‘Better Call Saul’ Postmortem: Rhea Seehorn Talks Kim’s Guilt and Jimmy’s Disturbing Lack of It

Kimberly Potts
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler in AMC’s Better Call Saul. (Photo: Michele K. Short/AMC/Sony Pictures Television)

Warning: Spoilers ahead for the “Expenses” episode of Better Call Saul.

The hits — as in tense, emotional, storyline-packed episodes — just keep on coming this season from the Better Call Saul crew. And in this week’s “Expenses,” the seventh installment of the season, the hits are more like gut punches, from a disconnect between our favorite couple as Kim and Jimmy begin to react very differently to their post-Chuck bar-hearing feelings to Jimmy’s increasing bitterness and Chuck-like machinations.

Yahoo TV talked to the ever-Emmy-worthy Rhea Seehorn about how Jimmy’s bar association victory may mean he’s lost something much more important; about the sadness and guilt Kim feels after witnessing the true depth of Chuck’s mental illness and hatred for his brother; and how there are moments of comedy and tragedy still to come in the final three episodes of the season.

Yahoo TV: The scene in the beginning when Jimmy and Kim are in their office, trying to even up the expenditures. He’s pulling money from an envelope. He seems beaten down. She has to ask him if he’s drained his bank account to pay his half of the expenses. She’s not saying that to be mean or judgmental, but they both seem to be feeling sad, uneasy. Do you think it is the weight of everything that happened in the bar hearing, guilt from that, just hitting them in a new way?
Rhea Seehorn: It’s a lot of things. All of the relationship scenes in this one were so multilayered, as they usually are, but you’re right. There’s a lot of stuff coming to a head. There’s the very messy and complex feelings about what just happened at the bar association with Chuck, and what they’ve done. … However much they meant to, planned to do, I don’t think anyone actually knew they would see [Chuck] brought to his knees in such a terrible way.

And this continuing idea … the consequences of this ill-gotten gain … I think Kim is extremely uncomfortable being seen as one of the good guys anymore. So I think we see that in the Paige scene, you know, “Let’s not act like there are villains and saints in the room.” And then with Jimmy, Kim is extremely pragmatic, so on top of it, I think it’s just a practical thing. It’s not meant to be emasculating. It’s the two partners. She’s trying to keep separate that “we’re partners in the lease on a building, and we have to pay our bills, and we need to talk about this.” It’s what happens a lot, I think in real life, especially in a relationship, in discussing the practical, the personal comes out too.

Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler and Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill in AMC’s Better Call Saul. (Photo: Michele K. Short/AMC)

She’s also obviously, just physically and mentally and emotionally, wiped out already. And there’s no sign of a let-up in that, in terms of her workload with Mesa Verde.
No, there isn’t. That was interesting and challenging in a great way for me as an actor this year to take that fatigue, and instead of playing it as inertia, to play the fight-back that I think someone like Kim would have. There’s a cost to everything for her at this point. I think the idea of control and burying yourself in your work, and thinking you can keep just your side of the street clean, it’s been some sort of life raft for Kim. And that kind of vice grip on controlling everything is turning into her biggest albatross now that, like you said, the guilt is setting in, the personal consequences are setting in. [About] her own ambition too, not just protecting Jimmy with the Mesa Verde thing, but also she didn’t recuse herself from the case, either. She could’ve not outed him, but not taken the paycheck.

And the stuff with Chuck, of realizing the person who’s supposed to be the pillar of justice is a terribly unethical and immoral person, in her opinion. So switching that viewpoint from good and bad being the same as legal and illegal, I think it’s taking a huge toll on her. They did such a great job of writing, directing, and allowing me to perform a very specific unraveling to this type of woman. It’s not about crying in the corner. It’s about fighting harder until, like you said, we start to see she can’t get home to take a shower, she’s not sleeping. It’s not something I’m unfamiliar with seeing in some people, a sort of collection of people I’ve seen in my lifetime, you know, of just  … they just keep running straight to the wall harder and harder and harder.

Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler, Michael McKean as Chuck McGill, and Patrick Fabian as Howard Hamlin in AMC’s Better Call Saul. (Photo: Michele K. Short/AMC/Sony Pictures Television)

We always had a suspicion that Chuck’s condition wasn’t really physical. But after seeing him on the stand during the hearing, you realize he 1 million percent believes that it is real. When he breaks down and realizes that battery had been in his pocket, it sparks a new level of sympathy for him, because his mental illness has made him physically ill. Is that, specifically, what changed for Kim, what’s causing this shift, this guilt, for her?
Exactly. It’s sort of almost, what’s the point? They had to prove him mentally unstable as well as emotionally manipulative in the courtroom. And the result is, as is very often the case with Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s writing, it’s a spiral. It’s one step down, the repercussions of something that seemed like it made sense at the time are always blooming and becoming bigger than you thought they would be. We all had a sort of quiet and different reaction, each of us individually, in the courtroom, whether it’s Hamlin and what his vested interest is, or Chuck’s ex-wife, Rebecca, played so beautifully by Ann [Cusack], the lawyer, the bar association that he’s the pillar of … he’s legal royalty to them. As to Kim and to Jimmy, it’s very arresting to them to realize that, oh right, you’ve probably ruined this man’s career to some extent, at least damaged it greatly. Because you can’t be incompetent and representing people, of course. And then, yeah, you’re right, it’s also just the realization that this person, and that happens in the scene with Paige as well, it’s like this person’s mentally ill. At some point, it doesn’t even really matter if he’s physically feeling anything or not, he believes he is and that’s almost more sad. I mean, it’s literally the walking, talking symbol of somebody who is their own worst enemy. Chuck is his own worst enemy. He causes himself pain with his own mind.

And I think also, there’s a particular sadness for Kim as well. It’s not just, “Oh, God, how awful what we’ve done!” When Chuck loses it in the courtroom, his monologue [about] the deep, deep spite, jealousy, envy, at that time, utter contempt for his brother is going back to pre-puberty age, adolescence. And I think there’s a lot of, for me, I felt like Kim would have a deep sadness for the altered life that Jimmy has led and is navigating now too, of just what could someone be if someone didn’t tell them they were worth nothing their whole life. I think it’s horrible, and Bob [Odenkirk] played the scene so beautifully that you actually can see marked chapters of him hoping that at any time his brother would just admit defeat. That it doesn’t have to go all the way to what we planned. He keeps giving [Chuck] an out, then he reluctantly takes him in for the kill, which is very different than the glee we see Saul have in his operations.

It’s a wise choice, and it made me sad. Then there’s this whole other level of Kim beginning to see Jimmy’s conscience take a role as well. We see it at the vending machine when I tell him, “You know [Rebecca] is gonna hate you for this.” And just watching Jimmy’s … she keeps trying to gauge him for his conscience, I think. And it’s sad. When they’re discussing their finances, I wish they would stop — and then it continues into the scene at the bar — you can see that if they could just say, “Hey, is this eating away at you? Because it’s eating away at me, and can we talk about this for a minute?” that maybe they could’ve helped each other. It’s an opportunity lost. That’s sort of the sadness of that to me.

Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler on AMC’s Better Call Saul. (Photo: Michele K. Short/AMC)

She’s upset that he isn’t more upset.
You don’t see Kim acting that vulnerable very often. And so, for her, in her utter emotional and very real physical fatigue, after acting unprofessional in front of Paige, which I think for her is a huge flag, and horribly embarrassing for her, I think she’s reaching out to Jimmy. And it’s sad on both accounts that they couldn’t see what the other one needed in that moment. Or couldn’t rise to the occasion.

Was there also something about Rebecca’s presence that affected Kim? When Kim and Jimmy were at the vending machines during the hearing, Kim remarked that Rebecca wasn’t who she expected her to be. Was that in a positive way? Is Rebecca nicer than Kim thought she would be? Did that end up humanizing Chuck a little bit more?
I do think Rebecca humanizes Chuck. But I played that line … there are lines they give me every now and then that are honestly about instincts, and instincts when we’re not sure. Early in Season 1, back before we thought Chuck was at all this massive manipulator, I think it was back when we thought Howard Hamlin was really the person that was Jimmy’s biggest undoing, there’s a scene where Jimmy calls me at the office and asks me to print some stuff off the Westlaw terminal, and he’s very excited that Chuck is gonna work with him on the Sandpaper case. And it just had a pause [in the script] that something’s bothering Kim, and she keeps giving reasons for not being able to do this task for him, but that she can’t articulate herself, so to move on. And they have these moments every now and then that — “they” meaning the writers — it’s not that they are withholding. For me what it really means is, they’re just these really human moments I really love to play, and that [one with Jimmy about Rebecca] was one of them, that exact feeling of, “I can’t articulate what just shifted in my mind.”

