Better Call Saul, Season 3, Episode 10, “Lantern”
If last week saw Jimmy at his most Saul to date, then this week’s season finale saw Jimmy at his most Jimmy.
Kim’s accident hit Jimmy hard and brought out his caretaker side. So, out of love and concern, he’s picking up her papers off the side of the road in the dark, and sitting at her bedside with electrolytes at the ready.
This is the first time in a while we’ve seen Kim and Jimmy outside the office setting and they are as intimate as we’ve ever seen them. There’s genuine affection between these two, so it’s a shame that this show pretty much exists now to document how it all goes wrong.
Of course, Kim has been impacted by the crash and first real sleep she’s had in weeks. She nearly falls into the old overwork habits, but pushes it aside for a trip to Blocksbuster and some cinematic therapy. The future of substance abuse that I’ve feared for Kim got no better when given the choice between over-the-counter pain meds and the “good stuff,” Kim answered the answer is always the good stuff.
The bulk of the episode consists of Jimmy trying to get his karmic house in order. He tells Kim he thinks they need to find someone to sublease the office because Kim nearly worked herself to death to keep the rent paid and the doors open. He also tries to set things right with Irene and the other Sandpiper old ladies.
That isn’t at all easy to accomplish because the more he tries to smooth things over, the bigger the wedge between the ladies gets. So, Jimmy has to burn his elder law practice to the ground to save Irene from loneliness. He runs an open mic mini-con at Sandpiper, where he shows his true greedy colors. It costs Jimmy his cut of the settlement money (for now), and the trust of senior citizens in the Albuquerque metro area. Jimmy says he’s going to have to find a new business model when he comes back from suspension; wonder what that will be?
We got the expected out of the storyline with Nacho. Don Salamanca has his stroke as expected, but it’s Gus who ends up saving his life. Gus also seems to be onto the fact that Nacho is up to something.
The emotional climax centered around Chuck. Thinking he has HHM over a barrel that will only result in his return to full partner status in the company, Chuck is surprised when Howard clears the room and hands Chuck a check for the first of three $3 million checks to buy him out. Chuck is concerned that this move will bankrupt the firm, and is immediately horrified when Howard reveals that he’s willing to go into his own pocket to be rid of Chuck once and for all. To add insult to injury, Howard has preemptively gathered the entire building into the HHM lobby to send Chuck off, in a moment that is more reminiscent of the opening of the old TV western Branded, than a graceful exit.
As part of his tour Jimmy drops in to see how Chuck is doing, and to make a quarter-hearted attempt at an apology. By all appearances, Chuck is fine. The lights are on and there’s smooth jazz spinning on the turntable. Chuck makes no mention of his therapy or what had happened at HHM, both would only confirm what Jimmy has been thinking all along. Jimmy fumbles the apology attempt, and draws Chuck’s overstocked venom.
Chuck wonders aloud why Jimmy even makes these displays of remorse. Chuck tells Jimmy that he should own the fact he’s self-centered, and willing to crush other people’s lives. He essentially gives permission for Jimmy to become Saul before ending the conversation by holding his brother’s arms and telling Jimmy, “You’ve never mattered much to me”, then calmly returning to his book.
Chuck’s façade is brittle. The stress of losing his job and confronting his brother sends him way over the edge. He stops his journal, skips his therapy session, and goes on a fruitless quest to keep the dial on his electric meter from spinning. He dumps bookshelves, and gashes holes in walls, looking for that one live wire that he can feel is causing his discomfort.
The last we see of Chuck, the house is littered with papers and debris. Wrapped in a space blanket in some kind of fevered state, Chuck slowly kicks at his desk, sending his lantern ever so slowly over the edge. Once the lantern goes over, the show cuts to a wide shot of Chuck’s dark house, followed by the tell-tale flash of flames in the window.
This appears to be the end of Chuck and it’s unfortunate, because Michael McKean was brilliant in the role, especially in the nonverbal performance of Chuck’s final breakdown. This could be a game-changer for Jimmy. Chuck’s estate is owed $12 million and as Chuck’s last blood relative, Jimmy is legally entitled to some of it.
This season has been much like the two that preceded it, a slow burn punctuated by some highly dramatic confrontations. I’m not entirely sold on Gus taking a prominent role on the show moving forward, but he’s beloved by fans, so his presence is inevitable.