Better Call Saul star Rhea Seehorn breaks down Kim's 'devastating' decision(s)
Warning: This story contains plot details from Monday's episode of Better Call Saul, titled "Fun and Games."
For the entire run of Better Call Saul, Kim Wexler has remained a fascinating enigma — a lawyer with limitless skill and contradiction. How long could she keep compartmentalizing those Jimmy schemes and those pro bono dreams? All the way until the ninth episode of the final season, as it turns out.
Reeling from their scam-gone-horrifically-awry that she proposed with double guns — which resulted in the death of stuffed-shirt semi-nemesis Howard (Patrick Fabian) at the hands of cheery cartel figure Lalo (Tony Dalton) — Kim (Rhea Seehorn) and husband Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) had been instructed by man of 1,000 solutions Mike (Jonathan Banks) to go about their lives as if none of this had ever happened. Jimmy was trying his darndest to follow those orders, but Kim couldn't shake what had happened. What they hath wrought. What she hath wrought.
After helping Jimmy sell their story to Howard's widow, Kim was mid-motion in court when she revealed to the judge that she needed to remove herself from the case, because... she had quit the law two hours earlier. She then walked away from the other key part of her life, explaining to her partner-in-petty-crime that although she loved him and "had the time of [her] life," together they were poison and were inflicting pain and suffering on the world. Which is why that she felt the need to blow up hers. As she finished packing up her possessions, Jimmy was left to process the loss of the last thing keeping him even somewhat tethered to reality. A glimpse into the Breaking Bad-era future confirmed his grim, debauched fate as splashy, trashy, soulless attorney Saul Goodman.
When did Kim come to her devastating decision? What becomes of her? And what was the biggest challenge for Seehorn in bringing this pivotal, potent episode to life? The freshly and finally Emmy-nominated actress — whose powers were on full display here — is ready to help you assess the tragedy and damage, which she terms "a terrible punch to the gut." Catch your breath and read on.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First, congrats on the Emmy nomination(s). The universe feels right now. What did the longtime swell of fan support leading to this Emmy voter validation mean to you?
RHEA SEEHORN: The whole thing of the support of fans and critics and people on social media — it was just overwhelming. This reception and support for both my character and my performance — it's just been incredibly touching. And it wasn't until that I got nominated and I saw how excited other people were [laughs] that I just — I don't know how to put it. I was extraordinarily touched. I was in London with my fiancé [Graham Larson] and Jennifer Bryan, the costume designer, at the Savoy Hotel bar when I found out, and I think other people in the bar knew and they sent champagne over. It was very sweet.
Kim remains in quiet shock after Lalo killed Howard in front of them. But when she snaps out of it, she makes drastic changes. After risking her life for Jimmy, Kim is ending this partnership. In your mind, when did she have the epiphany that must have been bubbling under for some time, that together they were toxic? Was it gradual? Was it that conversation with Howard's wife, Cheryl [Sandrine Holt], and/or in the parking lot when Jimmy tried to assure her, "It's over, let the healing begin"?
I do think it's open to interpretation, as the show so often is in the best way. People are going to interpret certain moments quite differently. But for me, I thought it was a bit of both. The "gradual" was more subconscious and she was in a bit of state of shock — the compartmentalizing prior to this going down had become so extreme, and borderline pathological [laughs] that it took her a second to regroup, to even find any kind of firm ground to walk on. And subconsciously, it was this thing of, "I can't live in this skin anymore. I don't know what to do." And, ultimately, the thing with Cheryl at the memorial and saying this lie and how well she was able to say it and how nonchalantly she could twist that dagger to also bring up their marriage, knowing that their marriage was in trouble — to me, it just felt like the acid rising up your esophagus and it's just like, "How long can you swallow this?"
Then in the parking garage, I felt like it was an assessment of "It's not you, it's me. And if it's not me, it's us." [Laughs.] I think it was more about self-loathing — and then "How do I figure out how I got here? How do I unravel this knot that is tied so tightly?" She went at it with very big swings, to mix metaphors.
