The straightforward, step-by-step nature of Better Call Saul’s storytelling approach allows us to experience the persistence and cleverness of its characters. In the season three premiere, “Mabel”, Mike methodically tears apart his car, searching for a tracking device. The lengths he will go to find an upper-hand is an example of just how dangerous of an adversary he is. After a brilliant series of steps, he turns the tracking device around on those who planted it. It’s classic Mike, and it never gets old.
Then we have Jimmy, who can be equally ambitious, but is far more reckless than Mike. His past tricks and “colorful” schemes are showing glaring flaws. He was recorded on tape admitting to a crime at the end of last season. In this episode, he is confronted by the Air Force captain who, after seeing Jimmy’s commercial, calls him out on his scam. He says Jimmy isn’t as clever as he thinks, and the captain has a point. Jimmy continues to leave dangling threads behind him, and they’re bound to catch up to him soon.
This is where things become alarming for Kim. She has already faced the repercussions of Jimmy’s actions before, and is now closer to him than ever. As Paige tells her, she’s always going to be cleaning up “after McGill.” Paige is referring to Chuck in this instance, but the implication by the writers is clear. The first scene with Jimmy and Kim together this season is filled with silence and melancholy. Kim says she doesn’t want to hear about anything regarding Jimmy’s tampering with the Mesa Verde files. But she doesn’t have to. All she needs to do is look at Jimmy to understand the weight he is carrying. How long will it be before that weight starts to crush Kim as well?
Kim has to be the professional half of “Wexler and McGill”. She takes on Jimmy’s clients while he’s out confessing to his brother. She later becomes hung up on a grammatical dilemma, unable to choose between a period, semi-colon, or dash. She goes through all three before deciding on her first choice. This behavior is obsessive. She attempts to over-compensate with her professionalism to balance out her partner’s more loose approach. While Kim is printing (and re-printing) her documents, Jimmy is seen painting over the rainbow on the office wall. He only finishes covering the half on Kim’s side of the office. This is a clever visual representation of Jimmy’s tendency to stand in the way of Kim’s success.
What makes Jimmy’s transgressions so frustrating is that he often means well. His sabotage of Chuck was acted out with the purpose of helping Kim. But that doesn’t make the potential consequences of it any less severe. Chuck’s own scheming is as malicious as ever in this premiere. As Howard tells him, the tape won’t be useful in a court of law. Chuck isn’t bothered because he has a much more personal use for it in mind. This seems to be heading in the direction of blackmail, as Chuck exposes poor Ernie to the tape, who will likely pass on the information to Jimmy.
Despite many past efforts to walk a straight path, Jimmy can’t help himself when it comes to his actions. This season opens just like the previous two, as we’re treated to a black and white flash forward to Saul’s post-Breaking Bad life as Gene, the Cinnabon manager. Here, we witness a soft and timid man, one who reports a shoplifting teen to the cops. While he tries to keep his head low, he eventually just can’t resist the temptation. As the officers escort the teen away, Gene stands up and shouts “get a lawyer!” He later passes out on the job. The pressure of keeping Saul Goodman bottled up for all these years finally gets the best of him.