*Spoilers for Breaking Bad and the first two seasons of Better Call Saul. NOT THIS ONE!*
If you haven’t watched this show at all, then I would suggest doing so!
So with last night’s episode, Better Call Saul is done for another year. Personally I absolutely love this show despite the fact that when thinking back over the season, not much happened, but when it did, it really was perfection. I found that with most of the episodes this year (and quite possibly previous years if memory serves me), that not much occurred during the course of each episode, but then right at the end we are treated to an epic moment that leave us gagging for more. I always felt myself coming away from an episode thinking “Ah! I cannot wait until next week” and last night’s season finale was no exception to this formula. Now I am going to have to wait another year to find out the outcome of the little scene right at the end.
So, lets go back to the beginning. Better Call Saul is the prequel (and very occasionally the sequel, although they may as well not bother with how little they show of it) series to the world renown Breaking Bad created by Vince Gilligan. Originally when it was announced a few years ago, people exploded with excitement to see fan favourite; Saul, get his very own TV show. It was only when they got down to watching it that a lot of people found out it was not really anything like Breaking Bad (at first). Other than the scenes involving Mike (the old badass hitman/fixer), which did feel like the original show, Better Call Saul decided to go in a completely different direction, which I am totally cool with. You don’t want to just remake Breaking Bad. Some people class it as the greatest show ever made, but I have never met a single person who has watched it who has not referenced that infamously terrible Fly episode.
While various characters in Breaking Bad do pop up in this show (Tuco in the very first episode of season one – which felt a little forced, Mike, Gus, and Hector Salamanca to name a few), the show mainly focuses on Saul himself as he struggles with his relationship with his brother and making his mark in the lawyering world of New Mexico, eventually leading to how he is in Breaking Bad.
A lot of viewers, who are huge Breaking Bad fans, have tuned out because of this, and I think that is a shame, as Better Call Saul is a fantastic show in its own right. A controversial statement from myself is that I actually prefer it to Breaking Bad, but maybe because I have only seen BB (sick of writing those words) once, and that was a few years ago. Don’t get me wrong, BB is a fantastic show, but I think that maybe it has been spoiled for me when I suggest to people to watch a TV show and their first response is “is it better than Breaking Bad?” It is a kind of hipster reason for not liking it as much, I will admit, but Better Call Saul does deserve its praise. Everyone I know who watches it week by week loves it and are always eager to discuss it the next day.
So as I mentioned earlier the show focuses on Saul (who original name is Jimmy McGill and is always called Jimmy, so I am just going to call him that for the purpose of this review until the show changes his name over) and his relationship with his brother. Season three may as well have been Better Call Chuck (or maybe Better Not Call Chuck because he is a fucking douche), as his storyline was such a roller coaster ride, that you never really knew what was going to happen next.
We have seen Chuck rise and fall as he desperately fought against his brother in hopes of ending his career, following last year’s season finale when he secretly recorded Jimmy confessing to tampering evidence and ruining Chuck’s reputation. I for one really liked Chuck as a character. He as not someone I would have liked to have gone for a beer with, nor would I liked to have as my own brother, but Chuck is a fantastic character to have on the show and he is so brilliant portrayed. Every viewer hates him, and like Joffrey in Game of Thrones, it takes a great actor to play such an intensely hated character, and Michael McKean does just that.
Chuck is such a well rounded character as we saw him struggle with his “condition”, fight against his friends and co-workers, manipulate situations for his own benefit, and do everything in his power to become as hated as possible.
In the end, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. That was the theme throughout the season (and the entire show), as we can empathise with Jimmy with why he keeps going back there to check on him, despite all of the horrible stuff Chuck has said or done to him over the course of the show. One line in the season finale this year was amazingly delivered and you can see how that would be the final nail in the coffin of their relationship.
I can’t wait to see what happens next in the aftermath of that final scene in the finale.
The relationship between Chuck and Howard (a partner and protégée at Chuck’s law firm) was another excellent part of this season. Howard has always been a bit of a “Do I like him?” type of character. He has always had his firms best interests at heart and only followed in the vendetta against Jimmy because of his respect for Chuck, but when it begins to affect the firm, Howard has to make some difficult choices and it soon becomes a great storyline to follow.
Still on the subject of Chuck, one great moment this season was when the McGill brothers finally got at one another in a court of law. It was a brilliant episode and the last few moments of it showed us what a fantastic actor Michael McKean is, as well as what brilliant writing Better Call Saul has. We saw Jimmy hatch a plan and execute it amazingly. It was a great scene to watch and one that will be remembered in the show’s history.
