[Note: The following interview contains spoilers for the ending of “Better Call Saul” Season 5.]
In almost any other circumstance, firing off a couple of casual finger guns to your husband would be a harmless sign of marital bonding. But like nearly every other element of “Better Call Saul,” the final on-screen moments for Kim Wexler in the show’s Season 5 speaks volumes about how the beloved character might well be transforming in front of both Jimmy and the audience in real time.
As someone who’s spent the past half decade bringing Kim to life, Rhea Seehorn explains that season farewell moment took just as much meticulous planning and fine tuning as anything else in the character’s ever-growing tapestry.
“We did maybe 25 different versions of the finger guns, all different. I needed to be clear to myself what I think Kim is doing in all of these last couple of scenes in the finale, but I’m aware that they beg the question of the audience of ‘Is this sincere? Does she mean all of this or is this a knee-jerk reaction?'” Seehorn told IndieWire. “Kim does not react well to people telling her who she is or what she should do or what she should think. And she’s definitely turning the table on Jimmy to say, ‘You think you know me? You think you’re the only person that can ambush somebody with a whole different persona?’ I also understood that it can’t be so sharply obvious that Jimmy gets it because that last moment is actually his enigmatic moment.”
It’s pivotal moments like this that keep Seehorn’s focus on the Kim of the immediate moment and not the character’s ultimate fate. From the preceding week’s heart-pounding standoff with Lalo Salamanca in the Wexler/McGill living room to her sudden resignation from her comfy corporate law firm gig, this has been a season of tumult. With the ways that Kim has moved away from the calm, measured attorney she used to be, those gradual changes have demanded far more attention.
“They write the choice that’s more interesting and shocking and it’s harder to unpack than if [Lalo] had just killed her. It’s instead this deeper thing that in some ways is a deeper tragedy, this erosion of this person, whether it’s her doing it to herself from the inside out or it’s coming from the outside in. It’s really complex. I don’t have time at the moment to worry about her demise anymore because my RAM space is completely full with what they are asking me to play,” Seehorn said.
The context for Kim’s “right back at you” attitude in the finale is made all the more important by what she and Jimmy have been sharing in the moments leading up to it. After escaping a near-death experience in their living room, the two venture to a local hotel to decompress. Add on some room service and some luxury amenities and the two playfully discuss how they might undo the career of their former boss Howard Hamlin. Over the course of their conversation, it sure seems like this plan is more than a goofy hypothetical for Kim. Seehorn keyed in on a thematic idea that’s run through so many of Kim’s other seemingly rash decisions as Season 5 has progressed.
“We’ve been seeing her increasingly have this massive chip on her shoulder about the Kevin Wachtells of the world and the Howard Hamlins of the world,” Seehorn said. “She definitely has issues, I think, with people who didn’t make their own way in the world or she doesn’t feel earned their status and or their money. She keeps watching people who do color in the lines and play by the rules and it ends shitty. It gets old people kicked out of their homes. It makes rich people get richer, poor people stay poor.”
That warped sense of justice that Kim’s been exposed to throughout the show’s run offers an interesting extra layer to what might be fueling this less-measured shades of Kim. One conversation Seehorn had with series showrunner (and season finale director) Peter Gould helps shine a light on where Kim might head in the series’ farewell season.
“She keeps getting example after example that you are not going to get the results you want, where the ‘good guy’ wins, if you play by the rules. So maybe these rules were the wrong set of rules to begin with,” Seehorn said. “Peter said to me all through the season, ‘It’s like Kim has gotten to a place where she thinks that if she could just lightly put her finger on the scales of justice so that they keep going in favor of the good guy, that it’s not really that bad.’ Of course, that’s an incredibly egotistical, dangerous game to be playing, that you’re choosing who you think deserves anything. So it’s not so much abandoning all your principles as little by little thinking, ‘Well, this one doesn’t count because the guy doesn’t deserve to go to prison anyway.’ Or ‘I’m going to cut people off in traffic just this one time because it’s an emergency.’ We all do it. She’s doing it on a magnified scale.”
In turn, she’s had to grapple with that coinflip of a question that the finale’s last moments raise: Is this an act or is Kim in danger of slipping even further than she already has? Seehorn doesn’t know for sure, but she finds it helpful to remember that this shift in Kim’s outward choices isn’t just confined to this most recent season. She’s gradually gone from one of the most sure-footed characters in “Better Call Saul” to someone who realized that comfort was maybe an illusion all along.
“One of the many great things is this idea that these characters are not immovable objects. She’s not the same Kim that we saw in the pilot. If I had to do this finale the day after I did that pilot, you better believe I’d be calling the writers and ask them like, ‘What, is she crazy? Is she a crazy person? Has she lost it?'” Seehorn said. “If she loses all sense of her compass of right and wrong, and I have no idea if that’s what they’re planning, if she’s not just imitating someone or baiting Jimmy and she’s being sincere, then I would be looking at that the same as the other decisions she’s been making in her life all along Season 5.”
In that process, Seehorn has also been able to join a proud tradition in the greater “Better Call Saul”/”Breaking Bad” world. Even though the circumstances that have driven both show’s central characters to act outside ethical bounds, there’s a constant question of what’s driving those actions. With the final season of “Better Call Saul” on the horizon, Seehorn is inching closer toward an answer is almost definitely more complicated than one side of a “nature vs. nurture” debate.
“I am very interested in her part in this overall theme of the show, this idea of innate behavior and intrinsic versus extrinsic properties in people. Who would Jimmy have become if he never had Chuck as a brother or who would he be if he never met Kim? You can ask those same questions of Kim now, which has been really fun for me tracking that through this last season,” Seehorn said. “But it’s not entirely clear whether she is being driven to become someone else or is revealing parts of her personality that she has been suppressing forever. Or is it a combination of both? Is she a victim of her circumstance or a victim of her interior monologue which is constantly at play? Sometimes it looks like she’s prevailing to her better side, but it’s that same voice in her head that has driven her to quite a few ill-fated decisions as well.”
The step-by-step approach to Kim as a developing human being is similar to how Seehorn absorbs those changes as a performer. For her, the endpoint destination isn’t as fixed as some viewers might imagine.
“I kind of gave up trying to guess, ‘Do I live another day?’ I used to obsessively flip through the scripts very quickly looking for my death scene early on. But I knew that they would give me the dignity and the respect of telling me as soon as they knew if they were getting rid of me, probably one or two episodes before when they when they decide concretely that it’s definitely happening,” Seehorn said. “It is actually a great gift to me that I don’t know the whole season ahead of time, let alone another season ahead. I only have the episode in front of me. And so my job is to make an incremental shift as honest and believable and coming from somewhere as I as I can.”
“Better Call Saul” Season 5 is now available to watch via AMC.