Better Call Saul Season 3: Stronger Ties to Breaking Bad Means More Gus & Darker, Disturbing Twists (Review)

by | Jun 20, 2017

From AMC and showrunners Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould comes the Breaking Bad prequel series Better Call Saul. Starring Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Michael McKeen, Rhea Seahorn, Giancarlo Esposito, Michael Mando and Patrick Fabian, the series just concluded its third season. Season four is set to debut in 2018.


He wasn’t always Saul Goodman, ace attorney for chemist-turned-meth dealer Walter White. Six years before he begins to represent Albuquerque’s most notorious criminal, Goodman is Jimmy McGill, a small-time attorney hustling to make a name for himself. He’s a forceful champion for his low-income clients, an underdog whose morals and ambitions often clash. Jimmy works with private eye Mike Ehrmantraut, a former Philadelphia cop and recent transplant to the Southwest. Mike has a specialised skill set — he’s a “fixer” of sticky situations — that Jimmy soon learns to appreciate.


After Chuck was revealed to have been secretly recording his conversation that implicated his brother Jimmy in altering legal documents, we wind up in quite the intense court battle that ends in shocking fashion (best episode of the season too when Chuck takes the stand)… Jimmy is arrested and eventually taken to court with Kim on his side going up against Chuck who wants to take his younger brother’s attorney license away permanently. After season 2 revealed that Chuck was jealous of Jimmy’s lovable persona, it only makes sense that the feud between brothers would escalate to this point in season three. The blood has boiled over and the Chuck/Jimmy relationship is so severely damaged in these 10 episodes that it’s hard to see how the two could ever forgive one another after how everything goes down here…


Michael McKeen’s performance as Chuck has always been a highlight of Better Call Saul but this season he shoots for that Emmy – hard. From the moment he takes the stand in the dramatic conclusion to his legal battle with Jimmy, to the dark and disturbing season finale that sees him relapse to the point of no return, McKeen has delivered the strongest work of his lengthy career here. As much as I can’t stand Chuck as a character, I always, ALWAYS feel bad for him. Every time. Even in the finale when he says the worst thing he could say to his brother, who still loves him, even after everything…. Chuck may have burned every single bridge and relationship that he had in season 3, but we all still manage to feel bad for the guy. That — is a sign of a brilliant performance.


Season 3 also welcomes Breaking Bad fan favourite Gustavo Fring – the notorious drug kingpin who went toe to toe with Walter White and as we all know – was Mike’s employer for much of that series. Fans will finally get to see how these two met, how they started their famous business relationship and more in Better Call Saul season 3. Giancarlo Esposito’s performance as Gus here is far more than your typical Breaking Bad cameo or throwback — he is now a major supporting character on this series. As Better Call Saul matures as a show, it also grows stronger ties to Breaking Bad — it just has to. This is the same world and the stories eventually have to merge in this organic way. Even though we know what happens, we all know how it ends — it doesn’t matter because Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould and their team of writers have done such a great job at filling in the rest of the blanks that fans are still kept on the edge of their seats. That — is brilliant writing.

better call saul s3 mike and gus

While season 3 grew stronger ties to Breaking Bad, the subject matter also got darker… Way darker. Bob Odenkirk has always done a tremendous job playing Jimmy, but this is the season where we will finally, FINALLY see where his alias Saul Goodman comes from and we also see him break emotionally and realise that being the nice guy just doesn’t work when everyone else gunning to take you out. The scenes where Jimmy is trying to sell his airtime and film small business’ commercials with little success are heart-wrenching. The world has never been so cruel in Better Call Saul as it was in season 3. Odenkirk’s character is forced to do some nasty things in order to save himself and as bad as they are (including scamming a little old lady to the point where it ruins her final days in a retirement home), I still understood where Jimmy was coming from. That — is brilliant storytelling.


As for the negatives — I could have done without so many long moments of exposition at the start of the season. Did we need to see Mike silently follow somebody for 20 minutes with zero dialog? No. Did we need to see him tear apart his vehicle to find a tracking device? No. The story can drag at times and that’s because they’re trying to build suspense, but I feel it didn’t work all the time – in fact it worked against the season quite a bit. There’s even some evidence of that in the season finale dealing with Chuck’s breakdown… I really enjoy Better Call Saul, and I know fans have been raving about it being superior to Breaking Bad…. But that’s simply not the case. I will go as far as to say it’s “almost” as good…. It’s hard to compete with the greatest drama series of all time, but Better Call Saul swings for the fences and I appreciate the effort.

Rating: [star rating=”4″]