Better Call Saul season 3 episode 3 review: Sunk Costs
The review may contain spoilers.
Let’s talk about the good old Vince Gilligan cold opens. We’ve had the pleasure of experiencing a whole lot of them back in the Breaking Bad era, and it’s always nice to see them showing up on Better Call Saul too. This week’s episode gave us one of those cold opens that seem nonsensical at first viewing, and that only make sense after we watch the whole episode. I mean, when you see a pair of shoes dangling on a telephone wire in the middle of the desert that fall on the ground after a Los Pollos Hermanos truck passes below them, what do you think? You can argue that it offers a symbolic view at the hidden power of the fast food company run by Gus Fring or come up with your own interpretation.
In reality, however, we only find out the meaning behind it after we see Mike fill the shoes with drugs to distract Hector Salamanca’s men and cause them to stop, and then shoot the shoes with a sniper rifle to spill the drugs onto their truck, which will later cause them to get stopped at the border and arrested. Therefore, the opening scene of the episode turns out to be a flashforward, where, thanks to Mike Ehrmantraut, we see Hector’s Los Pollos truck take the same drug route that Salamanca’s ice cream trucks used to take in Better Call Saul times.
And that’s yet another elaborate and well-thought out scheme by Mike to get what he wants, and yet another example of why we love him so much. It is clear at this point that Gilligan uses the platform of Saul Goodman’s backstory to tell not only of the fall and rise of the criminal lawyer from Breaking Bad, but to also provide the medium to tell us about the past of other supporting characters of his previous show, namely Mike, Gus, and the cartel. Doing so, he also provides us with delicious character moments, such as one mentioned earlier.
Last week, the series reintroduced us to Gus Fring, as menacing as ever. While in this episode the presence of the Fring/Salamaca war is strong, the man himself appears only in one scene, where he warns Mike about Hector Salamanca. This, of course, gives Mike the idea of helping Gus get rid of competition. It is indeed the history of Breaking Bad unfolding before our eyes, and it does so in the most brilliant way imaginable. It is subtle yet effective, especially when we know where the Gus/Hector rivalry ends, as well as where Mike ends up eventually.
On the Jimmy-going-on-Saul front, the man is becoming less McGill and more Goodman with each installment, and this week we see the beginnings of his court trials. Jimmy refuses Kim’s help in the court, determined to represent himself. A few things come out of this plot point: 1) it is bound to lead to some defining character moments in the future, and 2), it shows that he is not willing to drag the people he cares about with him. Kim Wexler is one of the few people he still has left in his life that are important to him, and the touching scene with silhouettes painted against the glass wall of Kim’s office illustrates their relationship beautifully.
While a downside of Better Call Saul (and Breaking Bad before it, too) to mention would be the show’s lack of strong female characters, Kim Wexler is admittedly a well-crafted one, with clear motivation and characterization. It is heart-warming to see Kim not giving up on Jimmy just yet, and that enriches her character, displaying her inner values and morals. The Jimmy/Kim relationship has always been an interesting aspect of the show, and it is curious to see where it will go as Jimmy slowly succumbs to corruption.
And one last thing. While I do talk about this literally every week, the cinematography of the show never ceases to amaze me. From the cold open with its multiple artistic shots of the sun, the shoes on the phone line and the lonely truck making its way through the desert to the final scene with Kim and Jimmy’s silhouettes in front of a glass wall, holding hands and forming the letter M (which no doubt means ‘McGill’, showing that it’s Kim that makes Jimmy Jimmy), the directors know how to make quality television and tell the story not only through dialogue, but through imagery as well. And that’s what separates a good show and a great show.
All things considered, Better Call Saul is off to a great start with its new season, and at this point I am going to sit back and calmly enjoy the ride, without worrying about the show’s quality decreasing at any point soon. Because that’s not likely to happen.
Image credit: AMC