In the final moments of Better Call Saul‘s first season, scrappy lawyer Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) drove off with a transformative, determined look on his face while humming “Smoke on the Water.” Here, Peter Gould, who created AMC’s Breaking Bad prequel with Vince Gilligan, gives you a road map to season 2, which kicks off Feb. 15 at 10 p.m.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We left Jimmy seemingly in the throes of metamorphosis, having deciding to turn his back on a job at a big law firm. He has made a choice about how he’s going to live his life, and it’s one that he seems pretty happy about it. Where do we find him when we return, in terms of his lot in life — and his headspace?
PETER GOULD: It’s an open question. You have to ask yourself as he’s driving off, “What’s he smiling about?” And very quickly in episode 1, you’ll see that there’s a lot more to that smile at the end of season 1 than maybe we revealed at the time.
What is the overarching theme of season 2?
Season 2 is all about what people are willing to do for the things that they care about. What does that show about you? What gets to your heart? And along with that, how far are you willing to go for the things that you care about personally, and what is that going to mean to everybody else? That theme certainly is a big part of Jimmy’s world, and one of the things that we had clarify for ourselves at the beginning of the season is what Jimmy really cares about at the beginning of season 2. And it impacts Mike Ehrmentraut, played by Jonathan Banks, and the things that he cares about leads him down some very dark paths.
What new sides to Jimmy will we see this season?
You’re going to see, for one thing, a romantic side to Jimmy. The relationship that he has with Kim [Rhea Seehorn] gets much deeper. It is both personal and professional, and it’s really the beating heart of season 2.
How does Kim react to the new Jimmy?
That’s a big question. Kim has a lot of very strong opinions about what Jimmy should be doing with his life, but they aren’t necessarily the opinions that you’d expect. And also, Kim finds it a lot easier to talk the talk than to walk the walk.
Chuck’s betrayal of Jimmy toward the end of the season had a profound impact on him. How would you characterize their relationship at the beginning of the season?
At the beginning of the season, Jimmy wants nothing to do with Chuck [Michael McKean]. He’s had it with his brother. But at the same time, as you saw at the end of season 1, when he gets back to Albuquerque, the first place he goes is outside Chuck’s house. So cutting the ties between the brothers is something that’s easy to say and hard to do. These guys have a relationship that goes very deep.
Mike finally got out of the parking booth and started doing business with Nacho [Michael Mando]. In “Five-O,” we learned about the guilt over his son’s death that haunted him. What more do we learn about Mike this season? And whom will he be colluding with?
I will say that the thing Mike cares about most is what’s left of his family, his daughter-in-law and most of all, his granddaughter. And strangely enough, that love — that care that he has — leads him into collaborating with and interacting with some people that he really wants nothing to do with.
What types of people?
You definitely see Mike dealing with some underworld types, let’s say that.
How many new characters should we expect?
One of the major new characters that we have this season is Clifford played by Ed Begley Jr. Of course, he’s a comedy legend but he’s also an incredibly powerful dramatic actor. He plays a character who is an authority figure who has the power to make many of Jimmy’s dreams come true, if Jimmy can only play ball. When you first meet him, he is highly avuncular and is somebody whom you’d like to spend time with and is a very sweet guy. But you wouldn’t want to cross him, let’s put it that way.
Will there be other significant new characters along those lines?
Yes, there are a few, but what you’ll see is that we spend a lot of time going more deeply into the characters who have already been introduced in season 1. So you’re going to see a lot more of Michael McKean and you’re going to see some sides to Chuck that you haven’t before and maybe start to understand that character in a different way. And also you’ll be seeing Howard Hamlin [Patrick Fabian], and Howard ends up getting caught in between his own self-interest and his decent streak. Howard is definitely not a villain in a conventional sense. He is a guy who is just trying to make his way in the world like everybody else, and sometimes being a winner isn’t as easy as it looks.
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The Breaking Bad winks have been Easter egg-y surprises for fans. Will those increase as we get closer to Jimmy’s transformation into Saul and approach the Bad timeline?
You’ll see there are some overlaps with these two worlds. This is a prequel and it takes place in the same city. People who paid close attention to Breaking Bad will be very happy right from the first episode of the season. We were so pleased last season that the show was able to stand on its own, but what we’re finding is as we go forward, there are just organically some places where these two shows overlap. You may see ideas and even characters that you’ve seen before. … I would say there’s maybe a little bit more than last season. But you really have to keep your eyes peeled.
People are always going to ask about Aaron Paul [Jesse] and Bryan Cranston [Walter] popping up. Is there any talk that they may, sooner than later — or at least later — end up on the show?
All I can say is we’d love nothing more. We love both Aaron and Bryan, and of course we love those characters. And in fact, Vince and I and some of the other producers saw Aaron and Bryan at the Smithsonian. There’s nothing we’d like more than to work together. It’s a matter of having it be organic to the story, and also these are two of the most popular guys in show business and having them able to do it.
Did they bring it up to you?
I will say that Aaron and I talk about it every time we see each other.
We got a taste of the post-Breaking Bad future with the Cinnabon scene to open season 1. We also had some deep flashbacks last season. Do we get more peeks into the future — and the past?
We feel like the audience has given us license to go back and forth in time, and we take advantage of that license. We’re fascinated by where these characters came from and where they’re going to end up. And who’s to say that the story of Saul Goodman/Jimmy McGill/Gene is over at the end of Breaking Bad? Maybe it’s not.
We didn’t know what we were going to get every week on Better Call Saul. The tone changed; some episodes were darker. Are there episodes this season that feel markedly different? Do any take place outside of Albquerque? Is there a bottle episode?
This season is different. There are parallel tracks in this season. Structurally this is a very different season from season 1. And in some ways, it’s telling two different stories at the same time that meet up at different points. Absoltuely, we give ourselves the freedom to do episodes that go to all sorts of different places.
Can you give us one cryptic tease about the season 2?
I would say neckties are incredibly important this season. Sometimes just the pattern that a character is wearing, if given close attention, may give something away. We spent a lot of time on neckties. Also, I can tell you that there is a travel mug which is incredibly important to season 2.