What You Need to Know Before the End of ‘Better Call Saul’
Saul Goodman’s first TV appearance was in the Breaking Bad second-season episode titled, appropriately, “Better Call Saul,” which debuted on AMC on April 26, 2009. It has, in other words, been a minute since we met the title character of the great prequel series Better Call Saul, and only slightly less since we met Mike Ehrmantraut, Gus Fring, and several other key figures who have appeared on both shows.
So, as the final Saul season resumes on July 11 after a brief hiatus — with events still taking place roughly four years before Walter White walked into Saul’s strip-mall office — we thought it might be helpful to remind you of what everyone was up to when we first saw them on Breaking Bad, to figure out what questions Saul may need to answer in the gap between the two points in time, and also to ponder the fates of the few remaining characters who do not appear at any point on Breaking Bad.
Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk)
On Better Call Saul right now: Jimmy has been practicing criminal defense law for a while now under the Saul Goodman name, but away from the strip mall, he seems very much like the slick but ultimately sweet Jimmy McGill he’s been for most of the series. He and wife Kim Wexler have just pulled off the con of their lives against their old boss Howard Hamlin, which will lead to Jimmy getting a multimillion-dollar commission for his role in the Sandpiper class-action lawsuit. But the con has tragic consequences, resulting in Howard lying dead on the floor of Kim and Jimmy’s apartment while the spouses are being threatened by Howard’s killer, Lalo Salamanca.
On Breaking Bad: Introduced in Season Two, Episode Eight (“Better Call Saul”), where Walter White attempts to hire him to help his and Jesse Pinkman’s colleague Badger get out of jail without ratting them out. He is still working out of the strip mall (albeit with more garish decor), has by this point completely embraced the Saul Goodman identity and personality, and is plugged into all aspects of Albquerque’s criminal network. He claims not to directly know Gus Fring — “Let’s just say I know a guy who knows a guy who… knows another guy,” he later tells Walt — and seems to believe that Mike Ehrmantraut is simply his freelance investigator. (In one episode, he compares their dynamic to Higgins and Magnum on Magnum, P.I.) When Walt and Jesse take him into the desert at night to threaten him, Saul — oblivious at first as to their true identities — tries blaming Ignacio (presumably Nacho Varga, who died recently on Saul) for whatever they’re mad about, and is relieved to learn that Lalo did not send them.
Big questions: The Jimmy who watches Lalo murder Howard is still capable of feeling guilt and shame in a manner that would seem foreign to Saul Goodman; how and when does he transform into Saul spiritually, rather than just using the name professionally? What happens to Jimmy’s wife Kim, and what is Saul’s relationship to her? Saul obviously knows he is not Mike’s primary employer and is lying to Walt and Jesse about that, but what does he know about Mike’s actual boss and his operation? And what exactly does Saul know about the whereabouts of both Nacho and Lalo at the moment Walt and Jesse take him into the desert?
Bonus questions: Jimmy is the one major Saul character whom we have seen after the events of Breaking Bad, where he manages a Cinnabon in an Omaha shopping mall under the fugitive identity of Gene Takovic. When last we saw Gene at the start of Season Five, he was preparing to deal with a shady cabbie who recognized him as Saul Goodman. What is his plan? Will it succeed? Will Jimmy/Saul/Gene get any kind of happy ending out of this?
Bonus bonus question: In a Saul flashforward to events near the end of Breaking Bad, we see Saul telling his receptionist Francesca that she has to wait for a special phone call on November 12 at 3 p.m. Whose call is she meant to be receiving?
Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks)
On Better Call Saul right now: Cop-turned-parking-attendant-turned-hitman Mike is coordinating security for his kingpin boss Gus Fring as Gus’ operation comes under siege from the unpredictable Lalo Salamanca. Mike has mistakenly moved most of his guys back to Gus’ house to protect him, thus leaving Jimmy and Kim unprotected for Lalo to approach them and murder Howard Hamlin.
