(spoilers for season 6, episode 12)
Back in season five, Kim, angry at Jimmy over his unanticipated antics against her then-client Kevin Wachtell, responds to his justifications with a defeated, “I can’t do this anymore.” Breaking up was a matter of logic, the only reasonable course that could be taken with a man who repeatedly kept things from her. But just when she’s about to utter the words that need to be said, another possibility presents itself in the mind of the brilliant lawyer who wants nothing more than to keep having fun: marriage as legal protection. In tying herself further to Jimmy rather than pulling away, she gave herself free rein to embrace her worst instincts after so many years on the straight and narrow path (ostensibly an act of rebellion against her mother).
Six years and more than a thousand miles later, and Kim has done everything humanly possible to distance herself from what she once was. Now residing in Titusville, Florida, her signature blonde hair is now a dark brown. She found herself the simplest man possible, a dullard whose musings on mayonnaise brands and The Amazing Race likely qualifies as peak exertion when it comes to mental exercise. Amusement comes in the form of drab backyard barbeques where attendees are separated by gender and the exact hue of deviled eggs is something to fret over. Better Call Saul as a series is one great tragic arc, yet for all of the heartbreaking events that have comprised this story, few of them have gutted me quite like seeing Kim in a denim skirt and subjecting herself to sex with a man with wraparound sunglasses who chirps, “yep!” during sex.
It’s not atonement so much as a purgatory of her own making.
Kim has so little trust in her judgment that she avoids putting forth any opinions whatsoever, even those of the most innocuous variety. Intellectually, she’s so bored that she’s taken to doing jigsaw puzzles upside down and jazzing up copy for irrigation products. However, her humdrum existence takes a sharp turn when she receives a phone call from “Viktor St. Clair.” At first, it feels like a relief to see what transpired during that mysterious phone call from last week, but less than a minute into the predominantly one-sided conversation, and it’s clear that out of the many feelings to be had, “relief” isn’t one of them. Saul may have intended for their talk to be about two people catching up—along with him assessing how she still feels about him, of course—but her stunned silence only agitates him. But it’s when she advises that he turn himself in that Saul goes over the edge: “And why don’t you turn yourself in, seeing as how you’re the one with the guilty conscience, huh?”
If Saul knew exactly how much she would take that advice to heart, his moment of rage in the telephone booth would come off as mere childish antics in comparison. It’s not hard to guess at Kim’s intentions when she catches a flight back to Albuquerque, but it’s still quietly devastating watching Cheryl, still in the same house and wearing her wedding ring all these years later, read Kim’s account of the events leading up to Howard’s murder.
“Why are you doing this?” Cheryl asks. It’s a question that’s impossible to ever fully answer. But once Kim’s bound for Florida again, the last six years finally catch up with her. I’m but one voice in the endless sea of people rapturously cheering over Rhea Seehorn’s (award-worthy) handling of that moment on the shuttle. All the tears Kim never allowed herself to spill for Howard and for ruining multiple people’s lives, including her own, every ounce of it pours out on one little bus ride.
In many ways, Kim and Saul have been living parallel lives. Kim moved to Florida and proceeded to live life in the most unremarkable way possible, while Saul did the same in Nebraska. But unlike Kim, Saul’s conscience hasn’t restricted him in any way. His fear of incarceration or worse is the only thing that’s kept him on the working end of a Cinnabon counter. Interesting how one phone call can send two people to opposite ends of the moral spectrum, with Kim trying to pay penance while Saul becomes increasingly vicious.
Despite the fact he’s gotten meaner, the one thing Jimmy McGill has always been, throughout all of his iterations, is smart. So when we see Gene Takavic on his way out of that ill-advised B&E only to turn around and upgrade it to larceny, it’s obvious that a horrible, life-altering decision has just been made. As Gene told Jeff and Buddy out in that snow-covered field, “Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered,” which is why when a police cruiser pulls up in front of the house directly behind an extremely anxious Jeff, it feels like destiny falling into place.
Really, was there ever a possibility of Jeffie not screwing the pooch? The only real surprise is how spectacularly he does it. When the (annoyed) cops go to assess the scene of the world’s silliest accident, Gene is able to slip away undetected. Jeff’s arrest appears to only be a slight wrinkle but when Gene calls Marion to inform her of the arrest, the alarm bells that have already sounded off in her head turn into a klaxon siren. That Chekov’s gun of a laptop fulfills its purpose at last. “There never was a Nippy, was there?” Marion asks. Her tone is accusatory, but underneath is a tremendous amount of sadness. She was terribly fond of Gene, and I fully believe he also had a measure of fondness for her—his soft spot for the elderly is one of the few remaining vestiges of his former self, a man who once had a deeply promising career in elder law.
Seasons’ worth of knowledge and history renders this the most chilling moment in the entire series. “I’m still the good friend you thought I was, okay?” Gene tells her as he slowly wraps the phone cord around his hands in a scene straight out of a horror movie. Earlier, when Gene was on the verge of knocking out that poor mark with his pet’s urn, it represented a whole new level for him; as a con man whose toolbox is conspicuously absent of violence (save for that ridiculous boxing match between him and Howard), the move with the urn felt like a desperate attempt to merely incapacitate him. But the moment between him and Marion in her kitchen can’t be mistaken for anything other than murderous intentions, which is why it’s a huge relief when the urge passes over him, replaced by remorse and more than a little bit of shame. He flees out the back door, presumably to clear his account and make yet another phone call to Best Quality Vacuum.
For my money, “Waterworks” is the best episode of the season. Much of that is due to the spectacular work done by Seehorn along with Odenkirk and Burnett (two lifelong comedians working the hell out of one very dramatic scene), but also the melancholic poetry in watching all of the story strings tie together. Seeing the current state of Kim’s life is powerful enough on its own, but getting to witness the last time she and an embittered Saul—whose attempt at aloofness is embarrassingly transparent—met face to face shows the moment she fully gave up on him. The time period is also established, specifically pre-Breaking Bad, thanks to an (effective) appearance by Jesse Pinkman, who’s there for his friend Emilio (John Koyama), which serves to portend Jesse’s fate as well as punctuate Kim and Jimmy’s final parting of ways:
Jesse: “Is this guy any good?”
Kim: “When I knew him, he was.”
Kaleena Rivera is the TV Editor for Pajiba. When she isn’t bemoaning the fact that she’s not emotionally ready for the series finale next week, she can be found on Twitter here.
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