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‘Better Call Saul’ Returns In Style

After sitting out the 2018 Emmy season, AMC’s Better Call Saul returns in fine form, particularly Bob Odenkirk who continues to find nuance in his evolution of Jimmy McGill.

***Minor spoilers ahead…***

As Season 3 of Better Call Saul closed, Chuck McGill (the great, criminally underrated Michael McKean) raged in his isolated home, throwing appliances out the back door and ripping the wiring out of the walls. In this fit, Chuck accidentally (or not) knocked over a gas lantern and set fire to his house. Season 4 picks up the same evening, somewhat unexpectedly carrying through those events to their logical conclusion. I’ll admit to being surprised that the creative team committed to it, effectively writing McKean out of the series. The deteriorating relationship between Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Chuck resulted in the most successful drama of Season 3. Without it, what would push the narrative of Better Call Saul forward?

The answer is an increased and deliberate focus on Jimmy McGill’s persona as he starts ripping away his own inherent decency. I suspect the march toward Breaking Bad‘s Saul Goodman has accelerated with Chuck’s death. Thankfully, the very good Bob Odenkirk grabs on to the opportunity and makes something pretty amazing in his early Season 4 performance. I’ll miss the Chuck/Jimmy dynamic, but what replaces it has the potential of being even better.

That’s not to say that Season 4 is a one-man show. Hardly.

Jimmy’s gradual personality shift and reaction to Chuck’s death has tremendous and unexpected side effects on Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn). She struggles to find her own place in the world while simultaneously feeling the need to support Jimmy. Seehorn’s performance continues to revel in the understated and stoic with a few brilliantly revealed moments of genuine emotion. You can start to see the threads of their relationship unravel as Jimmy moves farther and farther toward the Saul Goodman path. Many have worried that Better Call Saul ends with Kim’s death. My take (hope) is that Kim becomes emotionally separated from Jimmy McGill as he shuts himself off. It’s a better way to imagine their split, anyway.

Giancarlo Esposito’s iconic role as “Gus” Fring also receives a boost in Season 4. And that’s a great thing. For me, Esposito’s Breaking Bad performance was one of the highlights of the entire series, and it’s a joy to watch the character evolve into the much feared Breaking Bad version of Fring. Here’s hoping Better Call Saul offers Esposito the opportunity to make up for that tragic Emmy loss to Aaron Paul.

Better Call Saul‘s Season 4 dashes off to an excellent start. I suspect that devotees of Breaking Bad (or at least those who can remember all of the nuances and myriad characters better than I can) will find even more to love about this season than I have. Still, I find pleasure in the new. It’s tremendously fun watching the evolution of three characters – Jimmy, Kim, and “Gus” – as they hurtle toward Breaking Bad. Some may say the evolution doesn’t happen fast enough. I’m OK with that, though.

Since we know where we’re going, the only thing left to love is the journey itself.

Better Call Saul Season 4 premieres Monday night at 9pm ET on AMC.