Better Call Saul: Kim Wexler and the case for smaller is larger

If you're not in the know, then here's the deal: AMC's Better Call Saul is an extraordinary television show, and all the more so because it's a prequel of sorts to Breaking Bad, arguably one of the greatest TV series of all time.

While watching "Rebecca," the latest installment of Better Call Saul, I was reminded of the argument that many people made -- wrongly, in my view -- that specific episodes or story arcs within great shows like The Sopranos or Mad Men or even Breaking Bad didn't have enough "action" in them. A typical rant about an episode of The Sopranos, for example, might go something like this: it was pretty good, but where was the action? Nobody got whacked for the entire episode!

better call saul - jimmy and kim wexler

"Rebecca" is a case study in why "smaller" stories, stories where nobody gets whacked, where indeed there's no violence at all, can be amazingly powerful story telling. Indeed, on meticulously balanced show like Better Call Saul, episodes like "Rebecca" set up the larger conflicts and confrontations that are surely to come, and will make those moments all the more powerful because we've "lived" with these characters during much more "normal" and relatable moments. This was part of the genius of The Sopranos and Breaking Bad that many overlooked.

All of this was crystallized by a little one-act play within the show of sorts in "Rebecca," starring Jimmy/Saul's sort of ex-girlfriend and attorney colleague Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn, who proves easily week after week that she can carry the show on her own when called upon to do so).

From earlier episodes in Better Call Saul's second season, we know that Jimmy, through his actions, has placed Kim deep into the "dog house" (read = endless doc review hell) at HHM (by way of not cluing Kim into the fact that his DIY television commercial regarding the Sandpiper Crossing case was not, shall we say, approved by the Powers That Be at Davis and Main). This sets up a classic Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul montage in which we see Kim go to the furthest reaches she's willing to (and important note: we know full well that Kim abides within the bounds of ethics and the law, unlike the free willing Jimmy McGill) to get herself back into the good graces of HHM by snagging some legit and lucrative new business.

The sequence plays out wonderfully and is highly relatable to anyone who has ever tried to land an important sale or customer or client. She works the phones hard, using the little sticky notes she's compiled doing doc review into the late night, and gets methodically shot down, one conversation at a time: old college friends, connections made at corporate events, anyone she can think of to help turn things around.

And finally, she does it! She gets a big and important bank on the line and through her direct actions and smart attention to detail during the Big Meeting at HHM's offices, the firm lands a bunch of work that could be the start to a long relationship between the two parties.

But it's not enough. In a virtual stab in the gut to both the audience and to Kim, Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) coldly informs Kim that despite a move that may well have put her on the partner track a short time earlier, she's made no progress in escaping doc review.

This is great television in and of itself, and remarkable in the sense that this sequence is eating into screen time that might be occupied by Jimmy's doings at Davis and Main or Mike's increasing ties to Albuquerque's criminal underworld... and we don't care in the slightest.

And it's this insight into who Kim Wexler is and what she's willing to do, what she's not willing to do, and how she's treated professionally and personally that will no doubt play into "larger" events that happen down the line on Better Call Saul.

So that's all to say that even when we're not seeing Walter White blow up a building with a homemade chemical concoction or Tony Soprano curb stomp some made guy for insulting his daughter, there can be magnificently compelling television nonetheless.

By Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader"

About the author

Eric is the publisher and revered leader of TV Geek Army… at least in his own mind. TV Geek Army is a place for serious TV reviews and news for serious fans of great television. Contact: eric-[at]-tvgeekarmy.com 

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