Even before Better Call Saul began operating within the tense but familiar territory of Breaking Bad this season, fans of the AMC drama were speculating about Kim Wexler's (Rhea Seehorn) future. Was she alive? Did she move away from Albuquerque? What happened to her so that the character does not appear in Breaking Bad? A vocal contingent of fans believe she's headed for the reaper, that her untimely death is what ultimately pushes Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) to shed what little sense of decency he has left to slip into the persona of criminal lawyer Saul Goodman full-time. Last year this website even published a story I vehemently disagreed with about why her character needed to die. Which is why I'm here now to say that the idea that Kim has to die for Jimmy to achieve anything is bullshit.
Before I get deep into to why this is bullshit, though, I must point out that the folks involved in the show have been predictably quiet about what Kim's future holds when asked if they believe this theory, which has unfortunately allowed it to only grow more popular.
"You're right, you don't see Kim Wexler on Breaking Bad, but that doesn't mean she's dead. It doesn't mean she's alive either. You kind of have to wait and see," co-creator Vince Gilligan told TV Guide earlier this summer when asked about the theory surrounding Kim's whereabouts during Breaking Bad.
"All I can tell you for sure, and I'm being coy here, but I can tell you for sure that we love the character of Kim Wexler and we love Rhea Seehorn who plays her," he continued. "She's just money in the bank. She is so much fun to work with, and the character is so interesting and wonderful ... Having said that, we loved Michael McKean too and we killed his ass."
"I wouldn't assume anything," Gilligan added after a slight pause. "The best answer is that I wouldn't assume anything when it comes to this show or where it's headed."
Co-creator and showrunner Peter Gould similarly praised Seehorn and the character of Kim before following suit when asked if he thought Kim had to die. "People feel very protective of Kim Wexler. People love Kim Wexler. Jimmy loves Kim Wexler. And we love Kim Wexler and we love Rhea Seehorn," he said at the show's Season 4 premiere in July. "We'll see. It's kind of hard to picture how Kim Wexler is still in Jimmy's life when he becomes Saul Goodman, but there's a lot of surprising twists to come."
Even if we disregard the fact Seehorn is the lone female series regular in a ridiculously talented cast and killing Kim would surely set off a firestorm that not even a show as beloved as Better Call Saul could likely escape, the truth is that fridging Kim isn't just terrible optics, it's also lazy storytelling. It's an obvious and tired narrative choice that a lesser series would make (and has made over and over and over again). And nothing about Better Call Saul could ever be described as obvious; the series remains one of the most surprising on TV despite the fact viewers already know where it's headed, and that is at least partly because the writers are still regularly surprised by the series too.
(It should be noted that Jesse's [Aaron Paul] girlfriend was murdered while he watched in Season 5 of Breaking Bad, a punishment for him trying to escape his imprisonment. We can argue all day about whether or not that was a wise storytelling choice too.)
Killing Kim is also lazy storytelling because Better Call Saul has already gone to that well and used Chuck's (McKean) death as a means of pushing Jimmy toward becoming Saul. The sudden loss of his brother has affected Jimmy in surprising ways this season. Killing a second character to finish the Saul Goodman transformation is simply too easy — and possibly completely unnecessary, since some folks argue Jimmy has been Saul for a while and is only now embracing it. But when it comes to Kim, there are several possible explanations for why she doesn't appear in Breaking Bad that don't end with her dying; Gilligan joked that "she could be abducted by aliens" or "go back in time in a time machine and never come back." But the simplest and most obvious explanation is that Kim likely leaves when Jimmy officially and obviously passes the point of no return.
Is that explanation too simple? Maybe! Especially when Gould warns us to expect the unexpected. But here's the thing: With so much going on — Better Call Saul is finally butting up against the world of Breaking Bad in dangerous and exciting ways this season — and with so many people expecting Kim to bite it, the idea that she simply chooses to walk away from Jimmy and their relationship actually is surprising. It is also not beyond belief.
Jimmy isn't the only person going through something in Season 4. Kim has changed in the wake of her accident; she's unhappy in her career, and we've seen her attempt to find meaning in work by taking on cases as a public defender, even blowing off an urgent call from Mesa Verde. And while that ennui hasn't quite spilled over into her relationship with Jimmy, the two definitely aren't spending a lot of time together of late. And now Kim has sought out a position at a new firm, a move that effectively torpedoes Jimmy's idealistic plans of launching a new and improved Wexler McGill in 10 months, when he's allowed to practice law again. It seems more and more likely, in the wake of all that's happened lately, that these two characters are on diverging paths.
Running beneath all of this, of course, is also the cold hard truth that killing Kim as a means of pushing Jimmy to do something is insulting. It's insulting not only to Seehorn, who has done incredible work across three-and-a-half Emmy-caliber seasons, but also to the character as well. Kim is not just a love interest or an emotional support system for Jimmy; she's one of the pillars of Better Call Saul, playing an equal role in its success as Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), Nacho Varga (Michael Mando) or Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian). When Gould says that people love Kim Wexler, it's because people really do love Kim Wexler. She is the moral compass of Better Call Saul. Even when she's enjoying her part in a harmless scheme, she is still the show's moral compass in much the same way Jesse was on Breaking Bad.
But even if Kim weren't any of these things, killing Kim would also be an insult to the intelligence of the writers who give voice to each and every character on this show. Better Call Saul is truly one of the smartest shows TV, and that's because the men and women who work on the series have always been some of the smartest in the business. It'd be sad and unfortunate if they started taking storytelling cues from people on the internet who haven't evolved beyond the idea that the only way for a man to do anything is if the woman he loves is killed to force his hand.
Better Call Saul has proven on more than one occasion that it's not just a Breaking Bad spin-off, but that it's also a compelling TV show that is, if not better, at least on par with its parent series. So let's hope the writers know all of this too and realize that killing Kim would be the single biggest mistake Better Call Saul could ever make.
Better Call Saul airs Mondays at 9/8c on AMC.
Additional reporting by Megan Vick