[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Season 6, Episode 9 of Better Call Saul, "Fun and Games." Read at your own risk!]
It took three words to complete Jimmy McGill's (Bob Odenkirk) transformation into Saul Goodman: "But so what?"
Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) dealt the blow during Monday's episode of Better Call Saul, which brought her relationship with Jimmy to a devastating close. Shell-shocked by Howard's (Patrick Fabian) death and upset by her role in the events that led up to it, Kim quits the law, an abrupt decision Jimmy begs her to rethink. But Kim's next decision goes down even harder: She leaves Jimmy, arguing that the two of them together are poison for everyone around them. When Jimmy protests that he loves her and she makes him happy, Kim replies with a teary, "I love you too. But so what?"
Most of the breakup is not a loud fight. It's just an awful, unavoidable conclusion — and it makes "Fun and Games," written by Ann Cherkis and directed by Michael Morris, somehow the most painful episode in a season packed with death. "We had post-production people calling and saying they were watching cuts and they had to go take a walk around the block," Rhea Seehorn told TV Guide. "It just hurt too much to watch. I was like, 'That's fantastic!'"
The scene ends with Kim confessing to Jimmy that she knew Lalo (Tony Dalton) was alive and kept it from Jimmy because she worried that he'd pull the plug on their scam, which could lead them to split up. "And I didn't want that," she spits out, "because I was having too much fun!"
It's Kim's last line of the episode, followed only by the sound of her taping up boxes before the series flashes forward about a year to 2005. Three years out from the start of Breaking Bad, Jimmy has gone full Saul. He's living in the tacky house from this season's cold open, sleeping with sex workers (and offering them breakfast bars; chivalry is not dead!), and working in the shadow of an inflatable Statue of Liberty. He's also fixated on a radio ad that just isn't loud enough. The message is clear: We might not know where Kim was during the Breaking Bad years, but we know where she wasn't.
The shift moves Better Call Saul into a new era, setting up what almost feels like a four-episode epilogue to the Better Call Saul we knew before. TV Guide caught up with Seehorn, who just landed an Emmy nomination for her work in the AMC drama, to get her thoughts on the bitter end of Jimmy and Kim's relationship — and the Saul of it all.
This episode is a gut punch. What did you think about the fact that Kim leaves Jimmy and that it's by choice?
Rhea Seehorn: It's devastating. Yeah, it's a gut punch. And I think it is for Kim as well. This is an extraordinarily difficult decision. I love that they've paired it with her leaving the law, because I think that magnifies even more how much she cannot live in her own skin anymore. She is just a shell of a person at this point.
This is the first time we've heard them say "I love you" out loud, right?
Seehorn: Yeah, certainly on camera. We don't know if it was ever said off camera. But yes, we were aware that that was a new thing to see them express that. And even if they've said the words before, I loved that moment that Ann wrote there, and how Bob played it. You're so hoping that loving the person is enough to eclipse everything else, and he's pinning so much of the possibility of still having any optimism about his future on: "Isn't this enough that we love each other?" I love that she tells him she does love him, and then that horrible line, "But so what?" It was important to us that they are not breaking up because they don't love each other anymore. It's much sadder than that. They do still love each other, but there's nothing that can be done.
For me, I felt like yes, it is partially what she says: that it's what they ignite in each other [that's the problem]. But she's also acknowledging, and she even says, "On our own, we're OK." She doesn't say we're great. [Laughs] We're both attracted to the dark side and have made some bad decisions. And sometimes he was driving me, and sometimes I was driving him, but at this point, the well that she feels she has dug and is down in — it's such an overwhelming thing to try to figure out, How did I get here? And how do I get away from this? And I think her response comes with a lot of self-loathing, and a lot of desperation. Although you don't see her being very emotional. He's being very emotional in the scene. You could argue that Kim is still compartmentalizing, on some level. She's like, I'm gonna leave everything. I'm not going to be here anymore. I'm going to erase myself. And I think that it's all she could do to hold it down. And then you do see it bubbling up when she tries to tell him the truth of what she's feeling.
You mentioned that brutal "But so what?" — how did you approach figuring out that line?
Seehorn: We did this scene many, many, many, many times. After Bob and I rehearsed it just to pick it apart in the place that we lived together, we would then go on the set and rehearse, and Michael Morris, our director, came to that. And we all quickly realized that, as most of the great scenes in this show have been, they're very open to interpretation. There's a million different readings and dynamics. You could make this a hot argument in a different area, and then it cools down. It could be loving in certain areas. Who's choosing whom? Who's defending in each moment? And much like quite a few scenes I've played with, things hinge on the other person's line reading and physicality quite often. That's part of what people would say was the chemistry they saw between us, because we very much honored keeping that tether between us [where] you can't say your next line until you see how the person said the line that's your cue, because it will alter what you're going to do.
