The following contains spoilers for Better Call Saul season 5 episode 10.
Midway through the Better Call Saul season 5 finale, Kim presents her husband, Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman, with a modest proposal.
Kim has just learned that their latest tormenter, Lalo Salamanca, is set to be killed by organized crime forces south of the border. She can’t help but muse on how simple and elegant a solution that is to a particular problem. Would that they could do that with one of their own perceived enemies in Howard Hamlin. But of course, “civilized” people don’t kill one another. Thankfully, there are other ways to enact retribution.
“We’d never do it but…what if Howard does something terrible? No, I mean really bad. Like misconduct. You know, misappropriating funds, bribing witnesses, something like that,” she says.
Jimmy makes some halfhearted noises of consent. Yeah, doing all that would be great. Wouldn’t it be fun to ruin another man’s life? But it’s clear that his heart isn’t in it. Not yet at least. Jimmy, the same man who sent a bowling ball through Howard’s car when he had the temerity to offer him a job, seems a little scared by the depth and detail of Kim’s revenge plot.
“We’re not talking about a bar trick here, Kim. We’re talking about scorched earth,” Jimmy says. “We would have to hurt him. Hurt him bad. To get a bunch of lawyers to run to the exits, Howard would have to have done something unforgivable. He might never practice law again. He doesn’t deserve that.”
Jimmy tries to convince Kim that she would not be ok with this. Not in the cold light of day. She responds with a “wouldn’t I?” And then adds in some Saul Goodman-esque finger guns for good measure.
Through five seasons of Better Call Saul, Jimmy McGill has been the schemer – the ultimate conman. Kim has only tagged along and not always enthusiastically. Here Better Call Saul season 5 episode 10, “Something Unforgivable” finally reveals that it’s done something unforgivable itself. It’s completed Kim Wexler’s unexpected heel turn into Kim Goodman
Rhea Seehorn has deserved an Emmy for her work on Better Call Saul for a long time now. And never has that been more apparent than during this season. Not only is her performance at the end of last week’s episode superb and jaw dropping, she might be even better here in this finale. “Bad Choice Road” sees Kim at her most intelligent and grandiose. She uses her brain then puffs up her feathers to somehow convince one of the deadliest drug lords in the game to stand down. Here, however, she does something even more impressive. She lays bare the pain that has been rotting in Kim’s soul for five seasons now. It’s heartbreaking and unexpected.
Let us not forget that Kim has just as many reasons as Slippin’ Jimmy to take a hardened stance towards humanity. As she revealed to the man whose property Mesa Verde wanted to steal early in the season: she has had a hard life. Kim and her mother were desperately poor and as such she never had a real home growing up in Red Cloud, Nebraska. One night, when her mom knew they were about to be evicted, young Kim had to pack up her stuff and trudge out into the cold in her bare, eventually frostbitten feet. Later on in the season, the show confirms that Kim’s rough upbringing wasn’t just a story she told to empathize with a client as a flashback reveals another tragic, troubling moment she shared with her mom, when she arrives late and drunk to pick Kim up from school.
That’s one of the reasons she fell for her fellow mailroom worker named Jimmy McGill in the first place. Kim realizes early on that both she and Jimmy are perpetual underdogs. Even throughout the series as she tries to cast herself as a successful, respectable member of society, she can’t help but shake the feeling that Jimmy is the only one who understands her. That’s why she loves him, despite all of his immense criminal baggage. That’s why she marries him. Most importantly: that’s why she takes it as a personal slight when Howard tells her that Chuck was the only one to understand how destructive Jimmy was. As far as Kim is concerned, the Howards and Chucks of the world may as well be talking about her.
There’s a DSM-IV-recognized shared psychosis disorder known as Folie à deux (French for “madness of two” and also the name of a Fall Out Boy album). It’s a term used to describe a delusional belief transmitted from one individual to another. At first glance, Kim’s embrace of extreme measures in this non-existent war against Howard seems like a case of shared madness. Jimmy has lived a very unreasonable life to this point in the season, doing frankly crazy things like “becoming a friend to the cartel.” It seems as though Jimmy’s crazy may have rubbed off on Kim.
Maybe that’s the case. Maybe Kim would never have walked down this Bad Choice Road if Jimmy McGill had not entered her life. In fact, that path that Kim was on was very promising before she met Jimmy and even remained pretty promising throughout their relationship. It’s only now when things have gotten extremely real for them both with the introduction of Lalo into their lives that she’s “cracked.” On the other hand, however, Kim is every bit of damaged as Jimmy and she has every right to her own delusion notions of revenge against a world that never had the time for her. This wicked plan against Howard (who is a reasonably decent guy, all things considered) can only come from a place of pain. Whether that pain belongs to Jimmy or Kim or them both is debatable.
In some respects, Kim Wexler has ended up becoming a sort of dark mirror image of Skyler White in Breaking Bad. To be clear, these two characters don’t need to be compared to each other merely because they’re both the female partner of the series’ lead. That’s reductive to the fully lived-in people they both become throughout the courses of their respective shows. But in the context of how some fans have approached Skyler and Kim, there is an interesting comparison to be drawn all the same.
Just as it’s no secret that Kim Wexler is a beloved Saul character, it’s also no secret that a certain subsection of the Breaking Bad fanbase loathed Skyler White. Part of this was likely pure sexism, or at least a sexist interpretation of what made the show truly great. For some, Skyler was not really a human being with her own desires to keep her family safe but rather a nagging impediment to all the cool and creative ways that Walter White got to build his meth empire.
The path of Kim Wexler and Better Call Saul as a whole are not responses to fan reaction to Skyler White. The show’s team of writers simply builds fascinating, true-to-life characters and follows them where they lead. It’s a little ironic, however, that Kim Wexler is not only a supporter of her husband’s chicanery, but now an instigator for more. It’s almost as if the universe heard complaints that Skyler White wasn’t supportive enough and wanted to show us all how heartbreaking the alternative is.