TV

The Time Has Come To Worry About Kim Wexler On ‘Better Call Saul’


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.

It’s not that I think Kim is about to be killed off. I mean, she might be, as soon as this season’s finale, in a move that would be both strange given the end of the most recent episode and would explain Jimmy’s final push into his future. (Kim is the only thing in his life that even resembles a moral compass, so without her, bingo bango, Saul time.) But the killing seems to be limited to the Mike half of the show for now, so that’s probably jumping the gun. What’s more likely at this point is that the strain on her relationship with Jimmy and/or some specific shady action he takes will be the straw that breaks her back and sends her out of his life in a way that makes her a total non-factor in the near future.

And that, my friends, is going to suck. This will not end well for Kim, because nothing ends well for anyone in this universe, except maybe Jesse, provided you consider “escaping the clutches of Nazis who locked you in a cage like a dog after everyone you loved was taken away from you in cruel and tragic fashion” to be a good ending. Even if she lives, she’s screaming toward either a painful breakup or an even more painful realization that Jimmy has done something to scam her, and it’s really going to hurt because Kim is the only character on the show who hasn’t earned a fate like that, in some way. Sure, she grifted a little tequila and was somewhat complicit in one or two of Jimmy’s ruses, but Kim is a good person at heart. Which is probably why she’s doomed. Good people don’t last long in the world of these two shows. They end up dead or ruined or becoming bad themselves. The scene in which this finally happens might break me.

(It’s worth noting here that Kim has avoided the Skyler White problem so far, in which viewers turn on the female love interest because she’s very understandably asking her burgeoning supervillain partner to, like, not do that. Part of this is the show using Chuck in that role, to the degree he has literally spent the better part of a season sitting in a dark house and plotting against Jimmy like the bad guy in a cartoon. But part of it has been how great Rhea Seehorn is as Kim, too.)

There is also, I suppose, the possibility that she wins the Powerball and moves to the South of France and dumps Jimmy for a series of muscular and hairless male models, which doesn’t seem like something she’d do, but is certainly better than the options on the table now. This is the nice side of that open-ended fate. Anything could happen. She could become a rock star between seasons three and four and spend the entirely of Breaking Bad on tour. She could change her name to Ellen Swatello and move to California and end up dating loose cannon attorney Jared Franklin, which would make Better Call Saul a prequel of both Breaking Bad and Franklin & Bash and would make me laugh until I run out of oxygen and die.

Or, maybe, it all ends terribly in this timeline but she — a noted Kansas City Royals fan — returns home to Middle America and notices a certain mustachioed man making chain restaurant pastries in a mall just across the Kansas-Nebraska border and they reconnect years later. But the likelihood of most of those is pretty slim (we don’t even know if she can play an instrument, which throws a fork in the rock star one), and the last one would raise a number of issues related to aiding a wanted criminal that could land her in prison or convince her to turn him in. Also not ideal. Kim is hosed. That’s what I’m trying to say. Kim is hosed and it’s going to break my heart.

So fingers crossed for that Franklin & Bash ending, I guess.

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