Viewers of Better Call Saul are sometimes so preoccupied with the moment that Jimmy McGill turns into Saul Goodman that we often overlook the relationship between Jimmy and Kim. For a television show, it’s a very unusual one. Kim and Jimmy clearly care about one another. They have each other’s backs. They don’t show it alot, but there’s clearly some sexual attraction, too (we saw a decent glimpse of it this week after Kim did an impression of Kevin Wachtell). The relationship has also gone through some rough patches and nearly sputtered, but even after Jimmy and Kim grow apart, they always come back together.
It’s a remarkably unique brand of television relationship. Kim and Jimmy rely upon each other, and they have each others’ backs, but typically the most romantic thing they do is eat take-out food in their pajamas and watch old movies. Their relationship is not business-oriented, and they’re obviously more than roommates, but it’s not a relationship with a lot of fire. Kim shows her affection for Jimmy by standing up for him. Jimmy shows his affection for Kim by going to insane lengths to impress her.
Meanwhile, from one perspective, it often seems like Jimmy should be the one that’s lucky to have Kim, and in some respects, that is probably true. Kim is a grounding force for Jimmy. She keeps him out of trouble. She stokes his ambition. She acts as a check on his ethics.
But from another perspective, it often feels like Kim doesn’t treat Jimmy all that well at all. Jimmy was always going to be Jimmy, right? A charming, low-level grifter who always had a scheme. But I do wonder if Jimmy transforms completely into Saul Goodman out of some sort of resentment toward Kim. Chuck and his constant disapproval took Jimmy halfway there, but it is Kim that may push him over the edge. Why?
Consider their history together. Kim loves Slippin’ Jimmy, right up until she doesn’t. And Jimmy has never wanted to sell out, like Chuck did. He initially balked at taking that gig at Davis & Maine. He has turned down Hamlin. And Kim initially balked at working together with Jimmy because he could not promise to go on “the straight and narrow.” That’s not who Jimmy is, and Kim loves that about him, until she doesn’t. She always ends up rejecting Jimmy when he shows his true nature. But it’s the way that she always rejects Jimmy that may drive him into full-on Saul Goodman. Kim uses shame. In “Cobbler,” when Jimmy told her he manufactured evidence, she loved the story until she realized it could expose him, and so she shamed him. When Jimmy didn’t jump on the Davis & Maine job that she got for him, she shamed him.
That’s understandable, but it’s when Kim pushes Jimmy to engage in some unscrupulous chicanery and then shames him afterward that’s the problem. In season two, when Kim joined Jimmy in scamming Ken at that hotel bar and slept with Jimmy afterwards, Kim had the night of her life, but the next morning, told Jimmy that she had real-life responsibilities to take care of. She shamed him.
In season four, Kim pulls not one, but two scams with Jimmy — one to get Huell out of a jail sentence, and another to switch blueprints for Mesa Verde — but even after Kim instigated the scams, she shames Jimmy afterward and reminds him that she has to return to her real-life responsibilities.
In season five, this latest scam (again instigated by Kim) may be the final straw for Jimmy. Kim recruits Jimmy to defend Mr. Acker against her and Mesa Verde. If anyone in this scenario is being shady, it’s Kim Wexler. Jimmy is just doing what Jimmy does: use whatever means necessary to save a client. It’s Kim who creates and ignores the conflict of interest, it’s Kim who orchestrates much of the plan, and it’s Kim who pushes Jimmy/Saul into going after Kevin personally.
But we have seen this rodeo before. We know how it plays out. Jimmy helps Kim get exactly what she wants, and what does she do? She’ll turn on him. Shame him. Remind him of their real-world responsibilities. She so wants to be the person who chucks beer bottles over the balcony, but she cannot help but to be the person who cleans up the glass the next morning. Again, she’s going to stab Jimmy not in the back, but in the chest. Kim consistently exploits Jimmy for his Jimmyness, but then she chastises him for being too Jimmy.
Maybe — just maybe — Jimmy wises up to it this time, and instead of tucking tail and acquiescing, it’s Jimmy who ditches Kim, finally realizing that Kim only wants Jimmy to be her partner on her terms. Kim asks Jimmy to jump, and he says, “How high?” and she gets mad at him for jumping too high. Jimmy deserves better. It’s just too bad that (potentially) losing her will cost Jimmy the one person who still grounds him.