Better Call Saul: “Lantern” Season 3 Finale Review

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“You hurt people, Jimmy,” Chuck tells his brother in what is likely the last time they’ll ever speak or see each other. “I never cared much for you,” he adds. This is the moment where Chuck’s story ended on Better Call Saul. Everything after with him is merely an epilogue, and a devastating one at that.

“Lantern” opens on the young McGill brothers in a tent reading together. It’s both at once sad to know they’re bickering wouldn’t remain so mundane and tragic to know that their dynamic never really evolved from this moment. But Jimmy remains doughy-eyed, and so he goes to check on his brother even after everything that’s happened between them. Things aren’t okay though. Howard made his move to remove Chuck from HHM forever, and the lights are about to go off for the last time.

Chuck’s suicide, if it sticks—it kind of has to though, it feels like the right time for Chuck to exit the show—is likely to play a huge part in Jimmy’s inevitable downfall. The consequences may not be all that severe from others, but they will be from himself. After all, his hands aren’t clean in his brother’s death. Yes, Chuck is unstable, and yes he should have sought more help and been more supportive of his brother, but Jimmy was playing with fire, and those flames ended up consuming Chuck.

The finale spends a great deal of time giving Chuck, and Michael McKean, his due. But Chuck is as unkind as he’s ever been, giving up the facade that he has something to lose. So he deals himself a consequence unjust for his own crimes. Chuck did not deserve to die, but his inability to let his brother have a victory, holding onto Jimmy’s mischievous ways as a child, is ultimately what killed him. And in some sick irony, it might’ve just killed Jimmy McGill too.

Toward the end of “Lantern,” Jimmy jokes to Kim that he’ll have to start a whole new business model. He corrects his Sandpiper misdeeds with lies that, while closer to the truth, may be a little harsher. Jimmy shouldn’t have manipulated the elderly women, but he sacrifices a huge chunk of his clientele to atone. In a way, Jimmy is throwing in the towel on this portion of his career. He can’t keep Kim in a position where she feels the need to help him. We got proof that she isn’t ready for that with the ending of last week’s episode. So they lease out there workspace. They tell Victoria to go home. For now, it’s over, but there’s always a chance to start fresh next season.

The final scenes of the last two episodes of this season prove exactly how Better Call Saul has aged and came into its own, mostly avoiding the hulking shadow Breaking Bad cast over it. With Kim’s car crash and Chuck’s quiet suicide, this series is exploring the same theme of unexpected consequences as its predecessor in a completely different way. Walter White’s saga remains richer and better than Jimmy McGill’s slow downfall, but take for example what Breaking Bad did with its third season’s penultimate episode and finale. In “Half Measures,” Walt hits a drug dealer with his car, telling Jesse to run. In “Full Measure,” Jesse pulls the trigger on Walt’s main competitor. Better Call Saul has found a way to make quieter, character driven moments work in the same way as these huge, adrenaline-fueling moments from its predecessor. This series isn’t perfect, but for a show that takes place in the same world and made by all the same people, it’s not only impressive, it’s the very thing that makes Better Call Saul not just a worthy prequel, but a show worthy of existing all on its own.

Of course, Nacho’s storyline—which saw Hector finally collapse and be taken to the hospital, presumably never to walk again—gets to be the intense prequel that feels more like Breaking Bad. And therein lies this series’ final hurdle to glory. Better Call Saul needs to find a way to find synergy in its two halves. Currently, they work almost completely independently of each other. It feels like a singer had two EPs of different genres and ultimately decided to release them as one album. The singer is clearly talented in both genres, but mashing them together weakens the overall album because it lacks a singular vision.

Now, Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould always have a plan. I trust in the end these storylines won’t just come together because they have to, but because a path opened up to make them more compatible. Sooner than later would just be preferred.

In the end, however, it’s not Hector’s potential paralysis that makes Better Call Saul feel closer to Breaking Bad, but Chuck’s suicide, simply for what it’s going to do to Jimmy. This is still his story, and there’s still enough of it to tell to be excited. Finale Grade: A- / Season Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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