“Better Call Saul” — Season 3: A Television Review  By Liz Warner

 

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I’ve previously previewed and reviewed the early episodes of Better Call Saul’s Season Three here and here. The season wrapped Monday night, and lived up to my lofty expectations, but beware: spoilers lay ahead if you have yet to view the dark finale, “Lantern.”

Jimmy [Bob Odenkirk] and Chuck McGill [Michael McKean] are the two characters who understandably advanced most this season.  Jimmy’s document fraud caper from last season catches up with him, and Chuck intends for him to pay for it–specifically, with his hard-earned license to practice law.  As he very well should.

Despite all the social media hate for Chuck (“#F&%@Chuck!” being the clarion call in the Twitterverse), the fact is, what Jimmy did to Chuck was absolutely unconscionable and an intentional and particularly egregious violation of professional ethics. Chuck may have his peccadillos, but he was within his moral right to react as angrily to Jimmy as he did.  And, as is slowly revealed in the occasional flashbacks of the show, Jimmy’s had moral ambiguity since childhood.  You won’t find much Chuck-hate with me, I’m afraid.

But yeah, I get it. Jimmy’s a real charmer. He’s funny. He does sweet things sometimes. Those with sociopathic personality disorders typically do.  Jimmy does manage to show empathy or compassion several times this season, but it’s always falls in the “too little, too late” column after he’s committed a purely selfish and usually despicable act.  Electromagnetic sensitivity aside, Chuck really isn’t wrong, at least about his brother, the man who we shouldn’t forget we will come to know as Saul Goodman.  (And yes, Gene, but that’s another story altogether.)

The disciplinary proceeding by the New Mexico Bar against Jimmy were among the best scenes of the season, with some fairly heartbreaking exchanges between the McGill brothers. Chuck realizes at long last that there is a psychosomatic component to his electromagnetic sensitivity and with this self-awareness, he makes considerable progress in his recovery.

We re-meet Chuck’s ex-wife, Rebecca; a thinner and younger Huile; and the early incarnation of Jimmy’s/Saul’s receptionist, Francesca.  A strength of the writing in this show is the integration of minor characters from “Breaking Bad” into the world of Jimmy McGill and Saul Goodman. Jimmy is suspended from practice for a year. Idle hands, one would be well-advised to remember, are the devil’s workshop.

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Kim Wexler [Rhea Seehorn] is determined to keep her separate practice going nonetheless. Jimmy tries to sell television commercial air time, as Saul Goodman, which he bought prior to his suspension, while picking up trash in his community service gig. He hires the production crew from the local university to help him produce spots for his new TV clients, reminiscent of a kind of “Lone Gunmen” in terms of comedic relief.

Meanwhile, Mike Ehrmantraut [Jonathan Banks] patiently makes progress towards becoming the man we know he becomes in “Breaking Bad.”  His patience is his perennial strength as much as Jimmy’s impulsiveness is his weakness. Madrigal Electrical and Lydia make an appearance to launder not only Fring’s, but Mike’s money.

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 11.15.57 PMKim toils away, crossing T’s and dotting I’s, only to get in an automobile accident as a result of being overtired and impaired behind the wheel.  Jimmy feels guilty for overworking her.  Kim seems to bring out bursts of empathy from Jimmy at times, and one can’t help but wonder if at some level, he realizes it is she who brings out the best of him as a human. Recovering from her auto accident, Kim gives up the office, at least for a while.

Oh, and so does Chuck, although it took some work (and bank) on Howard Hamlin’s [Patrick Fabian] part to get him out the HHM door.  Turns out, he ain’t such a bad guy, and by the way, the other “H” is Howard’s father. Why they didn’t just cut a deal to make him “of counsel” after the E&O insurance rate hike was a bit befuddling.  It would’ve gotten him into his own insurance category by curtailing his actual work, allow him to save face by keeping his name on the letterhead, and prevent the necessity of a hefty buyout.  But oh well.

#PoorChuck!

Those space blankets?  It doesn’t appear they did Chuck much good at the end of the day.  But until you see the corpse, everybody’s a star in TV, so maybe all that tinfoil draped around him somehow prevented Chuck from the being burned to smithereens by his fallen lantern.  We’ll have to wait to see.  Or not.

One thing we shouldn’t have to wait to see for very long is an award season packed with nominations and wins for McKean’s positively outstanding portrayal of Chuck McGill.  As he very well should.

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