"That moment is the ultra-mysterious moment of all that we've seen," says Odenkirk, while Seehorn observes, "There's a certain amount of menace."

By Dan Snierson
April 20, 2020 at 10:24 PM EDT
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Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Better Call Saul

type
  • TV Show
network
  • AMC
genre

When season 4 of Better Call Saul concluded — with Jimmy faking his way into reinstatement and declaring his intention to practice under the name Saul Goodman — it was clear that season 5 would bring viewers one giant step closer to the oily criminal lawyer we met in Breaking Bad. But it also rotated the spotlight onto another intriguing, resourceful, and even more capable attorney: Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) is also proving to be in the throes of evolution, raising brows at almost every turn, whether via sabotaging her plush banking client, quitting her corporate law firm, pitching a marriage proposal to boyfriend-and-sometimes-partner-in-light-crime Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk), or defusing a dangerous situation with cartel player Lalo (Tony Dalton). The final episode of the show's transcendent fifth season featured Kim surprising in the aftermath of that chilling Lalo confrontation — and further fogging her moral compass.

After a run-in with former boss Howard (Patrick Fabian), in which he suggested that Jimmy had influenced her decisions to quit Schweikart and Coakley, and give up Mesa Verde, she returned to the hotel where she and Jimmy had been hiding out. Under the sheets, they swapped jokes about the ways that they could mess with Howard — until suddenly they didn't seem like jokes anymore. Kim suddenly suggested a more dramatic gambit: framing Howard with some sort of corruption, forcing the long-constipated Sandpiper case into settlement, which would finally get these senior citizens paid, as well as Jimmy, who stood to gain a very cool $2 million. As Jimmy tried to laugh off her plan — “It’s not you; you would not be okay with this in the cold light of day” — she coyly and darkly responded, “Wouldn’t I?” As she got up to take a shower, Jimmy stammered, “Kim, you’re sh—ing me, right?” and she playfully shot off her finger guns, blew off the smoke, and walked away, leaving him stunned. (Shades of that season 4 finale, in which Jimmy left Kim shock-jawed by announcing his name change, complete with double-finger point.)

What exactly just happened to one of prime-time's most complicated and mesmerizing couples? What line(s) did Kim just cross? And what lies ahead for this danger-courting duo, especially with Lalo hell-bent on revenge for that failed assassination attempt at the end of the finale? Let's head into discovery with Albuquerque's finest and trickiest lawyers (or at least the actors who play them), Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Season 5 was teeming with twists in the Jimmy-Kim relationship, including a proposal no one saw coming. What was the biggest challenge in bringing this surprising, intriguing, off-kilter bond to life this season?

BOB ODENKIRK: It was a huge and challenging moment — for sure. [Both laugh] We talked at length about that scene where she says, “Or we could get married,” and everybody watching this scene is thinking — as my character, Jimmy, is thinking — that she's saying, “We have to separate, we have to break up,” it seems obvious and sure and logical and in every way it seems right. And she proposes that they get married. And it was very, very hard. When we read it, both of us hesitated. But I'm going to leave it to Rhea to talk more because she's the one who had to figure out her emotional journey to make that feel logical. And she did it.

RHEA SEEHORN: The whole season was a twist. Bob is kind to say that particular line was on me, and really it's the moment before that line [that] is what’s hard. As well as finger-pointing shooting in the finale I found incredibly challenging. I would give some credit obviously to the writers and the directors for not only what they give us but how they trust us with what we add to it — and then also Bob is not giving himself credit. We have to navigate these things together. Jimmy/Saul choosing to have a more honest relationship with Kim and the way Bob chose to play those moments small and in earnest is part of why you see Kim for better or for worse, number one, letting down her guard even more, and number two, believing that there is a real relationship there to hold on to. If he just played everything sort of crazy or loony or had chosen to play some of our moments in a way that she couldn't trust, I wouldn't be able to do the leaps they wanted my character to do this season, which were so much fun. But they were incredibly challenging. In a good way.

ODENKIRK: We really work together to make that moment feel [honest]. You walk away from it unsure if it's going to work. And I've got to say as a viewer, I felt like we pulled it off, and that was an achievement. One of the reasons is, Kim is cunning and there's a lot of thought going into it. I mean, you could see it and they give us the time to play that thinking. So you know it's not a proposal with a big smile on her face.

SEEHORN: “Hey! Let’s get married.”

ODENKIRK: You just know it has a lot of logic behind it, of some kind.

