The Truth Is Now Out There — And So Is Kim Wexler
Better Call Saul Final Season Episodes Assessment — Waterworks
Well, it’s the penultimate episode of Better Call Saul. And leave it to Gilligan and Gould to change our perceptions yet again right before the end. We’ve spent so much of the black-and-white present day following the life of ‘Gene’ that it makes a certain amount of sense for us to follow the one character from Jimmy/Saul’s past that we only recently learned was still alive.
The teaser begins with Saul bouncing a ball back and forth in his office. We’re so used to see every aspect of Jimmy in motion that it’s rare to see him in a position where he’s so clearly stalling — something Francesca calls him on in the middle of it. Even after he dislodges part of the Constitution, we know he is reluctant to move forward. And then we see what he’s looking at — it’s his divorce papers. He spends a long moment looking at them, and then hits the intercom. “Send her in.”
When the episode proper begins, it takes us quite a few moments to realize who we’re looking at. And it’s not just because, even in black and white, its apparent Kim’s hair is dyed. It’s that she’s doing something we’ve never seen her due in six seasons — domestic work. A man — probably her boyfriend, though I doubt it, comes in and they have an inane conversation about whether Miracle Whip is mayonnaise. Then there are a series of scenes of Kim and this man having inane conversations with neighbors we can’t quite here, mostly about cooking. We see Kim washing up, we hear the two of them having sex (even here Kim seems bored) and while watching TV, the man sets up a future date.
Of all the curves Gilligan and his writers have thrown us over the years, it is telling that something so utterly straightforward completely throws us. This has to be an act, right? Kim is in some version of witness protection, or maybe after divorcing Jimmy she met up with the ‘vacuum repairman’. Because none of this tracks with what we know about her. Then we see her go to work at what appears to be a sprinkler catalogue. And her name is actually on the door. We then see her typing up changes for the catalogue, planning to sign a birthday card for a colleague and debating whether vanilla or strawberry is an ice cream flavor she’d like. And at no time does Kim seem like she’s putting up a front.
It becomes very clear the parallels were seeing between Kim’s life now and Walter’s after he fled capture in ‘Granite State’. Only we are infinitely more sympathetic than we were for Walter then or even Gene in the early flash-forwards. Like them, Kim is as much as a prisoner, but unlike both of them, she has put herself in this cage completely of her own volition. This is her penance, and for those of us who saw the brilliant attorney she once was or the con artist she was with Jimmy, we’re incredibly sad.
Then a colleague tells her that she’s got a call from Vincent St. Clair. Kim’s inflection doesn’t change, but she closes the blinds on her office and she shuts the door. Even if we don’t remember the context, we know who’s on the other end. And so does Kim.
This is the conversation that got Saul so angry when he heard it. Only now the viewer’s sympathy is entirely with Kim. She urges Jimmy to turn himself in. She can’t believe when he so casually asks how things are going, and Jimmy actually seems pissed at her for abandoning everything she was good at. He actually seems to talk down to her. “It’s in the past. Gus’ gone. Mike’s gone. Lalo’s gone probably.” Kim actually freezes the longer this goes on, then says: “I’m glad you’re alive” and hangs up. Seconds later, the secretary come in and says: “It’s time to sing.” And as the party begins, we see Kim going through the motions and looking utterly terrified. I’d say its Rhea Seehorn’s finest hour this season, but…
It takes a moment for us to recognize where Kim is in the next scene. It’s the Albuquerque airport. The next three minutes unfold in near silence as Kim returns to the courthouse where we’ve spent so much of the series. She looks in the parking gate briefly, remembering where we first met Mike. She walks in and we see the memories going through her, most notably when she sees a PD putting a tie on a man. Then she gets in an elevator.
The next scene is just as unrecognizable and it’s not until the intercom buzzes that we realize we’re in Sheryl Hamlin’s house. There’s another two minutes of silence as we see Sheryl reading a document, which we instantly see is Kim’s affidavit. We get close ups of phrases laying bare everything Kim and Jimmy did to Howard in the first half of the season, followed with how Howard showed up, was murdered by Lalo almost casually, and basically everything that followed in ‘Point and Shoot’. Sheryl’s face is stoic. “Why did they kill him?” Kim has to tell her that Howard was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. When she offers a half-hearted: “He didn’t suffer.” Sheryl throws in her face, telling her the lies that they told are now all that Howard is known for. We knew it was coming but it hurts. And when Sheryl asks if Kim will go to prison and Kim deflects, she throws in her face what ‘a great attorney she was’. Kim stammers out the truth, that everybody connected is dead and there is no body.” Sheryl doesn’t deliver the same venom to Kim before he was killed, but her rage is just as apparent.
