Better Call Saul wrapped up its excellent third season with a sad, informative, very Breaking Bad-y finale. Lots of things were in motion heading in, between the Jimmy/Kim stuff and the Jimmy/Chuck stuff and the Chuck/Howard stuff and the Nacho/Hector stuff and the Hector/Gus stuff and the Gus/Mike stuff and the… there was just a lot of stuff. Good stuff, all of it, most of it even great. But a lot. The season finale teased out solutions — some temporary, for obvious prequel-y reason — to at least a few of those, and it definitely delivered. Better Call Saul remains a very good show.
As with any good show, though, and especially one that still has a season or two left in the tank (hopefully), those solutions led to more questions about where things go from the end of the episode. Here are six of those questions.
Is Chuck dead?
I mean, probably, right? Between the finality of his breakdown (his feeling that he’ll never be free of his illness, no matter how many holes he punches in the wall) and the fact that he unplugged the phone and put it away, it sure looks like Chuck knew what he was doing and is not in a place where he wants to be saved.
And if that was indeed the end for Chuck, they were setting it up all episode. The truth, whether or not you believe Chuck’s statement about Jimmy not meaning much to him, is that the thing that mattered most to him was the law and the sense of purpose that being The Chuck McGill, big-time respected lawyer, provided. That’s what his lawsuit against HHM was about. If Howard wanted to cut him loose, then Chuck was going to flex his muscles in a show of “king of the jungle” strength. He never really wanted to sue the firm. He just wanted everyone to know he was still a force to be reckoned with, and to be taken back in and given back his throne.
But once he realized the lengths Howard would go to in order to push him out (using personal money and taking out loans to protect the firm), he shattered into a million pieces. I’m still not sure if that realization was a simple “I’ve been cornered and I lost” or if it was a full-on, come-to-Jesus awakening that his protege had lost so much respect for him that the danger of personal financial ruin was worth it to get him as far away from the firm as possible. Maybe a little of both. Whatever it was, his face in that moment spoke volumes.
When Jimmy came in to check on him and offer what amounted to a partial admission of guilt more than an “apology” (to be fair, this is all either of them deserved at this point), that was the Chuck he was seeing, not the one he thought he saw, who was “doing better.” Chuck’s string of hurtful comments — while both true in the moment and accurate going forward — came from a place of fear and exhaustion as much as they did from a place of anger. He did care for Jimmy once, as we saw from the opening segment in the tent, and I think he still cared for him even recently as a protective older brother (although, if we’re being less charitable, we could chalk that up to his savior complex), but in that moment in the end, I don’t think he cared much for anything.
We always knew Chuck had a limited shelf-life in the Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul universe. There were times many of us were itching for his demise, because he was set-up as the villain foiling all of Jimmy’s plans. But man, what a brutal ending, especially the long, extended, futile search for the source of electricity, which was as hard to watch as any of the most devastating scenes from Breaking Bad. And the saddest part of it all is that the line he used to cut Jimmy — ““In the end, you’re going to hurt everyone around you. You can’t help it. So stop apologizing and accept it, embrace it.” — ended up applying just as much to him.
What other movies did Kim rent?
Well, we know she grabbed To Kill a Mockingbird and some sort of Monty Python movie. I tried looking closely at the clip of her in Blockbuster but I couldn’t figure it out based on box covers. In a way, this is better, because it allows me to speculate in a borderline reckless manner, which I was probably going to do anyway. The two we know represent classics and, if she’s really serious about Relax-a-Thon 2003, she might just stick to those. But if she’s looking at new releases, here are some movies that came out in 2002 that she could have grabbed:
The Bourne Identity
The Hot Chick
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Picture Kim with a hoodie on, busted bloody face and all, rapping along to Eminem’s final battle rap from 8 Mile after watching the movie five times in a weekend.
What does this do to our Jimmy-to-Saul the timeline?
The interesting thing here is that it seemed to somehow speed the timeline up and slow it down, all at once. Because on one hand, if Chuck is gone (probably) and the elder care practice is fried (definitely) and he lost that million-dollar payday (temporarily), then the stars are very much aligning for him to go full criminal defense huckster. But on the other hand, we saw Good Jimmy come back with force this week, trying to mend the fence with Chuck and going to self-destructive lengths to undo the damage he did to Irene and kicking back into caretaker mode when Kim was recovering from her accident. None of that looks very much like a guy who is a half-step from teaching drug dealers how to launder money through laser tag facilities.
But — big ol’ but — he also has months left on his suspension. A lot can happen between this moment in the show and whenever he gets the green light to practice. They could even fast forward things with a time jump. Or a montage. This show loves a good montage. They could, conceivably, kill off Kim in a 10-minute Up-style montage to open next season, even if that would be a) bad and b) madness.
The short version here is: I don’t know. The chess pieces are set up where I could see one more season to get us there. I could also see two, depending how they handle the suspension. The tricky part will be that the Mike-Gus plot seems closer to Breaking Bad than the Jimmy plot, so playing Jimmy’s evolution out deliberately means slowing that one down, too. Luckily, Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan are smart dudes. I’ll ride this sucker wherever they’re taking it.
What do you think Mike was up to this week?
No Mike in the finale. This was strange and a little disappointing, if not from a storytelling perspective then at least from an “I like Mike and wanted to see him” perspective. My working theories so far:
NUMBER ONE: Mike was cleaning out his gutters and doing other such housework (he’s been so busy with his felonious moonlighting that he’s probably behind on the home renovation projects I choose to believe he does every weekend), which would sound boring to watch if we hadn’t seen him tear apart a car for like 10 minutes earlier this season, and yes, I am now thinking about an HGTV show hosted by Mike Ehrmantraut where he fixes up people’s homes in complete silence after grunting dismissively at their suggestions.
NUMBER TWO: Mike was in bed with two eyepatches on because he injured his eyes by rolling them too hard at the Segway guy from the previous episode.
What was up with the look Gus gave Nacho?
Nacho’s pill-swapperoo worked, but not in time to save the relationship with his father. Hoo boy, that scene with Hector offering the money was rough. Nacho’s dad is a good, ethical, strong-willed person, and those kinds of people do not tend to last very long on these kinds of shows. I’m so happy he appears to be okay now.
Hector, on the other hand, is not okay now, and I am fine with it. Although if you gotta go in a way that costs you your voice, you could do a lot worse than using some of your last words to shout “The boss can suck me!” at your enemies. I hope that ends up on his tombstone after he eventually takes out Gus in that nursing home.
And speaking of Gus, he sure did seem suspicious in the moments after Hector was taken away. Did you catch the look he shot Nacho? That might not have been a “Yooo did you just poison Hector?” look, but it was at least a “What your angle here, buddy?” look. Either way, with Hector gone, one assumes that Gus will start consolidating power. Where that leaves Nacho and the Salamancas until Tuco gets out of jail and starts Tuco-ing up New Mexico, well, that’s a question for another season. The next season, one presumes. Seems like a big deal.
Do we feel better or worse about Irene after Jimmy repaired the relationship with her friends by enlisting Erin to help him with a hot mic ruse in which he pretended to be a 30 percent more evil version of what he really was in the prior episode?
I just want Irene to be happy. That’s my main takeaway from this season. All the other stuff was just filler.