When the plans for a Breaking Bad spin-off focusing on the rise of fast-talking “criminal” lawyer, Saul Goodman was first announced, the first thought on everyone’s mind was would it be as good as the Emmy Award-winning show that helped kickstart the golden age of television. Better Call Saul is now two episodes into its third season and although it takes place in the Breaking Bad universe created by Vince Gilligan, it is not trying to be the same show. It has transcended expectations to become one of the best shows on television.
Better Call Saul is equal parts hilarious comedy and heartbreaking drama that is carried by the magnificent Bob Odenkirk who plays Jimmy McGill (proto-Saul Goodman). Featuring an incredible supporting cast that elevates the show from just being another mediocre spin-off or a rehash of what was already done in Breaking Bad. In fact, Better Call Saul has effortlessly referenced events and characters from Breaking Bad without ever feeling like it’s only servicing the fans.
Gilligan, Gould (the creator of the Saul Goodman character), and the rest of the writer’s room have been able to create a compelling story and new characters to either root for like Kim Wexler, played by the phenomenal Rhea Seehorn, or despise like Jimmy’s brother, Chuck (Michael McKean) who can somehow make you love and hate him within the same scene. Seeing these characters interact with one another and watching their individual narratives unfold is why you should be watching this show. The Breaking Bad elements are just a bonus and this season fans are getting the greatest gift of all, the return of Giancarlo Esposito as Gustavo “Gus” Fring. Die-hard fans discovered last year that if you took the first letter of each episode title from last season it spelled out “Fring’s Back,” which leads to the second episode of the third season.
“Witness” instantly felt like the second half a two-part episode and AMC truly missed out on this opportunity. Gilligan explained in a recent episode of the podcast that it was intentional that they didn’t show Gus in the season premiere. Since fans already knew that he was going to appear this season it was fun to keep them waiting just a little longer. The episode began with a strange visit to Chuck’s dimly lit house. He was entertaining a guest that audiences were unfamiliar with. The relationship seemed professional, but it was still unclear who the man was until the very end of the episode when it is revealed that Chuck had hired a private investigator. We knew Chuck had a plan for his recording of Jimmy’s Mesa Verde confession, but we had no idea how Chuck would use it to his advantage. After years of watching Gilligan and Gould’s writing come to life, they still find ways to surprise at every turn.
After years of watching Gilligan and Gould’s writing come to life, they still find ways to surprise at every turn. Watching those final moments where Jimmy is in a full rage ready to attack Chuck only to be caught in the act by Hamlin and the private investigator. It was one of the most suspensful moments of the series thus far and it’s only going to lead to more bad news for Jimmy McGill this season.
The rest of the episode focused on Mike’s continuing effort to find out who has been following him and why. His search leads him to Los Pollos Hermanos, the fast-food chain owned by Gus Fring. He enlists Jimmy’s help to scope out the restaurant and finds out what the mysterious man was doing with the mysterious bag. After an awesome voice-over conversation of Mike giving directions while Jimmy enters the restaurant, we see Bob Odenkirk using his amazing comedic timing with a series of physical gags like adding multiple sugar packets into his coffee while simultaneously eavesdropping on a conversation.
This all culminates with the first on-screen appearance of Gus who tries to help Jimmy find his watch in the garbage can when Jimmy was fishing inside trying to see if the mysterious man had dropped anything inside. They didn’t have to introduce Gus with an intricate drug or some kind of massive shootout. This is going to be a slow burn, but if Gus is involved it will be totally worth it.
Better Call Saul, “Witness” Rating: 9.5 out of 10