When we left off on Better Call Saul, Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) had pulled off an almost perfect con on his brother, Chuck (Michael McKean). Jimmy had doctored a legal document that ultimately led to a court-room humiliation for Chuck, who quit the law in response. However, Chuck turned around a pulled an even better con on Jimmy by tricking his brother into confessing to the crime of doctoring a document and recording that confession on tape. In the season two cliffhanger, we were left wondering if Chuck would use the confession against his brother.
How season three of Better Call Saul is shaping up is still unknown, but there may be a subtle thematic clue in this first look photo from Entertainment Weekly:
The book Jimmy is holding is called The Adventures of Mabel, and from what we know about showrunners Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, the choice of what book or painting or shirt color on their shows is never left to chance. There’s meaning in the choice of The Adventures of Mabel, a children’s book about a five-year-old who helps the King of Lizards and is rewarded with the power to talk to animals.
How might that thematically fit in with season three of Better Call Saul? Consider the conversations the writers were having when they broke season three. Jimmy and Chuck have been butting heads for two seasons. They’re at a crossroads. Chuck could use the confession and turn Jimmy and get him disbarred, but we know he doesn’t do that because Saul Goodman comes out at the end of the tunnel. We also know that, in a way, Chuck himself has broken bad. Not only did he make the morally questionable decision to tape record his brother, but we also know that Chuck faked being sick in order to con Jimmy. That’s a line that Chuck has never crossed before.
Chuck has also seen for years that no matter what sleazy, unscrupulous decisions Jimmy makes, he continues to remain beloved. Meanwhile, Chuck — who has been living by the letter of the law all of his life — continues to be perceived as the bad guy. He remains unloved and unworthy.
What if, in the third season, Chuck allies with his brother? What if he decides that pulling off the con on his brother was so thrilling that he wants to continue pulling cons. What if he finally understands the appeal of Jimmy?
It won’t be as cut and dry as that, because nothing ever is on Better Call Saul, but in the context of The Adventures of Mabel, it makes sense. Here’s Jimmy — the King of Lizards — potentially appealing to his brother, a novice in the art of the scam. If Chuck helps Jimmy, Chuck could be rewarded the ability to “talk with the animals,” a metaphor for the ability to engage with the kind of lowlifes with whom Jimmy is acquainted. As Jimmy evolves into Saul, after all, he’s probably going to need a partner, and we already know that Kim Wexler is unwilling.
Chuck has spent the last two seasons trying to make Jimmy more like him, and look where it has gotten him. Maybe it’s time he try another approach and try to be more like Jimmy.