The Golden Globe nominations were announced this morning. There were pleasant surprises and snubs. The biggest shock for me was the total of zero nominations for Better Call Saul in any of the major categories.
Season four of Better Call Saul was its most pivotal. For all intents and purposes, the world of Breaking Bad was born. The Super Lab went into production, Gus Fringe (Giancarlo Esposito) enacted his plan for cartel domination, and Slippin’ Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) became, in spirit and name, Saul Goodman.
The pace and scope of the writing, lead by show creators Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan, was pitch perfect. The acting performances of Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn (Kim Wexler) were nuanced and showed the transformation of their characters. But this wasn’t enough for the Hollywood Foreign Press.
Are the Golden Globes a total sham in 2019? Not at all.
I’m happy about a lot of the Golden Globe nominations. Black Panther was nominated for Best Motion Picture – Drama. Killing Eve was nominated for Best Television Series – Drama and star Sandra Oh picked up a nom for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama. I would have been angry if these were snubbed. These were well-deserved nominations.
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But the absence of Better Call Saul in the major categories is a glaring omission.
Jimmy Died with Chuck
Spoiler alert: Chuck McGill (Michael McKean) committed suicide by self-immolation in the season three finale. Jimmy spent most of the season four premiere pacing through scenes with a heavy numbness. It’s earned. The suicide of a sibling is shocking. The nature of the suicide seemed like it was sending some kind of cruel message.
Odenkirk was enveloped in the role. He appeared as if the only thing holding him to earth was this searching gravity. What did he do? What could he have done? Is this really happening?
At the very end of the episode, Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) pays Jimmy and Kim a visit. Poor Howard believes that he pushed Chuck to suicide when he bought him out of his own law firm over insurance concerns. It really didn’t help the situation, but Howard was just one of the last ingredients added to Chuck’s emotional distress.
When Howard makes this confession, Jimmy snaps out of his funk. He tells Howard that his guilt is his own cross to bear. Jimmy gets up, feeds his fish, and starts making coffee. His whole demeanor changes. There’s been a polar shift. He’ll let Howard be guilty. Jimmy will move on with his life.
That’s a major moment for an actor to play. If Odenkirk had sprung up and carried any sign of a smile on his face, the whole arc of the season would have changed. Jimmy would have skipped right to being Saul. There were still a lot of moments to play. And at this moment, Jimmy retains a solemn look on his face. He’s made a cold business decision. Jimmy frees himself of the guilt, but not from the loss.
Another moment that should have earned Odenkirk a Golden Globe nomination was in the season finale episode of Better Call Saul, “Winner”.
As part of a ruse to convince the world that he’s grieving over Chuck’s death, Jimmy sits on a board that will offer a law scholarship in Chuck’s name to a worthy candidate. The candidate Jimmy likes best, Christy (Abby Quinn), is a shoplifter who has zero chance with the board. Jimmy tracks her down outside of the offices and gives her an impassioned speech that he tags with “Forget [the board]. Remember this: The winner takes it all!”
Jimmy isn’t just quoting Abba here. He’s reciting his creed. There are people like Jimmy and Kristy that will always be frowned upon by their one-ups. If they’ll disregard his existence, he disregards theirs. Jimmy promptly cries in his car while sobbing “No!”
This was a moment where a lesser actor would have tried to go full Gary Sinise and simply tear the car apart. Odenkirk delivered the speech to Kristy as if that was the moment Jimmy was really defending his law license. The realization of who he was and what he did to get there left him in shocked denial. He was reduced to a puddle in the driver’s seat. While his law license name change to Saul Goodman can easily be seen as a transformation, Odenkirk’s performance in this scene made me feel like it was the last hope. If he could separate his less than desirable traits into a persona, Jimmy could retain his soul.
The Unbreakable Kimmy Wexler
Rhea Seehorn was snubbed out of a Golden Globe nomination as well.
Kim Wexler is a tricky character. She’s straitlaced as can be until she’s not. Kim is the kind of person who will follow the rules, put in the work, and rebuke any hint of cutting corners. But, if your idea of cutting corners would be vastly improved if she improvised a couple of key pieces, Kim’ll do it.
A lot of Kim’s demeanor in the first three and a half seasons seemed to be based on repression. Even her wardrobe was the type of plain that was classy while screaming for anonymity.
