Spoiler alert: Do not read if you haven’t watched “Waterworks,” Episode 12 of “Better Call Saul” now streaming on AMC+.
It’s the episode of “Better Call Saul” that fans had been waiting to see, well, forever. The fate of Kim Wexler is finally explained in Monday night’s penultimate “Better Call Saul” episode, “Waterworks.” Through a flashback, we see Kim in Albuquerque during the “Breaking Bad” timeline — and she even interacts with Jesse Pinkman, who bums a cigarette and asks whether Saul Goodman is any good. “When I knew him, he was,” she tells the kid.
Variety spoke to “Breaking Bad” creator and “Better Call Saul” co-creator Vince Gilligan, who wrote and directed “Waterworks,” about the episode, including the moment when Kim (Rhea Seehorn) finally lets it all out (in other words, the “Waterworks” of the episode title). Kim, exhausted by her quick trip to Albuquerque, plops on an airport shuttle bus and is ready to go back home to Florida. But as the bus rattles toward her terminal, the enormity of everything she’s been through begins to bubble up from inside. It’s then that she erupts in sobs, no longer able to hold it all in.
“It was a long time coming,” Gilligan says. “She didn’t get killed, she’s not dead, she still exists in this world and the world of ‘Better Call Saul’ and ‘Breaking Bad’ all the way through to the end — and hopefully long beyond.” (And by the way, sitting next to her on the bus is Gilligan’s longtime significant other, Holly Rice, in an uncredited cameo.)
In the black-and-white 2010 world of “Better Call Saul,” Kim is working for Palm Coast Sprinkler, and living a mundane life with a boring boyfriend (Alvin Cowan). Her conversations revolve around trivial things like using Miracle Whip, instead of mayonnaise, in a tuna sandwich. But a call from “Victor St. Clair” — yes, yet another alias for Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman/Gene Takovic — shatters that peace.
Now, “Waterworks” could also, perhaps, refer to the dam that is about to burst in her life — and Jimmy/Saul/Gene’s as well. The phone conversation we saw — but didn’t hear — Gene have in the previous episode turned out to be with Kim. And Gene was not pleased with how that call went, given his violent reaction.
And now we know why: Kim was on the other end, and she was deeply disturbed by the whole nature of what was said. It sure wasn’t Jimmy McGill; it turns out Gene is still more Saul Goodman than Jimmy. And that jarring conversation was enough for both Kim and Jimmy to do something rash that could affect both of their lives.
Below, Gilligan discusses Kim’s decision to tell the truth about Howard’s death, despite the likely consequences — and how Gene’s erratic behavior will also likely not end well for him. Gilligan also talks about the return of Paul as Jesse, the idea of bringing Kim and Jesse together, and what to expect as the series finale looms next week.
There are a lot of reveals in this episode, but let’s start with the fact that Kim is ready to tell all. She flies back to Albuquerque and signs an affidavit about what really happened to Howard Hamlin. Why did she do it, and how does that set things up for the finale?
We come to realize what she’s been doing all these years. It’s not like it’s a bad life or anything. This Space Coast of Florida is not intended to look like hell on earth. She’s just living a very different lifestyle here. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with working at a sprinkler factory. But when you look closer, you realize this woman is not living the life she set out to live, to say the least. She loves the law. She loves advocating for the little guy. She’s not doing any of that now. She’s writing pamphlets, brochures for PVC pipe and whatnot. She has purposely stunted herself. And there’s something tragic about that. And so when the waterworks finally do start, the “Waterworks” of the title, it comes to me as a relief. When she’s crying on that bus, she’s so bereft. She’s letting it all out and there’s so much sadness there. But it’s a lot of relief to and it just feels like this has to happen. And it’s a long time coming. It should have happened years ago.
This is a new Kim, her hair color is different and she even sounds different. Plus, she has this relationship with a really dull guy.
I think she’s just sort of divorced herself from the pain and the memories and the guilt. She’s just sort of anesthetized herself from the neck up. It probably plays to some folks at first like she’s in witness protection, on the run or whatnot. She’s really not. If you look closely when you first see her at work, she’s going by her real name, Kim Wexler. She’s not pretending to be a different person. The first thing you do when you go on the run is change your name. Once she cops to her sins, to the guilt she has for these terrible things she and Jimmy did, then the healing hopefully will begin.
The moment that I think is going to blow up the internet is when we see Kim and Jesse interact. The streams have been crossed. How was it decided to have these two separate characters finally meet?
I am so proud of our crew and cast for keeping that secret for as long as they did. We shot that sometime in like February or March of 2021, months and months before the rest of the episode. I don’t know how necessary it is as a scene in terms of plot. I don’t know that it really moves the plot forward any. But it just was too delightful to miss. I don’t recall whose idea it was initially, but it made everybody smile. The idea of seeing these two worlds collide, seeing these two characters together. It was just a wonderful thing. And we realized, we’ve got to do this. “We don’t have to do this, but, we have to do this.” That’s what it felt like.
