Better Call Saul S3E10 “Lantern”
Better Call Saul has never been a show about the end destination. It thrives in the journey, perhaps as well as any show on right now. We can’t forget that this is a prequel, we roughly know what happens to Jimmy McGill. For a prequel to work, the journey has to be executed brilliantly, because the tension of where things are going is naturally lessened. That being said, you do have to confront these conclusions eventually and we did get some in “Lantern”, particularly from Nacho’s story line with Hector as well as with Chuck and his fatal relapse. While those story lines reached conclusions, Kim does the opposite by taking time off while Jimmy attempts to make amends for a dark move that easily could have marked the start of Saul Goodman. These contrasts make for an intriguing and exciting season finale so let’s take a closer look at how it all went down.
We’ll skip the cold open for now and start with the first post theme song scene, Kim in the hospital. Getting into a car accident can be a traumatic event and also be a real eye opener. This holds true for Kim as well. While the first thing she does after being released from the hospital is ask Jimmy to return to the wreck so she can get back her Gatwood Oil documents, this doesn’t mean she’s jumping right back into the swing of things. Given that she is a workaholic, Francesca went ahead and pushed back all of her pending meetings ever so slightly, assuming Kim would want to get right back to it. After a moment of reflection that she could have harmed someone and has been sleep deprived for the past week, she instead tells Francesca to cancel her upcoming meeting and to postpone the ones following it. Kim’s going to take the time off to rest her broken arm and catch up on some movies she rented from the local Blockbuster. Good for you Kim, you’ve earned some time off.
Let’s move on to Nacho’s story line. Nacho reluctantly realizes that Hector is going to try and use his father’s business as a cover whether he likes it or not, so he attempts to keep his father out of it by passing it off to Hector as a solo operation that he will be in charge of. Hector doesn’t seem to be interested in Nacho’s plan to take care of business all by himself and searches the upholstery shop, looking for Nacho’s father. When Hector finds him, he throws some money on the counter and tells him that they’re going to be good friends. Instead of taking the money, Nacho’s father tells Hector to leave his shop. Nacho urges his father to take the money, implying that Hector will hurt their family if they don’t cooperate. With that taken into consideration, he takes the money and Hector leaves. Nacho tries to tell Hector that his father is just old fashioned and he’ll turn around once he sees more money coming in. Hector doesn’t buy it and says he can’t trust Nacho’s father.
People that Hector doesn’t trust usually aren’t long for this world so Nacho realizes that he can’t just wait for his dud pills to work, he has to kill Hector before Hector kills his father. When Hector pulls up to the upholstery shop later that night, Nacho attempts to kill Hector with his gun but has to stop when Hector’s goons come out and confirm there’s a meeting about to go down. Juan Bolsa shortly thereafter arrives, along with Gus. Bolsa confirms in person to Hector that Gus’ chicken trucks will be the only smuggling route for their drugs and pleads with Hector to not take this as a personal slight. To the surprise of no one, Hector takes it as an extreme slight against he and his family and he gets into another one of his outbursts. Just like in “Fall”, he works himself up too hard and reaches for his pills, but this time the placebo effect does nothing. Hector starts to suffer a heart attack and Gus of all people, runs the situation from here. Gus tells Bolsa that he has to leave and tells Hector’s goons to call for an ambulance. While Gus begins to give Hector CPR, Nacho takes the fallen pill bottle and swaps the duds with the real pills, finally completing his plan. When the medics arrive, Hector is in bad shape but he’s breathing. Nacho hands the nurse the pills Hector was taking and he and Gus watch the ambulance drive off. Gus then gives Nacho a mean look, you just know that Gus knows what Nacho did. What’s Gus going to do about it? A fascinating question that I eagerly await the answer to in season four.
Back to the legal story line we go. Chuck is at HHM discussing his lawsuit against the firm with Howard and the other partners. Chuck neatly lists why he thinks he has this won, saying there’s no conceivable way this lawsuit ends well for HHM and he’s willing to put this all behind him if Howard takes back his forceful firing. Howard asks the other partners to clear the room and then gives Chuck a rude awakening. Howard has had enough of Chuck’s antics and suing HHM, the law firm that they built together, was the final straw. He gives Chuck what he wants but sets out to make it the hollowest victory possible. Howard gives Chuck a check for three million and tells Chuck that this is coming out of his pocket, along with a couple of loans. He will get two more payments later on to be fully bought out. Chuck is devastated that Howard would rather bury his own finances then keep him along on the firm. Even if Chuck were forced to leave the firm, he would want to do it on his own terms, hence the lawsuit. When Howard does it his way, it ruins things for Chuck. “You won” Howard coldly says to Chuck and by Chuck’s reaction, you can tell this is not the way he wanted it to go down. To make Chucks “victory” even worse, Howard gives him a walk of shame by gathering everyone in the firm inside the lobby and announcing Chuck will no longer be with the firm (no mention of this being a retirement). Chuck embarrassingly exits the building to a departure he never wanted, a massive blow to his ego.
