Better Call Saul doesn’t feel like a Breaking Bad prequel anymore. Season three, perhaps more than any other reason before it, pays fast and loose with the connections between the two series’. Despite this, it feels like the show has really carved out it’s own identity that takes a few familiar characters and gives them room to breathe in a show that’s tonally miles away from it’s meth addled older brother.
To watch the show waiting for ‘Slippin’ Jimmy McGill to become Saul Goodman is quite frankly, a waste. Better Call Saul doesn’t care to excite you. It’s beautifully shot, languishly paced and in turns hilarious, terrifying, and emotional.
Season three picks up right from where season two’s cliffhanger left us, with Jimmy confessing of his crimes to Chuck out of guilt for his brother’s ailing health. Jimmy has no idea that Chuck has been surreptitiously recording him, and it’s this that colours most of the first half of this season. Alongside this, we hop back to Mike’s story, as he mixes with Gus Fring and finds it increasingly harder to keep out of the business and stay on the straight and narrow.
Both intertwining tales continue to be as fantastic as each other, with Mike’s story providing something of the Breaking Bad flavour, while Jimmy’s story is very much his own. Later in the season, we also start to see much more of Nacho, one of Don Hector’s cronies, and a man who has his own reasons for seeing Salamanca take a fall.
Season three takes many twists and turns, and more than easy season before it, wears it’s Breaking Bad connections on it’s sleeves. We start to learn more about Hector Salamanca, his temper, his health, and how his drug smuggling operation lines up with Gus Fring’s. Characteristically of the series, we also see a number of characters hatch elaborate plots to take each other down that are a thrill to watch.
It also delivers our best slice of courtroom drama yet, in a confrontation between Chuck and Jimmy in an embittered legal battle. In many ways, it feels like Better Call Saul’s big showdown, the battle between the villain and the hero, but as anyone who’s seen even a single episode of this show knows, there are no clear white hats or black hats in the world of ‘Slippin’ Jimmy McGill, and the show plays with this expertly.
Things take a turn after this pivotal point, and we see Kim and Jimmy suddenly living two very disparate lives. Better Call Saul gives us the massive confrontation that we wanted, and arguably the best result we could have hoped for. Even still, we walk away with a bitter taste in our mouth, and it’s Kim that carries the most of this, which becomes especially clear as the series goes on.
Season three is as gorgeously shot and avant garde as both seasons before it. The opening episode of the season spends about five minutes showing Mike strip a car looking for a tracking device, and we get to see him strip the car down to almost nothing in a fantastic shot sped up scene that is a joy to watch, even if the actual act is somewhat boring.
We spend around the same amount of time watching Chuck search for sources of electric around his house. Better Call Saul continues to tell us so much about the characters and the world they inhabit without needing to use a single word. Subtle cues, character tics, and scenes like those described above give the show a rich texture. It’s not for everyone, and while some could argue that often not a whole lot happens in each episode, I could watch these characters not doing a whole lot at all for several more seasons.
That’s to say nothing for the way the end of the third season leaves things lying. In many ways, I could criticize it because Jimmy seems to repeatedly end seasons back at square one, but there’s been enough change to the status quo here that Season 4 is set to be very unpredictable indeed.
The problem is that now, I don’t want to see Saul Goodman, because we’ve spent three seasons with Jimmy and Kim as fantastically, fully fledged characters in of themselves, and for things to get to the morally bankrupt and financially secure lawyer of Breaking Bad, we know that things have to go bad for more than a few of our favorite faces.
Season three is another example of how Better Call Saul is rivalling it’s older brother on all fronts, and often surpassing it. It stands as strong as the two seasons before it, and in many ways surpasses them, as there’s no more world building or foundation laying work to be done (except for Mike, in one scene) but instead, we get a whole season of these fantastically crafted, gorgeously shot, and astoundingly acted characters butting heads at every turn. Roll on season four.