Better Call Saul Season-Finale Recap: The Great Wall

Better Call Saul

Season 3 Episode 10
Editor’s Rating *****
Mark Margolis as Hector Salamanca. Photo: Michele K. Short/AMC Network Entertainment

Barring what Chuck might refer to as some serious storytelling chicanery, the eldest remaining McGill is dead. His fate was all but foreshadowed when the camera lingered on Chuck’s scar from last season’s copy-shop fall as he suffered the humiliation of his final exit from the firm he started. (That sendoff itself is a doomed bookend to the staff’s ovation when Chuck first returned to work after falling ill.) There would be no close call this time, no margin for error or room for debate. A man who’d spent decades in litigation left open-and-shut evidence of his suicide. Mere hours earlier, he stood firm and stubborn while offering Jimmy “proof of life.”

Jimmy will rightly reflect on Chuck’s brutal assertion about having “never really mattered all that much to me” as a protective gesture, like when they were kids reading The Adventures of Mabel and Chuck would console him with cool practicality. It’s also hard to imagine Jimmy practicing law under the McGill name after this tragedy. He may even feel underserving of it. Nor does it help that, staked to his reputation alone, what’s left of the family legacy is being dragged through the mud by a coalition of jilted seniors.

There were a handful of dressings down in “Lantern,” from Howard tearing up while paying Chuck recompense out of pocket and declaring, “You won,” to Chuck’s aforementioned, purposeful admonishing of Jimmy, to Jimmy getting shamed by Irene and the gals before Erin made sure he knew her part in unmasking him to the women at Sandpiper Crossing was no act. But the one person who never wavered on Jimmy — no matter how much his conscience “bends any way the wind is blowing,” as Irene’s lady friends might say — is Kim. She hears his pleas to pass blame around for her accident, but has none of it. She’s well aware of his machinations inside Sandpiper, and her only concern is whether it all evened out. She even trusts him to sublease their now-former office space, well aware of the shenanigans that pulled him out of abject poverty to begin with. Kim truly believes he can be Atticus Finch, despite those who’d contest he’d fit in better with Monty Python’s Flying Circus. And as with Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird, she’s a little bit in love.

Now that Kim has decided to take time off work for “Relax-a-thon 2003” (which would have been far more streamlined with the near-future’s streaming video options), her biggest woes are eating with one arm and choosing between ibuprofen for pain or “the good stuff.” Actually, that last one isn’t much of a quandary. “The answer is always the good stuff,” she says. Hector would concur. Alas, Nacho swapped out his ticker pills for over-the-counter stuff, and the chickens have finally come to roost. Amid a simmering confrontation with Bolsa and Gus, the tempestuous Salamanca family don suffered what we assume is the cardiac incident that leaves him permanently paralyzed and mute. The man who fancied himself a vaquero come to conquer the Mexican-American drug business by bouncing between fronts in his Chevrolet is now face-down in the dirt.

Things could be looking up for Nacho, but the way Gus glanced over at him as the ambulance speeds away suggests that Mr. Fring has big plans for Hector’s would-be assassin. Nacho’s father may be free of the cartel, but his own entanglement with the underworld has only deepened. Should he align himself with Gus, he’s got some amends to make with Tyrus and Victor right off the bat.

Had Gus known what Chuck carried out across town as this drama played out, he may have admired it. A la Chuck, he detests being insulted or undermined, is overconfident in his intellect, and is determined to ensure that all events pertaining to him and his business play out under his complete authority. Pumping blood back through Hector’s heart was far from an act of compassion. It was a way of regaining control. Hector will die when and how Gus decides, a single-mindedness that serves him well long enough, until it (spoiler alert for Breaking Bad virgins) boomerangs back with cruel intentions.

For all his assumed superiority, Chuck may have also been moved by Hector’s fuming over who built the cartel’s empire all those years, not to mention the grievous injury of being pushed out before his time. Like Chuck, Hector was set for life so long as he squandered dignity and pride. With no one scheming to taint Chuck’s prescription or put up any kind of fight against his willful isolation, he came apart at the seams. His final undoing, a kind of virtuosic self-immolation, was hard to watch. By the time his house literally went up in flames, it was mercy. We’ll find out next season whether Jimmy can build a better wall, or if he, too, is ready to tear it all down.

Apart From All That

• Who were the two empty seats at HHM’s conference table for?

• Again, cheers to Patrick Fabian’s underappreciated work.

• We’ll see how Kim feels about “lines we don’t cross” soon enough.

• All Kim ever wanted to do was watch movies with Jimmy. (And save the world. That too.)

ABC Bakery is real and, I assume, a crew favorite.

• Bet Gatwood wishes he could have those steaks back.

• The real drama: How will Jimmy get Francesca back?!

• Where’s Mike?

• Thanks for all the eyeballs, long reads, and tough love this season. Till next year!

Better Call Saul Season-Finale Recap: The Great Wall