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(Every week, we’re going to kick off discussion about Better Call Saul season 3 by answering one simple question: who came out on top when the credits rolled?)

The majority of concerns voiced about Better Call Saul have been about the show’s dual nature. Strictly speaking, the show’s a two-hander, with Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) going down one path and Mike (Jonathan Banks) going down another. They’re roughly parallel, yes, insomuch as they intersect and will keep intersecting until the events of Breaking Bad come to a head, but there’s still a limit, especially as Mike’s half of the show becomes Gus Fring’s. The mythology there is different; it’s grander, whereas the struggle playing out between the McGill brothers is something a little more tangible. The show’s managed to keep its balance so far, let’s hope it stays that way. 

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On Top This Week: Kim

For three seasons now, Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) has rightfully been called the heart of the show. This is remarkable not least because Better Call Saul is stacked when it comes to its cast and its characters, but also because Kim arguably has the most thankless role. From her absence in Breaking Bad, we know she’s doomed in one way or another, and just how much she loves Jimmy only makes that knowledge more painful. It’s especially apparent in this week’s episode, as she does her best to aid Jimmy in thwarting Chuck (Michael McKean).

With a little detective work, they manage to get Mike into Chuck’s house under the pretense of being a handyman to fix the door that Jimmy broke down a couple of episodes ago. After warding Chuck off with the whirring of power tools (including a lovely shot framing Mike in the door and Chuck in the stairwell; as Chuck hesitates, Mike sets the drill going again, and Chuck retreats), Mike takes pictures of the house, as well as retrieving a little information for Jimmy. The real silver bullet, however, is when Kim gets Chuck to confess that he made duplicates of the tape. Everyone is playing dirty.

It’s worth noting that, in a show in which no shot is accidental, the visuals around Kim are particularly lovely this week. Take the scene of the PPD meeting — though there are other people in the room, most of the scene is shot to frame only Chuck, Kim, and Jimmy. Then there’s the final shot of the episode, which sees Kim and Jimmy striding off, in sync, into what passes for a sunset on a show like Better Call Saul.

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Brotherly (Lack of) Love

As mentioned previously, the Jimmy portion of the show is inimitably human, and the high tide mark for this is how the show treats Chuck. He’s unbelievably petty during the PPD meeting, arguing discrepancies as small as wording and a difference of a couple of bucks, and he’s dismissive of Kim’s questioning about the second tape. In this particular world, hubris is fatal, and for all that we know Jimmy will eventually take a fall, it looks like the same might come of Chuck, too. He shows absolutely no remorse nor acceptance when Jimmy offers up his (prompted) apology, and looks only peeved when Jimmy says, “no one should treat his own brother like that.” Speaking of hubris…

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Time with Tio

Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) is treading dangerous waters. The introduction of Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) into Better Call Saul hasn’t just been the addition of a new character; rather, it’s the addition of a new mythology. We got bits and pieces of the chain of events that led Gus Fring to becoming an icy drug kingpin in Breaking Bad, and ‘Sabrosito’ leans fully into that story. The episode opens with a conversation between Hector and Don Eladio (Steven Bauer) around the very same pool by which we saw Hector shoot Gus’ business partner, leading to a decades-long plan for revenge which we know will see Hector paralyzed and wheelchair-bound, and Don Eladio dead. For now, however, Hector is alive and well, and deeply unhappy that Gus is currying more favor with the cartel boss.

Hector and his men make their way to Los Pollos Hermanos upon their return to New Mexico, clearing out the customers and then the harried staff in order to get a one-on-one with Fring himself. Now that his supply routes have been compromised, he demands that Gus carry his merchandise as well. This move hasn’t been approved by their boss, and they both know it. Gus isn’t happy, and takes his time in ruminating his next steps as he clears away what’s been left in the restaurant by his staff. The episode takes care to highlight the two sides to him — the ruthless drug lord, dressed all in black, dead in the eyes, and the community leader and franchise boss, dressed in light colors and as cordial as can be. There’s also a hint as to a third side that we never got to see in Breaking Bad: as he cleans up, he pauses, crumpling up a wrapper and then neatly aiming and tossing it into a trash bin. It’s a needless bit of fun, and hints at the kind of humanity that Better Call Saul has been expert at drawing out.

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Making Sense of Mike

After this week’s episode, it starts to click as to why Mike would keep a door open to helping Jimmy (or rather, Saul) even after coming onto Gus’ payroll. Part of snooping around Chuck’s house involves actually fixing the door, and as he meets up with Jimmy afterward to give him the photos, he tells him that it’s, “nice to fix something for once.” Mike takes more pleasure in the small things — as evidenced by the time he spends with his granddaughter in this episode — and working for Gus seems to be something he does more in order to support his family than for any personal fulfillment. To wit: when Gus comes to talk to him about doing some further work together, Mike’s reading a handyman magazine.

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