SEEHORN: And what was interesting that I did on purpose was in that moment, I took out the transition. Kim is very, very thoughtful and silent before she goes for an attack of a plan on things usually. And I knew that moment would be deadly if I gave myself the transition. She has to have had a subtextual, subconscious other train of thought going the entire time, and I believe that in that moment — Kim is not very capable or willing to sit with uncomfortable emotions. [Laughs] She prefers pragmatism and logic. There has to be a right answer.

So this explosion happens of not being able to continue the emotional conversation, because she can't get the results she wants, so she switches very quickly to another solution, which is a place she's more comfortable in. It's solution-oriented thinking. But I knew if I put a big pause before that line, where it’s overly thought-out, it could come out, like Bob was saying, dangerously sentimental or melodramatic. And we knew we needed to find a way to play that moment honestly.

In the big moment for Jimmy and Kim in the season finale, Jimmy and Kim joke around about seeking revenge on Howard, and then Kim makes her bold proposition, which ends with Jimmy telling her that she wouldn’t make that leap go through with such a plan. There’s an ominous tone in the air when she answers, “Wouldn’t I?” What was your first reaction when you read those words or heard them from Peter [Gould, the show’s co-creator]?

SEEHORN: My first reaction was going to Bob and tell him, “We need to call Peter and say that we need rehearsal.” [Laughs] It's a lot to navigate those moments! A lot.

ODENKIRK: Yeah, it's a very strange moment. The reason it works for me is because we started this project [to explore the question] “Who is the person behind Saul Goodman?” and give him a logic for why he becomes Saul Goodman. They've done that, and it's very well established, and in fact, we see that to a great extent, he’s Saul Goodman at work and that's what he was on Breaking Bad. We found it. How he gets into [the] particular moment that he's in in Breaking Bad, we still don't know, but really we know why he's become the person that we recognize from Breaking Bad.

So the show is really mutated into the question of “Who is Kim Wexler?” This really important person in his life who is very smart, very capable, and lives by a strong ethical code most of the time, with these little moments that we see where she breaks that code and slides around and does what she wants for a hoot or for a thrill. That's the real mystery that we have. And that moment is the ultra-mysterious moment of all that we've seen. In this little conversation they have in bed and they're imagining ways to torture Howard Hamlin — I don't know about you guys, but when that scene started, I think she's playing along with Jimmy just to share something with him, just to be on the same page as him. And then we sort of aren't sure if she is more serious than he is about torturing and hurting this person who doesn't deserve it. I guess because these moments we've seen her have this slippery ethical scale in the past, and now we see her almost more fully committing to being duplicitous and maybe even evil. They've set up, I guess, she could be that.

So one way to look at the moment is she's just playing along with Jimmy to try to be on the same page as him emotionally. Another way to look at it is… maybe she's crazier than he is. [Both laugh] And she's just been waiting for some moment or some frustration to build inside or to show how intensely nutso she is. We’ll see! [Laughs]

SEEHORN: Bob’s right. It’s all of those things. When I say we asked for rehearsal, it’s because it's a lot. And Peter Gould and Ariel Levine wrote this great script, and then Peter, as a showrunner and as a director, is so not just tolerant but encouraging of playing the moments that are open to interpretation. And not just in a gimmicky cliffhanger way, but multiple moments throughout the season — throughout the entire series — where you are not being spoon-fed information as to exactly what these people are thinking.

It also makes the people more human. Jimmy and Kim are more human and sometimes even accessible and they're relationship-accessible because people do unpredictable things. I don't yet know the answer to whether this is supposed to be — you know, the questions for the whole series that they've always had: Is this who she always was, and this very controlled persona she has is what she uses to suppress that? I don't think it's that black-and-white, but whether or not she's being sincere or truthful or playing a game or — and I thought there was a third level to it that I talked to Peter about — she's also throwing something back at Jimmy. Throughout the series, she does not like it when people tell her who she is, what she should think, or what she should do, or this whole idea of people are bad for you and you're somehow not making your own choices. You see it in the scene that she has with Howard as well — this people-need-to- tell-me-what's-good-for-me kind of crap. She really doesn't like it. And Jimmy has presented this new persona that she's supposed to deal with, this Saul Goodman. So I do think there's an element of playful and/or angry “I'm really sick of people telling me they know who I am as well. What if I have something else inside me?”

Earlier in the episode, Jimmy had asked her, “Am I bad for you?” And at the end of the episode when he looks stunned by the “Wouldn’t I?” comment and the finger guns, is that question burning in his brain even more? Was he horrified and disappointed in some way by her reaction — in that she’s been the more moral and balancing force in this relationship — and/or is any part of him relieved to learn that maybe they are even more compatible than he imagined?