Her decision to leave the law is maybe even harder to swallow. It's something she loved; at the end of season 5, she talked about setting up top-notch pro bono defense for in-need clients. Wasn't there some penance to be done in representing the little guy? Or does she feel that she is just no longer worthy of being an officer of the court after what she did?
I think you hit the nail on the head. I love the way they wrote Bob's side of that scene when he finds out that she has quit the law and also the way that Bob played it. It allows Kim, who I felt is still compartmentalizing — she's not freaking out about these decisions she's making. They're very, very hard for her, but you can see that she's a bit of a shell of a person — just desperate to try and figure out any way out of this. And Jimmy is the one that sort of is the audience's perspective in that moment of how big of a decision this is and brings up what you just said, like, "Can't you pay penance? What about these clients that need you and the work that you could do for them?" And ultimately to me, storytelling-wise, it makes it an even bigger tragedy that we are aware of what Kim was capable of — and what she could have done with her life.
I do think that she thinks she is undeserving to be an officiator of the law or sit in judgment — that she is sullied beyond repair at this point, you know? She thinks she has absolutely no right to take on this noble profession that she really put on a pedestal and kind of has been slowly corrupting the whole time. But she just thought that if it was for the "good people," if it was for those who are "deserving," then it didn't count. And that obviously is a very dangerous way to be going about practicing law. [Laughs] The decision to not practice law is horribly tragic. And I don't disagree with her. In that moment where she is, she does not deserve to pass legal judgment on people anymore.
She's exacting a pretty serious punishment on herself and seems to have asked herself some really hard questions. Jimmy, meanwhile, is in denial, and he just wants this to blow over. At the end of the episode, we don't know where she is, but Kim is gone from his life, and you see that he has gone the other way, fully embracing his Saul side. He is incapable of self-examination.
To feel that you need to atone, it is pushing him further off the cliff. For her, it certainly doesn't look like she'll be fine. And if anything, I thought a lot about the fact that it almost felt like this Icarus type of analogy for her. Remember when she was interviewed by Schweikart & Cokely the first time when she turned on the job and they said, "Where'd you come from?" She said, "A small town." It was our first hint that there was a very dubious path that she at least did not want to be forthcoming or transparent about in any way. They said, "Why'd you leave?," and she said, "I wanted more," and that's all she could say about it. But it meant a lot. And I think that she thinks she deserves nothing now. She deserves nothing. Couldn't go further away from "How dare you think that you could rise up from where you came from?"
And it's tragic. I had the beauty of working on these wonderful scripts where you do get them one at a time over the last six seasons and seven years of my life, where I got to experience — not knowing where it would go — this very organic evolution that they did, where you just took tiny steps in the wrong direction over and over and over until you realize you've dug a hole and you don't even know how you got there. And I think that's where she is in that moment. There's just no light anymore.
Oof. Fans were worried about whether Kim makes it out of the show alive, but as the writers have suggested, sometimes there are fates worse than death. And like you said, "There's no light anymore." It is pretty dark for her.
There's not. And she even tells him, this has nothing to do with not being in love with him. She is in love with him. I don't think she [thinks she] deserves to be in love. She doesn't deserve anything...
I can't say if we see her again. And even the fans that were savvy enough to figure out when I was in Albuquerque and when I was not — we shot a lot of stuff out of sequence, whether it was locations or weather or COVID[-19] or whatever. So there was no telling when somebody wrapped, or what that meant in the story sequentially. So I'm not going to speak to whether or not we will see her again and in what capacity. I will say that it's devastating the decision she makes and the end of the relationship — the Jim and Kimmy that we knew — and her practicing law is its own ending, no matter what. It's painful. And it was a terrible punch to the gut when I had to play it. [Laughs]
The breakup scene is the most emotional moment we've seen between them. We've never seen them say "I love you" before this episode.
We have not. Nope.
