Peter Gould on Better Call Saul’s big Lalo twist

Tony Dalton in Better Call Saul Season 6

Tony Dalton in Better Call Saul Season 6
PhotoGreg Lewis/AMC

[Editor’s note: This interview contains spoilers from last night’s episode of Better Call Saul, “Point And Shoot.” Please watch the episode before reading on.]

We’ve been waiting for this since May You better call Saul to resume the sixth season – although it seems much longer than that – especially after Howard Hamlin’s (Patrick Fabian) shocking cliffhanger. What better, or rather darker, way for Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton) to walk back into the lives of Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Kim (Rhea Seehorn) than by blowing everything up, right? After the mid-season premiere entitled “Point And Shoot,” we now know that the six-week break was worth it. When Lalo involves Jimmy and Kim in his vendetta against Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), all hell breaks loose – and not in Lalo’s favor.

With only five episodes left of the beloved Breaking Bad spin off, Saul showrunner Peter Gould talks to The AV club about Lalo and his amazing portrayer Tony Dalton, how the events of this episode will influence the lead up to the series finale, and how TV legend Carol Burnett ended up filming her upcoming movie. You better call Saul guest appearance.

The AV Club: “Plan and Execution” ended with the shock of Howard’s brutal, unexpected death, and Kim and Jimmy lived that horror show with Lalo’s appearance. How did you come to the conclusion that the mid-season premiere should be this chapter of Lalo vs. Gus would shut down?

Peter Gould: To perhaps call it obvious, when we broke these episodes so long ago, we had no idea that there would be a break midway through. We just thought episode seven was a good ending for an episode. Little did we know that we would have people wait six weeks to see the other part.

A big part of our thinking had to be, what’s Lalo’s plan? This is one of the things that is such a struggle because we have a lot of characters in the show who are very smart. I mean, no one is smarter than Gus Fring. Except that Lalo seems to give him a run for his money, somewhat through intellect and also through sheer tenacity and willingness to drop bodies wherever they can. But we desperately wanted to find a way to put these two guys face to face, which of course meant, and Lalo feels the same way, taking Mike out of the equation, at least long enough for Lalo to take a look at the super laboratory. If Gus shows up, that’s a bonus as far as Lalo is concerned. Boy, things really do fall in Lalo’s favor, or so it seems, for a while, there.

AVC: It must have been hard letting go of that fantastic villain, one of the greatest of all time in the You better call SaulBreaking Bad universe, brilliantly played by Tony Dalton.

PG: Oh yeah. I mean, look, we love [him]† Lalo is just a great character. And Tony, Lalo wouldn’t be a great character if Tony hadn’t played him. Much of his swagger and Errol Flynn-esque ability comes from Tony. He really is a cross between a cartel killer and a 1940s movie star. It was very sad to say goodbye to Tony and to say goodbye to Lalo. But we must abide by the rules that we have established. And we know Gus Fring is still very much alive and in business a few years later when we meet him at Breaking Bad† None of us saw how that could be possible with Lalo still around, with plans to get revenge on Gus. And also, we had that line in Breaking Bad where Gus tells Hector that he is the last surviving Salamanca. You must dance with the one who brought you. But that said, boy, what a run for Tony Dalton as Lalo. Anyone working on the show would love to work with Tony again.

AVC: Lalo was clearly brought up, or was very close to, Tio Salamanca. But he seems the smartest of the Salamancas. We can all agree on that, right?

PG: He’s the smartest, yes. He seems to have a little more control over himself than Tuco. And of course there is that photo. I don’t know if you caught it, but there’s a photo in the previous episode, in Hector’s room, where Hector and the twins and Tuco are like kids. So I think Lalo must have had other influences, because everyone else, either the twins who were cold-blooded killers and almost wordless, and Tuco, who I don’t think can hold it enough to move through polite society. But then there’s Lalo, who can travel to Europe and merge there. That is a very special ability when it comes to the Salamancas.

Peter Gould behind the scenes of Better Call Saul

Peter Gould behind the scenes of You better call Saul
PhotoMichele K. Short/AMC

AVC: Let’s go to Jimmy and Kim. When he tries to convince her to leave the apartment, he tries to save her life. And there’s a moment when he looks her in the eye, and it feels like he’s not only relieved that she’s agreed to go, but almost assumes this is goodbye?

