Better Call Saul doesn't follow a formulaic television trajectory of increasingly climactic storytelling. Instead, it takes its time in the slowest of slow burns, allowing events to organically unfold. Throughout the course of a season, you can never predict the level of intensity by episode norms, and the finale to Season 3 was no different; it was melancholy, heartbreaking, but ultimately understated, acting out big moments without unnecessary extravagance.
Season 3's most grandiose (by Vince Gilligan's restrained standards) moments occurred earlier in the season, particularly the tense courtroom standoff between Jimmy and Chuck in "Chicanery" (Ep. 5), or Kim's shocking car accident in "Fall" (Ep. 9). The finale, "Lantern," wasn't underpinned by the same level of anxious energy. Instead, it was draped under a dark cloud of devastating inevitability, as all the pieces of the story nonchalantly settled into place.
On the subject of inevitability, it was always clear Chuck was destined for a tragic end. But, typical of #BetterCallSaul, even when the destination is clear (it is a prequel to Breaking Bad, after all) the clever reveal of the journey to that destination is full of raw, emotional impact. Chuck's fate is sealed, but what about the rest? Where will they end up in Better Call Saul Season 4? (It must be noted this hasn't yet been confirmed by AMC.)
Charles 'Chuck' McGill (Michael McKean)
Chuck's death has been foreshadowed for a while, but witnessing his mental health spiral out of control as his long-standing condition got the better of him was painful to watch. After being dismissed from HHM thanks to Howard using $3 million of his own funds, Chuck viciously relapses from an apparent recovery to complete meltdown. He stops sleeping as his EHS returns with a vengeance, leading to him obsessively and painstakingly tearing his house apart in search of any source of electricity that might be aggravating his condition.
Better Call Saul is far from a feel-good show, but even by its own standards, Season 3 ended on a sombre and upsetting note as Chuck nudged, nudged, nudged his lantern from his desk, onto a deliberately lethal and highly flammable spread of books and newspapers, engulfing his home in flames, and ending his life.
Chuck won't return for Season 4, obviously. But his suicide will have drastic consequences — particularly for Jimmy. In their final conversation, Chuck tells his brother, "the truth is, you've never mattered all that much to me," as well as that he'll always hurt the people closest to him. Regardless of whether Chuck was being honest or intended to sabotage his relationship, when Jimmy hears of Chuck's suicide, he'll likely blame himself.
Jimmy McGill / Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk)
Better Call Saul Season 3 played a big part in eroding the remnants of Jimmy's former self as he edges closer to his alter ego, Saul Goodman. It's now hard to tell where Jimmy ends and Saul begins; in the previous episode, his morally questionable manipulation of Irene and her elderly friends led to a hefty payout for the Sandpiper case. However, in a redemptive u-turn, Jimmy deliberately stages his confession, fixing Irene's social life but ruining his chances of an immediate payout. He's broke. Again.
The aforementioned guilt over Chuck's death will be a big kick in the direction of becoming Saul Goodman full-time, with Chuck's scathing comments possibly leading to Jimmy reassessing his relationship with Kim. We know Kim doesn't appear in Breaking Bad but we don't know why — could it be because Jimmy cuts ties with her, afraid that he will cause damage in her life?
Season 4 will likely be the transition to Jimmy's involvement in the criminal underworld. With no money and no prospects to pick up his previous retiree clients, he'll need to find a way to pay the bills. Interestingly, a fleeting Breaking Bad reference seems to suggest Jimmy will end up working with Nacho.
Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn)
Kim's defining moment came in "Fall," when her tendency to overwork led to her falling asleep at the wheel and crashing her car on the way to meet her new client, Gatwood Oil. As mentioned above, Kim is another character who doesn't appear in Breaking Bad, resulting in a whole host of theories on why she isn't around. All of these theories are still relevant by the end of Season 3.
A defining moment occurs when Kim realizes she needs some much needed rest, opting for the local Blockbusters over a rescheduled meeting. Has her brush with death made her reassess her career? And how will her relationship evolve with Jimmy? Expect her storyline to be one of the most significant in the next season.
Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks)
Out of all of the characters who have been around from the beginning, Mike is the closest to his #BreakingBad persona. He's made a connection with Gus Fring, and sold his soul by laundering his dirty money through Gus's associate, Lydia Rodarte-Quayle, who has added Mike as an employee in her company Madrigal Electromotive.
Expect stoic, unflinching expressions and reluctant brilliance from Mike in the next season, as his ties with the criminal underworld continue to increase. It looks likely he'll be called upon as Gus's empire continues to grow.
Ignacio 'Nacho' Varga (Michael Mando)
An underrated character, Nacho has had his fair share of some of the most intense scenes in Better Call Saul's third season. His growing anguish at working for Hector Salamanca — who callously used Nacho's father's business to run drug operations — cumulated in Nacho's attempt to poison Hector's heart medication.
His plan eventually worked out, as Hector collapses after a tense standoff. However, Nacho, despite being a key player, isn't in Breaking Bad either. So what happens? Going back to the earlier reference in Breaking Bad, Saul Goodman, thinking Walt and Jesse are members of a cartel, pleads, "It wasn't me! It was Ignacio, he's the one!" This suggests Jimmy will somehow become involved.
It's also worth noting Gus's calculated and telling glance as Nacho hands over the pills to the paramedics. He's on to something. Does this mean he is aware of Nachon's intent, and won't trust him? Or could he ultimately respect him, due to a mutual hatred of Hector? It's hard to tell, but by Breaking Bad, he's either dead or on the run. Let's hope for the latter.
What do you predict is in store for the key characters after the Better Call Saul Season 3 finale?