7:55pm PT by Josh Wigler
'Better Call Saul' Star Looks Toward Final Season: "They're Going to Write the Best Ending Possible"
[This story contains spoilers for the season five finale of AMC's Better Call Saul, "Something Unforgivable."]
Better Call Saul tracks the journey of Bob Odenkirk's Jimmy McGill transformation into Saul Goodman, the criminal lawyer who first appeared in Breaking Bad. As it happens, however, the AMC prequel series from Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan may have another actor in the process of breaking bad: Kim Wexler.
Just as season four ended with McGill finally turning toward the name and lifestyle of Saul Goodman, the season five finale, "Something Unforgivable," sees Rhea Seehorn's Kim Wexler breaking bad in her own right. She's not only walked away from her high-paying job representing bank Mesa Verde, Kim is now advocating for Jimmy's help in ruining the reputation of their mutual former colleague, Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian), all in the name of loosening up money from a lingering lawsuit and using it to help clients in need — a Machiavellian approach, and one that Kim has utilized from time to time over the course of the series, even if her latest suggestion evokes the finale's title.
Beyond Kim's suggestion, there's the lingering boogeyman still out in the ether: Tony Dalton as Lalo Salamanca, alive after an attempted assassination wipes out many of his loved ones, but leaves him standing and seeking vengeance. Will he turn his sights back on Kim and Jimmy — and if so, will Kim be able to once again back herself and Jimmy out of the corner? Indeed, is it possible that Jimmy won't be the only lawyer linked up in the drug trade by the end of the series, and Kim may actually be on a similar collision course with the cartel?
It's one of many questions up in the air after the Better Call Saul season five finale, and with only one season left on the books, the answers are almost at hand — relatively speaking, at least, as the series' return date is as nebulous as everything else at the moment. For now, Seehorn joins The Hollywood Reporter to weigh in on season five, look ahead toward the final season and ask the biggest question about Kim Wexler on the board right now: "Who is this person?"
We left season four with Jimmy fully aboard the Saul Goodman train. This season, Kim's story is the one the ends on a pretty dark note, regarding her future intentions. What did you make of the arc this season?
I feel very lucky. It used to be almost nerve-racking, until I realized that it's a great gift, that I don't know what the whole season holds in front of me when I'm getting the scripts. I get them one at a time, and thank god for that. By the time I figure out the most honest reasons for Kim to do the things and think the things the writers have me doing in each episode, my space is full. If I had to actually contemplate the next thing? My head would implode. So it's sometimes hard to think about a whole sweeping arc, and this one is messy. It's definitely not linear. At times, it's not obvious. It's complex, and the complexity adds to the honesty of how I'm able to play it, because it's all very human and messy, with her confronting one thing at a time.
She started the season trying to navigate who this third party was that she has to be in a relationship with, this Saul Goodman persona who now apparently lives with us. "Is that you all the time? Is that just you at work? What does it mean?" It's kind of like being in a relationship with someone who is going to be in an exclusive activity or club: "I'm now going to be a professional hiker who only hangs out with professional hikers." When your partner does something like that, you're left with, "Well, am I invited to these meetings? Are you going without me? Are we not watching TV anymore? What's happening?" She was trying to navigate that, all the while feeling this constant, simmering agitation of, "Well, I play by all the rules, I try to do it the right way, and it keeps ending with a poor kid having to go to jail." It's that poor kid in episode one who's going to have to go to jail if we end up going to trial. When I play by the rules, then an old man gets kicked out of his home so some rich guy can have more statues all over the country. It's weighing on her. I feel like as I navigated that, it increasingly became her navigation of, well, who is the real Kim? How far has she gotten away from herself?
The continuing question, which is always here in the series about all of these characters, is that intrinsic versus extrinsic quality in people. Some of these more impulsive reactions she's having to things, even before the finale, are more emotional than logical: anger, vulnerability, sadness, huge risk-taking. They're less thought-out these days. By the time I got to the finale, I was asking myself, which of these things is real? Can you even ask that of anybody? Has Kim been suppressing this volatile mix she's had inside of her? I'm not saying she's secretly some mastermind criminal who wanted to live another life. But did she become an extremely controlled and concise person who compartmentalizes everything and pushes down her emotions because she's needed to do that? Because there always was this boiling-over part of her? Or has she been backed against the wall and become that person? How many masks do we all have? It's a big question by the end to ask: Who is the real Kim? You can tell by the way we filmed it — and I haven't watched it yet — that the question is as frightening to Jimmy as it was to Kim when he ended season four and we started season five — the question of, who is this person in front of me?
