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Better Call Saul-Kim Wexler-divorce.jpg

The Twist in ‘Better Call Saul’ Is Not a Bomb, But a Quietly Devastating Bombshell

By Kaleena Rivera | TV | July 21, 2022 |

By Kaleena Rivera | TV | July 21, 2022 |

Better Call Saul-Kim Wexler-divorce.jpg

(spoilers for season 6, episode 9)

Four episodes remain in the series, but for all intents and purposes, Better Call Saul reached a grand culmination this week. There will still be some panache-filled throughline, most likely one that ties Saul (no need to refer to him as Jimmy any longer) to Gus, opening the door to the Breaking Bad universe. But with the destruction of his marriage to the love of his life, the transition from Jimmy McGill to Saul Goodman is effectively complete. It went not with a bang, nor a whimper, but with the sound of a luggage zipper.

What makes this turn of events all the more painful is that it wasn’t entirely unexpected, much like an inevitable car crash occurring in slow motion. Even as we watch the pair go on with their day, flawlessly heeding Mike’s command to act as though nothing is amiss, we know they’ve crossed the Rubicon. Saul is, as always, the one determined to move past this latest trauma; his fast-talking ways are a definite asset, but it’s his ability to put things behind him that’s his greatest strength. But as Kim stares off in the distance while laying in their hotel room—the couple incapable of sleeping in the condo despite its now pristine condition—Saul insists they’ll be able to move past this, though it’s clear he’s the only one buying what he’s selling.

A day later and Saul’s assurances haven’t become any more substantial. “We can get through twenty minutes of anything,” he promises Kim. Possibly, though voluntarily testing out that theory at Howard’s memorial is far from the wisest choice they’ve made, judgment from colleagues be damned. They now have a perfect front-row seat to view just how far-reaching the destruction has gone, including the discovery that HHM will no longer exist now that each name in the initialism is dead and the reputation beyond repair.

Of course, there’s also the matter of Kim and Saul providing condolences to Cheryl, which may very well be what clinches the events that take place shortly afterward. Because Cheryl, while separated from Howard, knew him better than anyone in the world, and she’s not buying the drug angle which potentially puts his “suicide” into question. This can’t be permitted to happen, but it’s still awful witnessing Kim toss one last shovelful of dirt on Howard, improvising a tale in which she accidentally walked in on him doing drugs in his office after hours. It’s brutal but effective. But the cost is too high for Kim and with one final kiss in the HHM garage, the setting of so many whispered jokes and shared cigarettes, she drives away, abandoning Saul in a truncated version of what fully plays out later.

The rubber has met the road for the McGill-Wexler marriage. The sight of Kim’s packed bags is much less surprising than the news that she has formally quit practicing as an attorney. I’ve suspected that Kim leaves Saul for a little while now; until the beginning of this season, I was nervous that her death was a possibility, but once I saw the look Saul gave her when she left the apartment and Lalo’s watchful eye, I knew there was no way THE Saul Goodman could ever be a widower because Jimmy McGill would likely never survive it. Divorce, on the other hand, would merely result in the symbolic death of Jimmy, making way for Saul to exist full-time.

Despite the fact the entire series has led up to this moment, it doesn’t make this scene any easier. “You asked if you were bad for me,” Kim explains. “That’s not it. We’re bad for each other.” She’s convinced that, together, the two can only bring pain upon the world. It’s extremely difficult to argue otherwise, but the logic feels insignificant when Saul miserably croaks, “You make me happy. We make each other happy. How can that be bad?” We watch the man go through the five stages of grief in record time, with shock and denial giving way to the anger phase, which is aimed squarely at Lalo. That’s when Kim drops the final bombshell: she knew Lalo was alive but withheld it from Saul. What I wasn’t prepared for was the true reasoning, which was that it was less about shielding Saul’s peace of mind and more to do with protecting the Howard scam and, ultimately, the fire that fueled their marriage. “Because I was having too much fun,” she confesses before she finally gives in to her sobs and goes off to finish packing.

