Music by Composer Dave Porter"
- "Building the Shot"
Exclusive HD Content
- "Jimmy and Kim: A Complicated Relationship"
- "The Takedown"
- "In Conversation: Jonathan Banks & Mark Margolis"
- "Constructing Davis & Main"
- "Landing FIFI"
- "HSC: Beaches 'n' Peaches"
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