Better Call Saul S03E01 Recap: 'Mabel' [Season Premiere]
At this point, anyone still in on what Better Call Saul has become is all in, and Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould know it. Much has been made since the prequel-sequel-spinoff-companion series to Breaking Bad was ordered about its evolution from a potential sitcom about a skeezy lawyer doing everything in his power to keep his cases out of court, to a serious melodrama about the downfall of a man over a long period a time, a dram that revels in procedure and detail to a degree that one might either find brilliant, or eyeroll inducing.
If you'll recall, season two of this show was about Jimmy meticulously changing a single number on a legal document, and the fallout of his action among his family and friends. As far as the Jimmy portion of the show goes, you could seriously boil his entire season two arc to that simple level. And the season three premiere, "Mabel", picks up right where all of that left off, burning just as slow as it did last year.
In fact, it picks up at the very moment it left off, where Jimmy and Chuck have it out and we find out that, despite the physical pain that it's causing him, Chuck recorded their conversation. Because, once again, this show makes no excuses about what it is, the next scene is Jimmy going back to Chuck and trying to bond with him over childhood memories, the vicious circle returning to its starting point. Maybe the singular difference being that Chuck doesn't mince words this time, he ruins their moment by reminding Jimmy that he knows what he did, promising that he'll pay for it. Jimmy spends much of the episode mulling the consequences of his lashing out at Chuck, and further wading in the shit he's started, be it via his strained relationship with Kim, who knows what he did too and resents him for it, even though she agreed to benefit from it, or the new threat of the air force dude who finds out he scammed him in order to film his commercial on his base.
This being only the beginning, we don' really get too far with any of this, but it's established that there's a lot out there circling around Jimmy like a school of sharks, waiting for the perfect opportunity to start nibbling at him. The only true development is how Chuck conveniently allows Ernesto to hear his recording of Jimmy's confession, likely part of his brilliant plan to sink his brother, knowing it's not admissible evidence. But like everything else, this is only the beginning.
Speaking things that are only in their beginnings, Mike begins his road to Gus by spending most of the episode finding a tracking device Gus' people planted on him and then replacing it with the exact same device in order to follow whoever planted it. It takes the entire episode, including a lengthy scene during which Mike takes apart his car to find the decide, and another where he takes apart a duplicate to see how it works. Despite how needlessly detailed all of this is, it's all fascinating, and there still manages to be a semblance of urgency to it, be it because of how it's shot, or because we know what the end of the line is for Mike, and who's waiting for him when he gets to the end of the tracker's journey.
And of course, since this is a BCS season premiere, we also get a flash-forward vignette to Jimmy's time as Gene the Cinabon manager in Nebraska, and this one ends on a cliffhanger. We follow Gene on his lunch break where, frightened of being discovered, rats out a fellow criminal, but can't stop himself from having an outburst, warning him to get a lawyer. Once he gets back to the shop, however, Gene collapses.
All in all, "Mabel" probably raises more questions than it answers, and all chalk-full of Easter eggs and little details that have made this show great. Gilligan and Gould have promised evolution and progression this season, but as far as the season premiere goes, this is the exact same Better Call Saul that we either fell in love with or grew increasingly annoyed by over the last two seasons. "Mabel" gets 8.5 half-painted rainbows out of 10.