[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 since May for Better Call Saul to resume its sixth season—although it feels like much longer than that—especially after the shocking Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) cliffhanger. What better, or rather darker, way for Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton) to walk back into Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Kim’s (Rhea Seehorn) lives than by blowing it all up, right? After the midseason premiere, titled “Point And Shoot,” we now know that the six-week break was well worth it. As Lalo involves Jimmy and Kim in his vendetta against Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), all hell breaks loose—and not in Lalo’s favor.
With just five episodes remaining of the beloved Breaking Bad spin-off, Saul showrunner Peter Gould talks to The A.V. Club about Lalo and his terrific portrayer Tony Dalton, how the events of this episode are going to impact this run-up to the series finale, and how TV legend Carol Burnett ended up filming her upcoming Better Call Saul guest appearance.
The A.V. Club: “Plan and Execution” ended with the shocker of Howard’s brutal, unexpected death, and Kim and Jimmy living out that horror show with Lalo’s appearance. How did you come to the decision that the midseason premiere would conclude this chapter of Lalo vs. Gus?
Peter Gould: Just to state maybe the obvious, when we broke these episodes so long ago, we had no idea that there was going to be a break in the middle. We just thought episode seven was a good ending for an episode. We didn’t know we were going to make people wait six weeks to see the other part.
A big part of our thinking had to be, what is Lalo’s plan? This is one of the things that is such a struggle because we have a lot of characters on the show who are very smart. I mean, nobody’s smarter than Gus Fring. Except Lalo seems to be giving him a run for his money, somewhat through intellect and also through sheer tenacity and willingness to let bodies fall where they may. But we wanted desperately to find a way to have these two guys go face to face, which of course meant, and Lalo feels the same way, taking Mike out of the equation, at least for long enough for Lalo to get a look at the super lab. When Gus shows up, it’s a bonus as far as Lalo’s concerned. Boy, things are really falling in Lalo’s favor, or so it seems, for a bit, there.
AVC: It must have been tough letting go of that fantastic villain, one of the all-time greats in the Better Call Saul/Breaking Bad universe, played brilliantly 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. A lot of his swagger and Errol Flynn-like ability comes from Tony. He’s really like a cross between a cartel killer and a ’40s movie star. It was a very sad thing to say goodbye to Tony and say goodbye to Lalo. But we have to play by the rules that we’ve set out. And we know that Gus Fring is alive and well and doing business a few years later when we meet him on Breaking Bad. None of us saw how that could be possible if Lalo is still out there, with designs on getting revenge on Gus. And also, we had that line in Breaking Bad where Gus tells Hector that he’s the last surviving Salamanca. You have to dance with the one that brung you. But having said that, boy, what a run for Tony Dalton as Lalo. Everybody who works on the show would love to work with Tony again.
AVC: Lalo was obviously raised, or was very close to, Tio Salamanca. But he seems like the smartest of the Salamancas. We all agree on that, right?
PG: He is the smartest, yeah. He seems a little bit more in control of himself than Tuco. And of course, there is that picture. I don’t know if you caught it, but there’s a photograph in the previous episode, in Hector’s room, where it is Hector and the twins and Tuco as children. So I think Lalo must have had some other influences, because everybody else, either the twins who were ice-cold killers and almost wordless and Tuco, who I don’t think can keep it buckled down enough to move through polite society. But then there’s Lalo, who can travel to Europe and blend in. That’s a very special skill where the Salamancas are concerned.
AVC: Let’s get to Jimmy and Kim. When he’s trying to convince her to leave the apartment, he’s trying to save her life. And there’s a moment where he’s looking into her eyes, and it feels like he’s not just relieved that she’s agreed to go, but is he almost assuming that this is goodbye?
PG: Oh, yeah. Jimmy feels whoever stays behind in the apartment is going to die. How can you trust Lalo Salamanca? Even if Jimmy or Kim can accomplish this task he’s given him to start with, then it eventually falls to Kim, when they come back, what’s really going to happen? Jimmy knows he’s sacrificing himself at that moment. And interestingly enough, you’re seeing Jimmy trying to work an angle 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’s willing to face the music with Lalo. Of course, when he’s left alone with Lalo, he has figured out that Jimmy’s connection to Nacho means that he could have been part of some enemy action. He’s right to be thinking that way. And in fact, if Lalo didn’t have more that he wanted to know from Jimmy, I think Jimmy would be lying dead on the floor right next to Howard Hamlin.
AVC: Going forward to the final episodes, Kim had this very important piece of information about Lalo still being alive, but she didn’t trust Jimmy enough to share it with him. How is Jimmy going to be able to deal with that?
PG: Well, that’s a great question, and it seems like he’s bound to find out soon. There’s definitely more to come. How does he find out? What is his response? What’s Kim’s response when he finds out that she knew that Lalo was alive? Yeah, there’s still a lot more story between these two.
AVC: The bigger issue is how are the two of them going to live with themselves and with each other, after their scheme to humiliate Howard went in this direction that they couldn’t have foreseen? It feels like the marriage now faces danger as big as Lalo’s gun.
PG: Boy, I love the way you put that. I agree with every word that you just said. Their romp of setting Howard up was sort of an aphrodisiac for both of them and also sort of a strange kind of hobby for two adults to have, but it worked for them in a certain way. That’s had terrible results. How are they going to live with what just happened? Although right now, we’re just thinking, how are they going to get through the next 24 hours? So we’ll have to see what impact this has on them.
AVC: Mike has tried to help set them up to get through those next 24 hours, and it certainly seems like he’s feeling guilty about the body count because he realized that all these things had snowballed since he’d taken that watch off of Jimmy and Kim.
PG: That’s true. Mike has said in previous episodes, they’re stretched thin. The Fring organization, as powerful as it is, is not the Secret Service. There are only so many of these very trustworthy guys that Mike has. Lalo made a move that neither Gus nor Mike anticipated. It’s to Lalo’s credit. He wrong-footed both Gustavo Fring and Mike Ehrmantraut. Not a lot of people have ever done that. Of course, Gus also wrong-footed Mike by deciding on his own, without telling Mike, to go to the laundry. You can see that at the very end of the episode, these two guys retreat into their separate corners. Their relationship has changed a little bit. The truth is that these two guys are now bound together, the way they will be on Breaking Bad. I mean, Mike has made his choice. He’s thrown his lot in with Gus. Maybe Gus will tell Mike next time, maybe. I don’t know. He seemed to keep Mike in the dark an awful lot on Breaking Bad.
I just have to say that one thing I skipped over was just 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 either one of them do the things that they’ve done in this episode. Vince Gilligan directed it, and Gordon Smith wrote it. It’s a really special one. I can’t wait for the whole world to see the last series of episodes because this might be the best work we’ve ever done.
AVC: We know Carol Burnett is going to appear as a character named Marion. How did her guest appearance come about?
PG: The short answer is Vince met Carol, and then I met Carol. I got to meet her at the Peabodys where I heard someone tell me “Carol Burnett wants to meet you.” So, of course, my wife and I scurried over 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 human being. 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 amazing if Carol Burnett would be willing to travel to Albuquerque and be on our show?” And I got to tell you, it was a dream come true. When you see what she’s doing, it’s so much more than a cameo. She creates a character that people are going to really love and be fascinated by.