All of that changes when the muscle end of Jimmy’s burner phone business, Huell Babineaux (Lavell Crawford), gets in trouble with the law. Jimmy will risk his law license by returning to his slippin’ ways in order to discredit Huell’s accuser, who happens to be a cop. Kim has to step in and lead one of the most ingenious scams I’ve ever seen on television. With Jimmy playing an equal role in the con, they become one cool team.
Seehorn doesn’t play this conventionally. Instead of just allowing her character to revel in allowing her freak flag to flap in the wind, Seehorn holds on to Kim’s repression. She plays this like a good student who has a pop research paper sprung on her with a 72 hour limit on it. Every interaction she has with Jimmy and the Assistant District Attorney (Julie Pearl) is conducted with force at breakneck speed. There’s no room for emotion. There’s only room for action. And the emotion that goes into playing this role in that way is intense. The sheer pressure on her face is incredible.
When the con works, Kim tells a happily surprised Jimmy that she wants to do another. That leads to a con that will benefit Kim’s career. When she teams up with Jimmy Buffet Jimmy to con a city planner, we see Kim willingly participating and enjoying it.
Seehorn is portraying a character who is acting in a scene. Kim is nailing her role as a compromised mom with a goofy husband. Seehorn slowly releases Kim’s repression and allows her to lose herself in the role.
This lead to a tonal shift in the character of Kim without really changing her. It’s like we always knew she was capable of this from the first time we saw her smoking a cigarette in the parking lot in the pilot episode Uno. We watched her build up her interest in cons with Jimmy leading to these two moments. Seehorn doesn’t play this as a good girl gone bad. Rather, she plays it as a girl who knows she’s good but sometimes does bad. As long as everyone thinks Kim is a good girl, she feels free to be as bad as she wants. Because she’s in control.
Seehorn is in total control of this character. Kim, on the other hand, gets a little cocky. Things quickly get messy when Jimmy loses his reinstatement hearing and Kim is a little condescending about it. This leads to an argument that’s one of the best moments of the series.
For some of the best acting you’ll see, I strongly suggest the argument that takes place in the last act of the penultimate episode of the season Wiedersehen.
The argument takes place on the top of a parking structure, which immediately invokes some of the imagery from late season four of Breaking Bad.
The argument is balanced. Jimmy accuses Kim of treating him like a fool who isn’t worthy of her. She treats him like a lost cause. Kim argues that she always shows up for Jimmy whenever he needs him. She hasn’t done anything wrong.
The beauty in the writing is that, at this point in the story, neither character is wrong. The beauty in the acting is that both Odenkirk and Seehorn play it that way.
Odenkirk is pleading with Kim as the only person he wants to trust. He knows it’s needy and he owns that.
Seehorn is pleading with Jimmy control himself. She knows she’s playing the savior with the moral high ground. And she owns that.
This was two powerhouse acting performances aimed at each other and it did not get recognized by the Hollywood Foreign Press.
Writing the Ship
There were many high points in the pacing and arcs of Better Call Saul‘s fourth season. For me, the part of the story that explains the plot the best is the relationship between Jimmy and Kim.
Jimmy enjoys cons and being bad. He holds on to the idea of being good because that is what Chuck was. Jimmy is conditioned to the idea that he can only feel fulfilled and rewarded when he’s good. Once Chuck was gone, Jimmy starts to realize that he can be good and be bad at the same time. He can be harmless, which is what most people write him off as already. But now Jimmy can do it on his own terms. He is free of concern for what others think about him.
Kim enjoys cons and being bad. She holds on to the idea of being good because it prevents her from acting out on her impulses. Kim knows that her true fulfilled and rewarded life is not good for her. Her biggest con is on herself. Kim is faking it till she makes it on the straight and narrow path. Her connection to Jimmy allows her to believe that she can use her impulses as a tool in her career, which is still staying on the up and up.
And that’s just enough of a difference for Jimmy and Kim to be opposites. There’s just the right amount of positive and negative charges for them to be inexorably attracted to each other.
For Jimmy, it’s his saving grace. While Kim is around, there will always be a Jimmy.
For Kim, it scares the hell out of her. She wants to be with Saul more than she wants to be with Jimmy.
Neither character knows where this relationship will lead. And that’s the kind of compelling storytelling that should be nominated for awards.
Were you surprised that Better Call Saul was snubbed at the Golden Globe nominations? do you watch award shows? Do they matter to you? Let’s discuss in the comments!