On Breaking Bad: Introduced in Season Two, Episode 13 (“ABQ”), Mike appears to be a private investigator and general fixer working for Saul Goodman — in that episode, he’s sent to help Jesse Pinkman deal with the overdose death of his girlfriend Jane — but is revealed early in the following season to be the right-hand man to Gus.
Big questions: Given how their professional relationship has evolved over the course of the prequel series, why does Mike later pose as Saul’s employee? And will there be (does there even need to be?) any explanation for why, at this stage of Saul, Mike is treated at best as equivalent to fellow Gus henchmen Tyrus and Victor, but on Breaking Bad is clearly the number two man on the org chart?
Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito)
On Better Call Saul right now: His attempt to build an underground Super Lab in which he can cook his own meth, cut out the Mexican cartel, and get his revenge on Don Eladio, Juan Bolsa, and the Salamanca family has been put on hold due to the interference of Lalo Salamanca. Worse, Gus is being kept under wraps by Mike Ehrmantraut while Lalo remains at large. He has hidden a gun in the Super Lab dig site out of suspicion that Lalo may appear there, but for the most part is hiding out in a safe house that’s a hidden tunnel away from his actual house.
On Breaking Bad: Introduced in Season Two, Episode 11 (“Mandala”), where he met with Walter White about the possibility of distributing some of Walt and Jesse’s meth through his thriving distribution network.
Big questions: Really, just the matter of how he foils the very large threat Lalo Salamanca poses to his plot against the cartel. The remaining episodes could theoretically explain more about what exactly Gus did under the Pinochet regime in Chile, a minor mystery for true Breaking Bad obsessives, but one that’s not really germane to where the story is now, nor to getting Gus from here to when he sits opposite Walt at a Los Pollos Hermanos franchise.
Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton)
On Better Call Saul right now: Following a failed assassination attempt by Gus Fring’s mercenaries, Lalo has faked his own death and set out to prove to the cartel that the Chicken Man is working against them. We last saw him standing in Jimmy McGill and Kim Wexler’s living room, having just murdered their old boss Howard Hamlin, and preparing to use them in some way against Gus.
On Breaking Bad: Lalo Salamanca never appears on Breaking Bad, though in Season Four, Episode 11, “Crawl Space,” Gus Fring declares that with the rest of the family wiped out, the Salamanca name will die with Lalo’s uncle Hector.
Big questions: Why does Lalo Salamanca never appear on Breaking Bad? Was Gus telling Hector the truth? If so, when and how does Lalo die? If not, under what circumstance would Lalo possibly allow Gus to get away with… anything Gus does on Breaking Bad? And why is Saul so afraid of Lalo when Walt and Jesse take him into the desert?
Bonus question: This isn’t so much about Lalo, but on Better Call Saul at the moment, Lalo’s uncle Hector is living in a very nice nursing home in Albuquerque; yet when we meet Hector on Breaking Bad, he is staying in the run-down desert hideout of Lalo’s cousin Tuco. Is it simply a matter of Tuco hijacking his uncle once he gets out of the prison stretch he began back in Saul Season Two? Is there a money problem if and when Lalo is out of the picture?
Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn)
On Better Call Saul right now: Kim is working as a pro-bono criminal defense attorney, and preparing to use her husband Jimmy McGill’s cut of the Sandpiper settlement to set up a high-powered firm to defend indigent clients. After masterminding the entire con against Howard Hamlin, Kim and Jimmy cower in a mixture of horror, guilt, and terror when they watch Lalo Salamanca murder their old boss.
On Breaking Bad: Kim Wexler never appears on Breaking Bad.
Big questions: Why does Kim Wexler never appear on Breaking Bad? Is she dead? Has she fled Albuquerque and/or her marriage to Jimmy because of all the things she’s seen and done since they got involved? Are they still happily married in the Heisenberg era, but she’s not involved in his work? And if the latter is true, would he in turn really flee town without her?
Bonus questions: Is it a coincidence that Gene Takovic lives in the same state in which Kim grew up? Might Kim appear in the black-and-white Gene timeline?
Bonus bonus question: How much will fan satisfaction with the end of the series rest on whether Kim turns out OK?