We worked with the camera crew, and Marshall Adams, the DP, ended up joining us for rehearsal. And we all realized: Is there a way to orchestrate this with the camera crew so that we don't cut away, that you're sort of on this ride with them? Eli [Schneider], who was our dolly grip, and Matt Credle on the A camera, had to figure out how to do this dance where they would go with us and pull back. And it wasn't about trying to be clever about a oner. It was about putting you in that position of not being able to get off the train.
There were 10,000 different line reads of ["But so what?"], but it all depended on how he had said "I love you." The one that they use is very much about her acknowledging that he truly, truly does love her on the most pure level, and that she truly loves him. And what is painful is that that is not enough. In that moment, it was hard to say the line. "But so what?" That stuck in my throat like a lump. It's one of those times when it's a good thing that you can't ad lib, because I have to say that. I have to say that. Which is what Kim is feeling in that moment.
What do you think about her assessment that she and Jimmy are bad for each other?
Seehorn: I think actually what she's saying at that moment is that it's bigger than that, but that's a component. And they have to acknowledge that component. Maybe it's who she was prior to meeting him, and maybe it's who he was prior to meeting her, and then what they do when they're together. But the fact of the matter is she can't answer that question. What she can answer is: People get hurt when we're together. The people we are right now when we're together, things get lit on fire. And she has to stop. Somebody has to get off this train… She blames herself in the end. "I didn't even tell you the truth because I was afraid we'd break up. But also I was having too much fun." There's such self-loathing in that.
Does Kim have a plan in the moment when she's packing? Or is she just leaving? Can you say?
Seehorn: I can't say whether you will see Kim again and in what capacity. We even filmed lots of things out of sequence this year, so people were coming and going at all different times before they wrapped. But I can say that in that moment, I don't think she had a plan. These are just Hail Marys. She cannot live in her skin. It's just an absolute obliteration of self.
You said that was why she had to quit being a lawyer. Do you see that as also being a reaction to her feeling that she abused the law?
Seehorn: Absolutely. She has no business having that noble profession. And I do think that she thought it was a noble profession. Jimmy is the one that brings up a valid point: "What about all the good you could do for people?" Implying, "Is that some kind of penance?" But she thinks she has no right passing judgment on anybody. Her judgment about just barely tipping the scales in the favor of people that are quote-unquote "deserving" of a good outcome, she now sees clearly is an absolutely ludicrous and unethical way to to practice law. It is not how the law works at all. And it led to an innocent person being killed at her feet. I think she draws a direct connection between those things, and the person she is now could not practice law. Absolutely not.
It hurts to see Jimmy in full Saul mode at the end of the episode. Obviously, he had to lose Kim to get to that point in his personal life. But professionally, do you think there would have been any way for him to be the Saul Goodman of Breaking Bad without losing Kim?
Seehorn: I don't know. I mean, it's certainly a summary of events, going back to his brother — even just growing up, let alone his relationship with Chuck as adults. And it's society, and all these great questions that the show has raised the whole time of: Are you inherently good or bad? Are you more than what people tell you you are? And I do think that Kim was one of the last, if not the last thing in his life that was telling him, "I believe you could be a good person, I believe in the best of you." And that's gone. That voice is just not there anymore.
He's really focused on making that radio ad as loud as possible. Do you think he wants Kim to hear it?
Seehorn: You should ask Bob. I know Bob had some thoughts early on, thinking that the radio ads and the billboards were always this kind of smoke signal going out to Kim wherever she is. But I don't know what he was thinking about in that moment. It was certainly a clever detail.
Does Kim know she's leaving Jimmy when she kisses him in the parking garage after Howard's memorial?
Seehorn: I think so. I think it's open to interpretation, and that's something I love about the show. I think it is an assessment of — yes, she later says it's what we ignite in each other that is a major issue here. But in that moment, for me, it felt like taking somebody in and realizing that it's OK if he doesn't plan on punishing us for what we did. He's saying what he's saying out of love, that we can start healing and get past this. It doesn't matter anymore what she thinks of him not feeling like they need to atone for this. She loves him, and that's fine. But she's going to be the one that's going to figure out a price to pay for this. It's not going to be him. It's going to be her.
You've talked a lot over the years about what kind of fate could be waiting for Kim. As emotionally devastating as this was, was there any level of relief for you that this is something that Kim is at least able to decide for herself?
Seehorn: I'm not sure if I would say relief, but I was very thankful that I felt like it was honoring the character that they made, that this is how she would leave: to dig down and find some shred of integrity left in her at all. That felt satisfying. But it also felt incredibly tragic, because we saw what this person could have been, could have done. And it's no more. And that did feel even more tragic.
Better Call Saul airs Mondays at 9/8c on AMC.