Immediately following the shocking cliffhanger that ended season 2, season 3 of Better Call Saul is the straw that broke the camel’s back, bringing its characters to their breaking point beyond their mental capacities can fathom. A crescendo of that has built up for 30 episodes and in the final moments of the season 3 finale, co-creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould bring their story to a point where there is no going back – a sense of finality for their characters that cannot be undone. Their actions, decisions, words end unceremoniously in distress and heartbreak.
To catch up, in the season 2 finale, Charles McGill (Michael McKean) baits his brother Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) into confessing to a felony while Chuck secretly records it under the heavy protection of a space blanket or 2 and walls covered in the material. “It’s like being inside of a disco ball” Jimmy argues. Gilligan and Gould center the main narrative of season 3 around this recorded confession – a confession that will go on to break whatever bond the brothers had left with each other. Chuck’s decision to secretly tape his brother puts further strain on his professional relationship with partner Howard (Patrick Fabian) and the reputation of the firm Chuck built from the ground up, HHM.
Breaking off the main narrative, the major supporting characters return to handle their own mini and major crisis’s. Along with helping Jimmy, Kim (Rhea Seehorn), takes on Mesa Verde as her sole client, Mike (Jonathan Banks) looks for revenge against Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) after threatening Mike’s daughter-in-law and granddaughter, and Nacho (Michael Mando) faces his own mortality as his personal world and professional collide. Nacho is at a crossroads, toeing dangerous waters, attempting what he sets out will almost certainly lead to his death.
What has been the cherry on top for this spinoff of possibly one of the most celebrated and praised series on TV has been the reprised inclusion of smaller roles. Whether its Tuco, Krazy-8, Lawson, and others here and there, the inclusion has been welcomed as an easter egg hunt. Season 3 brings back Francesca (Tina Parker), Lydia (Laura Fraser), and Huell (Lavell Crawford) among others. While it’s great to see them reprise their roles from the predecessor, the main draw, that Gilligan and Gould nodded, winked and hinted at makes his debut in the steadily enlarging world of Jimmy McGill – Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito).
As if he never took time off between series, Giancarlo Esposito seamlessly steps back into the role of methamphetamine distributor moonlighting as the owner of a fast-food chicken franchise owner. Equally as charming as he is intimidating, Epositio somehow elevates his game as the villainous Gus Fring. Frings already established network boasts an impressive feat – how far his reach and influence stretches out is felt with well-placed flashbacks and simple costume changes to represent the duality of the character. Gus Fring the Los Pollos Hermanos owner is charming, sweet and personable, the Meth distributor dresses in an all-black suit and can pierce the toughest armor with his steady gaze and gravelly voice.
While the return of Giancarlo is a welcomed sight to see, Michael McKean as Chuck is the center of gravity for this season. The relationship between the two brothers is fractured beyond repair especially after Jimmy learns that he was recorded. Ever since Jimmy was hired in the mailroom of HHM, Chuck’s displeasure for seeing Jimmy progress has grown, always seeing the worst in Jimmy, and Jimmy doesn’t do himself any favors by acting exactly how Chuck predicts. Despite the deep hatred Chuck has for his brother, he considers Jimmy a good person, doing the worst with only the best intentions. Their relationship is both fascinating and frustrating to watch as it self-destructs causing ripples around the contained cast of characters.
Jimmy Idolizes his brother, holds him in higher regard than the Pope but no matter what Jimmy does, Chuck hates him and feels the self-righteous need to punish Jimmy. Behind the two men that bring this relationship to life can be somewhat credited to the minds of Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould. Jimmy is given a giant step forward in development as he comes to terms with his brothers illness. Both Bob Oden Kirk and Michael McKean bring an honesty into their roles and as a brand-new character to the series, Michael McKean’s performance surpasses Bob, delivering a harrowing experience in episode 5, titled “Chicanery”.
An episode that serves as the climax of the season. Bob and Michael’s chemistry that has been built steadily over 2 and a half seasons comes full circle. Arguably the best episode of the series thus far, Gilligan and Gould bring the characters to the height of their power – court, specifically litigation. The two actors timing and cadence with one another is that of Jesse and Walt. The bar was set high, and Jimmy and Chuck met the challenge.
Performances from Rhea Seehorn, Jonathan Banks, Patrick Fabian, and Michael Mando are all elevated in their supporting roles. It’s an ensemble that boasts major talent and commitment to the world Gilligan created with Breaking Bad.
Each season of Better Call Saul has been a journey for its characters. The larger connection between its ensemble is beginning to take shape, molded into one cataclysmic event. The seeds of who Saul Goodman is are planted here. The flashy crooked lawyer with the cheaply made commercials and willingness to bend the rules had to start somewhere. And Bob Odenkirk once again gives more depth and dimension to Jimmy McGill. Added in is a comedic nature to Jimmy that undercuts the gravity of his actions. Who wouldn’t try and make a joke when facing a mountain of legal and personal turmoil?
3 seasons in and in no way slowing down Better Call Saul is a worthy spinoff and successor to Breaking Bad – on all accounts. Gilligan and Gould’s craftsmanship and attention to detail truly shine in bringing these characters to life.
Created By: Vince Gilligan & Peter Gould
Episodes Directed By: Vince Gilligan, John Shiban, Thomas Schnauz, Daniel Sackheim, Keith Gordon, Adam Bernstein, Minkie Spiro & Peter Gould
Music By: Dave Porter
Cinematography: Arthur Albert, Marshall Adams & Paul Donachie
Starring: Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Rhea Seehorn, Patrick Fabian, Michael Mando, Giancarlo Esposito, Michael McKean
Where to Watch: Netflix
Release Date: April 10, 2017
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%