Better Call Saul is back. Finally. After a 16-month break. It’s good news, mostly, because Better Call Saul is still one of the best shows on television despite staggering odds against it. This has been beaten to death in the years since the show’s premiere but it’s still worth mentioning just for the sheer surprise of it: Better Call Saul is a spin-off of one of the best shows ever (Breaking Bad) that features exactly zero of the original’s two main characters (Walt, Jesse), and focuses on a guy who served mostly as the light comic relief in a deep and midnight dark series about people turning into monsters. By any reasonable standard, it shouldn’t have worked. It should have been mediocre at best, a tired cash-grab that floated by on nostalgia. Instead, it’s carved out its own legacy as an all-time great and might — might — end up being even better than the original. That’s crazy.
You can be forgiven for drawing a blank on some of the finer points of the previous season, partially because of that aforementioned 16-month break between episodes and partially because there have been something like 7500 new shows premiering in that window. So, with that in mind, let’s do this, a little refresher and preview that touches on where we are and where we could be headed. Let’s all get back on the same page. Big things are happening.
What does our timeline look like from here to Breaking Bad?
The tricky thing with a prequel like Better Call Saul is that we know exactly where it is headed, we just don’t know when it’s going to get there. The timelines are getting closer, though, and at some point in the very near future, they are going to smash together. A few major events have already taken place: Jimmy filed his DBA to start going by Saul Goodman, Gus Fring broke ground on his superlab, etc. This is all going to happen sooner than later, which is both very exciting and potentially a catastrophic bummer depending on your perspective, all of which we will get into in a little bit.
Breaking Bad introduced both Saul Goodman and Gus Fring in its second season. At the points they were introduced, respectively, Saul was a successfully shady lawyer with a series of television commercials and a reputation around town as the guy to go to if you need to launder money or connect with seedier elements of the underworld, and Gus was a largely unchallenged meth kingpin with a fully operational underground drug lab. The road from here to there is just about exactly as long as it takes the two of them to get those parts of their businesses up and running. Again, not very long.
It’s also possible, maybe, that we’re already there. Breaking Bad aired a full season-plus before putting these two on camera. At some point, the timelines will run parallel before they intersect. I would be surprised if that point is now but if we see Walter White drive a huge RV through the background of an otherwise unrelated scene, that’ll be our tip-off, I guess.
What’s going to happen with Kim Wexler?
This is the biggie for me. Kim Wexler has been a huge figure in Better Call Saul and is never mentioned at all in Breaking Bad. This leaves two possibilities: One, something happens between now and then that results in Kim’s absence from Jimmy/Saul’s life; two, Saul just never mentioned her and never said goodbye when he disappeared at the end of Breaking Bad.
The second option is a nonstarter because Vince Gillian and company are too good at storytelling to let it happen, which leaves only the first. And then that brings us back to the question in bold up there. For a time, I was very worried about Kim. I was worried she was about to meet the fate of other characters in this universe who fell in love with troublemaking dreamers. I was — still am — not prepared to see Kim Wexler die.
But then, at the end of last season, after Jimmy revealed that his heartfelt speech at his reinstatement appeal was all a ruse, after he specifically called the board “suckers” for buying it, her entire face fell in a way it hadn’t before when Jimmy pulled some flim-flam. She was actually hurt. It’s like her whole future flashed before her eyes. Look at her face here, at the end of the season finale, when the Saul Goodman move finale happens.
The smart money here is on a very sad and painful breakup that is very good for Kim Wexler. I’m hoping for it. She is the only redeemable character on this whole show, which I say with nothing but love and affection toward the other sleazeballs and delinquents the show has tricked me into caring about.
What’s going to happen with Lalo, Nacho, and Gus?
Similar issue here. We know Gus ends up on top after this push and pull with Lalo, but hopefully not too quickly. Lalo is a delightfully charismatic sociopath who is just as likely to charm a target out of information as he is to crawl through the ceiling and pounce down to the floor to murder someone. We like Lalo, but in a “we are mostly terrified of him” way.
Same with Nacho, who is perpetually tortured by all of this and appears to hate his life every second of the day. He is the most Charlie Brown character on this show by far and, while I suspect it all ends pretty poorly for him at some point down the road, it would also be okay with me if he steals a million dollars from Lalo and moves to Hawaii to open up a beach bar. He and Jesse Pinkman are very different in personality and temperament but they are very similar in that I know they are dangerous criminals but I would like bad things to stop happening to them in a way that leaves them looking perpetually defeated.
I don’t know. Lots to consider here.
Am I going to get really hungry watching this show again?
Two of my greatest weaknesses in life are fried chicken and cinnamon buns, so between Gus running Los Pollos Hermanos and Future Gene managing a Cinnabon, I spend a not-insignificant amount of this show fighting off cravings so strong that I almost smash the pause button and drive straight to a place that has one or the other. If someone ever opens up a fast-casual restaurant that specializes in fried chicken sandwiches and gooey cinnamon buns, I’m toast.
Will I be able to handle Mike’s ongoing transition to full-on criminal?
I’ll tell you what, buddy, I was not at all prepared heading into Better Call Saul for how sad Mike’s turn toward crime would make me. I like Mike. He’s a good dude. A dude with honor and principles. His “I broke my boy” speech still breaks me every time I think about it. I knew when this all started that Mike ends up with Gus and eventually dies alone next to a creek, but it’s almost like I convinced myself that was another person for the first three seasons of Better Call Saul.
The Werner thing was the big step, though, the one there’s no going back from. He didn’t want to kill that poor German architect. He tried to talk Gus out of it. But when the time came, he pulled the trigger. It gutted me. Things end poorly for just about everyone on this show — Jimmy ends up sad in a Cinnabon, Gus gets his face blown off, etc. — but Mike’s fall is going to hurt me the most, it appears.
We seeing Walt and/or Jesse at some point or nah?
I suspect two things are true here:
- We will see one or both of them in at least some tiny capacity before all of this wraps up, even if it’s not this season
- Series creator Peter Gould is probably so sick of this question that his eye starts twitching every time he hears the names Walt or Jesse, even if it’s just a barista shouting one of those names at a coffee shop when a totally unrelated Walt or Jesse’s order is ready
Is this about to become a huge bummer?
I mean, it is at some point. There’s been a lot of fun had by all or most at various points in the show’s run, from little heists to funky montages to triumphant moments for individual characters, but, at the risk of hammering this home so hard that I sound like a blogging Eeyore, things do not end well for the people on this show. At some point, that reality becomes unavoidable. And as we get closer to the Breaking Bad timeline, that point starts becoming visible on the horizon.
I have a lot of faith in the creative team in charge of the show to make this all compelling and strong, but… yeah. It’s all fun and games until Walter a White walks in the door. That guy ruins everything. Even pizza.