Spoilers below for Better Call Saul's Season 5 premiere!
As exciting as it is for Better Call Saul fans to finally witness Bob Odenkirk's inevitable transition from Jimmy McGill to Breaking Bad fixer-upper Saul Goodman, it also presumably means the eventual dissolution of Jimmy and Kim's relationship. It's a sad concept, certainly, though one that viewers might have expected to happen before now, given Kim's more reputable nature compared to Jimmy. According to the always fabulous star Rhea Seehorn, though, Kim's reluctance to leave Jimmy ties into the concept of addiction.
The way Rhea Seehorn sees it, Kim is a character who, for better or for worse, has built a life of nearly complete solitude, with Jimmy as the only window through which her larger personality can shine through. Plus, she recognizes how ostensibly similar Jimmy is in terms of the deep-seated instincts that drive his actions, since she has destructive habits of her own. Speaking to a select group of journalists at this year's Television Critics Association winter press tour, Seehorn elaborated on the idea of addiction being the glue holding Kim and Jimmy together.
She’s smart. I mean, thank God they wrote her very intelligent. She’s not being snowed by him. That’s not an interesting thing to watch, and it’s definitely not an interesting thing to play. . . . But it’s partially what she brings to the table too. And something that I love for myself as an actor is, yes, she’s reactionary to him, and there’s this relationship element to that, but she also has her very own demons -- the obsessive compartmentalizing, the need to control everything, the need to put out fires constantly, self-reliance that becomes inability to accept help that will drive you to the grave eventually -- I see all those as addictive things, too. To think that you can work everything; ‘If you just work hard enough, things will be okay,’ is its own obsession and addiction. I think she already has that element to her. He has that element to him, and the two of them together sort of feed off that.
For a quasi-perfectionist like Kim, a relationship with an often-floundering mate like Jimmy might be an ideal situation, since she would be guaranteed the opportunity to feed into her inner demons on a regular basis. Granted, Kim doesn't have the godlike power to actually control Jimmy's actions, but if she did, then there wouldn't be any fires for her to put out, so it all works out (dysfunctionally) in the end.
The Season 5 premiere highlighted another one of her points: that Kim doesn't ask for help very often. After one of her clients refused to take a plea deal, Kim got advice from Jimmy that, naturally, wasn't 100% truthful. Though she balked about take said advice in front of Jimmy, Kim soon found herself echoing his lies in order to convince her client to make the smartest choice. Her decision clearly took a swift mental toll, with the episode ending on Kim's stairway introspection.
Rhea Seehorn pinpointed the specific notion that Kim adheres to in keeping that relationship going:
You can become addicted to: ‘You’re the only person I can be myself in front of. I’m trying to hold all my shit together 24/7 outside, and here I can try to be funny and be vulnerable and make an ass of myself,’ and the darker part of that is to reveal that she’s not perfect, and that maybe she does question some things, and maybe she does cut some corners. And how does that make her feel? So that’s the addictive element I’m talking about. Who does she have if she doesn’t have him? She has herself, and she has always only allowed that. But now she let someone else in, and I think that’s addictive.
Since Kim allowed so many years to go by without creating any lasting friendships (or other forms of relationships), her reliance and dependence on Jimmy can feel like the best option at times largely because it's the only option that doesn't require an upheaval or two in her personal and social life. But where she might have been able to cut and run before without everything getting too shaken up, Kim is realizing now that she's letting Jimmy's influences affect her on any given level, making it harder for her to break those binding ties.
To that end, Rhea Seehorn spoke about the fact that as much as Jimmy has changed over the years on his path to becoming Saul Goodman, Kim Wexler has been the center of her own evolution from year to year. When asked whether Jimmy or Saul is harder to live with, Seehorn explained:
Keep in mind, and I have to remind myself all the time, Kim hasn’t seen Breaking Bad. [laughs] So I can’t think about the Saul Goodman that we know. She’s watching these things in real time, step by step. So yeah, there’s a lot of questions. Like, ‘Really, you want to sell phones?’ All that stuff that he started throwing at her. ‘And you want to make commercials as Saul Goodman? What are you talking about?’ So they’re small steps, but she does see him cutting corners. But she knew that from the beginning. The stakes start to go up. And I don’t want to say it’s as awful as like the frog in the boiling water, but it is a very accessible notion to most people to think about your relationships and realize that sometimes, you live through this, and then you turn around and five years later you’re like, ‘Wow, yeah, I did not know I was gonna be here in this situation.’ But she’s also changing. She’s not an unmoving object either. The Kim from Season 1 would not put up with any of Saul Goodman’s stuff, but she keeps moving and changing as well. And we do see more of what’s underneath her veneer this season, which I think helps you see a little bit more of the addictive nature of this relationship between the two of them.
It's almost strange to think that, not so long ago, the majority of Kim and Jimmy's relationship consisted of sharing cigarettes in a parking garage. The Kim Wexler that Better Call Saul fans were first introduced to hadn't yet fallen victim to the all-encompassing influence of Jimmy McGill, and thus wouldn't have readily accepted any of the maddening bullshit he's been consistently responsible for.
Here in Season 5, however, Kim has conformed enough to Jimmy's behavior that it's rather difficult to imagine what he could do next that actually would cause Kim to end their relationship. Not that I want it to happen!