Better Call Saul has given viewers something no fan of Breaking Bad could have expected. The amoral, slimy “criminal” lawyer known as Saul Goodman was once a flawed-but-good-hearted man named Jimmy McGill. We know Jimmy is doomed to fully embrace his dark side by the time Walter White enters his life. What we still don’t know is why Rhea Seehorn’s Kim Wexler won’t be there when he does. Her fate is arguably the single biggest question ahead of Better Call Saul‘s upcoming sixth and final season. But the fatal ending many fans have long feared she’ll suffer might not happen at all. Because the series has spent years carefully laying the foundation for her to commit the ultimate betrayal. With an act that will harden Jimmy McGill’s heart into fully becoming Saul Goodman.
The puzzle of how Jimmy became a monster has had one giant missing piece since Better Call Saul premiered. The show has revealed how certain Saul traits were always there. “Slippin'” Jimmy was a thief as a kid. He became a skilled con artist early in life. He always had an insatiable urge to make money. And his quick tongue and sharp mind made him an excellent attorney, even if he didn’t always feel bound by ethics or an adherence to the law. The prequel series has also shown how he developed a fondness for tacky suits and defending anyone for anything. But Jimmy was still a generally decent person with a conscience. Characteristics completely missing from Breaking Bad‘s Saul. More importantly, he once had Kim Wexler in his life.
Clearly something significant will happen to make Jimmy McGill completely abandon the man he was to become Saul Goodman. Something will darken his soul and make him abandon any and all common decency. During the show’s first few seasons, as Jimmy’s relationship with a kind, brilliant, upstanding attorney developed, it seemed that significant event might be her eventual death. Kim has not only become the most important part of Jimmy’s life, she’s really all he has left. His parents are both gone. As are Jimmy’s brother Chuck and even his best friend. (Who Jimmy used to run the quarter and Rolex scams with.) It’s why Jimmy said in season five he doesn’t know what he’ll do if anything ever happens to her.
The “Kim will die” theory made a lot of sense. As she got closer to Jimmy, he got closer to the cartels. If Jimmy’s continued work with ruthless drug dealers led to the innocent Kim being killed that might be enough to make him turn his back on the world and embrace the nihilistic freedom of being Saul Goodman. Not just because of his grief, either. But because Kim served as his ethical anchor. She appeals to Jimmy’s better half. She also worries about him and tries to keep his worst instincts in check. Kim makes Jimmy a better person. And if she died before the start of Breaking Bad it would explain why Saul Goodman emerged from Jimmy’s loss.
But that theory began to fall apart when the the series did the unexpected. Rather than Kim keeping Jimmy’s worst instincts at bay, Jimmy brought out the worst in Kim. He introduced her to the fun and excitement of conning people. They began small, with Kim a reluctant partner. Then she started initiating scams, which got bigger, more elaborate, and more dangerous. Kim started helping Jimmy fool judges and the same law she had sworn to uphold. She even got Jimmy to help her scam her own firm so she could covertly help a man fighting her own client. Kim went from getting a loudmouth jerk to pay for an expensive lunch to instigating criminal fraud and believably lying to a sociopathic drug dealer in her living room.
Her own ethical descent culminated in season five’s shocking final moment. She pushed Jimmy into agreeing to ruin Howard Hamlin’s life and career, a heinous plan we’ll see in season six. And for what? Because Howard offered Jimmy the one job Jimmy always wanted? Because Howard, rightfully, warned Kim that Jimmy is exactly as dangerous as Chuck always feared? Kim Wexler, the brilliant lawyer who recently gave up a lucrative career to serve as a public defender, has her own Saul Goodman side. Only she had a much bigger fall to get there than Jimmy ever did. But she also has a chance to avoid succumbing to it entirely like Jimmy.
By bringing out the worst in Kim, Jimmy McGill has laid the foundation for his death and the birth of Saul Goodman. He’s created a monster who is smarter than him. And if anyone will be able to avoid the fate that awaits Saul, it’s Kim. Especially since she can do it as his expense. Literally.
Better Call Saul has been on for so long it’s easy to forget Jimmy is still awaiting a major court judgement. His Sandpiper case remains unsettled after years. He’s so anxious for it to end he once ruined a poor old woman’s life to try and get his money. (An act so cruel Jimmy willingly destroyed his budding career with the elderly to undo.) When the Sandpiper case finally does end, he’s going to be an instant millionaire. He and Kim will be able to buy that house they wanted. They’ll be able to open up a real law firm. They’ll be able to fund her public defender work.
Only, we know none of that will happen. Saul Goodman will operate out of a strip mall and Kim Wexler won’t be a part of his life, even though Jimmy and Kim are now married. Where did she go? And why is Breaking Bad‘s Saul clearly not rich? Because Kim is going to run off with Jimmy’s money.
Kim is smart. She grew up poor and worked her way through law school to become a lawyer at two established firms. Now we know she’s also a pretty damn good con artist. And as Jimmy’s work with Lalo and the cartel puts her life in ever more danger, she’ll recognize exactly what kind of situation she’s found herself in. She’s married to a bad man who is probably going to get her killed. The only way to get out and to get what she wants in life is to steal his money. She can move anywhere she wants and still afford to provide pro bono work to needy clients. And stealing that money, which she can clearly rationalize the same way she’s rationalizing ruining Howard’s life, will be a lot easier to do now since they’re married. Jimmy trusts her completely.
That betrayal, and not Kim’s death, will make Jimmy McGill lose his humanity forever at the end of Better Call Saul. The unimaginable treachery of the only person he truly loved will create Breaking Bad‘s unethical monster known as Saul Goodman. And Cinnabon manager Gene will live alone in hiding, waiting for the day someone finds him, thinking about how he brought out the worst in Kim Wexler, the greatest crime he ever committed. The one that sentenced him to his fate.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.