PG: Oh yeah. Jimmy feels that whoever is left in the apartment will die. How can you trust Lalo Salamanca? Even if Jimmy or Kim can accomplish this task that he gave them to begin with, then ultimately it’s up to Kim, when they come back, what’s really going to happen? Jimmy knows he’s sacrificing himself in that moment. And interestingly enough, you can see Jimmy trying to corner even with Lalo in the apartment. At first you think it’s obvious, but then you realize he’s trying to trade his life for Kim’s, and he wants her to be safe. He is willing to face the music with Lalo. Of course, when he’s alone with Lalo, he’s found that Jimmy’s connection to Nacho means he could have been part of some hostile action. He is right to think so. And in fact, if Lalo didn’t have more he wanted from Jimmy, I think Jimmy would be dead on the floor next to Howard Hamlin.

AVC: Ahead of the final episodes, Kim had this very important piece of information about Lalo still alive, but she didn’t trust Jimmy enough to share it with him. How is Jimmy handling that?

PG: That’s a good question, and it looks like he’ll find out soon. There’s bound to be more to come. How does he find out? What is his reaction? What is Kim’s reaction when he finds out she knew Lalo was still alive? Yes, there is a lot more story between these two.

AVC: The bigger problem is how do they come to live with themselves and each other after their plan to humiliate Howard went in a direction they couldn’t have foreseen? It feels like the marriage is now in danger as big as Lalo’s gun.

PG: Boy, I like the way you say that. I agree with every word you just said. Their romp to get Howard up was kind of an aphrodisiac for both of them and also kind of a weird hobby for two adults to have, but it worked for them in a way. That has produced terrible results. How are they going to live with what just happened? Though we’re just thinking now, how are they going to get through the next 24 hours? So we’ll have to see what impact this has on them.

Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn, Jonathan Banks in Better Call Saul Season 6

Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn, Jonathan Banks in Better Call Saul Season 6
PhotoGreg Lewis/AMC

AVC: Mike tried to help them get through the next 24 hours, and it sure looks like he feels guilty about the death toll because he realized all these things had snowballed since he got that watch from Jimmy declined and Kim.

PG: That’s true. Mike has said in previous episodes that they are stretched thin. The Fring organization, powerful as it is, is not the Secret Service. There are only so many of these very reliable guys that Mike has. Lalo made a move neither Gus nor Mike expected. It’s to Lalo’s credit. He misled both Gustavo Fring and Mike Ehrmantraut. Not many people have ever done that. Of course, Gus also tricked Mike by deciding to go to the laundry on his own, without telling Mike. You can see these two guys retreating to their separate corners at the very end of the episode. Their relationship has changed a bit. The truth is these two guys are now bonded as they will be Breaking Bad† I mean, Mike made his choice. He threw his fate at Gus. Maybe next time Gus will tell Mike, could be† I don’t know. He seemed to keep Mike in the dark a lot Breaking Bad

I just have to say that one thing I skipped over was how incredible Bob and Rhea are in this episode. Seeing these two characters in this extreme, extreme situation, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of them do the things they did in this episode. Vince Gilligan directed it, and Gordon Smith wrote it. It’s really a special one. I can’t wait for the whole world to see the last set of episodes because this might be the best work we’ve ever done.

AVC: We know that Carol Burnett will appear as a character called Marion. How did her guest appearance come about?

PG: The short answer is Vince met Carol, and then I met Carol. I met her at the Peabodys where I heard someone say, “Carol Burnett wants to meet you.” So, of course, my wife and I rushed to her table. You can’t imagine what a spectacular person she is. It’s not just the work she’s done, but her warmth and generosity as a person. She is a special, special person. We were excited that she knew who we were and that she liked the show. A character came up as we were working on these episodes, and the first thing we said was, “Wouldn’t it be great if Carol Burnett was willing to travel to Albuquerque and be on our show?” And I have to tell you, it was a dream come true. When you see what she does, it’s so much more than a cameo. She creates a character that people will really love and become fascinated with.

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