Better Call Saul Season Three, Episode 1

NEW YORK – MARCH 19: Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston attends the “Breaking Bad” National RV Tour final stop at Military Island, Times Square on March 19, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Moises De Pena/WireImage) *** Local Caption *** Aaron Paul;Bryan Cranston Moises De Pena WireImage

Say nothing, you understand! Get a lawyer! – Saul Goodman

Last year, for reasons within my control, we didn’t cover Better Call Saul weekly, after good numbers and plenty of interest during the first year. That has been remedied. The series is far too good not to be part of my regular rotation, so the discussion recommences now.

Season 2 saw plenty of changes for Jimmy McGill, a tragic figure whose end we already know. It places a challenge on a writing staff to write the lead-up to the inevitable in an entertaining and somehow surprising fashion. The twists and turns, the success before the failure is what can make it successful, and thus far, that’s exactly what we’ve gotten from Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan.

McGill will always end up flat on his face, and we unfortunately know Kim Wexler won’t be the one to pick him up the last time. No one will. So that relationship has to sour, which makes the Mesa Verde Bank and Trust decision from last year such a smart play for the series. What we love about Jimmy is what we hate about Jimmy, and what we simultaneously wish we could be and hope we never are. He’s a walking conundrum. He’s not a bad attorney, but just as he flipped the “Do Not Touch” switch to open last season, he’s unable to get out of his own way. He had a chance, but he blew it.

Chuck recorded him, just like we all knew that asshole would, and he played it for Harry Hamlin in his office. Evidentiary rules make it difficult to use in court, but Chuck told Jimmy he would pay in the end for his malfeasance and dishonesty. Was Ernesto not supposed to hear a portion of the audio tape as he put the batteries into the machine? I sincerely doubt that, because Chuck, despite all the good work he’s done, is just as much the conniver and manipulator his brother is. And he’s also a scoundrel. He doesn’t care about family at all, and when Jimmy and his wife hit it off during the awkward dinner party in Season 2, he was angry about it.

He’s a malcontent and a curmudgeon, who has never fully appreciated the lengths to which Jimmy has gone to try and make him comfortable. Chuck’s malady is absurd in a perfect television way, and Jimmy freely gave up the information to get his brother back to “normal.” Who’s the prick here? Who’s the one willing to help, rather than push down? Chuck claims to know what kind of person Jimmy is, but he never attempted to teach him a better way. He has always, from moment one, been out for himself first, second, and third.

Hamlin wasn’t wrong about Jimmy being a “world class son of a bitch,” but he would be more accurate if he included both McGill brothers, and for far different reasons. Jimmy believes the world is unfair, thus he can alter it and cross lines to stay afloat. Chuck believes the world is toxic and evil, and that his brother is a fuck-up. Yeah, that dude’s an assclown.

Kim Wexler is a fabulous attorney and a hard worker. Thus, she’s going to end up at odds with back massage Jimmy, paint over the rainbow Jimmy, and let’s knock off a little early Jimmy. She cares for him, and she may actually love him, but you can see already where her professional existence rates on her own private hierarchy of needs. It’s atop the food chain, and eventually, it’s what’s going to tear these two friends and lovers apart. It already is. We see Kim agonizing over the Mesa Verde briefing, because she knows how that account was landed. When Paige tells her she knew Kim was the right woman for that job, the look on her face as she hears about HHM’s mistake tells the entire tale. She’s horrified at her reality and simply can’t bear to think about her most important account.

Better Call Saul is just about ready to debut Gustavo Fring, which is going to change everything, and add even more nostalgia for the Breaking Bad enthusiasts. Plus we get Giancarlo Esposito on our television screens, which is the opposite of shabby. Mike Ehrmantraut’s quest to find the tracker placed in the station wagon, then using the second gas cap to turn the tables, was tremendous drama. It wasn’t rushed, it wasn’t interspersed with anything that didn’t make sense, and it showcased Mike’s street brilliance and savvy. He’s a smart man. He’s a careful man. He wouldn’t buy a yellow H3 and swing his dick around. He stays alive because he trusts no one other than his family.

