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Better Call Saul Season 3 Retrospective

Better Call Saul, now in it’s third season, ended with a bang last night as Chuck’s house caught fire. The episode’s title “Lantern” was perfect, since we are also given a cold opening where Chuck and Jimmy are kids and Chuck is reading Jimmy the book Mabel, and the camera pans to the lantern, foreshadowing Chuck’s tragic death at the very end.

Better Call Saul is a show that keeps getting better and better every year as it ups the stakes and further intertwines with the Breaking Bad criminal underworld and Season 3 so far has been it’s best season, taking our characters to new and unexpected places while keeping the show under familiar terrain.

Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould prove to us again how brilliant they are as writers and how they make us care for characters that are pretty much unlikeable for the most part. They have made us care about Jimmy and as his transformation into Saul grows nearly complete in this season, it’s hard to not be saddened knowing where he ends up. As Odenkirk’s stated, Saul is fun to watch, but he’s a bad dude. He’s a lawyer that helps criminals. There was always Slipping Jimmy, but Jimmy McGill was a good person and if it wasn’t for Chuck’s own selfishness and pride he might have turn out differently and dare I say “the world’s best lawyer (as Jimmy declares in season 1 episode 2).” He sure had the skills. How many times did Saul help Jesse and Walt get out of jam? I’ve lost count.

The whole cast here is fantastic again this season. Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Rhea Seehorn, Patrick Fabian, Michael Mando, Michael McKean, Giancarlo Esposito are all absolutely terrific. This cast is just as good as Breaking Bad and everyone plays their role absolutely perfectly.

Season 3 begins with Gene, whom works at his job at Cinnabon, still hiding from the police. These flash-forwards are incredibly interesting, since it creates a whole new storyline and dynamic for the characters, since it takes place after the events of Breaking Bad. Vince Gilligan has the opportunity to answer questions of to what happened to Walt, Jesse, Skyler, Walt Jr. etc.  (Saul can simply just see glimpses of them on the news and we can finally know if Walt really did die at the end of Felina. Of course, these answers are not at all mandatory but Vince Gilligan could find a clever way to answer them).

Gene, on his lunch break, witnesses a robber, who is being chased by two cops, hiding in a photo booth. He indicates where the man is hiding to the cops and they arrest him. As they leave, Jimmy bursts out that he should say nothing without a lawyer present. Gene later collapses when he is back at work. Since this is our only glimpse into the life of Gene this season, we have no idea what happens to him next or what the cause of his panic attack was. The black and white scenes are absolutely brilliant, since they picture how boring and soulless Gene’s life has become and it will be interesting to see what happens to Gene moving forward into season 4 and how severe his panic attack is going to be. There is also the question of the authorities and if they will recognize who he really is if he is taken to the hospital.

In 2003, Chuck has a taped confession from Jimmy that he has committed a felony. Kim begins to have anxiety from running her own law firm and as well as keeping Jimmy’s felony a secret. Chuck shows Howard the tape, who is unsure of how the tape can be used against Jimmy.

This leads to Jimmy finding out of the recording after Chuck “accidentally” turns it on while Ernesto is in the room. Ernesto tells Jimmy which leads to a showdown between Jimmy and Chuck. Jimmy bursts into Chuck’s home and yells at him and destroys the tape while Howard and other lawyers are present. This leads to Kim representing Jimmy in court. Chicanery was definitely a highlight episode this season. It was brilliantly acted, wonderfully written and extremely suspenseful even though it was a courtroom drama, which is something Better Call Saul rarely does (even if this is a lawyer show, it rarely spends time in a courtroom). Michael McKean especially shines this episode and in this season, where he has a complete breakdown in court after Jimmy proves that his condition is in his head. McKean should get an Emmy this season for that scene alone. He was absolutely incredible and he makes you feel so many emotions. Hatred, pity and sadness all at once.

The result of Chuck’s breakdown has Jimmy suspended a year from the law but he still manages to duck prison. He decides to start making commercials with his crew (Bob has stated that these we’re the scenes he enjoyed the most filming) and this is when he puts on the Saul Goodman persona for the first time, when he shows one of his commercials to Kim.

