Announced Tuesday, the 72nd Emmy nominations brought the annual calamity of perceived snubs and betrayal to internet discourse. But let’s not bury this lede. If there is one snub of this year’s Emmys season that is completely inexplicable, it’s the lack of nomination for Rhea Seehorn for her portrayal of Kim Wexler on “Better Call Saul.”
Kim is a pivotal character in the “Breaking Bad” prequel, but was not always intended to be. Though meant to be phased out gradually after the first season, Seehorn’s incredible sense for Kim’s character quickly earned her a permanent tenure on the show. And though she had been left out of the show’s abundant acting nominations in years prior, critics and fans alike expected season five to be Seehorn’s chance at recognition. But once again, Seehorn has been snubbed.
Even with knowledge that nothing can fully right these wrongs, there is still some condolence in knowing that Kim Wexler is one of the best characters in contemporary television. Seehorn is the highlight of the season, and does in fact deserve the world.
If there’s any doubt about any of these points, hopefully these highlights from season five of “Better Call Saul” will dispel any confusion.
Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) has, though a series of increasingly brash decisions, taken a job as a bagman for a Mexican drug cartel under the alias of Saul Goodman. The cartel’s enforcer in Albuquerque, Lalo (Tony Dalton), is suspicious that there’s a few key elements missing from Jimmy’s story, and invites himself into Jimmy and Kim’s apartment.
The tension of this scene makes you want to crawl out of your skin. But it all revolves around Kim’s absolute verbal decimation of Lalo. The man has a handgun bigger than his head tucked into his pants and a sniper perched right outside the window, yet Kim holds all of the power in this exchange. It’s a roast for the ages: Lalo has the entire cartel at his disposal, but somehow Jimmy is the only one he can trust with this job? And after all he’s put him through, he dares to question his story? Saul Goodman never lies.
Of course, both Kim and “Saul” are lying through their teeth. But Seehorn is so convincing that she can almost deceive the audience into believing their bald-faced cover-up.
After a day of difficult clients and moral conundrums, Kim meets Jimmy on the balcony for a beer and a cigarette. Their lives are quickly spiraling out of their control; their choices becoming more and more limited.
There’s nothing that needs to be said: Body language carries the scene. While Jimmy plays with a bottle, dropping and catching it before it falls, Kim chucks hers into the parking lot. Car alarms sound, neighbors’ lights flick on and the two make a game out of throwing beer bottles off the roof. Her mood lightens and she loosens up momentarily before breaking out into mischievous laughter as they head back inside.
Seehorn demonstrates that she’s just as capable without dialogue and in the simplest of scenes. Kim may resent Jimmy for his disregard for etiquette and proper legal procedure, but Seehorn brings a whole other level to this: While she’s losing control of her professional life, Kim’s ashamed to admit she finds some solace in Saul Goodman’s harmless, well-intentioned brand of mischief.
Wexler vs. Acker
Remember how I said Kim’s professional life is spiraling out of her control? Acker (Barry Corbin) is a major contributor to that. Representing the company that just bought the land he lives on, Kim has been fighting to reach a settlement with Acker for seven months.
But the real challenge comes when Acker attempts to dress her down. He characterizes Kim as the type “to give a little to charity every month” to feel better about the things her career forces her to do. “It must make you feel like one of the best rich people,” he says. But of course, he’s wrong about pretty much all of it: Kim hates this work, but has to take it to get by.
The suspense of this scene rides entirely on Seehorn, and she absolutely nails it. Her microexpressions become more and more tense, her tone gradually losing its legal formality as Acker’s resentment grows.
When she finally snaps, there’s something close to desperation in her voice. She genuinely wants to help Acker, and is trying desperately to settle before her client involves the police. But she’s also simply angry — at Acker’s mischaracterization, at her bullheaded client, at the financial situation that keeps her stuck in this field of law — and though she knows it won’t solve anything, there’s a brief catharsis in losing her proper, lawyerlike cool and clapping back.
How the Television Academy watched these scenes — and frankly, the entirety of the season — and didn’t deem Seehorn worthy of nomination remains beyond comprehension. But the evidence speaks for itself. If it pleases the court, I rest my case.