SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not watched the seventh episode of “Better Call Saul” Season 6, titled “Plan & Execution.”
Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) has just been murdered in Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Kim’s (Rhea Seehorn) apartment, but “Better Call Saul” fans will have to wait six weeks to find out why his killer, Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton), was there in the first place.
With six episodes left in the series, there are plenty of other unanswered questions, too. What happens to Kim? Will we see more Gene? Is Nacho’s (Michael Mando) death really resolved? Luckily, co-creator and showrunner Peter Gould spoke with Variety to provide insight into our favorite characters and answer our most pressing questions leading into Season 6 Part 2.
We see Jimmy and Kim’s plot against Howard pieced out little by little over the course of seven episodes, and even the audience doesn’t know how it’s going to play out until we see it executed. Why did you decide to unspool their plan like this?
It was a really tough choice to make because you don’t want to confuse people. But we have a guideline in general, which is that if the plan is going to work, then you don’t need to explain it. But if it’s going to go wrong, you do. I always think of “Back to the Future.” Doc Brown builds that elaborate model of Main Street and Hill Valley to explain what’s going to happen. If the plan worked perfectly, you wouldn’t need that long scene where he explains what’s going to happen. Sometimes it’s fun to lean forward and try to understand what the characters are up to. Of course, in this episode, you fully understand their scheme. And the brilliance of the scheme is that it depends on Howard catching on, which is pretty darn clever.
As Jimmy and Kim call into the Sandpiper mediation, listening to their scheme play out, it might be the most physically affectionate we’ve ever seen them — like they are more attracted to each other when they’re pulling a scam.
There’s no question that the scams act as a little bit of an aphrodisiac for these two. So that makes you kind of wonder about them. But it’s exciting to see them so into each other. Usually that activity takes place off screen.
How responsible are Jimmy and Kim are for Howard’s death?
That’s a great question, and there may be some grappling with that in the future. As we leave them, Lalo is in that apartment, and there’s a lot more that can happen. And Lalo, by the way, is there for a reason, and we don’t quite know what the reason is yet. So there’s absolutely a question of where the responsibility lies. And that’s definitely a very interesting thing to keep talking about.
The midseason finale ends with the biggest intersection of Jimmy’s two worlds so far. Why did you decide to bring Howard and Lalo together in this way?
At the beginning of the season, we started talking about our two big problems: How is Jimmy and Kim’s scheme against Howard going to play out, and what is Lalo’s next move? As we left him last season, Lalo survived this attack on his hacienda, and he walks away with murder in his eyes. But what does that mean? What’s he actually going to do? As we started talking about those characters’ plans, it struck us that maybe there’s an intersection. Maybe there’s a way to dovetail these things. We’re always looking for ways for these stories to collide, and boy this is certainly the biggest collision we’ve had.
Lalo is such a smart, calculated person, but in this last episode we see him blunder when he calls Hector Salamanca’s (Mark Margolis) nursing home and realizes the line is tapped. Why didn’t he think of that before?
I think there are two reasons. First of all, Lalo has good reason to believe that Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) doesn’t know that he’s still alive. Lalo went to great lengths to create the legend that, in fact, he was assassinated. So as far as Lalo is concerned, he’s trying to stay a ghost. And hearing Hector’s phone is tapped tips Gus’ hand that he’s still protecting things against Lalo. The other side of it is that family comes first with the Salamancas. When the assassination attempt happens on Lalo, the only person he calls and tells is Hector. In spite of the fact that the Salamancas are truly awful people, they genuinely do care about each other. Lalo has been a lone wolf this entire season, and now that he’s about to have his victory, he wants to tell the one person he can share it with: Hector. It’s a very human instinct to want to talk to his uncle, and that human instinct bites him in the ass.
As Gus faces off against Lalo, we see a lot more of his struggle, while as he plotted against Walter White (Bryan Cranston) in “Breaking Bad,” he seemed to be much more invincible. Is Lalo a more worthy opponent to Gus, or do we just see more of Gus’ behind the scenes in “Better Call Saul”?
Well, I think Walter White’s great advantage is that Gustavo Fring underestimates him. And I don’t think Gus can truly see what he’s dealing with in Walter White. The other side of it is that Gus always wants the best, and Walter White is the best. So he’s in kind of a pickle there. He knows very well who he’s dealing with when he’s dealing with Lalo Salamanca. He’s dealing with somebody who is ruthless and clever and has no hesitation about ending human life — and who is part of a family who’s made themselves the enemies of Gustavo Fring. So I think Fring understands what he’s dealing with much better with Lalo. But on the other hand, when Fring is dealing with Walt, we’re in the future, and Gus is a slightly different guy. He’s conquered a lot of enemies at that point. I’m glad you brought this up because I love the way Giancarlo Esposito plays Gus in these moments — you see that he’s not always in control. That air of being in complete and utter control at all times, to some extent, is something of an illusion that he cultivates. So it’s very interesting to see what’s going on underneath that mask.
Was any of Gus’ backstory that we see in “Better Call Saul” — including the safe house and his conflict with Lalo — conceived during the making of “Breaking Bad”?
It’s all totally new. We didn’t even know for sure that Lalo was going to be part of this show — he was just a name that was spoken of once on “Breaking Bad.” But there’s something very rewarding about going back over the show and looking at the loose ends and the interesting questions that still remained, and asking ourselves, “Is there story there?” In this case, there’s definitely story there.
We haven’t seen Gene Takovic yet this season. Is Part 2 going to open where we left off in the last flash-forward?
When we conceived of this season and when we outlined it, we didn’t know that there was going to be a break between the two halves. That came about because of the way production worked and some other factors. It really was not designed to be two separate halves, so I wouldn’t expect the story to kind of take a long breath and then restart, necessarily. Though, it’s not a big surprise to say you’re going to be seeing Gene because he’s the key art of the season — you see Bob Odenkirk as Gene either putting on or taking off that red sports coat. So we’re waiting for a while, but you will see Gene for sure.
In the flash-forward sequence at the beginning of Season 6, we see Saul’s house being torn apart, which we can assume is happening post-“Breaking Bad.” As we all search for clues about Kim in that timeline, some people on the internet have zeroed in on a tiny detail that might imply Kim is still in Jimmy’s life: the toilet seat is down. Is that a hint?
All I can say is that the greatest compliment we could have is that folks are worried about Kim Wexler… and you should be.
Will Nacho’s death have consequences going forward this season?
There’s definitely some loose ends surrounding Nacho Varga, and we try not to leave a lot of loose ends on the show. He’s still on the minds of many, many characters, so maybe there’s more to say there.
With Nacho and Howard dead, the story seems to be narrowing quite a bit. What can we expect from this final batch of episodes?
Well, the focus is the same one that we started with, which is the story of Jimmy McGill — who was Slippin’ Jimmy, who was Saul Goodman, who becomes Gene Takovic — and what is to become of him. What does he deserve, and who is he really in his heart? Those are all questions that are still open on the show. The second half of the season is really surprising, and I think it’s some of the most powerful work we’ve ever done. I’m very excited for people to see it.