Back in its first season, Breaking Bad featured a monologue that made the show's primary thematic concern pretty clear: transformation. In fact, the actual scene includes this nifty line: "It's solution, dissolution; just over and over and over. It is growth. Then decay. Then transformation!" Sure enough, Breaking Bad traced the moral decay of its central character until Vince Gilligan and his writing staff had successfully transformed Walter White's story from one of an underdog struggling to take care of his family into one about a total monster that you couldn't wait to see get taken down. So the Breaking Badiverse has given itself something of a thematic preoccupation — not unlike the way Noah Hawley's Fargo universe has been primarily concerned with the most morbid kind of interconnectivity and coincidence coupled with characters who constantly get in over their heads — in its exploration of moral decay. If Breaking Bad was about Walter White's transformation — his growth, and then decay into Heisenberg — then Better Call Saul is obviously about Jimmy McGill's degradation into Saul Goodman, who has finally showed up in name this season. Interesting, though, is how much focus the first part of that quote has gotten in this third season. Solution, and dissolution. Over, and over.

Season three of Better Call Saul has had a preoccupation with partnerships, tracking Jimmy's moral descent through a series of partnerships formed and destroyed, both personal and professional. The partnership theme hasn't been limited to Jimmy's immediate world, either; we've seen partnerships rise and fall, change and grow and split apart in the world of crime that directly surrounds Jimmy, as well. It's a world whose proximity to Jimmy makes it seem ready to reach out and swallow him up at any moment...or beckon him with open arms, whichever it is. Jimmy constantly rides the line between doing shitty things for the right reasons and doing shitty things for the wrong ones, but his deference towards shitty things is starting to tug at the loose threads in just about every part of his life.

"Fall" has a pretty literal title (and it's a little punny, coming right after "Slip"), considering it features Jimmy sinking to some pretty serious moral lows in order to secure himself a quick cashout. Since Hamlin, Hamlin, and McGill is advising the Sandpiper Crossing residents to hold out for a bigger payday, Jimmy doesn't get his cut anytime soon. With his law suspension firmly in place and no way to make any real cash, Jimmy's desperation leads him to carry out an elaborate con by which he effectively ruins the social life of a sweet old lady so he can manipulate her into accepting the settlement right away. It's the first time we've really seen Jimmy just fuck someone over for his own personal gain, and it's quite frankly pretty entertaining to watch. Better Call Saul is a master of the montage, and this episode has a couple of great ones, plus a great visual gag involving a trunk full of boxes of shoes. This is the point at which we see Jimmy McGill make a serious turn; it's a big step in his transformation, but none of this change happens in a vacuum. Think again about that solution and dissolution that Breaking Bad mentioned in its pilot episode.

Jimmy's willingness to abandon his moral compass and emotionally manipulate the golden girls of Sandpiper Crossing is arguably the result of the dissolution of one of the show's many partnerships: Jimmy and Chuck's. The effects of this partnership's termination have rippled outward, and are now inciting the dissolution of Chuck's partnership with the law firm he helped build. As Howard urges Chuck to retire and Chuck responds with the threat of a breach of contract suit, yet another of the show's oldest partnerships is exploded.

In the background, new partnerships are forming and shifting all over the place. Mike, needing a way to launder his cash, forms a new partnership with Gus Fring, and by extension, Madrigal. This is a partnership, we already know, that will eventually push Mike much more fully into a world of waiting in the back of drug runners' trucks and drilling camera holes into stucco walls. Another transformation, once again informed by solution and dissolution, over and over again.

Elsewhere in town, Nacho is in the middle of his own storm of uncertain partnerships. As Hector Salamanca decides to force Nacho's father to enter into a partnership with the former's drug trade, Nacho decides to effectively exit his partnership with Hector by poisoning the shit out of him. Before that can happen, though, Nacho's revelation that he's mixed up with a criminal element causes his dad to terminate their partnership. Not only does Michael Mando knock his portrayal of Nacho out of the park, but the character has shown himself to be one of this world's more thoughtful and engaging figures. Since he never show's up in Breaking Bad, Gilligan and co. have a lot of room for free play with where Nacho winds up, and it'll be interesting to see what kind of transformation he's pushed to by the solution and dissolution that surrounds him.

 

Oh, and also...

• Kim's car crash is a pretty intense moment, especially with how much audience goodwill she's been racking up this season.

• "You're a mallwalker? I had no idea!"

• Nice Little Detail: the bottle of tequila that Jimmy brings to Kim's office as she's leaving is the same kind that they swindled out of that Wall Street type back in the second season premiere.

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