If there was any chance of Kim (Rhea Seehorn) and Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) having a happy (or non-traumatic) reunion, “Waterworks” erases that hope completely. After spending two episodes alternating between the post-Saul “Gene” timeline and the post-Jimmy McGill Breaking Bad timeline, we’ve been feeling Kim’s absence. Without her grounding presence – the thing that kept Jimmy from becoming Saul Goodman much earlier in the show – it was easy to see how much different Better Call Saul is without her.
There’s a lot to wrap up in the final two Better Call Saul episodes ever – especially the ramifications of Jimmy’s crimes. But “Waterworks” makes sure to show us what Kim’s been going through while the events of and after Breaking Bad went going down. While Gene is off in Nebraska, scamming more people and befriending Marion (Carol Burnett), Kim’s lived a bland and boring life in Florida. The fan concern has always been that Kim would meet some sort of tragic fate; the general assumption was death, but Kim is still very much alive and punishing herself for what happened to Howard. It’s an important revelation. And of course Better Call Saul‘s penultimate episode wouldn’t be complete without setting up disaster for the finale.
NOTE: John Brown Spiers served as Miriam’s understudy for this article. His contributions are thusly noted with a tidy little (JBS).
First Place: Cheryl
Cheryl (Sandrine Holt), the widow of Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian), did not have an easy time accepting his death. They were somewhat estranged, and, right before he died, Howard told Cheryl that he believed Kim and Jimmy were working to ruin his reputation. When Howard’s murder was covered up to look like a drug-influenced suicide, it was clear Cheryl wasn’t buying the story. Then, after Kim’s phone call with Jimmy forced her to come to terms with her guilt over Howard, Kim returned Albuquerque and confessed to Cheryl what really happened.
It can’t be easy to go years suspecting foul play but never getting closure on your spouse’s death. While Kim explaining the truth must have been, on some level, nice, it also could not have been more upsetting. So the top spot in Better Call Saul “Waterworks” power rankings goes to Cheryl: as awful as it is to hear that Howard was murdered simply for being in “the wrong place at the wrong time,” she finally knows the truth, and can work to move on and find (hopefully) peace.
Second Place: Marion
Zero characters “win” in this episode. In fact, “Waterworks” kind of makes you forget that the concept of “winning” exists and is a thing that some people do, sometimes. But if anyone comes close to doing so, it’s got to be Marion. Cheryl may be #1 in this week’s power rankings, but that’s because she has a little bit of actual power, here: she might be able to actually pursue legal charges against Kim (and Jimmy, assuming she can find him). If nothing else, Cheryl can harass Kim and upend her life the same way Kim and Jimmy did to Howard.
However, Cheryl also got hit with about as much of a figurative truth bomb as one person can before the figurative becomes literal. Marion, who a week ago was (mostly) content to sit and watch cat videos, almost gets strangled to death in her kitchen after figuring out that Gene Takavic is actually Saul Goodman. In the process, she also gets one of Better Call Saul Season 6’s best lines, if not one of the best of the whole series: “I typed in ‘con man’ and ‘Albuquerque,’ and up you popped. Clear as day.” It’s obvious that Gene is still Saul under the Gene veneer; the only reason nobody figured it out earlier is because Gene was able, for a little while, to give no reason for anyone to look closely.
Plus, Marion does not get strangled to death with either her phone cord or the cord that keeps her “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” button around her neck. She’s still got to get Jeff out of jail; balanced against strangulation, though, things have to be looking pretty good for her. (JBS)
Third Place: Jeff
Once again, Jeff (Pat Healy) made a mistake by trusting Gene. After successfully pulling off heists and making fat stacks, it makes sense that both Jeff and Gene would want more. Last episode ended on the cliffhanger of Jeff driving Gene back to the cancer guy’s house so Gene himself could break in and rob him. This week, after the police arrive simply to park and eat dinner, Jeff misunderstands, loses his nerve, crashes his cab trying to flee – and then gets arrested for Gene’s robbery after the cancer guy comes to and runs outside literally shouting that he’s been robbed.
When Jeff calls Gene and asks to be bailed out, Gene promises to help; after explaining to Marion what happened, though, Gene gets rather preoccupied. Based on how “Waterworks” ends, it’s likely that Gene will not in fact bail Jeff out of jail. Jeff may not be in the worst shape after “Waterworks,” but is yet another example of the collateral damage that follows Jimmy around.
Fourth Place: Kim
Honestly, the less said about Kim Wexler in this episode the better. That’s not because of anything wrong with her in terms of depiction or performance. To say that Vince Gilligan wrote an absolute banger is an understatement; “Waterworks” is easily a top-10 Better Call Saul episode, and maybe even better than that. And Rhea Seehorn maybe (probably?) just gave her best single-episode performance. It’s a masterpiece of restraint and culminates with, no hyperbole, the best, most realistic, most simply and completely devastating tears I have ever seen anyone cry on screen. Everything – every lie, every scam, every misguided deception and lost opportunity – pours out of Kim on that airport shuttle.
But Jesus Christ, you guys. The “life” Kim’s been leading in Florida, partly as a self-imposed rudderless exile from her adrenaline-fueled time with Jimmy and partly as a self-imposed punishment for the same thing? Is there anything more horrifying? For six seasons, we’ve watched Kim Wexler become one of the most complicated, intriguing, and lightning-strike intelligent characters in recent memory. We know the multitudes she contains and the mental dexterity of which she’s capable. To witness all of that get stuffed down into a far corner of Kim’s mind and replaced with bangs and jean skirts and concern over whether Miracle Whip is an acceptable replacement for genuine mayonnaise is…bleak. So bleak it makes the end of Chuck’s story look like a night out at karaoke. If anyone gets a happy ending next week, can it please, please, pretty prettiest please be Kim? (JBS)
Fifth Place: Gene
All throughout Better Call Saul Season 6, Gene’s patience with and tolerance for his humdrum Nebraska life has been declining. The one constant thing about Jimmy McGill was his recklessness; it was, to a certain degree, also what made his own downfall inevitable. Seemingly unable to leave a good thing alone, we see Gene call Kim after six years without speaking, and the results are catastrophic for both of them. When Kim is mostly silent, Gene begins to quip that yes he’s still getting away with “it,” and that he thought Kim might like to at least know he is still alive. All Kim can say is that she is glad. But it’s obvious that her other comment, that Gene should just turn himself in, hit him hard. The reckless behavior we see later could well stem from the hurt Gene feels after talking to Kim.
When Gene goes to Marion, offering to help her bail out Jeff, he triggers her suspicions. Gene’s cocky demeanor – and his off-handed comment about Albuquerque, a place Gene already told Marion he’s never been – reminds her of Jeff’s past; when Marion looks up “con man” and “Albuquerque” on the laptop Jeff bought her with his ill-gotten gains, whatever could the first search result be but Saul Goodman’s commercials? It’s the first truly bad situation for Gene, who managed to stay hidden for only a few months. He reacts in a way we’ve never seen Gene, Saul, or Jimmy behave, looping the ripped-out phone cord around his hands and approaching Marion – who I absolutely believed was in mortal danger – as though he’s about to strangle her.
Instead, when Marion activates her safety button and contacts the police, Gene flees her house and “Waterworks” ends. It’s unclear exactly why Gene chose flight rather than violence. Is he incapable of doing literal harm? Did Marion remind him of when he worked in elder law? Did Marion saying she trusted him trigger Gene’s memories of the time Kim did the same? No matter the reason, Gene is alone again, on the run from the cops, destined to succumb to his own rashness.