Spoiler Warning for Season 3, Episode 3 of “Better Call Saul.”
Gus Fring is back and he is making his presence known. In yet another incredible hour of television, two veteran characters have their first meeting, setting the story in a new direction. There are also significant developments in the McGill brother conflict as Jimmy is forced to face the consequences of his actions. Only three episodes in and this season is already shaping up to be the best of “Better Call Saul” yet.
Frequent aesthetic shots were one of the many reasons that “Breaking Bad” was so great; a series of beautiful shots of the New Mexico desert or of meth being cooked added to the simplicity of the show and helped to transition between scenes while giving the viewer an intimate look at the setting. “Better Call Saul” has included a few of these aesthetic shots, but in “Sunk Costs,” the series really begins to showcase its “Breaking Bad” aesthetic inspirations as Mike takes a trip down to Mexico. It isn’t exactly clear where Mike is or what he is doing, but isn’t that his character in a nutshell? The episode kicks off where the previous one left off as Mike answers the burner phone that was left in the middle of the desert road; none other than Gus Fring is on the line to alert Mike of his impending arrival. With several armed guards, including right-hand man Tyrus (Ray Campbell), Gus confronts Mike in the middle of the street to explain the note that was left behind on his car, warning him against killing Hector Salamanca. Being his typical self, Gus states that he is sympathetic to Mike’s desire for revenge, especially considering the fact that Hector threatened Mike’s family; still, he explains that he needs Hector alive and that he cannot allow Mike to kill him. Seeing Mike and Gus on-screen together again is epic and I am eagerly anticipating their next encounter; Jonathan Banks and Giancarlo Esposito have impeccable chemistry with one another, adding an additional layer of intensity to the scene.
Following Chuck’s betrayal (yes, I call it a betrayal even though Jimmy did break the law; I support him in this situation, mostly because he is a good guy and this franchise tends to cause the viewer to root for the criminals), Jimmy sits outside waiting for the police to arrive and arrest him. Chuck offers his opinion on the situation and states that he believes this will offer Jimmy an opportunity to change himself and get back on the right track. Jimmy, however, isn’t interested in listening to Chuck’s bullshit and tells him flat out that this is the last straw and that one day Chuck will die all alone. Honestly he isn’t wrong to say this; Chuck turns pretty much everyone away from him and this act against Jimmy proves it. The police arrive and transport Jimmy to the local precinct to process him; the tables have turned and Jimmy has become one of the people that he is tasked with defending. A old colleague from the DA’s office spots Jimmy being fingerprinted and takes the time to joke about the mess he has gotten into. Not only is Jimmy being forced to deal with these new legal issues, he also must face a wave of ridicule from others; all of this is surely helping to evolve Jimmy into Saul Goodman.
This episode also shows the repercussions of Jimmy’s arrest on Kim. Before that, we see a montage of Kim getting work-ready in a locker room at the gym across the street from her law office; it seems as though she is now living, or at least sleeping, at the office, but it isn’t completely clear if this is because of financial hardship or because of Mesa Verda-related stress. After returning from the gym, Ernesto confronts her in the parking lot to tell Kim that he has been fired and that Jimmy has been arrested (I really hope that Kim decides to hire Ernesto as an assistant or something). At the courthouse, Jimmy is brought before a judge for his preliminary hearing, making it clear that he plans on representing himself; Kim arrives and states that she wishes to represent Jimmy, but he waives her counsel. The judge seems to have a good opinion of Jimmy and decides to release him on bail, citing his work in elder law as a service to the community. Later, Jimmy meets with Kim at the law office to update her, but there is clear separation building between the two.
Back in Mexico, Mike stops by a doctor’s office to speak with Barry Goodman (JB Blanc), the doctor from “Breaking Bad,” who saved Gus and Mike after being attacked by a cartel. He collects a mysterious powder (cocaine?) from the doctor before heading out to the location in the desert, giving context to the aesthetic shots from the opening scene. Mike stuffs the powder into a new pair of sneakers before flinging them onto a power line; there is some great acting from Jonathan Banks as he fails several times to fling the sneakers. Some drug-runners in a truck come across the area and bury their guns as Mike shoots off several rounds to distract them; they disregard the gunshots and get back into their truck as Mike fires at the sneakers, causing the cocaine to fall onto the top of the truck. These smugglers are later shown attempting to cross the border into the United States, but drug-sniffing dogs detect the cocaine and prompt the DEA agents to arrest the drug-runners; this is part of Gus’ evil plan of eliminating competition and establishing his company as the mega-giant that it is in “Breaking Bad.” This plot proves once again just how smart and resourceful Mike is; most of the time I’m not sure what he is doing until the end, adding a sense of unpredictability to the character.
The final act of the episode deals with Chuck meeting with the prosecutor in Jimmy’s case, Kyra Hay (Kimberley Hebert). She states that in order for them to be successful, Chuck can’t be overly emotional when it comes to Jimmy’s possible sentencing. That being said, the DA decides to offer Jimmy a pre-prosecution diversion, meaning that he would have to submit a written confession to all charges; in exchange, he would do no jail time, but due to the felony, he would most definitely be disbarred. This turn of events causes Jimmy to have an epiphany, Chuck never wanted his brother to spend his life in jail, he just wanted him to lose his law license. Kim pushes and convinces Jimmy to allow her to be his lawyer, even as he shares his concerns that her reputation will be severely damaged. With that, we have team Jimmy and Kim vs. Chuck and the state of New Mexico. Based on the events of “Breaking Bad,” we know that Jimmy doesn’t get disbarred, but it will still be interesting to see how this case plays out; will they settle it out of court or will the case be brought to trial?
“Sunk Costs” is yet another fantastic episode of “Better Call Saul,” managing to progress the plot and develop the characters, all the while delivering more intense moments. Not only is Mike’s story transitioning into dangerous territory with the introduction of Gus, Jimmy is struggling to stay afloat as his brother continues to scheme and be an overall terrible person. The actions of Kim this episode showcase the fact that she is a terrific person, choosing to stand by her friend/lover even when it may not be in her best interest. Will this decision have negative consequences for her? Be sure to tune into “Better Call Saul” next Monday at 10 p.m. on AMC.