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‘Better Call Saul’, Season 3: First Impressions

Rating:

As always, a gentle but very promising start, and the heat is on for all core plot centres: Mike’s suspense, Kim’s struggle for independence and the conflict between Chuck and Jimmy.

Better Call Saul is a spin-off series full of peculiarities: for example, its lead character, Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), is very different from the character we met in Breaking Bad, having not only one but two other names: his real name, Jimmy McGill, and Gene. In fact, the show’s distinguishing features do a pretty good job of expressing the darkest tones of the original series. A common feature, however, in both AMC production is the enthralling black-and-white scene at the beginning of each season: a quiet start, based on the slow, wider development of a plot that will no doubt prove quite complex, this is something that has been proven to consistently hit the mark since 2008.

Better Call Saul

The full repercussions of the end of Better Caul Saul’s second season don’t have their expected impact in the first episode of the third season. Perhaps the most important spoiler-free aspect that can be mentioned is that the trap set by Chuck (Michael McKean) will play a key part, clearly hinting that Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould have probably designed a great clash between the two brothers, possibly to be resolved at the end of the season. So far, everything indicates it may well be a more even confrontation than last season’s finale had suggested, with Jimmy having the opportunity to prepare for the tough defence of this serious accusation. The ultimate breach of their brotherly ties also appears to be a mere matter of time.

As for Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), she behaves as though she’s still firmly rooted in last year’s events. Suspicious of Jimmy and everything around her, the lawyer continues to act with her usual brilliance and becomes more and more independent. Kim’s behaviour anticipates the well-known breakup of her partnership with Jimmy in Wexler-McGill (after all, Saul acts alone in Breaking Bad), but she remains his safe haven. If Jimmy’s to stand any chance of getting away with Chuck’s accusations, this will most likely be due to an increasingly confident Kim’s lawyering abilities, as well as her willingness to help her almost-boyfriend-friend to whose charms she becomes progressively more resistant.

Better Call Saul

As far this relationship goes, Seehorn maintains her great performance levels in the way she portrays Kim’s duality. On one hand, there’s a clear desire for independence and a reflection of constant disappointment that shows in her frustrated glances and exasperated body language, never over-acted. On the other hand, there’s her unconditional affection for Jimmy, who’s always much more extravagant, in a desperate attempt to beg him to stop getting into trouble. As such, both actress and script illustrate effectively what prevails in this clash: emotion over logic. The fundamental question that remains is…until when?

Overall, Better Call Saul remains at its high level of excellence in its entirety. Gilligan’s technical team continue to be inspired, deserving a special mention for their superb photography work. The time-lapse scenes, using the most varied cinematographic resources, are always relevant to the narrative and not merely for showing-off. As far as the cast goes – I suspect McKean hasn’t yet justified the rumours of him being one of the highlights of 2017 television awards, but as for Jonathan Banks – the guy deserves a paragraph dedicated to him.

Better Call Saul

Mike’s story is the start-off base for the season’s dynamics. Since the beginning of Better Call Saul, as with no other character, Mike’s arc is played the most episodically; even as a consequence of his past as a police officer, Mike is always involved in intriguing missions, such as finding out how he’s being monitored or why he’s being pursued. Incidentally, Mike’s subplot provides the great crossover between Better Call Saul’s third season and Breaking Bad’s story: Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). Such structure gives the series a welcome energy-boost through sequences that are as suspenseful as they are enriching, for example, by illustrating Mike’s discipline, stubbornness and skills, through sheer action. It’s up to Banks to enhance such qualities with his unique expressiveness – proving, once more, that he was born to play Mike Ehrmantraut.

If you haven’t done so yet, just run to Netflix and go watch the big season premiere, for this return, gentle as it may be, has already guaranteed an absolutely explosive ending.

The third season of Better Call Saul is now available on Netflix.

Pictures: courtesy of AMC/Sony Entertainment Pictures.