It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment I started to worry about Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn). The relationship between Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Kim is, in my view, one of the most interesting partnerships on television. Incredibly, nauseated, connected by their mutual desire to succeed and see those who wrong them fall flat on their faces. You never stop rooting for them. Throughout the 5 seasons of the show, their schemes are, as with everything throughout Better Call Saul, methodical, well thought through, and executed perfectly. The show has been careful never to make the pair feel like villains or mean-spirited. Their actions always feel justified. They feed off each other. The episode’s title, “Fun and Games,” refers to the games they’ve played with each other.
After the anxiety-inducing “Point & Shoot“, I had expected the show to its familiar sedate pace. It feels that way. We begin with an opening montage that shows our lawyers going about their day as Mike and his cleaning crew set about removing every trace of Howard in their apartment.
“One day we’ll wake up and realise we haven’t thought him about all day. That’s when we know we’ll be able to move on.”
However composed the pair seem when they get home in the evening the hours spent wearing forced smiles have taken their toll. Jimmy and Kim are masters of disguise but it’s clear Howard’s death has changed them as people. For the first time, they feel broken and disparate.
All of my worries about what happened to Kim were tied to their connection to the cartel. I had expected Kim to become the first true victim of Jimmy’s dealings and for me to feel the same sickness in the pit of my stomach I did during the key moments of Breaking Bad’s final season. The show, and its predecessor had perhaps predisposed me to expect a final showdown that would shatter the last human pieces of Jimmy McGill and force him into the role of his alter-ego full time as a coping mechanism.
Instead, Kim, a woman who is always in control, leaves Jimmy because she has realised the pair are ‘poison’ when they’re together. As people, they work fine, but they hurt people as a couple. Kim’s decision to give notice to the bar, and leave Jimmy might be the biggest emotional gut-punch of the series so far. Surpassing anything that has come before. Odenkirk and Seahorn are perfect. Jimmy desperately pleads for her to stay, putting her decision down to the grief and guilt she still feels after Howard’s death. That’s not the reason. She can’t live with the fact that she knew Lalo was alive and she was having “too much fun” to stop their plan to take down Howard and get justice for the victims of the Sandpiper case, that she didn’t think it was even worth mentioning the news with Jimmy. She can’t live with herself because she let that side of herself out. It had never occurred to me, or to Jimmy that Kim’s exit would see her leave him and the law behind.
The transformation into the ‘full Saul’ is an abrupt one. We flash forward with Saul in bed with a sex worker in his brash mansion. The workaholic with the bad hair, Bluetooth headset and a packed waiting room of clients who have ‘called Saul’
It’s strange to be here. Not unexpected, the show only has a handful of episodes left. It’s hard to believe this is what so many fans wanted the show to be from the time it was announced. The show has always been about the psyche of the man at its centre. When Vince Gilligan pitched Breaking Bad he said wanted to take Mr. Chips and turn him into Scarface, it was always somewhat unclear how or why hapless but loveable Jimmy McGill would turn into the man we knew from Breaking Bad. If Kim had died (as I stupidly predicted) he wouldn’t have become the man who works alongside the cartel and fights for the justice of petty criminals. He would be a broken man. Kim leaving him, if I had really thought about it was the only logical reason for Jimmy to abandon the McGill name altogether and give in to the man he had pretended to be for years. Without his sidekick, support system and wife by his side, he has nothing. He had tried things the right way and the results were the same. He’s lost his brother, his respect as a lawyer and now, the one person in his life that made his continual battles worth fighting. A lesser man, might (like we’re told Howard did here) walk into the ocean and end it all, but Saul knows he’s good at what he does.
In their final act together, Jimmy and Kim attend an event for Howard held at HHM. They are there to pay their respects but also to draw a line under their experiences with Howard. It’s an excruciating setpiece, particularly when Jimmy introduces himself to Howard’s wife and she is well aware of who he is and what he’s been doing with Howard. She has heard every story and isn’t afraid to call the couple out as she knows they were the last people to see him before his supposed suicide. In truth, this sets the wheels in motion for the couple’s upcoming breakup. Not, entirely because she feels guilt for the death of her once close friend but because of the expertly crafted story she is able to easily sell to his grieving widow. She tells Howard’s wife that she once walked him on him snorting something at his desk. Jimmy watches in amazement as the story he knows to be false falls effortlessly from Kim’s lips. When the woman starts to cry she places a hand on her saying, “perhaps I misjudged what I saw. You’re his wife. You would know.” It’s the ease with which these stories are formed that is Kim’s final wake-up call. As improbable as it might seem now, she knows they are both strong enough to move on from the horrific night where Lalo broke in and upended their lives, but she has reached the point where she’s not prepared to hurt anyone else. Even if that means hurting the one person she truly cares about.
It’s a fascinating choice. One that feels baked into the story from the beginning. Kim was always going to be the strong one. She was always going to call the shots and when she decides to end things for the good of those around them, it’s brutal but feels right.
The transformation into Saul feels a lot grubbier than I remember. That’s mostly due to how accustomed I’ve become to Jimmy. Seeing him now, threatening to sue the owner of a radio station because he’s unhappy with the sound quality of his own ad, it’s hard to believe I ever liked the character. His transformation feels starker than I was expecting. He was always brash and unapologetic but finally understanding the series of events that led him here makes it feel even seedier than I expected. I already miss Jimmy and wonder if he ever lets his Saul Goodman mask slip.
There were other key moments here. Mike reaching out to Nacho’s father to tell him of his son’s death but assuring him he suffered no pain. Gus, still reeling from his narrow escape from Lalo, slowly feels more in control. Particularly after a meeting with the Salamancas where he keeps his cool.
For the most part, “Fun and Games” seems to bring to a close a lot of plot threads. Nacho’s father knows his son is dead which has given Mike a degree of closure. Gus is working to rebuild his empire and Kim is gone leaving Jimmy to fully embrace his dark side.
The road to the end of the series seems set and I’m not sure whether Kim will be seen again. Is it still too much to hope she reconciles with Jimmy when he becomes Gene and that they’re both working in the mall together?
Better Call Saul continues Monday on AMC and Tuesday on Netflix.