The time jump that follows is a first as far as the present timeline is concerned. It’s disorienting not simply because of its novelty, but because Jimmy is well and truly gone. On the Better Call Saul Insider Podcast (which I can’t recommend enough for mega fans of the series), co-creator Peter Gould aptly compares Kim and Saul at this stage to alcoholics, with Kim abandoning drinking entirely while Saul only dives further into the bottle. The garish house, wardrobe, the now-iconic “LWYRUP” Cadillac—all of which were almost certainly purchased with the long-awaited Sandpiper payout—are nothing more than the vain pursuit of happiness, dulling the pain left in Kim’s wake. But judging by that long-kept Zafiro Añejo bottle top souvenir we saw in the season opener, he’ll never fully succeed at doing so.

This episode also puts a final bow on the Gus/Lalo situation. It’s unsurprising that Don Eladio would call for a meeting on behalf of Hector, seeing as how high-valued the Salamancas are to the cartel. But what Hector couldn’t anticipate was how effective Lalo’s fake death would be. Between the corpse with the matching dental records, Nacho’s (false) confession paired with a money trail, and Hector’s condition, it takes little for Don Eladio to disregard his anger over Lalo as little more than the paranoid imaginings of an old man whose health is in rapid decline.

Don Eladio is undoubtedly grateful for the straightforward conclusion because the decision to get rid of Gus would only be a last resort. He brings in far too much money, which is why he’s allowed so much leeway despite the fact that Don Eladio is at least mildly aware of Gus’ rancor (that greed combined with complacency will ultimately result in his downfall later in Breaking Bad). Gus always keeps his eye on his purpose; as he stares at his reflection in the pool, it’s easy to imagine him thinking about the long-departed Max, which is the perfect flame to ignite his need to acquire more power. The super lab will continue on as planned, despite any of Mike’s misgivings.

In a quietly powerful scene that may, at first glance, seem to be an unexpected detour, we see Gus in a rare moment of relaxation at a fine dining establishment. As he indulges in a glass of wine, handsome sommelier David (Reed Diamond), strikes up a conversation. The two begin the sort of banter that has flirtation simmering along the edges. This isn’t the cooly polite Gus Fring that we’ve seen so often in professional scenarios, this is Gustavo experiencing pleasure, listening to a gentleman excitedly talk about wine as they lock eyes with one another. It’s a charming interlude that could potentially be so much more, which is why the moment David goes to fetch a bottle, Gus regains his composure and leaves. Were it not for the heartbreaking fallout from Howard’s death, the moment preceding his departure would be the saddest of the hour. One minute Gus is sitting on his stool, softly smiling to himself, and in the span of time it takes to finish one final sip of that Côte-Rôtie, his severe guardedness returns with a vengeance. Romance is impossible for a man in Gus’ position. As he lays multiple hundred-dollar bills on the counter and asks the bartender to make his excuses (always the polite one, that Gus), it seems it will be a long time before he returns to this establishment if ever.

The common thread of this episode is heartbreak, whether it’s coping with it, alleviating it, or outright running from it. For Gus and Saul, their schemes ultimately led to them losing the person they loved most, leaving them to don a persona that best suits their purpose while masking their anguish. Whereas Mike offers closure to Manuel Varga at great personal risk to himself, as a father who lost a son speaking to another man who’s experienced the same, face to face. Kim, on the other hand, flees. Back to Nebraska, perhaps? There’s certainly a possibility that neither we nor Saul ever set eyes on her again. Despite this, I have a sneaking suspicion that Kim’s story isn’t done just yet. It’s unclear whether or not any good can come from this as it’s well established there’s little room for love in this destructive world. The most we can hope for Gene is that he can somehow find a way to fulfill Saul’s shiny new office affirmation: “Let justice be done though the heavens fall.”

Kaleena Rivera is the TV Editor for Pajiba. When she isn’t gagging at the various prices of Côte-Rôtie (some bottles go into the thousands), she can be found on Twitter here.