Kim Wexler told Jimmy, back when she was about to leave town and end their marriage, that while they were often having fun with each other, they were creating chaos and misery for those around them. And finally, as the two former spouses orbit each other’s paths once again in this penultimate episode of the series, the fun is all gone. Bring on the misery.
That call from last week’s “Breaking Bad” episode of Saul, the one in that left Gene so angry that he slammed the receiver and kicked the glass out of the phone booth, was to his ex-wife’s employer in Florida, where Kim is writing copy and designing product layouts for the tubing used in sprinkler systems. She’s living a low-key lifestyle: having serious conversations about the virtues of mayo versus Miracle Whip in potato salad, dating a guy who wears mandals and shouts “Yep!” during sex, and listening to lunch conversations with co-workers who wonder why you never hear about crack on the news anymore. It is a meticulously crafted life Kim is living, where she works hard to offer no opinion, even about the flavor of ice cream a colleague might prefer, and spends her evenings working jigsaw puzzles while her boyfriend watches The Amazing Race in another room. That Zafiro Añejo stopper is truly a lifetime ago.
Then, the call: “Victor St. Claire” (yet another alias for the man born Jimmy McGill) is on the line and he’s just ringing to catch up after six years. “Still out here, still getting away with it,” he tells Kim, as if he really thinks she might be impressed or happy with his continuing lifestyle, given...everything. Kim has little to say to him. His intrusion into her new life, or rather her performance of a new life, has rattled her. Gene thinks she’s ignoring him, though, and when he presses her to say something, she tells him he should turn himself in. “Why don’t you turn yourself in?” he responds in a bit of “I know you are, but what am I?” childishness, hurt and angry that his charms are lost on her. He continues, telling her there’s no reason for her to keep their past dealings with the cartel and the scamming of Howard a secret. All the other parties involved are no longer alive, he hears, so she should feel free to come clean if she still feels so guilty about everything.
And because Kim is self-aware and does still have a conscience, she takes his suggestion to heart. She tells Gene she’s glad he’s alive, and ends the call. She arrives in Albuquerque, where she makes a stop at the courthouse, and then rings the front gate buzzer at the house of Cheryl Hamlin, Howard’s widow, the one Kim so coldly lied to at Howard’s memorial, saving her own bacon by leaving Howard’s reputation in tatters. Now she hands Cheryl a folder, one that she’s already shared with the ABQ District Attorney, with a thoroughly detailed account of the McGills’ dealings with the cartel, including the night Howard was murdered and Kim was blackmailed to try to murder Gus. She unfolds the plot to humiliate Howard and ruin his professional life, too, with disclosure that she and Jimmy were motivated by amusing themselves more than getting their hands on cash. Cheryl is crushed, somewhat surprised to learn this overwhelming story, and angry that Kim tells her Howard “didn’t suffer” when Lalo caught him at the wrong place at the wrong time. Cheryl begs to differ. (Rhea Seehorn’s portrayals of Florida Kim and ABQ Kim are incredible here, and her breakdown during a shuttle to the airport may be the most moving bit of acting in the show’s history.)
Things don’t go any better for Gene after his call with Kim. We knew whatever he heard on the other end of the line sparked him into a reckless new plot of crime back in Omaha, cruelly taking advantage of a cancer patient, a hapless Jeff, and a trusting Marion.
But it goes further than reckless and careless and cruel. When Jeff, as he was destined to do, panics and gets himself arrested, Gene embraces the opportunity to tangentially blow up his own world. He’s not going to turn himself in, like Kim suggested; he’s going to make the universe work a little harder than that. When Marion, suspicious that her Jeffy has called Gene instead of her when he goes to jail, searches for “con man” and “Albuquerque” on the laptop Jeff bought her, she finds those “Better Call Saul” commercials Saul has always been so proud of.
It leads to a tense standoff between the two, as Gene rips the telephone cord from the wall and Marion threatens to push the button on her LifeAlert monitor to call the cops on him. For one terrifying moment, Gene stands with the telephone cord stretched across his hands, making it a perfect strangulation weapon. But when Marion, no shrinking little old lady, looks him in the eye and sincerely tells him, “I trusted you,” Jimmy/Saul/Gene proves there is a line he won’t cross. Marion wins their game of chicken, calling for help with the LifeAlert, while Gene turns around and runs out of her house.
In their own ways, both Kim and Jimmy made the decision to stop running from what they did. So...who else could use one of of Gene’s drinks right about now?
- “Waterworks” was written and directed by Vince Gilligan, who gave us two of my favorite scenes of the final season: the levity of the two cops arguing about a fish taco while Jeff wrecks his cab and possibly leads authorities to a much bigger criminal in Saul, and the scene in Marion’s kitchen, with Gene’s glasses reflecting the “Better Call Saul” commercials from Marion’s computer in color. It’s a beautiful shot and a reminder that there is nothing the writers of this universe love more than the characters being hoisted by their own petards.
- When Kim is in Saul’s strip mall office to sign divorce papers, he tells her she should have taken her share of the Sandpiper settlement. It is not a surprise to learn that he did take the money, even after Howard’s death, and that she didn’t.
- When Kim is talking to Cheryl about possible repercussions for everything she confessed to, she mentions her ex-husband, “assuming he’s still alive” Was that her attempt, after everything, to protect him, in case she is prosecuted or sued for any of her actions? Or protect herself?
- Jesse Pinkman, while sharing cigarettes and conversation with Kim outside Saul’s office, asks Kim if Saul is any good. “When I knew him he was,” she says.
- The title of the series finale, written and directed by Peter Gould, is “Saul Gone.” Until then.