Back at his house, Chuck receives a surprise visit from Jimmy, whose eyes were surely opened by the accident Kim suffered. Jimmy apologizes to his brother and says he has regrets about how he handled their feud towards the end there. Chuck rejects the apology and the regrets by telling his brother both the truth and a lie. He truthfully tells Jimmy that the apology while sincere, doesn’t mean a whole lot because hurting people is in Jimmy’s nature, and no matter how many times he apologizes for it, he’s going to keep unknowingly do it. The lie is a bad one that stings Jimmy really hard. Chuck tells Jimmy that he’s never really cared about him. Why does Chuck say this when we all know it’s a lie? It’s for his ego. Chuck is a control freak and he just lost his life’s biggest accomplishment and one of the two things he had control over, HHM, the other thing being Jimmy. Chuck’s “control” of Jimmy is that he knows his nature and knows that he hurts people. If Jimmy tries to become a better person and Chuck isn’t behind it, Chuck won’t stand for it. So when Jimmy tries to do just that, Chuck pushes Jimmy back to a place that Chuck is comfortable with. Devastated, Jimmy leaves his brother’s house, most likely for the last time.
Jimmy takes Chuck’s false betrayal as a truth, and seeks to fix things with Irene when he finds out that her friends still haven’t forgiven Irene. He tries to talk to her friends, try to reason with them to forgive her (while keeping his role in this out of the discussion), but it’s no use. Jimmy laments to Kim that he has a way to fix things but he really doesn’t want to do it. With nothing else having worked, Jimmy goes to the fool proof, but reputation shattering plan. He decides to host chair yoga over at Sandpiper and is interrupted by Davis and Maine employee Erin. Jimmy and Erin go outside to discuss and Erin reveals her disgust at what Jimmy has done and Jimmy admits that he’s willing to screw over old people to get his payday. A cut back inside Sandpiper reveals that Jimmy “forgot” to turn off his mic and the residents of Sandpiper hear the entire thing. Jimmy returns inside and pretends that nothing unusual happened but the plan works as Irene and the rest of her friends coldly turn on Jimmy and leave him alone. Afterward, Jimmy thanks Erin for her role, revealing to the viewer that this absolutely was an intentional confession. Erin reveals she wasn’t acting and actually is disgusted at what Jimmy did as she too leaves Jimmy.
Our final scene of Jimmy and Kim is back over at Wexler McGill. The two are moving their things out as they’ve decided to rent the place out for the time being while Kim moves her work to home. Kim spots Jimmy’s Rolodex in the trash and tells him to keep it. Jimmy assures her that no senior citizens will be contacting him after his suspension is up so he’s not going to need it. They help Francesca clear out the last of her things as well and Jimmy promises her that if they try this again some time down the road, she’ll have her old job back. Francesca leaves and Jimmy looks at the Wexler McGill mural one more time, admiring the end of an era. Kim comforts Jimmy, telling him they’ll get another wall. Jimmy adds that the new one will be even better. They grab the last of their things and leave Wexler McGill behind.
No other place to end other than with Chuck, right? The mere thought of Jimmy getting better and it not being because of Chuck seems to ruin Chuck. His condition regresses to dangerously low levels, matching Chuck even at his worst days. Chuck had all his lights on to impress Jimmy but as soon as he leaves, he turns everything off, even killing the power completely, well almost completely. Chuck goes outside and is shocked to see the electricity meter is still running, something is drawing current into the house. After the electric company proves to be too slow for his liking, Chuck decides to look for the source of the power himself. In a haunting montage, Chuck tears apart his house, tearing apart the walls, breaking the floor and ceiling and no matter what he does, he can’t find the source of the power. Finally fed up, Chuck takes a baseball bat and destroys the meter.
That night, a completely broken and space blanket covered Chuck sits by his desk, which is carrying a lantern. His ransacking of the house has caused plenty of flammable material to settle on the floor of the house. Chuck decides to end it all and eerily kicks the desk repeatedly until the lantern falls over, seemingly wanting to make this look like an accident. When the lantern falls, we cut to the outside of the house and watch as the flame comes to life and grows larger. We don’t need to see the inside of the house. The episode leaves little doubt that this is the end for Chuck and the outside shot is the most artistic choice to close the season out on. Rest in Peace Charles McGill. You had your problems, there’s no denying it, but that was a truly sad way to go.
After confessing to the Sandpiper residents about what he did, you can imagine Jimmy’s settlement money isn’t coming anytime soon. Just goes to show that money can’t buy a clear conscience.
The irony of Gus making sure Hector lived. If only Gus knew.
That cold open had plenty of call backs to the future, Chuck is reading The Adventures of Mabel to Jimmy and that’s the book that the season three premiere, “Mabel” takes its name from. Chuck’s baseball bat and the band-aid box that will house Jimmy’s coin collection are both present. And the lantern, that goes without saying.
Mike sits out this episode and it’s surely his first or second miss of the entire series. Mike consented to leaving a paper trail of his money in “Fall” and that’s very noteworthy for Mike so finding something else to end his season on would have been tough. Good call to leave him out.
Interesting note about Mike and Nacho. Mike was a big part of the first half of the season while Nacho hardly did anything at all. Just about at the halfway point, it completely flips over to Nacho having a huge role and Mike having little to do. The drug underworld side of the show is too big to share with several main characters, especially since it only gets about half of the show time. Mike and Nacho are going to have to start working together or maybe even Jimmy gets involved in this darker side of the show if we want to give proper time to all of the starring cast. Just something to keep an eye on next season.
The last thing Chuck told Jimmy was basically that hurting people is in his nature and that he should stop apologizing for it and just embrace it. When Jimmy finds out Chuck is dead, he may take his brother’s final words to heart. What do you think?
“Lantern” ends season three on a brilliant but tragic note, leaving the door wide open for season four to explore new beginnings.
Season Grade A
Episode Grade A