And when Jimmy says it to her, it's loaded, it's desperate. And when Kim explains why she hid the Lalo-is-alive news from him, she gets really honest and says she didn't want to dismantle the scheme because then they'd break up and she was having too much fun. The chicanery was the glue holding them together. That whole conversation was devastating. What was the biggest challenge for you in pulling off that scene?
That end — "What is that honesty?" — it was challenging. It's a challenging scene. [Co-executive producer] Ann Cherkis wrote it beautifully and [executive producer] Michael Morris directed it. And Bob and I were running it at the home that we shared, as we always do, a gazillion times and realized not only is it loaded, it has really infinite possibilities about how it could be played. Where it is a hot argument. Where it is defensive. Where it is quiet. What are the dynamics? When is it loving? When are you trying to let somebody off the hook versus pinning them to the mat? What do these two different dynamics look like?
And also handling the very complex and subtle end that you're talking about, as far as: You need to see that she cannot stand herself. She cannot stand to be in her own skin. It isn't that she's saying he's faultless. But she's saying, "There's no way back for what you and I have become. We hurt other people." And she even says, "On our own, we're okay. We're not perfect. We definitely both made mistakes. But together we ignite something." There's an admission that "Was that the glue that was holding us together?" But I also think it was about holding at bay that question at the end of season 5, when he says, "Do you think I'm bad for you?" She needed to hold at bay that idea that either of them could be responsible for the other one doing wrong, because that doesn't match up with the way Kim believes about self-agency and life and decisions we make. Everybody should pull pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and be responsible for your own stuff. And now she's in this horrible mess and who did she become? So it was very challenging figuring out those dynamics.
We ended up rehearsing it with Michael for quite a while in the space and realized, blocking-wise, that there was a shift that kept happening back and forth between who's pursuing and who's defending. It was going back and forth. And then got Marshall Adams, our DP, in the room [with] our camera ops who are brilliant and [camera operators] Matt Credle and Jordan Slovin, and also Eli, our dolly grip. I don't know if you noticed in the scene, you aren't allowed to get away from them. We ended up orchestrating this dance with our camera crew that was very intimate — our crew is family at this point. And people were, I mean, in tears, and the crew was quite emotional about the end of this relationship and end of an era with these two people. We made the decision to do the work, of "What if you had to stay with them?" We've all been in these terrible breakup scenes where it constantly feels like it's getting away from you. We wanted people to have to sit in that feeling with us, of like, "Please don't let this happen." And you see Saul saying, "Don't do this, don't do this." Jimmy wants to stop this speeding train. So we wanted to make sure you couldn't get off this train and orchestrated a way to not cut and to do this dance where Eli on dolly grip kept following with us and pulling back. It was hard, but became really a group success together.
Not only is it devastating, it answers some of the central questions of the show, including "Is it him? Is it her? Or are they just bad together?"
I would agree. And that the answer is, "It's all of the above. We are inherently who we are — plus the sum of our experiences. We cannot be one or the other."
How emotional was it to watch Bob return to the set after his heart attack and to work with him on this episode?
You can't get away from the joy and the emotion you feel about one of my closest and dearest friends being alive. [Laughs] It's like one of the worst days of my life was followed by one of the best days of my entire life — that he was fine, that he was okay. But at the same time, he and I care so deeply about and respect the work that we need to do so much. He came back really feeling like he didn't want to hold the crew back anymore. We'd been shooting for almost a year and it was important to him to [say], "Let's do the work, and let's kind of take a break from the overwhelming feeling of what just happened." It wasn't about ignoring it. It was actually lovely to just get back to doing Kim and Jimmy — and back to something that he and I both love working on.
And then... you said goodbye to Kim and Jimmy.
And then we said goodbye. And, yes, that was hard. It was emotional for both of us and we wanted to be very respectful of that scene, which I don't think is about falling down, being in tears — we wanted to make sure it looked like how these two people would deal with it. We could afford very little because they haven't been showy about their emotions prior.
You don't want to say if you're even in the next episode, but what is your one-sentence hint about the next episode?
"The train has left the station."
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