Kim also gets a great storyline this season, as she becomes overburden with the task of her own law firm as well as handling Jimmy’s antics. She chews on more than she can handle and this becomes apparent where she has a car crash at the end of the penultimate episode of this season. Jimmy takes good care off her and Kim seems to be okay with his criminal activity but it will be interesting to see how long their relationship lasts. Kim decides to take some time off after her accident and goes to a blockbuster to rent movies. They decide to sublet their office and fire their secretary, who will come back since she will become Saul’s secretary in Breaking Bad.

Gus also makes an appearance this season, as the criminal underworld of Better Call Saul intertwines with the world of Breaking Bad in  a spectacular fashion. We also get to see Pollos Hermanos again and we get an insight in the origins of Gus and the show delves deeper with his relationship with Lydia, whom helps Gus buy the Laundry facility. Gus also arranges for Lydia to launder Mike’s money through Madrigal where Mike receives 10 thousand dollars a week for being a consultant to Gus.Lydia was an interesting character to add this season and who knows if we’ll see more of her in the future, but she was very different than the Lydia we knew in Breaking Bad and that was a welcome change to her character.

Mike also has an interesting storyline this season as his character becomes closer to the Mike we know in Breaking Bad. He discovers someone put a tracker on his car which leads him to his first meeting with Gus, who was the one who warned him not to kill Hector. Mike even builds the park where he will take his daughter and he also starts having a relationship with a woman whom he starts to have feelings for. Jonathan Banks has been incredible this season and it’s a bummer that he wasn’t in the season finale.

Hector is truly terrifying now, since he can talk and he does unspeakable things that make him a fascinating character to watch unfold. Hector wishes to take over Nacho’s father’s business, which results in Nacho wanting to get Hector out of the picture. In one of the most suspenseful scenes this season, Nacho attempts to switch Hector’s pills and narrowly succeeds, which causes Hector his stroke in the final episode.

There are no continuity issues or plot holes here; everything fits in organically which is incredibly impressive. Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould have created two shows, that are woven perfectly together and that compliment each other like cheese and nachos.

Jimmy does some horrible things this season. He turns Irene’s friends against her just so she can sign the settlement and that he can receive her his deal of the bargain. He manages to turn it back around, but makes her friends hate him, willingly putting himself as the bad guy in the open. Looks like he won’t get any of the settlement money now, but at least Irene has her friends back. This was definitely a tough episode too watch, it was hard not to feel bad for her because Jimmy was being such a dick.

Chuck and Howard come to blows when Howard asks him to retire after his breakdown, despite Chuck’s attempts of trying to get better and overcome his sickness. Chuck, feeling betrayed, decides to go after HHM and sues the firm. Seeing that Chuck is a dangerous enemy, Howard decides to buy him out with his own money. Their friendship broken beyond repair, Chuck returns home, where he gets a visit from Jimmy, who tries to repair his relationship with his brother. Chuck tells him that he never really cared for him and that things are better this way.

Jimmy returns home and leaves Chuck for the last time. Chuck, now alone in the world, starts to feel his sickness return and destroys the walls and everything that could cause him harm. He brings in his house his old lantern, which he kicks and kicks, making it crash and set his house on fire.

Chuck was such a complex character that it’s hard to not feel a bit sorry for him, even though he was a dick most of the time. His fate was tragic in the end and it will be interesting if his death will be hard on Jimmy, since Chuck has rejected him so many times.

Jimmy’s journey into Saul is nearing completion. He does some despicable things this season to whether it’s Chuck, Irene or even the community service guy. Jimmy is almost there to the Saul we know in Breaking Bad and all he has to do is break all ties with Kim and that’s when we’ll know that he’s arrived. Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould have written two amazing series, that both stand on their own but are also complementary with each other, which is a damn near impossible task. This season has been absolutely wonderful and brilliantly directed, written and executed. It’s going to be a long wait until season 4.

Season Rating: 9.5/10

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