We here at TVLine celebrated the year’s very best TV performances last week with a rundown of the 22 finalists for our annual Performer of the Year award. Now it’s time to announce our winner — and rest assured, it was not an easy decision, with so much fantastic acting to choose from. But in the end, we realized that no performance moved us, surprised us or commanded our attention more than Rhea Seehorn‘s final turn as Kim Wexler on Better Call Saul.
Seehorn has been the secret weapon of AMC’s Breaking Bad prequel for six seasons now, infusing Kim with formidable smarts and clockwork-like precision, along with a hint of playful mischief. She absolutely topped herself in Saul‘s final season, though, as Kim and Jimmy’s plans came to fruition… and then blew up in their faces. Season 6’s first half was just a warm-up for Seehorn, with Kim fully going over to the dark side in her scheme to take down Howard (and meeting Mike!), and the actress finally nabbed a long-overdue Emmy nod for it. But the second half was where Seehorn truly shined, as an anguished Kim wrestled with the guilt she felt over Howard’s murder. Episode 9 featured Seehorn’s best work of the series as Kim abruptly quit the bar and split up with Jimmy, with Seehorn firing off a masterful speech about how Kim and Jimmy bring out the worst in each other. (Her telling Jimmy, “I love you, too… but so what?” hit us like a knife straight to the heart.)
We were hoping that wasn’t the last we’d see of Seehorn as Kim Wexler, and we got our wish when she popped up in the black-and-white flash-forwards to Jimmy’s post-Breaking Bad life. Kim was stuck in a glum suburban purgatory, though, and Seehorn delivered another highlight with a devastating scene where Kim broke down in sobs on an airport bus after coming clean about her role in Howard’s death. Thankfully, she and Jimmy did eventually reunite, sharing a cigarette in prison in Saul‘s supremely satisfying series finale, which served as a perfectly bittersweet coda to their complicated love story.
Better Call Saul went out on a high note with a brilliantly crafted final season, but its greatest achievement may have been letting Seehorn step into the spotlight and earn the kudos she so richly deserves. Her acutely observed, quietly powerful portrayal of Kim Wexler is an essential part of what made Saul one of the best TV shows of the past decade, and for that, it’s our honor and privilege to name her TVLine’s Performer of the Year. We rest our case.