It should go without saying: SPOILERS AHEAD, TURN BACK NOW!
Having just finished “Lantern,” the finale episode of season 3 of Better Call Saul, I’ve had a realization. Although it’s taken 30 episodes in total—all three seasons—I now realize that the story about how James “Jimmy” McGill becomes Saul Goodman is a tragedy.
A person might be forgiven for thinking that this show would be a comic drama. Bob Odenkirk, who stars as Jimmy/Saul, was one-half of the Mr. Show duo of Bob and David (Cross). And, he is a genuinely funny person. He’s even funny on this series. At times.
How’s that old quote about tragedy go?
Tragedy plus time equals comedy.
Maybe that’s what is going on with Better Call Saul. Not enough time has passed yet. Maybe once everything is over and the show has finally caught up with where Saul Goodman makes his first appearance on Breaking Bad, I’ll think back on everything that’s happened so far and just laugh and laugh.
Maybe. Right now, though, in spite of the moments which have made me smile, this feels like a tragedy to me. As the third season closes, Jimmy McGill is not legally allowed to practice law for a year, Kim Wexler is recuperating from a car accident, Jimmy has purposefully ruined his good name among the AARP set just to repair some relationship damage he caused among the blue-hair set at Sandpiper, Jimmy and Kim have closed their office and were forced to let Francesca go, Hector Salamanca has finally had his stroke, and Chuck McGill is dead.
I almost qualified the last part of this list with a “it seems,” but that’s not how I see it. Chuck had a mental health relapse after getting the lucrative boot from HHM and committed suicide by kicking over a gas lantern and setting his house on fire. I don’t believe that Gilligan and Gould would pull a bait-and-switch on the viewer. Chuck is dead. And even though he was a character who was easy to dislike, this made me sad. Almost everything about this finale made me sad in some way (okay, not Hector), but this was the icing on the sad cake. Chuck McGill is dead.
That doesn’t mean that Michael McKean won’t still be on the show in flashbacks. I could see this happening. But we already know he was never mentioned in the flash-forwards or on Breaking Bad, so it’s safe to assume that he is dead. The fact that Kim is never mentioned in flash-forwards or in Breaking Bad concerns me, but I choose not to think about that at the moment.
This has been another excellent season of television. I missed Mike Ehrmantraut in the finale, but this season has been a tour de force for him. This season we see how he gets entangled with Gus Fring, and how he was ultimately involved, along with Nacho, in Hector Salamanca’s downfall.
Much of the season has been occupied with the continued sibling rivalry between Chuck and Jimmy McGill. Chuck manages to get Jimmy punished for making him lose a big client through underhanded means. Jimmy has to complete community service and cannot practice law for a year. Meanwhile, Jimmy continues to punish Chuck, embarrassing him in court for his mental health issues, notably in front of his ex-wife, who doesn’t know about Chuck’s problems. He also leaks info about his brother to the insurer who writes his malpractice coverage. This ends up making Chuck too costly to keep at HHM. Arguably, this also leads to Chuck’s death. Like I said, tragedy.
The heart of this show for me has been the relationship between Jimmy and Kim. It took a few blows this season as they tried to make it on their own and failed. At the end of the season, however, their relationship seems stronger than ever. I can’t help but wonder what repercussions Chuck’s death may have.
We’re in a weird space right now because the series hasn’t officially been picked up for a fourth season yet. Everyone seems certain that the renewal is coming. But it hasn’t been announced yet.
And if it’s not, that will be the real tragedy.