Do you feel at the end of season five, it's Kim putting on a mask based on circumstance, or do you feel it's Kim unmasking and showing who she really is? Are you leaving yourself open to both possibilities moving forward?
I'm open to either possibility moving forward, and I don't know what they plan on doing moving forward, but I obviously had to make some choices as an actor so I can play it honestly. You don't want to play a gray area, even though I do think she's being highly reactive in the scene. There are some moments where I realized whether or not she's being sincere, and intends to do what she's proposing. But there's also a level of her being backed into a corner in this hotel room. He's implying, "I'm bad for you, you don't know what's good for you, so I'll be the person who takes control of this." We know from all five seasons, and certainly from this season, that Kim does not cotton well to being told how she should behave or being told who she is. I think she's definitely being reactive to that, as well as his implication that they should break up. She's reacting as his wife. "I don't want this." That's a lot. It's a lot of given circumstance already on the scene to navigate through.
Whether or not she's only playing a game where once again she gets her way out of a situation with a mechanism to do it, whether it's a marriage contract or using debate rhetoric against Lalo … is that what she's doing here, or is it another side of her, or is it a mix? I don't know the answer to that question, and I don't think even Kim does yet. I don't think it's as pre-meditated and manipulative as her knowing exactly what she's doing, going through it. As an actor, I decided to make the choices a little bit more mercurial than overall for the whole scene. I took it a sentence or two at a time as she navigates, "What does this mean? What effect is it having on him … the desired effect?"
From what we have seen with Kim this season and how she handled herself in her scenes with Lalo … as we're wondering what's next for Kim, who does not appear in Breaking Bad and as the Better Call Saul story enters its endgame, can you see a world in which Kim steps more firmly into the cartel world — operating in the shadows at a level even above Saul Goodman?
That … is so interesting. (Laughs.) I gave up trying to guess where the writers are going and what I thought were their possible twists and turns for Kim a while back, somewhere in the beginning of season two. I gave up, because I'm just not as smart as they are, or as talented at writing. Every time I think I know where they're going with something … and it's a special gift they have, where when they put something in, it does not feel like shock value. It never feels like this character would never do what they're doing, it's just that you didn't think long and hard enough, and when you do, you realize, yes, yes she would. So, I don't know.
I know they talk about "kicking the tires." Peter and Vince always tell me that if what the character does next comes too easily — like, "Your scene will go perfectly well if your character behaves this way" — then they immediately question it in the writers room. They don't want plot to dictate characters. They want characters dictating plot, even though we're in a prequel and we have a preordained ending we have to answer to. But I think about that all the time. You can't be a lazy actor on this show, which is one of the biggest joys of being on this show. You as an actor also have to keep kicking the tires. You can't just decide, "Well, this is a good natural read, and they'll make the jump from the logic." You have to sit down and figure out the reasons, the connective logic. The deductive math I've gotten to puzzle out this season has been so much fun, that I completely gave up on ever trying to guess where they're going. I just don't have a clue.
I used to think the most tragic thing that could happen to her is that she dies. Then I started thinking, the erosion of someone right before your eyes … it's even worse. I really don't know. Even confronting Lalo, I remember thinking, "Wow, I don't think Kim can pull this off." But once I sat down and started thinking about the logical arguments, well, what other possibility was there in that room? It becomes very easy to see why Kim did that. There was no other solution. He may have shot them both in the head if she didn't say anything, so she may as well do something. She can't call 911. There's nothing the police could do, and no way to explain that situation, or he'd shoot her before she even finished dialing. All she's doing is gauging the pieces of information she has, and she's only getting some of it at a time. She's aware Jimmy has some secrets, and it's clearly important enough that he was not going to answer Lalo, no matter how much more menacing he gets. So, this wasn't going to end well, no matter what. We might as well pull a Hail Mary.
Even if you don't guess what's next for Kim anymore, do you have hopes for the character? With one season left, is there anything you're hoping to see for the character's final story?
I feel very protective of the Kim Wexler character. Very protective of her. There are many situations I could have found myself in with that, and then extremely anxious about, "What are they going to do to her? What if they don't give her the ending she deserves? What if it's completely out of character?" or this, that and the other. That's where I get to have a massive sigh of relief. There are no better groups of writers. They love and feel protective of the character — the dignity of the character as well, and the work I've done, too. They're going to write the best ending possible. What's fun for me is however she goes out, or stays, and that's it's own tragedy … like, if she lives unscathed but ends up being the cashier at the Hinky Dinky, which she's said is the worst fate possible? Is that our happy ending? Or like you're saying, that she's the head of the cartel … I don't know. But I rest easy, knowing I'm going to have some of the most blissful challenges of my career getting there, and it's going to be great.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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