Better Call Saul star Bob Odenkirk on the Jimmy-Kim aftermath: He's like, 'F--- this world'
In the farewell season of Better Call Saul, in a season that has contained a fair amount of farewells (Nacho… Howard… Lalo…), Monday night's episode of AMC's Breaking Bad prequel packed a different kind of goodbye, one that rocked viewers even harder. It was the end of Kim's legal career. The end of her relationship with Jimmy. And based on the final minutes of the episode that featured Saul Goodman at his loudest and emptiest, the end of Jimmy McGill.
"Fun and Games" saw anything but fun and games, unspooling the tragic consequences from Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Kim's (Rhea Seehorn) scam that went super sideways and landed Howard (Patrick Fabian) in the grave. Like he had before, Jimmy attempted to put tragedy behind him and to "let the healing begin," but his wife and accomplice could no longer ignore the alarms and lights that had been blaring and flashing for too long. After helping Jimmy seal up the loose ends on their deadly mess with Howard's wife, Kim quit the law and her husband, explaining to Jimmy that although she loved him, they brought out the worst in each other and inflicted the worst on the world. He pleaded, he negotiated with her, he tried to fight the truth with his weapons of mass denial, but she returned to packing up her possessions, leaving him to unpack what life might be without the one last person who kept him somewhat grounded on this planet.
Or perhaps that notion was just too painful to process for Jimmy. The final few minutes of the episode jumped into the Breaking Bad era, with Jimmy in full-on Saul Goodman mode, living a hollow, hedonistic life, as he nudged a one-night stand out of his leopard-sheeted rotating bed before beginning another day of wheeling, dealing, and stealing. Let's grab a breakfast bar, crank up some Journey for the end of this journey, strap on a neck brace, marvel at that new trash can, and let justice be done by asking the once-again Emmy-nominated standout known as Bob Odenkirk to take us inside the devastating events of "Fun and Games."
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Congrats on the Emmy nomination — not just for you but for Rhea. What did you text her when it was announced?
BOB ODENKIRK: You know, I could go look it up. [Retrieves phone] What did I say? I said to Rhea Seehorn…. I think I beat her to it. I heard about it before she did, which is always great. Because you feel like when you're late to the game, people think you weren't going to write anything. I wrote, "Rhea! Nominated! You!!!! This is good and right and congrats and heck yeah!"
Enough merriment — let's get into the episode. After Jimmy and Kim both risked their lives for each other last episode, Kim is ending this relationship and her promising legal career. He knows how much she loves the law. Is this the ultimate, gutting double-whammy for Jimmy to learn she's not just leaving him but the law, too? Is the guilt too much to bear?
I mean, it's a rejection of him and everything she was [aiming for] — you know, it's like her giving up on life. And he feels it's caused by him dragging her into this. Yeah, it's true that she provoked him to do the most recent round of con jobs, but he always feels like he's the person who brought this into their lives, made this a part of their lives. He showed that to her and he made that who they were as a team. And now it's blown up their relationship, but it's also blown up her sense of herself, and he's just destroyed her. I also think he doesn't think it can possibly be true. He's just aghast this is happening. It's one of those things where you think the person will change their mind in a week.
The breakup scene has lots of energies and complicated interplay. It's devastating, it's honest, it answers some key questions—
It's six years of preparation. [Laughs]
This is by far the most emotional we've seen this couple, two people not known for wearing their heart on the sleeve. How did you go about capitalizing on the potency and poignancy of this scene without betraying who these two are and how they operate in the world?
They've been such a team. I mean, they've been a great partnership, the worst things that happened to them, they kind of ride out. At very worst, they sort of scold each other. But they're very supportive of each other. And, of course, we've seen Kim be supportive of Jimmy when he is not there, when he's just on his own, out in world talking to Howard or somebody, and she's pushed back on anything said about Jimmy that's too negative.
It felt very real to me. Both characters have equal commitment to each other and love for each other and desire, and they both sort of secretly know that it's wrong, that it's not a good, healthy relationship. And even the fact that she moved first and she's holding the line here is driving him crazy, is adding fuel to the fire of like, "No, no, I leave! Let me be the one!" [Laughs] I think it's all just so charged in every direction. Man, we had a lot of emotion to work with here.
What was the most difficult challenge for you in calibrating this scene, from Jimmy's reaction to first being upset about her quitting the law, to desperately trying to undo that, to then realizing this whole relationship was slipping away? Rhea talked about the scene's momentum shifts — who's pursuing and defending…
When one partner in real life is laying down the law and holding the line, [it] lets the other person cut loose. Because there's nothing to hold me back. He's just grasping at straws and throwing everything he can at her to try to keep her there and try to change her mind. But he gets to do that because she's being so committed and serious. Her character's incredibly strong when she needs to be, when things matter to her. And he can see that she's making this one of those things. So he can just throw all his feelings at her. She's putting up a big stone wall and holding her ground. It lets me cut loose, you know?
It's very painful though. You don't want to have too many of those scenes in [real] life. If you have two or three of them, you try to keep it to that. [Laughs] It's a hard thing, but somebody has to hold the line and in this case, Kim is doing that. I mean, you could always ask: Could they get it straight? Could they work things out? Could they come to a better place together? I don't know. I don't think so. They don't seem to help each other in the long run.
What was it like say goodbye to the Jimmy and Kim relationship? Was there one particular line in that scene that destroyed you?
