Better Call Saul‘s season 5 finale, “Something Unforgivable”, charts a major development for Kim Wexler, with the ending effectively turning her into the series’ equivalent of Breaking Bad’s Walter White. For most of Better Call Saul‘s run, Kim (Rhea Seehorn) has seemed like the show’s version of Skyler White (Anna Gunn): the lead female who is mostly good, and can’t help but be affected by the descent into criminality of the person they happen to love.
That theme has continued in Better Call Saul season 5, which has turned Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) more into Saul Goodman than ever before. While Jimmy’s arc is different to Walt’s (Bryan Cranston), it nonetheless seemed like that was the story the show was most interested in telling. Because of that, fans have long been worried about how Kim would become collateral damage. After all, Kim isn’t in Breaking Bad, and since she’s been caught up in some of Jimmy’s schemes, especially getting more involved with Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton), then it’s been long been assumed something bad would happen to her because of Jimmy. Better Call Saul season 5, episode 10 flips that notion.
In the Better Call Saul season 5 finale, Kim learns from Howard of the pranks Jimmy played on him – and rather than be worried, she laughs in his face, despite Howard’s genuine concern. She and Jimmy, holed up in their hotel room but now believing themselves free from the threat of Lalo (who they think is being killed), joke about all the ways they could get at Howard, before Kim takes a more serious turn. She discusses ruining his reputation completely, ending his legal career so that the Sandpiper case has to settle, which would make Kim and Jimmy rich. Kim has reasonable motives here – she wants to do legal work that would help people, and make a better life for her and Jimmy – but it’s a move so extreme even Jimmy is disturbed by the suggestion, and especially her “pew pew” line, complete with finger guns. It mirrors the end of Better Call Saul season 4, but it’s also the same play, in essence, that Walter White made at the start of Breaking Bad.
This is Kim making her decision to break bad, no matter how she tries to rationalize it. She and Jimmy have both played cons before, but now she’s talking about destroying the life of someone who is, on the whole, innocent. Kim says it’s one lawyer, which would be worth the countless people they could help by setting up a pro-bono defense firm. Walter White said it was just some drugs and, when he killed a few people, well that too was just a small price to pay in order to ensure his family had a secure future. There are further parallels to be explored between the pair too: both are brilliant minds, often portrayed as smarter than those around them, and capable of pulling off just about anything. But the key link here isn’t those similarities, or just how they attempt to justify their actions. It’s that they do these things because they can, and crucially because they like it.
When Walt finally let his mask slip, letting go of his noble facade to reveal that he enjoys being Heisenberg, and that he’s good at it, it was one of his defining moments, even if it just confirmed what fans had long worried about. Kim’s journey to breaking bad took a lot longer, because Better Call Saul brilliantly hid it in the background. Viewers we were so busy being concerned about what Jimmy’s own turn would do to her, little thought was given to the idea that she might be the one who is changing the most. The signs are there, especially in season 5: the increasing desire to go along with the cons, the way she so powerfully stands up to Lalo. Kim isn’t just an innocent bystander or unwitting player in the game, she’s someone who now gets a thrill from it. Jimmy turns into Saul because he tries and fails and has to take shortcuts. Kim, on the other hand, is already ahead – she’s got the successful career, the talent, the opportunities, but is throwing that away for the rush she gets from playing cons, destroying people, and going bad.
With the finger guns, and that chilling “Wouldn’t I?” line when pressed by Jimmy, Kim gets her own “I liked it” moments. This is a decision with potentially fascinating – and devastating – consequences. The idea of Kim being the show’s Walter White turns the tables on expectations. Instead of Better Call Saul season 6 building to what wrong move Jimmy does to wipe Kim from his life for good and fully become Saul, it now feels like it could be the other way around. That Kim’s actions, her pursuit of a path of darkness and danger, will be the reasons of both her absence in Breaking Bad, and why Jimmy ultimately has to fully commit to being Saul Goodman. At the end of Better Call Saul season 5, as the camera slowly moves away from him, he doesn’t feel close to it. Kim, on the other hand, very much does so.