Jimmy’s storyline this year dipped in an out of various other plots. His main focus was dealing with Chuck, which I have already touched on, but he also helped Kim out in her storyline (one that I am never overly interested in and was far too dragged out for its own good), a little helping Mike (which I will get to in a moment), and trying to make money to help pay for his and Kim’s office. While these stories did feel a little bit like filler, I must admit that the story of the settlement with the people at the old folks home did have a great outcome. It has been a storyline that has not overly been touched on much, but has been a constant throughout the course of the show (not just this season), and it was nice to have a little resolution for it, even better that Jimmy had to put his own personally feelings aside to do what was best.
Anyone who has watched it will know how awful you felt for the old woman he had managed to turn her friends against, in order to benefit him.
We also got another little glimpse of how he might one day become Saul Goodman this year, but it seems like that is such a slow burn that we are left wondering if we are ever going to get there. Each season has taken us a pigeon’s step closer to Breaking Bad, and while there was not much of it on Jimmy’s side, Mike’s storyline began to really push things forward towards the original show.
As I said before, most of the scenes with Mike make us feel as if are watching Breaking Bad, and this year, with the inclusion of Gus Fring and the Los Pollos Hermanos chicken shop, we can almost taste it.
On a little side note, I would LOVE to go to Los Pollos Hermanos. That chicken looks amazing, but I can’t help but wonder if there was another ‘Hermanos/brother’ that originally set up the shop, or was it just a name that sounded cool or to throw off looking at Fring as this secret drug baron.
Anyway, my missus said that Mike reminds her of Wile E. Coyote, and after she explained it, I couldn’t help but agree (and laugh). Mike is always up to something. Through the course of the show, and this season, we have long winded scenes of Mike doing something. Whether it is eating peanuts on a stakeout, dismantling a car piece by piece, buying shoes, or digging holes, the scenes are always long and drawn out, but are designed to serve a greater purpose, usually laying the ground work for a tremendous scheme, reminiscent of the of the Coyote’s desperate efforts to catch the Road Runner.
At the start of the season Mike’s story is the one you are eager to get back to. Especially once it occurs to the audience that it is going to lead to Gus. But once Gus and Naco’s stories begin to intertwine, Mike’s story loses momentum and it soon becomes the Chuck and Jimmy scenes that we are desperate to see. Further evidence to this is that Mike is cut entirely from the season finale and we didn’t even notice.
Maybe this is in part due to the fact that that by the end of the season, Mike’s storyline has nearly caught right up with where we see him in Breaking Bad. It does make me wonder what more there is to tell, other than see him just carrying out jobs for Gus.
Other than Kim’s storyline, which I am afraid is not very interesting (I don’t think Vince Gilligan writes particular good part for women. I am the same with my D&D quests, but Gilligan is a professional. Everyone remembers Skye from BB and how awful she truly was), the only other major plot was Naco’s story.
Naco has always been a bit of a strange character. You never really know if he is a bad guy or a good one, but this year we got to see that he does care for more than money or to rank up in the criminal organisation. A great sub-plot this year was when Naco decided enough was enough and that he was going to do away with Hector Salamanca. It is a shame that we already know that Hector is in BB, but being a mute in a chair with a bell, we are all interested to see how he came to be like that.
By the end of the season we feel a little bit closer to that. Without giving much away, there were some incredibly tense and well written scenes involving Naco and Hector. It was like waiting for a jump scare in a horror movie; we knew it was coming, but we had no idea when it would be.
Hector is one of the show’s antagonist, despite not having anything to do with the main character (at least this year), and it was good to watch this villain’s grasp on his criminal empire slip away from him as business took precedence, and Gus Fring knows business. Seeing Gus rise in Don Eladio’s eyes (another character from BB) was only fuelling Hector’s anger, leading him to make some classically rash decisions, which in turn was helping Naco with his grand scheme, was brilliant.
These moments were when Breaking Bad fans would be happy, but, now looking back, as fantastic as they were, they really did feel a little out of place with the rest of Better Call Saul. It is not to say that they should be cut out, far from it, but it does feel a little like watching two completely different shows at once.
Overall Better Call Saul’s third season has just continued to plateau along. No one season of this show is better than any other, but it is not to say that any of it is bad, it is just moving along at the same pace, which is great. Where Breaking Bad started off a little naff and grew to become an amazing show with a fantastic ending. Better Call Saul, on the other hand, is moving along in a straight line. Maybe this is in part due to the fact that we have BB as the ground work that has been laid, but where originally people wanted to watch the show for the purpose of finding out how these characters became the way they are, now the audience is just happy to see what happens next. This is a brilliant thing for a show that is essentially a prequel of something else. Being able to break away from BB shows what great writing Better Call Saul has.
While there were a few slow moments in the middle, as well as a few plot lines that maybe wandered around a little more than they should have, the majority of this season has been gold. Some of the greatest moments of the series have featured in this season, and now that it is starting to draw in more BB, Better Call Saul shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
I am annoyed that I will have to wait another year now for more episodes. Ten is simply not enough, but just enough to have gotten me addicted and scratching at my arm craving for my next fix.