There’s good news and there’s bad news for “Better Call Saul’s” Rhea Seehorn.
The good news is that the hit AMC series, a prequel to “Breaking Bad,” kicks off its fifth season on Sunday after being off the air for more than a year.
The bad news is that “Better Call Saul” — which will air its sixth and final season in 2021 — traces the evolution of well-intentioned attorney Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) into shady criminal lawyer Saul Goodman of “Breaking Bad.”
That development means that Seehorn, who plays McGill’s principled but increasingly conflicted girlfriend Kim Wexler, is growing closer to learning the fate of her character, who was not in “Breaking Bad.” Given that McGill/Goodman is coming ever nearer to connecting with criminal mastermind Walter White and the lethal underworld at the core of “Breaking Bad,” speculation has been steadily rising among the show’s devotees that Kim may very well meet a bad end.
Of course, there’s always a chance that things may not turn out as bad as fans fear, and Kim may walk away (relatively) unscathed. But the universe of “Breaking Bad” is notoriously treacherous.
Whatever happens, Seehorn finds the anticipation thrilling.
“People are very concerned for Kim,” Seehorn said with a laugh as she picked through her breakfast of eggs and vegan bacon at a Beverly Hills cafe. She said fans approaching her on the street and on social media are very worried about the character, and want to save her before it’s too late.
“They speak about her with me like she’s this mutual best friend we both have,” Seehorn said. “They’re so protective. They said, ‘What are we going to do? Should we call her? Let’s have an intervention.’”
Kim is often positioned as the moral center in a world populated by unscrupulous lawyers, drug dealers and vicious wrongdoers. While she has demonstrated her determination to be an upstanding lawyer, her loyalty to McGill, with his questionable ethics and talent for scams, has at times put her unimpeachable reputation in jeopardy. (She’s even been his occasional accomplice.) This season, Kim’s values are on a collision course with Goodman’s darkening nature.
“Kim is a real complex character, but so are human beings, and that’s what (executive producers) Peter Tolan and Vince Gilligan and our brilliant writing staff are so adept at showing,” she said. “Her ability to compartmentalize has now become a flaw for her. It used to be a superpower, but now we see it’s going to become very dangerous.”
Seehorn said she has been given no clues on what awaits Kim. But while Seehorn — like the show’s fans — knows the truth about what Saul Goodman becomes, Kim is in the dark.
“They tell me nothing. All I ever have is the script in front of me,” Seehorn said. “The good news is, I don’t know where the series is going, but I’m enjoying it, and from the perspective of a fan, I really want to see how the great writers are going to put together this jigsaw puzzle.”
Kim was left shell-shocked at the conclusion of last season: She and McGill had cooked up an elaborate plot to get his lawyer’s license reinstated. She was moved during a reinstatement hearing as McGill spoke of being traumatized by the suicide of his older brother, Chuck (Michael McKean). But she was sent reeling at the end when she found out that his emotions weren’t real, and were instead part of a scheme on his part. She was further shocked after he told her that he planned to practice law under the name Saul Goodman.
“Kim felt that Jimmy deserved to practice law, that he was a good person,” she said. “But the reveal that he was scamming everyone — a scam she wasn’t part of — floors her. That’s a much scarier thing than being part of it.”
And while the protagonist remains Goodman, Seehorn said her character will come much more into focus this season. Kim’s past, and how that has shaped her, has been one of the intriguing mysteries propping up “Saul’s” central drama. Although she seems to be professionally competent and generally in control, her considerable vulnerabilities will be uncovered.
“We’re going to look at who you are when you’re alone as opposed to how you are because of someone else,” Seehorn said. “It goes both ways. A lot of people think Jimmy affects Kim, but she also affects Jimmy. It’s reciprocal. And we’re going to see what it looks like when you keep the lid on for so long that you can’t stop it from shaking. I like exploring who she was before we met her, who she is and what she is becoming. You can’t stay that tightly coiled unless you have something that you want to keep coiled without it taking a toll. There’s a price to pay for that.”
Odenkirk understands why viewers are drawn to Kim. “She’s actually more of a mystery now than Saul is,” he said in a phone interview. “With the choices that she makes, I want to know who she is. The more we see of the story, the more we see there’s a big part of her personality that is OK and even familiar with what Saul is doing. The name of the show should be changed from ‘Better Call Saul’ to ‘Who the Hell Is Kim?’”
The actor highly praised Seehorn’s portrayal: “Kim is as multidimensional a character as you’ll ever see, and Rhea just brings all those sides to the screen. I’m astounded by the mix she is able to portray.”
Asked about how she thinks she will feel when the end finally does come of Kim — good or bad — Seehorn paused and looked at the table.
“It will be a sad goodbye for me, for sure “ she finally said. “This has been my favorite character that I’ve ever played, onscreen or stage. But I will also be excited to learn how this great mystery ends. I don’t know if there’s anyone better than our writers room to be trusting. It will be the perfect ending for her, whatever it is.”
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