Note: This interview contains big plot points from tonight’s episode (season four, episode two) of Better Call Saul.
While emotions run high on Better Call Saul, they rarely erupt with the kind of volcanic force we saw play out in tonight’s episode. After the premiere ended with Howard confessing to Jimmy that he felt responsible for Chuck’s suicide (along with, you know, finally admitting to Jimmy that his brother killed himself), Kim (Rhea Seehorn) marched into Howard’s office in episode two and delivered the kind of passionate verbal assault rarely seen on this complex series. Lambasting Howard for trying to pawn off his guilt onto Jimmy and exculpate himself from his feelings, it was a nervy and intense scene. The A.V. Club had a chance to speak with co-showrunner Peter Gould about that memorable exchange, what it means for Kim, and whether Jimmy even realizes where his relationship with her is at.
The A.V. Club: Kim’s confrontation with Howard is just tremendous. When you first conceived of it in the writers’ room, what was the impetus behind that showdown?
Peter Gould: Well, in episode one, Howard confesses to Jimmy. And when we thought about that, we thought a lot about Howard, and the guilt that Howard feels about expelling Chuck from the firm. And we thought a lot about Jimmy’s own guilt, and of course Jimmy was responsible pretty directly for messing up the legal malpractice coverage, involved in screwing with Chuck’s professional insurance. We thought a lot about the guilt that Jimmy would feel. But then when we took a step back and we looked at that scene from Kim’s point of view, we thought to ourselves, “Here’s Howard unloading his guilt on Jimmy.” And of course, neither Howard nor Kim understand Jimmy’s part in all of this.
And so we just looked at it from Kim’s point of view, and from Kim’s point of view, suddenly we were a little bit pissed off, and we felt how she’s feeling protective of Jimmy. Jimmy is not being terribly communicative with her. He’s withdrawn. She knows he’s hurting even though he’s putting a pretty happy face on. And she can tell he’s hurting and I think she very justifiably takes Howard to task. And we love her for it.
It’s one of the scenes that I felt so excited about, to see Kim really unleashing on Howard. And she never unleashed on him before. He messed with her career. He kept her down at HHM. He’s tried to steal clients from her. And all the time she’s been pretty quiet about how she responds. But, boy, now it’s a very personal offense, in her book, that Howard has committed, and she really unleashes on him. And man, does Rhea Seehorn do a wonderful job in that scene. And of course it was written by my fellow executive producer, Thomas Schnauz, and Tom wrote the hell out of it. And Rhea is just... it’s electric, that scene.
AVC: She really does just explode. And part of what makes it so powerful in terms of the episode as a whole is precisely the contrast it makes with Jimmy’s dismantling of the copier sales guys.
PG: [Laughs.] Yeah. Jimmy goes to Neff Copiers. And this was fascinating to us. And for me, the most rewarding moments in the writers’ room are when the character suddenly does something that we’re not expecting, but that, as we examine it, it feels right. And then we start to understand why he or she has done this thing that seemed illogical to us at first. And Jimmy seems to be—I mean, there’s a lot of different ways to read that scene, but it’s clear that something has happened to him. There’s a change in him when he talks these guys into hiring him, and it’s a little bit ambiguous. I mean, there’s a lot of ways you can look at it. I don’t think I want to nail it down too much, but one of the things that we always talked about was that old Groucho Marx phrase, “I wouldn’t want to be a member of a club that would have me.” So I think that there’s a lot going on with Jimmy there, but it’s not expressed in words as much as in action.
And Kim knows exactly what she thinks. She knows exactly how she feels in this circumstance, and she makes no secret of it with Howard. And yet, when we see them together again, she makes no mention of this. And I think that’s interesting too.
AVC: It feels somewhat like just as she’s circling the wagons, he’s letting the air out of the tires in their respective moments here. Does that stem from figuring out how best to highlight where they’re both at in their relationship to each other, in terms of her commitment and his feeling at such loose ends?
PG: Boy, you know, he’s not dealing with his circumstances in a way that she understands fully. And she loves him, and she wants to understand him, but there’s a part of Jimmy that’s closed off right now and I think it’s closed off to the world, not just to her. We’ll see what happens. I’m very worried about their relationship, I have to say. As the series has gone on and this continues the season, I am so invested in Kim’s fate and in their fate as a couple. And one of the things I find fascinating about the two of them is that Kim is in this relationship because she wants to be. She’s not looking for Jimmy to fill some psychic void. She’s there because he’s fun and they bring out a delight in each other. And I’m really hoping that doesn’t die.