The Deeper Meaning of Better Call Saul’s Kansas City Royals Connection

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmail

One of the many reasons Better Call Saul has become one of the top handful of shows on TV, and perhaps the best spinoff ever, is the ridiculously deep cast.

Bob Odenkirk and Michael McKean are bonafide television legends who seamlessly made the transition from comedy to drama. Nobody makes surly more pleasant to watch than Jonathan Banks while Giancarlo Esposito is the Ben Zobrist of small-screen utility men. Patrick Fabian has been the master of playing a smarmy jerk you just can’t quite hate going all the way back to Saved By The Bell: The College Years.

Yet somehow it’s relative newcomer Rhea Seehorn as workhorse attorney Kim Wexler who stands out. She’s managed to make a character who mostly proofreads tedious paperwork the most compelling figure on TV.

Kim is the angel sitting on the shoulder of Odenkirk’s Jimmy McGill, while he is slowly becoming the devil perched on hers.

From the Season 1 on, it’s been clear there’s an on-again, off-again nature to Kim and Jimmy’s relationship. They bonded as they worked their way out of the mail room and they understand each other in ways nobody else can.

But they have always been on different paths, their maps drawn to intersect at the law offices of Hamlin, Hamlin and McGill. Kim has spent her life on the straight and narrow. Jimmy’s road is winding and crooked.

And yet, Kim can never quite force herself to take a hard right when Jimmy veers left. Many, lesser, shows would have let her lay it all out in a passionate monologue designed to play well on an Emmy reel. She’d finally snap and shout about how she’s a sucker for an underdog, loyal to a fault even when she knows she should walk away for her own sake.

Better Call Saul, though, clued us in with an appropriately subtle character note. Kim Wexler is a Kansas City Royals fan.

It makes sense, the character grew up near the Kansas-Nebraska border, and Kim I’d not someone easily deterred.

Given that the show’s story began in 2002 and currently takes place in 2003, that’s a needed trait for a Royals diehard. Kansas City lost 100 games in 2002, going through three different managers. It lost 97 the year before that and hadn’t had a winning season in nearly a decade. The Royals were on their way to 29 years without a playoff appearance.

To love the Royals back then, you had to really love the Royals. Kim could wear a Kansas Jayhawks basketball or Nebraska Cornhuskers football T-shirt to bed, but that wouldn’t tell us anything about the character other than where she’s from.

Anyone who’s been on board with Vince Gilligan and his production team since Breaking Bad knows they love to sprinkle in big clues where one might not think to look. As Season 3 of Saul opened we saw another glimpse of Gene, the Omaha Cinnabon manager and latest incarnation of the man born James McGill.

As he sits down on a mall bench to eat you can see he’s brought a Royals lunchbox. It might just be a way for a man in hiding to blend in. Omaha has long been the home of the Royals Triple-A farm team and full of KC fans.

But it’s also close to Kim’s hometown. Is there anyway those two could be reunited in Nebraska? Or is it simply a way to remember a past life and a lost love?

What makes Kim such an important, intriguing character is uncertainty. The nature of the prequel means we already know the tragic fates of Jimmy, Mike and Gus. Nobody is really rooting for Chuck or Howard. But as an audience we are anxiously waiting to see what happens to Kim and Michael Mando’s Nacho, praying they somehow escape the horrors of Vince Gilligan’s New Mexico.

The timeline of the current season is approaching Opening Day, 2003. The Royals managed to finish above .500 that year, but modest success was fleeting. Kansas City lost at least 100 games the next three seasons and didn’t have another winning season for ten years.

Is it a clue that despite the Mesa Verde deal there are dark times ahead for Kim?

As an audience all we can do is hope Kim eventually got to see the Royals win it all.