Well, I think it's the line where she says — and I haven't seen this, and this scene was shot eight months ago or whatever — but I'm looking at her packed clothes and things, and she's standing behind me, and she says something to the effect of, "We're not good for each other." And that just tells you she's made a choice here, a big choice… It really is like a door slamming shut. A pretty huge door. Honestly, the moment and the argument and the interaction was more like real life than you want acting to be. [Laughs] We spent six years making the show and I don't want to talk about more to come because there is all kinds of stuff to come in the story and I don't want to spoil anything, but the truth is that was a big, big moment for Jimmy and Kim. As big as it feels, that's how big it was for us, too, for Rhea and I. It's really a good scene. It feels very real. It felt like a real breakup. That's what happens. It's that full of pain and it's that much of a dead end. It's that impossible to change. You can't change the trajectory.
Whatever clarity and self-awareness Kim has, Jimmy can't go to that same place of self-examination—
No, the best he can come to is after the [season 5] episode "Bag Man," where he spends days in the desert and almost dies and is just traumatized by the things he's seen, he kind of starts to give up a little of himself. And it's not quite the same thing as turning a corner or changing your direction in a willful and confident way or a powerful way. But that's the closest he could come, is to kind of give up, which he did.
Yes. Was that the severing of the last tether he had to the world? That's one hell of a cut at the end of the episode, right into peak Saul Goodman in the Breaking Bad era, with him in the rotating bed, the hair flip to cover the bald spot, the hanging portrait of Saul as a Kennedy half dollar. That final sequence is haunting and nihilistic.
Kim was the last person connecting Jimmy to some hope — a legitimate, straightforward connection that's balanced to the world, to life, to other people. He was trying to make her love him and make her respect him and keep her appreciation. He lost Chuck [Michael McKean] and he felt like he pushed away the legal community with his Saul Goodman persona: "I'm not going to pursue that. I'm not going to want your respect or to be included in your country clubs and your legal associations. So f--- you."
She was the last person who connected him to other people and in a sense that he could be contributing to the world and be connected in a meaningful way. And once she says, "Goodbye, I don't want any more of this and this isn't good for us, and I'm going to make a choice for us both," then he's like, "F--- this world." And then he's Saul.
What was it like to play that version of Saul again, something you really haven't done since Breaking Bad, save for the moment in season 4 of Saul when he grabs his stuff at the office before fleeing? After playing the fleshed-out Jimmy for all these years, did it feel almost alien to return to this tragic cartoonish character?
Yeah. The Breaking Bad Saul is much easier to play than Jimmy McGill and the kind of depth — basically as Saul, he's turned off a lot of [laughs] his human dimensions. He's just shut them down and compartmentalized so that he's facing the world in this persona, and literally only asking, "What do I want right now and how do I get it?" It's easier; it's a thinner character to play.
What was the touch in that sequence where you went, "Wow. That guy is just gone"?
Putting his ear[piece] in when he wakes up. [Laughs] That is like, "Let's go, let's go! Let's be this guy!" He has a shot at, like, 15 seconds of humanity, and then he grabs that thing and sticks it in his ear and presses "go" and he's on. I say it's easier for me to play, and I would argue it's easier for Jimmy to play. It's easier for Jimmy to be that guy and just go, "I know what I'm about. And I don't have to ask a bunch of questions: 'What am I doing today?' 'Why?' 'What's the best thing I should be doing?' 'How could I be better?' He doesn't have to ask any of those questions and life gets simple. And I think he's at peace with that. And then it goes haywire with Walter White.
The last words of the episode are Saul saying, "Let justice be done though the heavens fall." That's what Chuck says to Howard right before the trial against Jimmy. What were your first thoughts when you read that line?
It's a funny, grandiose statement and, of course, coming out of Saul's mouth, it can only mean it's completely deprived of any real ethical weight. [Laughs] It's a mocking statement and I love it.
A thumbing of the nose at that sanctity.
Yeah, he's thumbing his nose at ethics, at the core value of the law. That this is for justice. It's a big, hilarious, inside-out "Let's do this!"
How emotional was it for you to return to the set to film this episode, after recovering from your heart attack?
The impact of that incident with my heart is something that's resonated and continues to in my life. Like today. Like through time. [Laughs] I think about it all the time. I think about what matters to me and how to live my life and make the most of it and value each day the most. But the crew and the cast were really devastated by the incident because they were very present consciously and I was not. I was unconscious. So for me to come back, they were extremely sensitive. Everyone was very emotional and sweet and kind — and a little too concerned. [Laughs] Very worried about everything that I did...
It was kind of funny and sweet and touching. And you could see it in everyone's eyes. They were all looking at me like, "Is he really okay? Is he going to be all right?" And the truth was, I was still recuperating. For the next few weeks, there was a rule that my days could be 12 hours long only, which is actually a limitation — and a pretty harsh limitation. So I would get tired around eight or nine hours. And I would have to sit down and I would just kind of get very quiet and carry on. I would get through the day, but I would kind of shut down. Everyone felt it. I did, too. We just carried on. And my stamina came back a little more every week.
Rhea won't say if and when we will see Kim again. What can viewers expect from Jimmy/Saul/Gene in the final stretch of episodes?
Oh my God. There's yet another iteration of Jimmy on his way. If you can believe it. I can't wait for everyone to see these [episodes]. They're just so great. There's a lot in there. A lot of story and a whole new bunch of stuff. As you know, Carol Burnett will be joining us. And that's a big story.
What can you tease about next week's episode?
"Pop goes the weasel." [Laughs]
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- Better Call Saul star Bob Odenkirk explains which episode he had heart attack on while filming
- Better Call Saul star Rhea Seehorn breaks down Kim's devastating decision(s)
- Better Call Saul star Tony Dalton on Lalo's fate
- Better Call Saul co-creator breaks down Howard's end
- Michael Mando goes deep on Nacho's fate on Better Call Saul
- Better Call Saul star Rhea Seehorn previews 'stunning and shocking' season 6, Kim's moves
Saul Goodman, first introduced in Breaking Bad, gets his own Vince Gilligan prequel.