Better Call Saul S03E10 Recap: 'Lantern' [Season Finale]

It's nice to see that Better Call Saul hasn't forgotten exactly what kind of show it needs to be. Despite its evergrowing cast of characters (many of whom are imported from the Breaking Bad days) and the complications that arise from starting to focus on the drug trade that will eventually take over the show like a malignant tumor, it's still aware that it's a deeply complex character study, and not driven by action.

For everything that's happened leading up to the season finale, for all the Salamancas and the Frings that have made their presence felt in this universe yet again, "Lantern" turns out to be a relatively quiet episode, highlighted by moments of tension that come from unexpected places.

And while Jimmy McGill's inevitable descent into Saul Goodman continued in some subtle ways, the episode decided to shine a light on one of his more positive qualities, as his empathy is on display. First, and most obviously, with Kim, whom he takes care of following her accident. Kim's trauma puts things in perspective for Jimmy, as he decides to then visit his brother, to make sure he's okay and to say a few things about the regrets he's developed after what happened between him. Then Jimmy takes care of the situation with all the old ladies, fabricating a scenario in which he's ostracized but Mrs. Landry is once again accepted among her peers.

Jimmy is full of good intentions and positive actions in this episode. It's like the show is trying to hammer home this idea that he's probably incapable of being inherently evil, like the lead from the show we first met him on, or how everyone assumes he'll turn out when he full-on becomes Saul Goodman. After three seasons, I think the show is finally clear on this. It's not that Jimmy's descent takes him to a place where he's a bad guy, it's more like his good intentions inevitably and invariably lead to negative outcomes. Maybe as Saul Goodman he merely accepts that he's incapable of not dragging people down with him.

Look at Jimmy's good intentions in this episode, and all the bad stuff that comes out of it. He realizes his situation may have stressed Kim out a little too much and led her to her accident, so he tells her to take it easy, that they can get rid of the office and the secretary and find another way, which allows keep to let loose, arguably giving up on her dream. He also burns a ton of bridges with the old ladies when he orchestrates his confession in order to help out Mrs. Landry (and the look on her face when she realizes Jimmy's betrayal is just about as heartbreaking as her crying in last week's episode).

But the most impactful of Jimmy's actions involve, you guessed it, his brother Chuck. Chuck's been doing a good job all by himself of burning his own bridges, as we see Howard pay him millions out of his own pocket to buy him out. Chuck's pride forced this situation, and he clearly feels betrayed by his long-time friend, and embarrassed by the show Howard puts on, bringing out all of his employees to see Chuck off, but this doesn't break him. He's relatively okay, on his way to beating his disease and being $9 million richer. It's Jimmy's resurgence in his life that winds up causing his relapse.

Jimmy swoops in, feeling regretful and guilty, and it winds up bringing the worst out of Chuck once again. He tells his brother to his fucking face that he never really cared about him. Thing is, that was Chuck's final lifeline. Jimmy's incredulous, but he has Kim to go back to. Chuck has no one. He spends the rest of the episode slowly losing his mind. He turns off all the electricity in his house, removes all the lightbulbs, tears up the walls trying to find every last Kilowatt-hour before finally taking a baseball bat to the meter. And then, in probably the most shocking moment of the series to date, he uses his last bits of energy to kick a lantern off a table and set his house ablaze. It's so brutal that the producers had to throw up a suicide hotline number following the credits.

Chuck was an asshole from beginning to end, but it was always clear that something was wrong with him, and he didn't deserve this fate. Jimmy had his faults, made his mistakes, but didn't deserve the treatment he got from Chuck, and doesn't deserve what Chuck's (attempted, at least until we get to season 4) suicide is certain to do to him. It's not really a journey from good to evil. It's a tragedy. A tragedy that's nonetheless fully formed and incredibly well-presented. "Lantern" stacks up with some of this show's best episodes, and it gets 9.5 Blockbuster videos out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • No sign of Mike this week, which is a shame but probably for the best. However Hector finally has his heart attack, which spurs a surprising twist when it's Gus that tries to save him. Hector is taken away in an ambulance, and Gus shoots Nacho a look that implies he knows what Nacho did to his boss.
  • A lot of people are going to hate the scene where Chuck meticulously tears apart his house, much like they hated any scene where Mike does something methodically and intricately, but I love stuff like that. The Jazz music playing during that scene was some Carrie Matheson shit and it was perfect.
  • "I don't want to hurt your feelings, but the truth is, you've never mattered all that much to me."
  • "I'm not good at building shit. I'm excellent at tearing it down."