This Better Call Saul season 3 recap would not be complete without a very brief summary of important plot points involving the other characters to catch you up to the end of season 3.
Kim has pledged to be the attorney for Mesa Verde and have no other clients, so she can give them the full-time attention they need. However, the bank president refers her to a friend who runs an oil drilling company. She intends to just take a look at his case and then refer him to another firm, but in an effort to help Jimmy with his money troubles, she ends up keeping him as a client. Between his case and the ongoing Mesa Verde work, she is hardly sleeping and working like crazy. She’s exhausted. She sets off with two bins full of binders to an important meeting on behalf of the oil driller, and falls asleep at the wheel and crashes her car on a mountain road. The accident could have been much worse; the car could have gone over a cliff and she could be dead. She has a broken arm and lots of scrapes and bruises, and she realizes she was overworking.
As a result of this, she and Jimmy decide to close their office, sublet the building and let Francesca go. Jimmy still doesn’t know what he will do about his money troubles, but at least now the costs of rent and staff are eliminated.
One of the unexpected pleasures of this series is the performance of Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut. Mike is a former cop who is retired, and we first see him working as a parking attendant at the courthouse where Jimmy does some public defender work. Even if it weren’t for the amazing performance of Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill, the show would be well worth watching just for the character of Mike Ehrmantraut. I’m not going to go into detail about all of Mike’s adventures, but I’m going to try and sum up his character arc over 3 seasons in one paragraph.
Mike’s son died, leaving a wife and daughter who Mike feels responsible for. He gets involved with some illegal activities and earns some money that he’s got hidden in a secret compartment beneath the floor of his hall closet. He realizes that if something happens to him, the money won’t go to his daughter-in-law and granddaughter, and he seeks a way to launder the money. If that sounds familiar, it’s one of the services Saul Goodman provided for Walter White. Mike approaches Gus Fring for help with this, and he is set up as a security consultant for Madrigal Electromotive (he won’t really do work for them, just be on the books as an employee to legitimize his income). He meets with Lydia Rodarte-Quayle, Head of Logistics (another Breaking Bad character), and he’s clearly having second thoughts about getting officially involved like this. He questions Lydia and says it seems like a lot of risk to go to for a drug dealer. She says, “If you think he’s just a drug dealer, you don’t know Gustavo Fring.” She also reveals that this is a unique arrangement — she has not done this kind of thing for other people, and she feels Fring must think Mike is pretty special.
We know Gus well from Breaking Bad days, and his appearance in Better Call Saul was much-anticipated. The first letters of the titles of the episodes of season 2 spell out “Fring’s Back.” Season 3, episode 2, entitled “Witness,” Fring’s first appearance in Better Call Saul, is another great episode, and the scene where Gus first appears is memorable. Mike is investigating something and doesn’t want his face recognized, so he gets Jimmy to go into the restaurant Los Pollos Hermanos to see what happens with a courier Mike’s been tailing. Jimmy can’t do it subtly, and Gus and the courier clearly spot him as he overfills his coffee with sugar and just generally makes it clear he’s watching for something. We see a blurry Gus in the background sweeping the floor but his head is cut off by the edge of the picture. Eventually, the courier throws out his trash and leaves, not having met with anyone, and Jimmy takes a header into the trash to see if there’s anything he should bring to Mike. Gus shows up asking Jimmy if he needs help, and quick-thinking Jimmy drops his watch into the trash as an excuse that Gus clearly sees through. The unflappable Gus retrieves the watch and offers to clean it off, but later we see him outside sweeping again and watching as Jimmy drives off and it’s clear he knows Mike is onto him.
This is just the beginning of a relationship between Mike and Gus and Nacho (see below) that promises to yield even more interesting moments in the future.
Gus, who is originally from Chile, runs his criminal empire like a business, and is often seen members of by the Mexican drug cartel as a competitor. He always has a professional appearance, and one of his strengths is recognizing talent in others and finding ways to use their talents in his operations. He is ruthless, however, as Breaking Bad viewers know.
Nacho’s first name is really Ignacio, and it’s believed this might be the person Saul Goodman is referring to when we first see him in Breaking Bad. Walter and Jesse kidnap him and take him into the desert. He wonders if Ignacio sent them and seems relieved when he realizes that’s not the case.
