With two strong seasons behind it, Better Call Saul has been rearing and ready to dive into the major storyline that connects this prequel drama to its predecessor Breaking Bad. We knew that more familiar faces were coming, and it only took until the second episode of Season 3, “Witness,” to bring in two of them. Viewers welcomed not only that most revered of all Breaking Bad villains, Gustavo Fring, but also Future Saul Goodman’s good-natured and put-upon secretary and assistant Francesca. And both official introductions were as fabulous as could be. Let’s take them in order, shall we?
Following one of Better Call Saul‘s signature slow-and-silent Mike sequences (which featured its own reappearance seen on the next page), the episode spun the tone back to slightly cringe-worthy comedy once Tina Parker’s Francesca walked through the door of Jimmy and Kim’s office building. It didn’t take long at all to see just why the character we got to know in Breaking Bad was so loyal to her brightly-dressed employee after his name change. One of the few things we knew about Francesca is that she’d previously worked at a DMV, and following a gooberish conversation about the preference of DMV as compared to MVD, we learned tonight that Saul was only too eager to accept her into the fold, hiring her despite Kim’s concerns without so much as a background check.
Excel and Word, huh? You had me at ‘old people.’
With any and all returns like this, there’s always the desire to pack sly references into it all, and Francesca’s first work duty is a testament to how stellar Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s creative team is. (Incidentally, Tina Parker’s first appearance came alongside Bob Odenkirk’s in the Season 2 episode “Better Call Saul.”) With just a few minutes of phone training, we see Jimmy persuade her to change her tone and conversation to win the caller over, foreshadowing Breaking Bad moments where she impersonated a cop. As well, one of her very first calls comes from Mike, whose partnership she was quite familiar with when we first met her. And at a point when most new hires are still dealing with paperwork, Jimmy has Francesca checking for dietetic sugar cookies. She’s home now.
As sweet and surprising as it was to see Francesca already arriving before Jimmy McGill’s name-swap, Season 3 of Better Call Saul became all about Gus Fring’s big introduction as soon as actor Giancarlo Esposito became a major part of the promotional campaign. While it certainly might have been great to have Fring’s first Better Call Saul appearance come out of the blue, the foreknowledge couldn’t possibly dilute the power of that masterfully crafted sequence inside Los Pollos Hermanos in which he shows up.
Fring’s big reveal really was Better Call Saul at its finest, and the approach is one that would seem to be paradoxical to how most dramas would tackle a similar villainous return. Rarely has a TV scene evoked such a maximum amount of nail-biting tension only to cap it off with nervous hilarity, and what we were ostensibly watching was one man not eating his meal inside a fast food restaurant, and then two men digging in the trash. Perhaps it wasn’t the kind of scene that should have sent me climbing the curtains in anticipation, but I could have squeezed orange juice out of a diamond whenever The Chicken Man’s famed yellow shirt showed up. And then to have him immediately get small-time-swindled by Jimmy was a nice touch. (But was he really swindled?) For me, the most important moment in the episode was a seemingly innocuous one, in which Gus asks Jimmy the most loaded question imaginable:
Is there anything else I can do for you?
With lots of Fring-tastic storytelling left to go in Season 3 and beyond, Better Call Saul airs Monday nights on AMC at 10 p.m. ET. To see what other shows will be taking over your primetime in the near future, head to our midseason TV guide and our summer premiere schedule, and head to the next page to see another big Breaking Bad return that didn’t spark quite the excitement as those above.