Throughout its five-season run, AMC's "Breaking Bad" racked up 16 Primetime Emmy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, two Peabody Awards and four Television Critics Association Awards.
"Better Call Saul," a prequel series that focuses on Bob Odenkirk's Saul Goodman/Jimmy McGill, has not won anything. Yet.
But with the second season premiering Monday, Feb. 15, one thing is very clear: "Better Call Saul" does not exist in the shadow of its predecessor. Where "Breaking Bad" hooked you in with an irresistible high that turned you into a Breaking Baddict, "Better Call Saul" operates on a different wavelength. While we delight in seeing familiar faces (welcome back, Mike! Hey, it's Tuco!), it is the new characters and stories that make "Better Call Saul" one of the best shows on television.
Rhea Seehorn's Kim Wexler especially stands out amid a crowded collection of enticing new faces.
Seehorn has been on high-profile TV shows before, namely "Whitney" and "Franklin & Bash." She knows what good TV is, as evidenced by her recent binges of "Luther," Peaky Blinders" and "Catastrophe." She's a talented actress who has been doing impressive work all her career. Yet after just one short season, even she believes that Kim may be her most important role, and without a doubt, her favorite.
"I want to keep working until the end of my days, and I have lots and lots of ideas in my head about what I want to do in my career," she told Headlines & Global News. "But to be perfectly honest, I am in my dream role right now. There is no different group of people that I would rather work with. It is absolutely a dream role and even more amazing than people think."
Seehorn brings a quiet strength to "Better Call Saul." Her character, despite the highs and lows of her arc, remains steadfast and resolute. Perhaps she borrows some of Seehorn's go-with-the-flow mentality as she moved from Japan to Arizona, Virginia Beach and Washington D.C. while growing up. She describes Kim as a loner, and though she can sympathize with her character, she isn't necessarily drawing on her scattered childhood as inspiration.
"You needed to be adaptive and make new friends wherever you went," Seehorn said of her frequent uprootings. "However, I was always comfortable being by myself, very comfortable with my own company, I never rushed to fill that space or make sure I had acitivites. I love my friends and my social life, but I understand the value of being by yourself. Kim is much quieter than I am which is a lot fun to play. I very much enjoy playing someone who says as much with what they don't say as with what they do and in season two you see that it's a very powerful position and not an accident."
As an actress, Seehorn resonates calm and control on screen. But she isn't oblivious; she saw the unenviable task of following in "Breaking Bad's" footsteps. Of course, that didn't stop her.
"It was daunting at first," she said. "But it became pretty clear pretty quickly that we were going to do our own thing. Obviously, there are ties and these are origin stories for characters who appear in 'Breaking Bad' - Saul's character, Mike's character - and people see that we're revisiting locations and story lines. You saw guest stars in season one where the audience is able to say, 'Oh, that's where that person was.' And that's all exciting, but it seemed clear to me in filming that this is its own ride. There are similarities, there are joint stories and crossovers and this fabulous bending timeline. But I'm happy we made it our own show."
British novelist Doris Lessing is largely credited with the famous quote, "Things are not quite so simple always as black and white." We can all agree that Walter White took to the darkness (and the crystal blue) pretty quickly, but what separates "Better Call Saul" is its emphasis on the gray. Jimmy rightfully takes center stage, but it is Kim's struggle with everyday challenges that puts everything into perspective. Through an impressive performance and great writing, her complicated relationship with Jimmy is somehow just as punchy as toppling a drug kingpin.
"They don't write any comic villains and there aren't any superheroes on the show," Seehorn said. "Everybody has issues and Kim is a part of that world...I think she loves [Jimmy] for who he is and not because she has her head in the sand and doesn't know who he is. That's a part of Kim that we see through season one and we'll see her struggle with that in season two. You see her not being able to hang on to this idea of 'this is right, this is wrong, this is the pillar of justice.' The people that she held in such high esteem for their integrity and their ethics and morals, turned out to be duplicitous in some ways more than others. And the man in her life that everyone is calling a con man, Jimmy, is the least duplicitous of all."
The aesthetic of "Better Call Saul" is the same as "Breaking Bad" - the bright and arid New Mexico desert is a character in itself - but "Better Call Saul" stands on its own with a more subdued tone and a varied group of main characters. We know where Jimmy is going to end up, but we don't know precisely how he gets there. Seehorn's Kim Wexler seems to be a big part of that journey, and that's good news for fans.