The opening montage of episode 3 feels more like a nature documentary than anything else – treating the audience to a rare and much-anticipated monsoon event in the Chihuahuan Desert – revealing beneath the sand a single shard of broken glass – once bloody but wiped clean by the heavy rain that suddenly animates the craggy ground. The rest of the episode will focus on this unlikely symbol – a painful obstacle hidden in the very vast desert that makes up much of New Mexico’s harsh landscape. It’s a familiar echo of Better Call Saul’s predecessor, Breaking Bad, in which the first and final seasons both hearkened back to the same location – the spot where Jesse and Walt cooked their first batch of methamphetamine in the desert, and whose coordinates Jesse has committed to memory – where Walter White is finally arrested and where one of the series’ most shocking murders takes place. Something similar – or at least as equally shocking and unpredictable – will happen by the end of this particular episode.
Much of episode three in the show’s final season overlaps with the chronology of its two-part opener – leading to when Viva Nacho makes his last phone call to Gus Fring. Now, we finally know the contents of that call – and how Nacho narrowly escaped recapture at the hands of the Salamanca crime family just to defy Fring – even if it means hiding submerged in a rusted oil tanker. The ruthless kingpin is annoyed enough that the plot to assassinate Lalo has failed, without any survivors around who have to hold it over his head and could potentially be the key to his undoing. Lalo’s disappearance has been problematic for the world beyond the cartel, as Jimmy’s professional acquaintances see an opportunity to take him down after his decision to defend Lalo as his client and passing him off with an alias – and an obvious connection to Lalo’s cousin Tuco Salamanca who ended up with a lighter prison sentence thanks to Jimmy’s legal maneuvers. No matter what, we’re fairly close to understanding why Jimmy was so horrified when he thought that Walt and Jesse were sent by Lalo.
Once a trusted confidante of one of the most powerful cartel families in America, a position he hardly wanted to be in, Nacho has spent most of the last two seasons constantly on the run – not sure who he can trust, while ending up in one fix after another. He’s ultimately decided that the perils are worth it, so he can end things on his own terms – telling the truth to both Hector and Gus with no holds barred and still managing to escape whatever gruesome fate the Salamancas might have thought up for him. His rise and fall has happened considerably faster than Jimmy McGill’s – just around the time that McGill is on his way to becoming the legendary Saul Goodman – someone who could always find a loophole out of any legal dilemma until the law finally came for Heisenberg. While the ending of Breaking Bad ended on a surprisingly high note, it’s harder to determine if Saul will have a similar path to redemption – and who will be left in his orbit to save.