Better Call Saul moves into its third season as the adventures of Jimmy McGill begin to move closer and closer to the adventures of Saul Goodman and we move closer and closer to a certain bald gentleman entering his office.
There will be spoilers for season 3 of Better Call Saul in this review.
It shouldn’t really be a surprise that the makers of Breaking Bad would create another great show, especially when it is placed in the same universe as the all time classic, but that is exactly what they have done. Pretty much everything about Better Call Saul is fantastic. Acting, writing, cinematography, it really has it all and that’s why it is one of the best shows currently on TV.
When you write a prequel you are always restricted in some way to what sort of stuff you can do. As the viewer you know where the journey ends, however the question is how you get to the destination. Better Call Saul does this marvellous thing of taking you on that journey touch by touch, teasing you every so often with something which you are desperate to happen but ultimately pulling back and making you crave it more.
Season 3 did more than any of the previous seasons in showing us how Jimmy McGill became Saul Goodman. There were obvious things such as Jimmy using his alter ego Saul to launch his advert filming business but this season more than any other really started to break the character of Jimmy McGill down into a broken man and from those ashes would rise the man we all know.
A lot of Better Call Saul has been centred around the relationship between Jimmy and Chuck and this season went full force with it. Chuck in my opinion is one of the best bad guys in television, he’s vindictive and vicious in a way which is very hard to replicate, it’s an incredibly well written character.
Where as you look at Jimmy and despite his faults he is still likeable or you look at someone like Gus who you aren’t supposed to like but you do because he is a cool ass mother fucker, that’s not what Chuck is, he’s just a fucking dick and that’s what makes him so brilliant. Too often in television writers are obsessed with making the primary antagonist either one dimensional or a cool bad guy, Chuck is neither of those things.
I always consider the sign of a good antagonist as someone who has a reason for doing things, regardless of how warped that reason may be. Chuck’s reasons for doing everything relate to his resentment of Jimmy due to previous indiscretions. Not only is Chuck deluded about his illness but he is deluded about his motives towards Jimmy. He sees them as a self righteous duty, when in reality they are because he doesn’t want Jimmy to succeed.
It’s what made Chicanery such a good episode, probably the best I have seen from the show. There were many reasons why Chicanery was such an enjoyable watch, the episode being focused around the hearing allowed the show to flex its muscles as it threw some of its best characters into a small room together in a heated and emotional situation, we had the return of Huell and most importantly we finally had the full on all guns blazing showdown between Jimmy and Chuck.
It was an incredibly well constructed piece of television, Chuck delivering his well rehearsed speech about how he was doing this for the law and Jimmy’s own good, only for some Jimmy magic as he tries to trick Chuck with the phone, that moment when Chuck thinks he’s outsmarted Jimmy with an incredible smug self satisfaction, only for Jimmy to reveal that he had a battery planted on him and finally the fantastic Chuck outburst at the end, which revealed his true intentions as being petty and vindictive.
There are two revelations which I absolutely loved about this whole scene, the first being that it was revealed what Chuck truly thought of Jimmy, something which we were reasonably aware of from watching the show but hadn’t been delivered in such a black and white manner but also that this was the first time Jimmy was hearing that his brother simply hated him.
Secondly it was finally confirmed that Chuck’s illness wasn’t physical as he claimed and was indeed mental, which as the audience we had assumed but to have it so clearly shown had a big impact. Chuck went into that hearing intending on destroying his brother, in reality it was Jimmy who ended up doing it to him, the entire thing was incredibly intense and made for wonderful viewing.
The character development has been excellent this season and there have been many stick out moments in Jimmy’s story arc. Another of my favourites is when he goes to the insurance company to try and get a refund, only to be told no but decides now is a good time to stick the boot into Chuck by revealing that he is suffering from a mental illness which he has refrained from informing them about. Well acted, cleverly done by innocently revealing Chuck uses that company at the start, followed by Jimmy feigning being upset about current events to get one back on his brother.
Jimmy as a character has been broken down throughout the season, he has lost his brother, his profession, all his clients and after almost losing Kim it seems like he won’t be able to take much more and that’s where the final scene of season 3 comes in. This relates back to what Jimmy did back at the insurance company which created a chain of events which ended in Chuck attempting (successfully?) to commit suicide.
As the viewer you know that the reason Chuck is in this state is totally self inflicted. He went out his way to over punish his brother by tricking him with the tape, followed by over pursuing his punishment before having his illness be confirmed as mental. Chuck’s behaviour towards Howard after he tries to nudge him towards retirement for the good of the firm shows Chuck’s selfish nature and obsession with always being the superior one in a relationship as he would rather see the firm fail than succeed without him.
Finally Chuck pushing Jimmy away when he tries to reconcile, which retriggers his illness, is the reason why Chuck is in this position, yet almost certainly Jimmy will blame himself and his actions at the insurance firm for being the trigger for Chuck trying to/succeeding in killing himself. This sort guilt which Jimmy is likely to go through will probably play a big part in his move towards Saul.
Although Better Call Saul is essentially the story of Jimmy McGill, there is some other stuff going on, primarily with everyone’s favourite fixer, Mike. Mike’s story arcs are much closer to Breaking Bad than Jimmy’s, it’s also where we see the majority of the characters who will later appear in Breaking Bad.
I enjoy Mike’s time on screen, it is more action and it runs at a tensor edge than Jimmy’s but it very much feels like a prequel whereas Jimmy’s doesn’t as much. With Mike you get loads of great scenes like when he snipes the shoes or strips the car, but more importantly you start to see how important characters in Breaking Bad came to their positions in the show.
Breaking Bad had shown in some flashbacks the relationship between Hector and Gus and why it was what it was, Better Call Saul has taken that and driven it further. Whereas Jimmy’s story is about how Jimmy became Saul, Mike’s story is about filling in the gaps which Breaking Bad had. Things like how Hector ended up in the wheelchair, how Mike came to work for both Gus and Saul and even simple things like how Gus had a pre-made drug making factory ready to go all add to what is to come.
If I were to criticise Mike’s story, I would say that there isn’t really any character development going on. I would also criticise the lack of crossover between the two main characters, as at times you could almost be forgiven into thinking they could split the two stories into two shows with the lack of interaction between the two. They’re minor complaints but I think it’s what makes Mike’s arc weaker than Jimmy’s.
I love the manner in which Better Call Saul is filmed, it isn’t something which makes a show but it does add that little bit of something special. Silly things such as the colour in which the different timelines are shown in (black and white for future, regular for present and a bluish colour for the past) are small but noticeable touches. The scene where Chuck’s ex-wife comes back after he’s began to struggle with the electricity had me wondering if there was something wrong with the quality of my stream, instead it was a way to show the differing timelines in the show through a subtle but effective manner.
Honestly there isn’t anything to say about Better Call Saul other than that it is a great show and is almost certainly one of the best shows currently on TV. The writing, acting, characters, filming and plot are all top notch. It’s a show which can be funny, dramatic and knows how to pull the hearts strings. In Jimmy you have one of the most likeable characters available and in Chuck you have one of the best bad guys in TV, all this and I haven’t even mentioned Mike, which is the sign of a remarkably good show and one which I’m very much looking forward to seeing more of.
So what did you think of Better Call Saul season 3? Do you think we have seen the last of Chuck? When will Hector get his nice bell? Or are you just wondering what a Blockbuster is? Well leave a comment and share those thoughts.