Better Call Saul Review: A Return to the Slow Burn

Better Call Saul, Season 3, Episode 1, “Mabel”

After the explosive events of Chuck getting the goods on Jimmy and Mike’s assassination attempt was short circuited, the third season of Better Call Saul literally picks up from where the finale left off and puts the show back on a low simmer.

The most action in the episode comes during the Cinnabon sequence where Gene fingers a young shoplifter out of fear of getting exposed himself, but then blurts out legal advice to the young offender as he’s led away by the police. It’s a little much for Gene to handle, as he later passes out mid-icing.

As of this moment there are three orbits in the series. There’s Jimmy and Chuck, Jimmy and Kim, and Mike.

Chuck is still quietly seething about Jimmy torpedoing the Mesa Verde deal and more importantly, putting Chuck’s reputation in question. As they work to disassemble the Faraday Cage in Chuck’s living room, Jimmy tries to smooth things over through nostalgia, but Chuck flat tells Jimmy that forgiving and forgetting is not in the cards.

Chuck plays the tape for Howard, who casts any doubts about Chuck aside. They both agree that there’s nothing they can do with the tape either to prosecute Jimmy or get Mesa Verde back, but one gets the sense that Chuck has big plans for the tape and he enjoys having his kid brother on a string.

Mike’s plotline continues to be both a masterpiece of mood and dialogue-free performance from Johnathan Banks. After the horn incident in the desert, Mike becomes convinced that his ride is bugged. There’s an extended scene of him disassembling his station wagon in a junkyard that is a brilliant demonstration of Mike’s obsession and determination.

At first he’s thwarted, before a flash of insight leads to the inside of his gas cap, where he finds a tracking device. Mike does his research, buys a tracker setup of his own and executes a plan to stalk his stalkers.

Jimmy and Kim’s working arrangement is off to a rocky start. She’s left handling Jimmy’s clients and their prized lily ponds while Jimmy is off tending to Chuck.

From a page out of Greek tragedy (or this week’s Into the Badlands), the young Air Force captain who was duped into using his B-29 as the backdrop in one of Jimmy’s ads turns up in the office. The airman tries to threaten and cajole Jimmy into pulling the ad, but there aren’t many people who are going to win a verbal joust with Jimmy. Thwarted and frustrated, the young solider leaves Jimmy with an ominous warning worthy of Laocoon himself: “You think you don’t have to play straight with anybody. But the wheel’s gonna turn. It always does.”

For Better Call Saul, the wheels are slowly turning. This is the start of what should be another engrossing season of Jimmy McGill’s transformation to Saul Goodman.

Craig Wack

Craig Wack

For a weekly discussion of comic book TV shows please join Craig Wack and Tatiana Torres for the Agents of GEEK podcast updated every Friday and now on iTunes

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  • Sean Gallagher

    Jimmy’s confrontation with the soldier, during which he actually came off as combative, started to show you a glimpse of Saul’s sleaze and rage (of course stemming from Chuck). Great scene. And I love how wordless Banks is in this episode, even more so than usual.

  • THEasscrackbandit

    If I needed a reason to think award shows are useless, the fact that Banks and McKean aren’t swimming in them for their work on this show would be it.

    • I thought Rhea Seehorn should have been nominated for something last year. She was brilliant.