ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Bob Odenkirk sighs deeply as he settles into a couch inside a massive sound stage at Albuquerque Studios. The star of AMC’s “Better Call Saul,” the quirky prequel to landmark drama “Breaking Bad,” has spent the morning filming a sequence where his character, con man turned attorney Jimmy McGill, confronts painful memories from his youth.

The scene’s intensity and McGill’s bitterness appear to weigh on Odenkirk. Although he maintains his typically pleasant and warm demeanor, a trace of melancholy creeps across his face.

“Jimmy is mutating and changing. There are parts of this guy that are shutting down. The lesser angels of his nature are coming to the surface.”

Since its premiere in 2015, the dark comedy-flavored “Better Call Saul” has aimed to establish an identity separate from but still in the same universe as “Breaking Bad,” which revolved around criminal mastermind Walter White (Bryan Cranston). At “Saul’s” center is McGill, whose hangdog likability and good intentions are often derailed by a flexible moral compass.

But in the third season, launching Monday, the series is edging closer to its ultimate conclusion – the merger of “Saul” with “Breaking Bad,” complete with McGill’s evolution into the title character, Saul Goodman, White’s shady, wise-cracking lawyer.

“There are new elements to Jimmy that are more like Saul, and that will be a thrill for the audience,” says Odenkirk. “But for me, this is sad. I can remember thinking, ‘Let’s hurry up and get to Saul. The audience can’t wait, it’s taking too long.’ But now I’m saying, ‘No! Don’t turn him to Saul. I like Jimmy.’ ”

His anxiety over McGill’s transformation is echoed by “Better Call Saul” executive producers Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould.

“With every season, we’re seeing Jimmy McGill becoming more and more like Saul Goodman, and this season there’s more overlap with ‘Breaking Bad’ than ever before,” Gilligan said recently, sitting alongside Gould at a West Hollywood hotel.

“The further along we get, it’s apparent that we’re telling the story of a tragedy,” he added. “It’s tragic that Jimmy has to turn into Saul because we like Jimmy much more than Saul.”

The endgame for “Better Call Saul” is parallel to its predecessor, which followed White, a meek high school chemistry teacher stricken with cancer, as he gradually morphed into a deadly drug kingpin known as Heisenberg.

Gilligan famously dubbed that trajectory “turning Mr. Chips into Scarface.” The course of “Better Call Saul” is depicting how the mild-mannered McGill can change into someone capable of entering into a deadly alliance with White.

“This is the puzzle we started out with,” Gould said. “How does good-hearted Jimmy McGill become Saul Goodman, who is ready to recommend murder for money?”

Though this season will continue to have lighter moments that showcase Odenkirk’s comedic prowess – he is a former “Saturday Night Live” scribe and co-creator of the acclaimed sketch comedy series “Mr. Show” – the show will be considerably darker.

That tone will be significantly fueled by a literal and figurative “blast from the past’ with the resurrection of one of “Breaking Bad’s” most notorious, and popular, characters: vicious drug lord Gustavo Fring.

Played with a soft-spoken menace by Giancarlo Esposito, Fring is the proprietor of the fast-food restaurant Los Pollos Hermanos. (“Come in and try our new curly fries, we are so sure you’ll like them. And if you don’t, they’re on me,” he intones with a smile in a cheeky promo for the new season.) He became White’s associate, then his sworn enemy.

In an infamous “Breaking Bad” moment, Fring was gruesomely killed in an explosion – at a nursing home by a bomb engineered by White – that removed half of his face.

The third season picks up immediately from the moment in last season’s finale when Jimmy McGill admits to his brother Chuck (Michael McKean) that he falsified legal documents to woo a major client away from Chuck’s huge law firm to the small legal practice run by himself and his girlfriend, Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn). Jimmy is unaware that Chuck, who suffers from electromagnetic hypersensitivity and despises his brother, has secretly recorded this confession.

In the show’s other plot line, ex-cop Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), the only other main holdover from “Breaking Bad,” has discovered that his pursuit of the leader of a drug cartel has made him a target of an unknown criminal element.

Critical and fan response to “Better Call Saul” has been solidly positive. The series has scored consecutive Emmy nominations for outstanding drama series, while Odenkirk and Banks have also been nominated twice for lead and supporting actor in a drama, respectively.

“We’re very proud of ‘Better Call Saul’ being its own show,” said Gilligan. “That was our intention from the beginning. Now we’re able, organically, to have more of a ‘Breaking Bad’ overlap with the addition of Gus Fring. This is not intended as a stunt, this is not to get ratings. It’s a natural organic evolution toward these two shows coming together.”