It does make sense that if Kim is still alive during the “Breaking Bad” era that there still would be some sort of contact between her and Jimmy. But it is ugly. Has Jimmy gone full Saul as a defense mechanism? How can he be so cold while signing those divorce papers?
I think we’ve all been there. Not to that extreme, hopefully. But I think we all know the feeling of getting dumped by someone, then having to do the best acting of our lives and pretend like we don’t care. You run into your old girlfriend at a party or something. You’ve got to act all cool and nonchalant. I think it stems from that. He takes it to an extreme that is emotionally unhealthy, to say the least. I think viewers should make up their own minds; they shouldn’t just take my word on it, but it seems to me that “Saul Goodman” exists as some sort of weird armor for this vulnerable, naked little creature underneath. Saul Goodman is this hard shell over top of Jimmy McGill that Jimmy is calcified into. It’s this armor of indifference, of not caring, of not having emotions that could be hurt. I think that’s what he’s doing here but it’s so grotesque. The clownish suit, the Styrofoam columns and the Constitution printed on the wall. She’s horrified. She’s looking at this character he has willed himself to become. And she’s just thinking, “Oh, my God, what’s happened to him?” It’s just a tragedy. We always said to ourselves, Peter, and I, what did it take to turn this guy to Saul Goodman? And how long does it take for him to get there? But we also said to ourselves, how are we going to present this when it comes to this? If we do this right, nobody’s going to want to see him turn into Saul Goodman. It’s too ugly, especially when we know what he used to be like. Jimmy McGill is kind of a rascal, but he basically had a good heart. And he intended to do well by people and it’s just this is just grotesque, this is just sad.
And now fast forward to Gene in Omaha, and he’s acting so irrational. After being so careful, he’s going out to complete the con job, which leads to all these other dominoes falling. And that eventually leads to Carol Burnett’s character uncovering the truth about Saul Goodman.
This is pretty chaotic behavior, isn’t it? It’s money he doesn’t need. Who knows how much money he’s got squirreled away, how much cash and diamonds. We know he’s got a Band-Aid box full of diamonds. What the hell does he need to do this for? It’s very self-destructive. It seems like the thing that put all of this madness into motion was this unpleasant phone call that bothered him greatly, made him kick out the plate glass in the pay phone. He’s got a real edge to him in this episode. There’s no other way to put it: He’s a real bastard in this episode. It makes you wonder what is he trying to do? Is he trying to self-destruct? Is it trying to get caught? All valid questions.
That phone call also triggers Kim to go back to Albuquerque and set up what I’m sure will be an ugly end. Gene also has to know that it’s around 2010, and YouTube or Google will make it easy to find his old ads. Or in this case, AskJeeves.
He seems blissfully unconcerned in the final moments of this episode, right up until he realizes that she knows who he is. I particularly love the scene where Bob is singing “The Tide Is High” as he’s driving. It’s one of the things we’re proud of most on the show, that we can mix the really tense, dramatic stuff with the absurdist comedy. And it all seems to shake out pretty well.
How close was Gene to strangling Carol Burnett?
It looked pretty damn close to me. I don’t think he was kidding around. I think he was ready to do something awful. And oh my God, how can you do that to Carol Burnett? An absolute American treasure. He has turned into such a monster. A couple of people who watched the episode have asked me, “What do you think made him step back from the edge here in this final moment?” I say, the bigger question is, “What got him here in the first place?” A little moment of sanity prevailed, hopefully at least for a few minutes here. You’d hope as to be expected, but my God, how did he ever get to the point he was going to kill Carol Burnett in the first place? I’m glad we don’t have too much left because I don’t want to see too much more of him being a monster. It was tough in Episode 12 watching him be so unpleasant and unlikable. My god. This is not what I want to see as a fan of the show. I think it’s important stuff and we feel it’s necessary plot wise, but man, what an unpleasant thing.
So how does this set up what we should expect for the final episode? And is this it for the “Breaking Bad”/ “Better Call Saul” universe?
We really don’t have any plans to go forward from here. I suppose you should never say never, but we have no intention right now of extending this world. As much as I’d like to selfishly, we’re really not thinking along those lines. I think Peter’s ready to go off and do new things and I’m ready to do new things as well. But I think the ending is, to me, very satisfying. It was hard-earned, but it was well-earned. And I hope people will agree when they see it. But it feels like the proper and fitting ending, keeping in mind all that has come before. And I hope folks see it that way as well.
By the way, I spotted Holly on the bus, sitting next to Rhea in the scene where Kim breaks down, that was a nice surprise!
I had to get Holly on the show before it ended. And she did a great job. All through the editing process, she kept saying, “Can you show less of Rhea and more of me?” I said, “You know, we have a contractual issues with Rhea Seehorn, we’ve got to show more of her.” I’m just kidding! But good eye. I’ll tell Holly you saw her, she’s going to get a big kick.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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