It isn’t that I thought [Rebecca] would be nice. I didn’t think she would be prickly. It’s more what you said. And Jimmy says, “What did you think she would be like?” And Kim says, “I don’t know, just not her.” The answer for me is more like, “I don’t know, I just never embodied her as a physical thing.” She was collateral in my head that I hadn’t thought about. And now she’s a living, breathing human being. It isn’t about being nicer or prettier or weirder or funnier or more persnickety. It doesn’t make any difference; it’s that she’s human.

You mentioned earlier their scene in the bar when he gets her to leave the office and go have a drink. They’re doing that thing they’ve done in the past, where they try to pick out someone for one of their “Giselle” grifts. But in the past, this has been a fun thing, among the most playful moments of their relationship. This time, Jimmy is taking it very seriously. It’s like he’s plotting something sinister, and as he’s doing it, he’s not having fun or getting excited about, he’s sounding more and more bitter. It seems like he’s acting not totally unlike Chuck.
Oh, interesting. I hadn’t thought about that, but you’re right. That’s an interesting observation. It is utterly self-serving, it is quite a bit more sinister. It seems without conscience. It’s not sharing, and I think Kim realizes, “We’re not having fun, you’re doing this alone.” It’s also, you know, it’s going to Saul. There’s so many fun things that I enjoy from watching Breaking Bad that was beloved of the Saul Goodman character, that it’s easy to forget that this was also him. It’s typical of that guy who would order a hit on somebody, or at least tell someone else to.

So, yeah, it’s a very self-serving character with serious conscience issues. And I think Kim isn’t sure who that person is. So there’s a lot of thoughts that went into that scene. We played it a million times, and also altered the performance slightly, and Tom [Schnauz], the director, he just let us react to each other and how that moment came out, because there were times it was more sad, there were times it was more scary. For me, I felt an intense isolation, like you’re observing, you know, there are those moments where you’re observing someone, and you’re like, “I’m not sure who that is. … What do I think about that?” Or, “Who am I if am still sitting here?”

Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler and Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill in AMC’s Better Call Saul. (Photo: Michele K. Short/AMC/Sony Pictures Television)

And that’s, I think, also the feeling at the end of the episode, when Jimmy has that meeting with the insurance rep, and has his “breakdown” about Chuck being sick. The Jimmy we’ve known up until then would not have done that, undermined Chuck like that, damaged him and his reputation with his malpractice insurance provider. He would not have done something that malicious, even at his most angry at Chuck, previously.
Yeah. And it’s petty. All of the stuff before, like to help Kim o r… I mean, you could argue that the billboard to Howard was petty too, but … this is definitely a whole different version. It’s truly malicious, no good intentions at all behind it. It’s just straight-up being awful.

And it feels like we said goodbye a little, we’re starting to say goodbye, to the Jimmy we’ve known. And that Kim is too.
I know. My heart broke for Kim, because I feel like Jimmy’s the only person that she lets her guard down in front of. If there’s ever gonna be a moment where Kim would tell someone that she’s hurting, he would be the only person she would tell, and I feel like, she either couldn’t bring herself to say what happened to her that day at Mesa Verde with Paige, and what’s going on with after the bar hearing, or the attempt that she makes, she realizes she’s not talking to her friend. Jimmy has gone somewhere else temporarily in that moment.

This is the seventh episode of Season 3 already. This whole season has not only been so storyline-packed, but it’s also unfolding way too quickly. What can you tease about the last three episodes of the season?
It doesn’t let up. There are more moments of unexpected comedy still left. There are moments of tragedy and individual evolution, relationship evolution. The last of them are as jam-packed as this one, and it does not let up, not for a second. I mean, really, is there anybody you shouldn’t worry about in the whole [show]? It’s so funny, we know Jimmy doesn’t die, we know how Breaking Bad ends. But I think fans worry for him all the time.

And that’s the other thing; even though we know Jimmy becomes Saul, there’s still always this little bit of hope that something will happen so he won’t become that person.
It’s interesting. It makes me want to watch Breaking Bad again. I feel like there always was a little Jimmy under the Saul. And drastically different as he is, Saul used to play that character so brilliantly with the slightest bit of light. There’s a sort of sad cloud under Saul, that I somehow wondered, is there more under this mask? And it’s so brilliant that you never did go home with Saul, you never did see who his friends were. You never saw what he was like when he’s not in these life-or-death situations. And it begs the question, was there any Jimmy there, in Saul, in Breaking Bad? I don’t know.

Better Call Saul airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on AMC.

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