ODENKIRK: I think he's horrified! [Seehorn laughs] For the first time, Jimmy is expressing what the audience is feeling, which is, “Who is this person?!” And you can obviously see it as playful, but I don't think you should. It’s almost like the rule about pulling a gun. Having her express that level of crazy vindictiveness and willfulness to be cruel — you can't just put that out there and say, “Well, it really was just her just talking.” To the great tribute of the writers, she's always had a dark side and a mystery side to her. Everyone watching has wondered, “Who is she, really? What's her past?” And we saw a little glimpse of it, but we really don't know who she is. Now that, to me, is the mystery of the show that you want sorted out. I think there's two mysteries: Who is she really? And what happens to Gene after all this Breaking Bad stuff happens? He can't stay undercover, hidden, obviously, so what happens to him?

SEEHORN: I've always been attracted to that [Gene] story. I love watching the black-and-white pieces they do about Gene and answering those questions. As far as, “What is really happening in that scene?” in the finale and Jimmy’s reaction to Kim and what Kim’s doing, the “Wouldn’t I?” versus the slight shift in the finger point, [laughs] we did that little couplet of lines and gesture so many times with minute, different modulations. I have to be honest about what I'm playing as an actor, Bob has to be honest about what he's playing as an actor, but we're aware that there is mystery. She's actually purposely obscuring some part of whether or not it's completely truthful. To what level is she playing a game?

And I agree with Bob. I don't think that the writers are ever so manipulative that they're just like, “Oh! She said she was an ax murderer, but she was kidding! Hahaha!” I don't think that they would be that ridiculous. I think that's partially why the writing and the direction and my performance is a bit twisty in that scene where she's not landing on one specific truth ever. But yeah, I thought Bob looked horrified. To tell you the truth, I haven't seen this finale and we shot quite a few different reactions, so I’m like, “I wonder which one it is!” [Laughs]

Peter Gould said it’s one thing for Kim to pitch that she's going to ruin Howard, and it’s another to go through with it. Do you think she has in it in her?

ODENKIRK: While she may not go through with it to the letter of what she said, there's something more intense going on there, and that's going to show itself again. And it's going to become something. Because they don't reveal moments like that just to tease the audience.

SEEHORN: Something's there and something is amiss or suppressed or revealing itself…. It's hard for me to say because she's a different person now, but still, she has a conscience. All of the characters are not immovable objects in space, so I get that she's forever evolving and she does have a history of thinking she gets to choose who should receive ill and who shouldn't. [Laughs] Which is a bit of an ego issue, if you ask me, deciding who deserves things and who doesn't. And she has a chip on her shoulder about people she doesn't think make their own way, whether it's the Kevin Wachtells, or the Howard Hamlins in life. These people that didn't make their own way are in her mind stepping on the little people. There's definitely truth to the sentiment, and I think they mean to ratchet it up.

Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

In episode 9, Kim was improvising a bit when she was defusing the Lalo situation for Jimmy. Here, in bed with Jimmy, when talking about plans for Howard, she appears to be moving with a little more calculation. How long do you think she’s been mulling over this Sandpiper scheme?

SEEHORN: That's absolutely a fair observation. The Lalo confrontation, I talked to Tom [Schnauz, who wrote and directed “Bad Choice Road”] about [it] and we both agreed that that's a little bit on the fly. She would preferred to have said two sentences and have him leave, but then doesn't get the reaction she needs and has to say four. And then it's six. And then it's nine. This to me, always came out as though someone had considered it before, which was a little bit creepy. [Laughs] You're right that you got that from the performance; I intended it that way and I read it that way. The script read [that] she's less halting, although they keep one-upping each other. Bob and I actually shot a series of montage scenes that were cut that had even more of them playing this game back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. They were fun, but they weren't necessary to understand why Peter ultimately didn't use him…. I don't know how long she's been mulling it over. It struck me as something where you sit around fantasizing while you're staring through gritted teeth at him all the way back to when he wouldn't promote me and stuck me in doc review. It seems a bit like when you sit around daydreaming that some anvil from Wile E. Coyote ACME falls on your boss’ head.

ODENKIRK: I think it's nuts! I think it's kind of scary. You see a little fear on Jimmy’s face as she walks away and does the playful gun shooting. And it shows a strain of unhinged behavior in Kim that is intriguing on screen — and something to really avoid in real life. [Both laugh] But I look at Saul the same way. Saul is someone to avoid in real life — and someone to enjoy on the screen.

