The time has come to worry about Kim Wexler. Actually, the time probably came a while ago. Sometime around her first on-camera appearance on Better Call Saul, when she locked eyes with Jimmy McGill and we all did the “it looks like this is going to be a thing, but this character is nowhere to be seen in Breaking Bad, and since this is a prequel to that show, that means…” math. She always had an expiration date in the Gilligan-Gould universe, and it was always coming at some point before the two shows crash together (although it’s more of Better Call Saul rear-ending Breaking Bad, if you want a more accurate and vivid visual, and please do take a moment here to picture Saul Goodman and Mike Ehrmantraut literally rear-ending Walter White and Jesse Pinkman’s Winnebago in traffic), but that date is starting to feel real now. Too real. Especially where we stand heading into the season three finale, which, if we want to be literal about it, is “in a ditch next to a mangled car that is surrounded by fluttering legal documents.” It’s not great.
Kim Wexler occupies some lonely real estate on Better Call Saul. Most of the characters have known fates, just by nature of the show being a prequel. Jimmy becomes Saul, then becomes Gene, then ends up at a sad Cinnabon in Nebraska. Mike dies at the hands of Walter White. Gus dies at the hands of Walter White. Lydia dies at the hands of Walter White. (In hindsight, Better Call Saul could have been titled Saul and a Bunch of People Walter White Will Kill. A little less punchy, sure, but very accurate. Not too late to change it.) There’s a thin film of dread covering everything that happens on the show, but it’s dread we know. It’s still going to hurt to see it all happen. At least we can prepare ourselves, though.
And most of the characters with unknown fates are either minor or flawed enough that you can rationalize their eventual disappearance. Chuck is a manipulative and prideful jerk who just had a huge falling out with Jimmy, so even if he doesn’t get killed off like all our Breaking Bad veterans, you can see their strained relationship causing a separation that explains his lack of future screen time. Howard played a big part in the early going, and is still kicking around now, but once Jimmy goes full Saul and acquires enough money to buy a Cadillac and many flashy dress shirts, there won’t be much of a need for him. Our low-level pharma-pusher and fictional Squat Cobbler entrepreneur is presumably collecting baseball cards in peace somewhere, I hope, because I love him so and cannot picture a world without him.
But Kim… Kim is pretty much the only character on Better Call Saul who has an open-ended fate and has to-date been a decent, morally-redeemable character of consequence. In a way, that makes her the most important character on the show. Every time Jimmy teeters over the line into Saul territory (like what he just did to poor Irene at Sandpiper, ruining a gullible old woman’s life and breaking her down in a disturbingly cold manner), it’s just one more step toward what we know he’ll become. Every time something potentially dangerous or serious happens to Kim, it could be the last time we ever see her. The show has done a great job of creating stakes even with all the known outcomes, but because everything — or most things — are already known, the unknown takes on greater significance.
That’s what makes her arc — both in general and specifically at the tail end of this season — so nerve-wracking. Things are, and I will apologize for this as soon as I type it, starting to “break bad” for her. (I’m sorry. There.) Her business and life partner, lovable scamp Jimmy McGill, is turning dark in front of her eyes. Kim doesn’t know about the bingo thing, but she did see what he did to get her the Mesa Verde case, and she did see how cruelly he tossed aside Chuck’s wife after using her for a Godfather II move at the hearing that exposed Chuck. He’s suspended and cutting corners and showing up with large sums of money that seem suspicious in either origin or method of acquisition, and some combination of all of those things is pushing her to take on new clients in the free time she doesn’t have, burning the candle at both ends and melting the wax with a Zippo for good measure, which is how one ends up stressed out and stranded in a ditch.