The challenge that Better Call Saul came up against when it premiered was how it could create drama even though it’s destination has already been predetermined. We know that Jimmy McGill ultimately becomes Saul Goodman, who develops a reputation as the top “criminal” lawyer in all of Albuquerque and like all criminals, sees his reign come to an end.
Prequels don’t often have the luxury of surprising the audience, so no one is holding their breath hoping that Jimmy has a chance as a legitimate attorney or that he’ll make amends with his brother, Chuck. The question is if the show can keep people invested even if they know where things are going. Better Call Saul is in its third season now, so someone out there is paying attention to what’s happening. Personally, a lot of my interest was riding on whether or not Jimmy would get lucky with Kim. Score one for the guy who looks like Kevin Costner.
And while the pre-Breaking Bad escapes of Slippin’ Jimmy hint at greatness and occasionally even delivers it, there’s just not enough substance to make me forget that I’m watching a prequel. When I’m constantly reminded of what awaits these characters in the future, I find myself wishing that I was watching Breaking Bad instead.
This trend continues in season 3, as the conflict between Jimmy and Chuck is boiling over into the courtroom and Mike Ehrmantraut has entered the radar of Gustavo Fring. Chuck is still a total douche and complete failure as a brother, while Mike is as shrewd as they come, though perhaps not quite as much as the man he’ll one day call boss. While I certainly enjoy watching Mike outwit his rivals and sincerely hope that Chuck gets what’s coming to him, I’m just not as captivated by what’s going on as I want to be.
As for Jimmy? Well, I think Jimmy is getting pretty fed up with doing the right thing. And I suppose when you try and go straight(ish) with your career and people still call you an ambulance chaser, and you try to be a good brother and are still loathed by that brother, it kind of makes you question if you’re wasting your time. Instead of trying to prove them wrong, maybe you should be the guy that everyone thinks you are. Maybe Jimmy is nearing that point and the only thing holding him back from embracing Saul Goodman is his relationship with Kim. That’s the impression I got when he played it cool around her, then broke into Chuck’s house and fell right into his asshole of a brother’s trap.
And maybe over the course of this season, events will allude to the inevitable falling out between Jimmy and Kim and it won’t be quite as depressing as I think it will, and maybe Chuck will make his brother pay for avoiding the law, only to have a close encounter with an iPad and then completely lose it. The point is that the stakes can only be so high when running that Cinnabon in Omaha is Jimmy’s fate.
We’re only two episodes in, so I’ll stop critiquing and let things play out. As usual, Jimmy is providing the laughs, Mike is the competent badass that he’s always been and Chuck is out to prove that bad family members make the very worst of enemies. I just hope that Better Call Saul aspires to be something more than that show that I enjoy watching in the spring and then forget all about until the next year.
But if not, at least it’s still better than The Walking Dead.