*Better Call Saul season 3 finale spoilers ahead - watch the episode here*
This episode was crunch time for me. I've been trying so hard to like Better Call Saul the past three seasons and, in the first half of this most recent one, the show finally seemed to be hitting its stride. This was followed by a little coasting in the later episodes, but the sub-plots conclusions were still hovering there in the background, charged for a thrilling climax - I was ready for Better Call Saul to come good.
Sadly, the climax never came, and it didn't. Each of the stories were paid off in 'Lantern', but all in pretty much the least interesting way possible.
First up, let's look at the drug cartel side of things. Mike, arguably the best thing about the show, was weirdly absent in the finale, as we saw Hector Salamanca demand fealty from Nacho's resistant father. Sensing danger for his beloved papi, Nacho dispensed with his poisoned pill long game and set about straight-up shooting Hector from point blank range. He was interrupted by a meeting between Salamanca's crew and Gus Fring however, which should have been a major showdown, a payoff for the tension that has been building around the don's aggression and unwillingness to compromise all season. It should have had unexpected twists and complex machinations. Instead, Hector simply refused to accept Don Eladio's decision again and keeled over again. Carted away in an ambulance, Gus and Nacho were left standing there, and we weren't even treated to a first proper conversation between the two unwitting allies, it simply cut away as they looked on. A perfunctory and disappointing denouement to the season arc.
Jimmy's story was a little richer, seeing him survey the trail of ruined lives behind him and try and smooth over the dirt. Kim was strung out, Sandpiper resident Irene was sad and friendless and Chuck was forced into early retirement, all - though indirectly to varying degrees - because of Jimmy. He managed to make amends with Kim following her car crash and take a humiliating hit at Sandpiper to salvage Irene's reputation - fine - but why on Earth did he visit Chuck? The 'brotherly love' ship had long since sailed for the pair and I just didn't buy him feeling bound to check up on the elder McGill out of guilt. Yes, we're often driven back time and time again to the people in our past, especially if they're our blood, but Jimmy was past worrying about Chuck by this point, and Kim's crash wasn't a convincing catalyst for him to backtrack.
"The truth is you've never mattered all that much to me," was a hell of a parting line from Chuck, but the scene ultimately didn't really add anything we hadn't already seen or felt to the brothers' story.
In the last shot of season 3, an apparently suicidal Chuck, having succumbed to his psychosomatic illness once again, kicked over a lantern and his house was engulfed in flames - a lantern just like the one in the episode's cold open...um, cool? Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul is known for its thoughtful foreshadowing/callbacks but this was completely empty. The opening scene of a young Chuck and Jimmy reading in a tent seemed neither significant nor memorable, and a lantern just happened to be there. It was incidental. That's it. It was an awkward way of tying together the episode and the lantern was certainly not worthy of being the emphatic name of the episode, let alone the means of Chuck's (potential) demise.
Look, I get it. Better Call Saul isn't trying to be Breaking Bad and I shouldn't be expecting the latter's intrigue or level of drama. But even viewed as a more stately-paced character study, this finale just didn't come close to the quality of say a 'Full Measure' or a 'Face Off'.
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