Regular readers of Collider may note that this is the third cast member of Better Call Saul to be named TV Performer of the Week, and yet, perhaps I’ve saved the best for last. In Season 1, Rhea Seehorn’s character Kim Wexler stood out for not standing out. In a series with such bigger-than-life male characters as Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk), his afflicted brother Chuck (Michael McKean), and the noirish Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), Kim was a voice of reason and a refreshingly normal person. Though her connection to Jimmy helped show a different side of him, she didn’t really get her a story in her own right until Season 2.
An in fact, Kim is one of the major reasons Better Call Saul Season 2 has been so outstanding. The premiere episode saw her trying to convince Jimmy to come back to the law, and yet, she ended up letting herself get carried away with a scheme he was running on a douchey financial planner. More importantly, she enjoyed it, and in a later episode when she was professionally free-falling, attempted her own minor scam and brought Jimmy in on it.
But Kim (always sensibly dressed, with hair neatly coiffed) has also made it clear that when it comes to her work as an attorney she does things by the books. Jimmy lying to her about getting approval for the commercial he made ended up sending her down to doc review because Howard (Patrick Fabian) was so angry with her for colluding (even though she didn’t, she also didn’t say it was Jimmy’s fault for not telling her — Kim is also a strong, loyal friend). She rebuffed Jimmy’s attempts to help her get back in the HHM good graces, and instead, there were several wonderful episodes that showed her pulling herself back up on her own merits, and landing a major client to bring to the firm.
Her dedication to keeping things on the straight and narrow also caused her to clearly delineate her plan to share office space with Jimmy. In a fantastic late scene in “Inflatable,” she stood on the roof of a building, smoking and thinking about how well her job interview had gone with a rival firm to HHM. But she also looked at Jimmy’s business card mockup he had done for their proposed joint practice and tore it in half. It wasn’t to toss it away or because she wasn’t interested, it was an exercise in seeing how a divide between their different styles might potentially work.
In “Fifi,” Kim finally makes her move to leave HHM, and in doing so, attempts to keep Mesa Verde as her client. Though she did everything by the books in letting Howard know her intentions (and he smiled and thanked her for everything), the moment she left his office she heard him getting on the phone with Mesa Verde, as Jimmy had predicted.
But that Mesa Verde back and forth was a great example of why Seehorn has been so exceptional as Kim. She’s likable because she’s level-headed and someone with strong, valiant beliefs, but she’s not inflexible. She didn’t mind running those small scams with Jimmy, or running full-tilt back to get her phone in order to start attempting to win Mesa Verde back. Kim is so tightly wound, though, that she hardly ever smiles, and it’s almost jarring when she does. Seehorn often exudes such an intensely nervous energy as Kim, either because Kim is trying so hard at her job, or because she’s getting a rush from doing something unexpected. The expression and mannerisms she had when she told Jimmy that Mesa Verde was staying with her was the same as after they had conned the douchey guy out of some expensive drinks. Seehorn isn’t just showing us how Kim feels, she’s becoming it completely.
“Fifi” didn’t stay so positive, though, as no thanks to Chuck (who was on Kim’s side initially, but has proven himself time and time again to be a ruthless competitor), Mesa Verde decided to go with HHM over Kim. But while Jimmy assured Kim that there will be other major clients that she can snag because she’s that good (and she is), he also can’t help but be vengeful towards his brother, going to elaborate measures to insert minute mistakes into the Mesa Verde files at Chuck’s house.
The fallout when Kim is made of aware of what happened is sure to be immense, but it’s also part of the fabric of what Better Call Saul has always presented to us: Jimmy cannot be anything other than this, and he realizes it in “Inflatable,” causing Kim to initially decline his offer of partnership. But Kim also represents the other side to Jimmy, that which wants to use the law to actually do good and to succeed, and represents his inner conflict.
Yet, Kim has also become so much more than just Jimmy’s conscience in Season 2, and that is wholly thanks to Seehorn’s performance. She’s a hero in a show where there aren’t many, and when it comes to hard choices she would always rather suffer the consequences then do the wrong thing. But in no way does that make her boring or uninteresting or vanilla — one could even argue that she’s the most compelling character exactly because of these traits, and her exceptional dedication to what’s right. She’s someone to admire and cheer for in a world that is so often morally gray. Kim isn’t perfect, but Seehorn has made her one of the most unexpectedly fascinating aspects of an already great series, and has had an incredible season making her quietly become the heart and soul of Better Call Saul.
Better Call Saul airs Monday nights on AMC. You can go here to read about previous TV Performers of the Week.