TV

Everyone Underestimated Kim Wexler On ‘Better Call Saul’

For five seasons of Better Call Saul, we have all been so focused on the moment that Jimmy McGill transforms into Saul Goodman that we didn’t seem to notice that Kim Wexler may have been transforming into Kim Goodman until the moment that she turned around and gave us the finger guns. We shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose. This is what the Breaking Bad universe is about: What makes a good person turn bad? We’ve seen that question explored with Walter White, with Jesse Pinkman, with Skyler White, with Mike Ehrmantraut and with Jimmy McGill. It probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise to see Kim Wexler’s moral compass fall out of whack, as well.

There are a number of theories we have had to explain Kim Wexler’s absence in Breaking Bad over the years. Maybe she dies. Maybe she leaves Jimmy (for Howard Hamlin, even). Maybe Jimmy dumps Kim for her own good. Maybe Kim’s career becomes collateral damage to one of Jimmy’s schemes. Maybe she and Jimmy remain together, but she isn’t privy to Saul Goodman’s shenanigans on Breaking Bad.

What few people could have predicted, however, is that Better Call Saul may also be a breaking-bad journey for Kim Wexler, too. She is just as capable of acting amorally in pursuit of just ends. Some may say that this journey is different for Kim Wexler because she’s doing it for the right reasons — she wants to open up a pro bono practice and help the downtrodden. Yes, but Walter White’s motivations were also initially pure, to make enough money to support his family after his death. So were Mike Ehrmantraut’s, to support his son’s family. And so were Jimmy’s motivations: all he ever wanted was to impress his brother, Chuck. And then to impress his girlfriend-turned-wife, Kim Wexler. In the end, in fact, it is Jimmy who gets pulled into this life, partially against his will by Nacho, who gives him no choice but to defend Lalo, who gives Jimmy no choice but to fetch the $7 million bond money. It was Jimmy’s choice to associate with unscrupulous people, but he did not necessarily choose to be a lawyer for the cartel.

Kim Wexler, on the other hand, appears to be taking this path voluntarily and with eyes wide open. She is so convinced of her own righteousness that she is willing to destroy Howard Hamlin’s life and career in pursuit of it. There is hubris in that; the same kind of hubris that destroyed Walter White. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn next season, in fact, that Kim pushed Saul deeper into his line of work so that he could support her public interest career. She may have convinced both herself and Jimmy that his work with Gus and Mike and Walter White was all in pursuit of “the greater good.”

“Tthe greater good,” however, is a dangerously slippery slope. What if Kim Wexler destroys Hamlin’s life in pursuit of her own moral agenda? What if Hamlin dies? What if the guilt of that combined with Jimmy’s obvious PTSD breaks Jimmy mentally? What is Saul Goodman is a manifestation of Jimmy’s deep-seated guilt and other mental problems? What if Saul Goodman ends up being the Jesse Pinkman to Kim Wexler’s Heisenberg? What if …

No one knows exactly what will happen in the sixth and final season of Better Call Saul, not even the writers, who have just sat down to start work on the final season. I think, however, that we can make one assumption: that Kim Wexler probably does not die. That would not square with Vince Gilligan’s own prediction that Saul will have a better ending than Breaking Bad. Rhea Seehorn — who plays Kim Wexler — also believes that killing her off to get rid of her would be “way too simple.”

Viewers want to see Kim and Gene Taković reunite after the events of Breaking Bad. Viewers want to know what Kim Wexler was doing while Saul Goodman was advising Walter White to put a hit out on Jesse Pinkman. We don’t know what Kim Wexler’s role will be during that time frame, but we have for too long underestimated Kim Wexler’s capacity for bending the rules to get what she wants. She did everything right in her career, and she still ended up in a miserable job working with the likes of Kevin Wachtell and Howard Hamlin and Richard Schweikart to advance the interests of… banks. Now Kim Wexler wants to pursue more noble ends, but she understands that she may have to commit a light felony or three in that pursuit. We should not underestimate her ability to do so, because all we have done for five seasons is underestimate Kim Wexler. We underestimated her attachment to Jimmy. We underestimated her disdain for people like Howard Hamlin. And we have underestimated her eagerness to get her hands dirty for the right cause.

We know the danger that Saul Goodman poses. He wears his morally dubious personality on his sleeve. What’s so remarkable about Kim Wexler is that she might just be another form of Saul Goodman, disguised by a ponytail and a conservative suits, who wraps herself in moral pursuits. It’ll be very interesting to see how that plays out in the final season.

×