AMC (US), Lightbox (NZ)
February 8th, 2017
8 hrs 18 mins
Colourful suit wearing Saul Goodman is nearing ever closer in Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul. Season 3 continues Jimmy and Chuck’s sibling rivalry, and Mike gets to know chicken boss and drug lord Gus Fring.
It’s become clear that in Season 3, Better Call Saul is two shows; the Jimmy McGill show, and the Mike Ehrmantraut (aka Breaking Bad) show. The two plotlines barely interweave. So depending on which camp you fall in, you might like one show more than the other.
For me, I like the Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) stuff. I’ve seen Breaking Bad, and knowing where everything’s headed, is like watching a Breaking Bad, but you already know where everything’s headed. So we do know Jimmy is going to become Saul but there’s much more room for his character to change from sweet elderly lawyer to crooked criminal attorney.
And it’s not a gradual thing. Three seasons in and we’ve seen Jimmy do some bad things with good intentions in mind. But he yo-yo’s back and forth between committing acts of bad for the greater good and just plain old acts of good. Even in this season’s finale we see him redeem himself for his past transgressions.
Following Mike, Gus, and Hector is like going through the motions. Sure it’s still exhilarating, seeing how it all plays out, but in Better Call Saul it feels more like a paint by numbers rather than write-yourself-into-a-corner situations the writers once thrived in. Mike (Jonathan Banks) doesn’t even appear in the last two episodes of this season because he didn’t have anything left to do. His season arc had more or less finished early.
Whereas, although we know Jimmy becomes Saul, there’s a bigger story there, rather than the criminals already well entrenched in the criminal underworld. As much as big Breaking Bad villain Gus Fring (Gincarlo Esposito) was promised from last season he didn’t really serve as a major presence on the show. The episode titles of Season 2 spelt out “FRING’S BACK” and Gus was highlighted in much of the marketing materials but in the end, he mostly just hung out on the sidelines. A far cry from his box cutter reign on Breaking Bad.
It turns out the characters on this show are experts, and their intricate plans always go off without a hitch. Wherever it’s Mike sharp shooting a pair of sneakers, Jimmy rigging a bingo machine, or Nacho practising some slight of hand, they’re not going to fail. Sure there’ll be consequences as a result of their actions, but there’s no surprises here. It’s a contrast to shows where something will always go wrong with a plan. But just once I’d like a plan to backfire!
Chuck (Michael McKean) is still sensitive to electricity, and still despises Jimmy. He’s the self-righteous prick we all love to hate. Chuck’s vendetta against Jimmy continues into Season 3, resulting in a fascinating trial showdown. Their relationship continues to drive the other crazy.
Speaking of relationships, seeing Jimmy and Kim (Rhea Seehorn) is like watching a trainwreck in slow-motion. We know from the Gene flash forwards after Breaking Bad, that Jimmy’s future is as a lonely manager at a Cinnabon in Omaha. Kim is out of the picture. But we don’t know how far Jimmy will drag her down with him. We know he can’t help but bring out “Slippery Jimmy” to make shifty decisions because he can justify the end result.
Even as two shows put together, Better Call Saul is still a methodical, yet enticing look into work on both sides of the law and the relationships that bind them.