SEEHORN: That’s true. I mean, no matter how you look at what she's doing, there's a certain amount of menace — even if she's playing a game to go, “Haha! Wasn't that funny?” It's a bit menacing to do that, even playfully. There's something very odd about it. For sure.

When Jimmy proposed that they head home from the hotel, he was tearful and sad, and it’s like she sensed he was going to say something bad and started talking up the hotel food and spa. There was a vibe that he was beginning a breakup speech because he’s not worthy of her and that was the right thing to do here and they both knew it, but she steered them away from it. What were the intentions of that moment?

SEEHORN: I think you nailed it on the head.

ODENKIRK: Yeah. He's thinking about, “Maybe we should separate.” And I think it's because of what happened in the desert. In the desert, he really saw the consequences that were part and parcel of this new level of criminal behavior that he's involved himself in, and he does not want that for Kim. It was not a joke what happened to him at the desert; it was life-threatening and frightening. He's, for the first time, having this level of self-doubt — and certainly uncertainty and fear for Kim. He thinks if he loves her — and he does — that he should leave her, or he should separate from her, and end this thing. So I love that they give him this growth in self-awareness.

The last images of the season were Lalo marching off with determination, knowing he's been betrayed. “How worried should Nacho be?” is surely a legitimate question, but also what about Jimmy and Kim? I don't think a speech is going to work this time for Kim, no matter how good it is.

ODENKIRK: Oh man! Everybody should be f—-out-of-their mind scared! It’s horrible.

SEEHORN: One hundred percent.

ODENKIRK: That guy is ruthless and intelligent and doesn't owe anybody anything and has no limits to his behavior. I mean, it’s really frightening.

SEEHORN: I love the juxtaposition they have in the finale of Kim and Jimmy are sorting out their relationship and then playing this weird, menacing game about Howard and so unaware of the massive danger that’s pressing upon them. I mean, they’re aware to the extent that that they’re trying to hide out wrongfully thinking they can somehow control the next chapter in this, but it’s terrifying. I think the audience should be terrified for them.

Jimmy and Kim's relationship has become one of TV's most complex, intriguing and unpredictable relationships. What are you two rooting for? Do you want them to end up together, even though obviously we don't see her in Breaking Bad? I remember a while ago, Bob, you told me that you were rooting for Kim to end up with Jimmy… but not Saul, which seems increasingly unlikely.

ODENKIRK: Geez, I think I agree with most people that while it could be possible for them to be together in that Breaking Bad era, I doubt it. I just hope she doesn't die and I hope there's some kind of reconnection that they do after it's all done, when he’s Gene. These guys don't make people die just to be dramatic. It's almost easy to make Kim die and then that's a huge shock to their system. I mean, especially based on what she does at the end of season 5 where it sounds like she might have a loose hair or having had an aneurysm [both laugh] and we're going to see how much damage an aneurysm can really do in the next season.

SEEHORN: It’s so hard to say. As an actor, I don't want to get out of the sandbox. I love them together, but I’m also incredibly frustrated by them together. I agree with Bob that I think it would be too simple to just kill her off to get rid of her. But then again, the writers continually surprise me when I think, “Oh well, that's the end of that story!” and then it's not, and there's some other layer they've uncovered with character and relationship and story.

What early hints can you drop about season 6? There's a plan that's seemingly about to be hatched…

SEEHORN: I know nothing.

ODENKIRK: I don't know a thing.

SEEHORN: The writers just started reassembling.

ODENKIRK: Rhea, for what it’s worth, I was told that they're already getting an outline for episode 1 done.

SEEHORN: Oooh!

ODENKIRK: So they're moving along real well. I'll say this about season 6: I hope we get to shoot it! [Laughs] I hope we figure out a way.

SEEHORN: I hope we don’t do it over Zoom.

And how would Jimmy and Kim do in quarantine?

ODENKIRK: Terrible! Oh my God. Jimmy wouldn't last a week in quarantine. That guy would be out there doing stupid stuff. I'm doing pretty good. [Both laugh]

SEEHORN: I mean, the good news is they like each other’s company. But they both have itches to scratch. Pretty constantly.

ODENKIRK: They're antsy, antsy people.

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Better Call Saul

Saul Goodman, first introduced in Breaking Bad, gets his own Vince Gilligan prequel.

type
  • TV Show
seasons
  • 4
episodes
  • 40
rating
genre
creator
  • Vince Gilligan
  • Peter Gould
network
  • AMC
stream service

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