Nacho works at his father’s car upholstery business, but he also moonlights for Hector Salamanca. Again, there are lots of adventures I won’t go into details about in the first two seasons. In season 3, Hector wants to use Nacho’s father’s business as a front for his criminal activities, and Senor Varga refuses. Nacho is worried that his father will be killed by Hector, and in general Nacho really wants out, too. Hector is a heart patient and frequently takes nitroglycerin pills when he has heart pains. His pills are capsules. Nacho hatches a plan: he obtains empty capsules and fills them with crushed up ibuprofen, which is dangerous for heart patients to take. In a very tense scene, he sneaks Hector’s pill bottle out of his pocket, swaps out the pills with the ones he’s doctored up, and replaces the bottle in Hector’s pocket.
Mike Ehrmentraut figures out what Nacho is up to and warns him he needs to swap the pills back afterward, in case the police test them, as that would be evidence of a crime that might lead them to Nacho.
The last episode of Season 3 shows a meeting between Hector, Gus Fring and Juan Bolsa, regarding drug cartel dealings. Bolsa tells Hector that Don Eladio, the cartel boss, has ordered that Gus handle all of the smuggling operations, and Hector is furious. His anger triggers the heart attack we’ve been expecting since the medication switch was accomplished. Gus administers CPR and tells Bolsa he can’t be seen here, so he drives off. Nacho manages to switch the pills back and then hands the bottle to the ambulance driver, but we see Gus giving him a look. We are not sure if Gus suspects what Nacho is up to, but given the way things seem to work on this show, it’s likely that we will see Gus and Nacho having a closer relationship in season 4. Clearly, Hector’s heart attack is not fatal, because he plays a significant role in early seasons of Breaking Bad, but it remains to be seen how the attack has affected Hector and his role in the crime organization going forward.
There’s one more thing I need to cover to make my Better Call Saul season 3 recap complete, and though it involves scenes that comprise only a fraction of the total screen time for each season of Better Call Saul, it’s scenes that have fans talking and speculating almost more than all of the others.
At the end of Breaking Bad, both Walter White and Saul Goodman were forced to leave town and assume new identities in other cities in order to hide from the law, because of their activities in the meth “business.” We see where Walter ends up, but it’s not clear what happens to Saul, just a vague reference to working in a Cinnabon.
At the beginning of the first episode of each season of Better Call Saul, we see Jimmy/Saul in his new post-Breaking Bad identity, Gene the Cinnabon manager, in a mall in Omaha, Nebraska. In the first season, he clearly thinks someone has identified him, but it turns out he’s being paranoid and the man has spotted a long-lost friend out in the mall. In the second season, poor Gene gets locked in the dumpster area of the mall late at night. There’s a sign on the wall that if he uses the emergency exit, the police will be alerted, and he’s clearly afraid of being discovered so he just sits there for hours, until someone else comes with trash. Clearly his life is not a bed of roses.
In the third season, the scene ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, and we’re left waiting until season 4 to discover what happens next. Gene is taking his lunch break on a bench in the mall, and he witnesses a shoplifter trying to evade police. The shoplifter hides in a photo booth and the police don’t think to look there, but question Gene, who clearly wants nothing to do with this situation. He finally points to the photo booth and the shoplifter is taken into custody. Then, the little bit of Jimmy McGill that’s still way down deep inside comes out and he stands up and shouts to the shoplifter, telling him not to say anything and to call a lawyer. Then his lunch break is over and he returns to the Cinnabon and starts making more cinnamon buns, but then he passes out on the floor. The last we see is him lying on the floor.
What Happens Next
Early in Better Call Saul, season 4, Jimmy will be notified that his brother is dead. We’re pretty sure Chuck McGill isn’t coming back, and there are funeral scenes in the season 4 trailer. What I’m wondering is this: did Chuck take Howard’s $3 million check to the bank or did it burn up with the house? Is Jimmy going to inherit that money? We don’t know if there’s a written agreement anywhere — will Howard have to pay the rest of the money to Chuck’s heir(s) or is that agreement not official? When we see Saul Goodman, he’s still in Albuquerque but he doesn’t look like he’s inherited millions. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Clearly, Jimmy is not the only one on a road leading to less-than-honorable pursuits, as we know from what we see of Mike Ehrmentraut in Breaking Bad. Nacho is not in Breaking Bad, so it’s anyone’s guess where he’ll end up (if indeed he is Ignatio, he’ll become someone to be feared). Kim Wexler is a big question mark. Clearly Jimmy doesn’t stay with her. In Breaking Bad, he mentions ex wives (plural) so anything’s possible.
Season 3 of Better Call Saul contained some amazing scenes, and the show as a whole is one of the best on television. If you haven’t watched it all, your time would be well spent to watch the 3 seasons on Netflix, but now you’re caught up to watch season 4.
Now, get caught up on Season 4 with our recap before Season 5 starts!
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