The last scene is heartbreaking. Kim gets on an airbus, no doubt headed back home. For the last minute of the scene, she bursts into tears with genuine grief. She has revealed herself to have something few characters in Gilligan’s world have: a soul, but she’s enough of a realist to know she still might get away with it. Seehorn continues to demonstrate why she deserves an Emmy next year, if not for this one.
We finally cut back to Gene going into his mark’s house. There are few initial differences from what we saw Buddy do in Breaking Bad — he looks for passwords and ID. Then just as he’s about to leave, he walks away from the door and walks to the next floor.
What follows is genuinely hard to fathom. He goes through the man’s stuff, looks at an urn where his late dog’s ashes are, sees a group of watches, takes three of them, and finally starts to leave. Then he sees the mark is up. Kenny is outside waiting. Gene looks around, reaches for the urn and is clearly going to brain his mark with it, only to find him passed out.
Then it’s clear the cops have arrived. We see Kenny clearly nervous…and then we cut to the car where one of the cops is ranting about the quality of the fish taco he’s gotten and the argument has them completely distracted. Kenny pulls out fast, and crashes into a nearby car. The cops naturally walk up to it…
And we’re back in the past. In total silence, Kim and Jimmy go through the process of signing their divorce papers. Francesca helps them, and Kim says: “Well that does it.” Jimmy says nothing. Only when she is about to walk out the door does he speak… to Francesca. Kim walks outside into the pouring rain.
She takes out a cigarette…and now we actually get a Breaking Bad Easter egg that doesn’t seem like a reject from a DVD. A familiar voice asks for a light. Kim gives into him. “All this rain,” Jesse says. “I thought, we like, lived in the desert.” Kim tries to ignore him. “You’re a lawyer, right?” Jesse says. Then he tells her that a friend of his was one of her clients. Some time in the past, he stole a statue of Jesus a crime even Jesse thought was dumb, but Kim got her off. He actually thanks her. Then he tells her that one of his friends is facing serious time — which means the divorce basically took place around the same time Jesse and Walt first met Saul. Jesse once again demonstrates the cunning he had that so many people including Walter underestimating. He had told Badger to get a ‘real lawyer’ and that getting a lawyer you see on TV sounded dumb. He actually makes a comparison to a doctor doing it the same way that is pretty cagey. Then he gets to the brunt of the issue, since Kim’s a lawyer and she must know him: “is he any good?” Kim doesn’t hesitate: “When I knew him he was.” And with that she walks out of the Breaking Bad verse.
Did Jesse’s decision to go on with trusting Saul have any more weight because of what Kim said? Much as trolls tend to blame the wives of these men, I don’t think so. As we saw in just the previous episode, Saul was always capable of making his own bad judgments.
And nothing has changed in the present. He returns to his home, pours a drink, and waits for the inevitable call from Kenny (who is calling his ‘Dad’) about being picked up by the police for the robbery. Gene puts on the hat of Saul, tells him he has nothing to worry about and even agrees to call his mother. Then, as he has done all his life, Saul goes too far. He reassures Miriam about what has happened, tells her Kenny will be fine despite all the trouble…and then reveals what he knows about bail in Nebraska. Miriam asks a certain question, and then hangs up. Then she hooks up her internet. (Was it really that primitive in 2010 Omaha?)
Gene drives right up to the door, and doesn’t seem suspicious when Miriam doesn’t answer. He knocks on the back door, expecting a friendly face, and Miriam is sitting over her computer. Gene is not a fool, he pulls up the screen — and in living color is an ad for Saul Goodman.
And in the last minutes we finally learn what the legacy of Saul Goodman will be forever and ever. He’s the go-to internet search for “con man in Albuquerque.” Gene makes one last effort to try and talk Miriam out of it. At the same time, he grabs the phone cords and starts making it into a rope. Is this the moment where Gene finally, after all these years crosses that final barrier we never thought any of his identities would be? No. Because even at the last desperate moment, he’s still trying to strike a balance between con man and killer. And because he was never really either one of them, Miriam presses her life alert button and tells the police that Saul Goodman is in her home. Gene pauses…and runs out the front door.
So here we are. One episode away from learning the fate of Jimmy/Saul/Gene. I guess we shouldn’t be shocked that, given the world we inhabit, there’s little chance of a happy ending for anybody. The question has become very simple: where does Saul end up? Given everything we’ve seen Gilligan and crew are capable of for the past fifteen years, there’s a good chance it’ll blow us out of the water. But I do think I need to say one last thing. I hope Jimmy’s fate doesn’t mirror that of Walter White. Jimmy was never as big a monster as Walter was; he was just a little man trying to be big. (I actually think there’s more to it than that, and I’ll come to that analysis in my final essay.) And I don’t think a horrible death is what any of his identities merit. But I also don’t think he deserves to get away with it. The question is what will be his final fate?