All of these sequences were extremely well-done, and Jonathan Banks is so good with this character. He can act in silence, with no one sharing the screen with him for several minutes, and be utterly captivating. We never had any idea Ehrmantraut would be such a big deal when we first met him, but it’s one of the smartest moves Vince Gilligan ever made. Breaking Bad isn’t the same without Mike. He was the moral compass that helped Jesse Pinkman break free of Walter White’s spell, and though he’s imperfect, Mike does everything for the people that matter in his life. He’s disinterested in his own well-being or the trappings of fame. He has very little, but he protects it with everything he has.

Batteries and gadgets (a word my mom loves) played key roles throughout the premiere. It was the big berthas for Chuck and the tape recorder, a double A for Mike’s tracker, and a mall photo booth for a shoplifter to hide inside, only to be discovered thanks to Saul’s cooperation with security. That last one was incredibly revealing, because it showed both what this man’s life has become, and the rebellious spirit that kept him from stability and a long term future.

Guys like you, you think you’re so damn smart, and you think you don’t have to play straight with anybody. The wheel is going to turn. It always does. – Officer

What does The Adventures of Mabel have to do with anything? Simple, it’s the book Chuck read to his then innocent younger brother when he was young. A story of a girl who found a magical mountain, met the King of the Brownies, and ended up with delicious jelly and other treats. From that story and the sweet tooth it connotes to Cinnabon in Nebraska with nary a smile and passing out trying to ice fresh roles. THIS is the story of Jimmy McGill. Choices make us who we are. Rash decisions and write offs can end up the biggest mistakes of our lives. And not thinking consequences through can lead us straight to hell.

Jimmy McGill believes in results, but he always skirts what could happen even if everything goes right. One reason not to commit crimes, outside of the obvious, is what it does to the mind. If you get away with it, how many nights do you sit and wonder how long it will be before you’re led away in shackles? You have bartered your freedom, and there’s a gnawing sensation that reminds you a secret is the only thing standing between you and a small prison cell. That’s not the way to go through life.

For Jimmy, he’s able to shut that side of his subconscious away for the short-term gain directly in front of him. Whether it’s the Matlock and gelatin play at the retirement home, the move on the bus, the con with Kim at the resort, or now dealing with betraying his own brother for the sake of his and his woman’s skin, he can act without feeling. He may have remorse, but we’ve known this guy for a long time. Saul Goodman did what he had to do, and we never saw him behind closed doors, so we don’t really know if he was in misery or heartache. His life wasn’t easy, but he sliced through it with a machete, whether for money, money, money, or eventually freedom and escape.

There was something symbolic about the scene with the rainbow. Jimmy painting over something his clients loved, and something that brings joy to children around the world. When Kim asked about it, he said, “You’re gonna love it.” We’ll see, but my gut tells me she won’t, and it will be another rift between the two. For Jimmy, it’s always about what’s next, and usually without the thought process that needs to accompany the choice. Maybe he picks a beautiful piece of art, but if that’s the case, he’s likely to steal it. If it’s a true Jimmy McGill move, he’ll grab a velvet Dogs Playing Poker and slap it right across the wall.

All in all, a terrific start to Season 3 for Better Call Saul. It started with the black-and-white Cinnabon open, as always, and chose Nancy Sinatra as its soundtrack. What an unreal month this is for TV premieres. Saul and The Leftovers this week, Fargo next week (covering all three weekly), then Veep and Silicon return on April 23. There are also some smaller shows, including iZombie, that I quite enjoy as well. This is a lot of fun right now. I want to thank all the networks for advanced screeners. It makes everything so much easier for a critic, especially in this day and age.

We’re going to have a blast here at Outkick chatting about all of it. I hope you’re ready to take the ride with me as we move into the summer months. Glad to have you on board.

I’m @JMartOutkick. I lay back and laugh at the sun. I’m in sugar town.

Written by Jason Martin