Better Call Saul: “Fall” Season 3 Episode 9 Review

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With “Fall,” the penultimate episode of season three, the purpose of the second half of the season is starting to take shape. It’s become clear that there’s a before “Chicanery” and an after “Chicanery,” as if Better Call Saul was divided into the New and Old Testament. If you take the more direct Breaking Bad prequel that Mike’s and Nacho’s stories have become out of the equation, four lives were headed toward a climactic intersection since the show started. Jimmy, Chuck, Kim, and Howard all survived that confrontation. But now it’s over, and the writers have to figure out exactly what to do with these people now that it’s becoming unhealthy for all of them to stick around in each others’ lives.

“Fall” is an episode about how these people don’t fit together anymore, at least in a friendly manner. As the Sandpiper deal finally seems to be coming through, Jimmy has to find a way to get his payout around Howard. Meanwhile, Howard has to go to Chuck and ask him to retire, as he’s losing HHM business. Then there’s Kim, who’s work ethic knows no bounds, leaving Jimmy who wants to celebrate in the dust. These people don’t need each other anymore, but they’re still forcing themselves to interact with each other. Eventually, they’re all going to reach a breaking point. That’s when Better Call Saul might start to trim down its cast (live or die, does anyone really see Howard staying on as a series regular all the way to the series finale?).

There’s no way all the plot points introduced or accelerated in “Fall” will get a neat little bow in next week’s finale. Unless there’s a time jump between seasons three and four, expect Chuck and Howard’s legal troubles to persist into the show’s near future. And don’t expect Kim and Jimmy’s inevitable falling out to be swift and sudden. But like all prequels, Better Call Saul is about a path to a point we already know…for Jimmy. Where the show has succeeded more the most prequels in the history of fiction is that we care about all these other people’s paths who weren’t a part of the original work the narrative is building toward. Chuck, Kim, and Howard aren’t in Breaking Bad, and the reasons why that is have become more compelling than why Jimmy will end up taking up the mantle of Saul Goodman. They’re bound to be linked, and yet, this show has become so much more than “How Saul Became Saul.”

All the work done with these three supporting players—a term I almost shudder at the use of here—in “Fall” is excellent. We’re seeing a new era of Chuck, one where he’s unhinged enough to put his health issues aside for revenge, and against whoever is around to feel his wrath. Kim seems like she’s crumbling under the pressure she puts on herself, to the point where she falls asleep at the wheel and almost kills herself. When she stumbled out of the driver’s seat, I expected her to immediately start trying to pick up all the papers flying around with her work on them. She instead takes a step back to breathe, in shock at her surroundings. Is this a turning point for Kim? What effect will this have on her relationship with Jimmy? Her career?

The episode does well by Jimmy as well, who’s back to square one trying to herd senior citizens into doing his will (a highlight of season one that I’m happy to have back briefly). The parallel to then, however, is that he’s a little more willing to outwardly manipulate them than to just be nice and hope for the best. His actions in “Fall” are proof that Kim’s defense of his character in “Chicanery” was completely untrue. Everything is for his own personal gain now.

As Better Call Saul makes these character moves, in the season’s penultimate episode, it still feels like we’re barely getting started. But these statements of character work despite their odd placement in the season. Next week’s finale will likely be much more about personal character growth than big shocks and surprises (well, except on the Mike/Gus/Nacho side of things). Oddly enough, that could pave the way for the show’s best finale yet. Grade: A-

Some Other Notes:

  • Something has to happen to Hector Salamanca by the end of the season. The big question when that something does happen has become, “what happens to Nacho?”
  • After a cameo a few episodes ago, Lydia got a full proper scene in “Fall.” She’s more together on this show than on Breaking Bad, which honestly kind of means she’s less fun.

By Matt Dougherty

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