The central romance of “Better Call Saul” is one of the most profound on television — because on the surface, it’s barely there.
When viewers first see Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Kim (Rhea Seehorn) together in the pilot episode, the scene proves to be a memorable introduction: He finds her smoking in the HH&M parking garage, and barely touches her as he plucks the cigarette from her mouth, taking a drag before returning it to her lips.
The moment speaks to a pre-established intimacy between two people we don’t really know yet, and as the series has continued, there’s still a lot to be uncovered about who these two people are, and what it means when they’re together. Part of that comes from how subtly creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould have woven their love story into the narrative, most notably avoiding the sort of physical displays you’d expect from other series.
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Because this is a show about lawyers, let’s use specifics: Over the course of 30 episodes of television, Jimmy and Kim have kissed each other just seven times. But as seen below, those seven kisses tell a pretty epic tale about two grown-ups, trying to navigate a complicated love.
[Editor’s Note: Spoilers for Season 3, Episode 10, “Lantern” follow.]
Over the course of the first season, Jimmy and Kim joke about talking dirty to each other and offer each other moral support. But even while Jimmy gives Kim a (slightly sloppy) pedicure, they seem to hold each other at a relative distance.
But this definitely wasn’t always the case, as we learn from the episode-opening flashback, in which Jimmy finds out that he passed the bar and Kim kisses him in celebration — the sort of kiss that is definitely not a first time thing. What exactly happened to change their relationship from romantic to (as we meet them in 2002) platonic remains one of the show’s major mysteries, but what we do know is that they were at least able to remain friends.
Things change for Jimmy and Kim just as Jimmy’s own life seems at a crossroads. After a fun night out conning the obnoxious KENWINS into buying them the most expensive tequila in the world, Kim leans into the moment and leans into Jimmy for a sweet embrace.
This scene is then followed by one of the most charming morning-after scenes ever seen on television, even though no nookie is involved. Instead, Jimmy responds to her refusal to lend him her toothbrush by grabbing her finger and dosing it with toothpaste.
“I’m fine with this,” Kim says.
Not only does Kim rearrange the seating at the conference table so she and Jimmy can play footsie during a meeting, she even accompanies her gift of the World’s 2nd Best Lawyer mug with a quick smooch in the parking lot. (They’re trying to be discreet, but they’re not fooling anybody.)
While in Episode 3, Jimmy and Kim do snuggle on the couch to watch “Ice Station Zebra,” it’s approximately the year 2002, and the concept of Netflix and chill does not yet exist. Thus, it’s not until after Kim and Jimmy have a massive fight over his missteps in handling the Sandpiper case, and Jimmy does some serious groveling to win her back, that they eventually reconnect (over yet another con). After said con, another morning-after scene ends with Jimmy, as the two of them walk to their cars, lightly taking Kim by the elbow and kissing her — the sort of have-a-nice-day kiss that only couples with years of history tend to share.
Kim and Jimmy don’t touch at all as they explore their potential new office — a regular trend for them, as witnessed in the previous episode, where they set up their partnership without making physical contact once. But as soon as the realtor leaves, Kim can’t contain her excitement at how well her Mesa Verde meeting went, and grabs and kisses Jimmy with the most passion audiences have ever seen in her. Jimmy admires out loud her exuberance in that moment, high-fiving her so hard she spins around on the stool; his affection for her clearly spelling doom for what’s to come. It’s also worth noting that two of these kisses were directly tied to professional success for one of the pair – signifying just how much the show wants to emphasize Jimmy and Kim as professionals first.
That’s right — while they’re clearly co-habitating to some degree (the bathroom has had two toothbrushes in it since Season 2), Kim and Jimmy’s physical intimacy is limited to the occasional celebratory cuddle touch each other on screen for the following 11 episodes. And this doesn’t feel wrong in the slightest. Between their individual storylines, which focus on work, as well as Kim’s deep concern and anger over Jimmy’s not-so-ethical practices, it makes sense that they have bigger things on their minds. In terms of physical touching, they remain relatively circumspect, especially when seen in public; it speaks to that.
The state of their bond is one of the most important aspects of the season, specifically in terms of how it drives their behavior. Kim’s feelings towards Jimmy are incredibly complicated, as she grows increasingly conflicted over what she does in partnership with him, even as the “fallacy of sunk costs” mounts. It’s a concept first introduced by Jimmy in Season 2 that became how Kim defined her relationship with him in Season 3 — a notion that she was conscious of. It’s that pressure which pushes her beyond her limits.
Meanwhile, Jimmy was so busy attempting to save face and not “disappoint his gal” that he wasn’t really paying to what was happening with Kim until it was nearly too late. And that gave us the emotional catharsis of their scenes together in the season finale.
When Kim wakes up after a long post-accident sleep, Jimmy is there and is more physical with her than we’ve ever seen before — he’s always respected her physical space in the past. And when he pledges to make things right, the pledge comes with a line that, as delivered by Odenkirk, doesn’t just prove how badly the accident shook him, but how much he cares for Kim. “After… everything, I don’t give a shit about the office,” he says. It’s the “Saul” equivalent of “I love you,” followed by her kissing him on the hand.
Jimmy then proceeds to destroy his past legal practice to make things right across the board, losing his Sandpiper settlement money, but at that point it’s the best version of himself we’ve seen in quite some time. It feels quite earned that the season ends, for Jimmy and Kim, as they pack up their office together, followed by her kissing him, telling him, “let’s go home.”
There’s a lot more to a love story than physical intimacy, but the way “Saul” has built up this romance with hand-holding, high fives and these kisses just makes it more powerful.
And of course, all the more nervous about Season 4.
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