Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, the co-creators and executive producers of Better Call Saul, discuss the future of Kim and Jimmy’s relationship, why Lalo is possibly Gus’s first real challenge and how the show can change perceptions of Breaking Bad.
Q: We know that this season Jimmy will officially be taking the name of Saul Goodman and using it for his practice. Would you say he’s finally in his own skin?
Peter Gould: I don’t know that Jimmy sees it that way to start with. I think he’s taking this name for very functional, professional reasons because he already has this clientele that knows him as Saul Goodman and so why not translate those folks into legal clients. Tell me if you agree, Vince, but I don’t think all the things that come along with being Saul Goodman are all that clear to him and they’re certainly not clear to Kim, but, having said that, he’s certainly enjoying himself a hell of a lot.
Vince Gilligan: It seems to me it’s for very specific business reasons that he takes this name, but then it’s perhaps going to take on a life of its own in this season and perhaps more so after this season. You could maybe make the argument that once he’s truly Saul, the Saul we know from Breaking Bad, the show is over, even though [the writers] would figure out a way to make it fascinating no matter what.
PG: It’s one thing to put on Superman’s cape. It’s another thing to be able to fly.
Q: Will this feel like more than just a name change for those in his life?
PG: I think so. I think especially for Kim. I don’t know if she could put it into words, but I think she definitely senses it’s more than just branding. And it’s a peculiar thing — there’s that old saying, be careful what you pretend to be because you become it. Maybe that’s one of the things that’s going on in the back of her mind.
Q: How much more do you think Kim and Jimmy’s relationship can take?
PG: A relationship’s a funny thing. You can talk about things that break a relationship, but also relationships have a way of morphing and stretching and changing. I would say their relationship is right at the core of the show. It’s one of the things I’m most fascinated by and I’m most proud of and, like any adult long-term relationship, it changes. The question is how far is it going to change. Are they going to stay together? It’s funny because, when I watch the show, in some ways I’m rooting for them to stay together and in a lot of ways I’m rooting for Kim to get the hell outta there. I’m a little torn because the two of them, they are so much fun together. But not all fun is good for you.
VG: I can’t help but wonder how far this relationship of theirs could stretch before it does break.
VG: I’m thinking they might forgive and forget. I think that’d be the most surprising thing, so maybe Peter and the writers will go that way where they just hug it out.
PG: Or they go into binding arbitration.
VG: Yes, binding arbitration. And maybe they shake hands and respect each other.
PG: That’s it. That’s it. There’s no problem that can’t be solved by talking it out or hugging it out, like you said. It’s interesting because Gus Fring so far, at least on Better Call Saul, he really hasn’t met anyone who’s playing on his level at all. Every obstacle that he faces, he’s able to surmount pretty well. And a lot of the time we don’t get to see all his thinking. I don’t know if anyone’s a match for Gus intellectually, but one of the things that’s interesting about Gus’s duel with Lalo is Lalo is daring. He’s perceptive. He has an adaptability that Gus Fring’s other opponents haven’t had. As scary and threatening and horrible as Hector Salamanca is, he’s not really a strategic mind, and Lalo decidedly is. I think this is really going to put Gus on his game.
VG: As an aside, I have to say I love the fact that one of the most fascinating, colorful and, dare I say, charming characters in this world of Better Call Saul is a guy who exists because of a throwaway line in the first episode that Saul Goodman ever appeared in Breaking Bad, which was Episode 208 entitled “Better Call Saul,” which Peter wrote. Saul Goodman’s out kneeling in the desert, with these two masked men standing over him with guns and he says, “Oh my God, did Lalo send you?” and he starts speaking in broken Spanish. It was such a throwaway line Peter put in there. And all it meant at the time was this guy’s got a lot of balls in the air and he’s got a lot of people out to get him. When he finds out it’s not Lalo, even though these guys have got guns to his head, he’s like, “Whew, that was close.” He’s so relieved it’s not Lalo. But it was such a throwaway and I never, in my wildest dreams, thought we’d ever even meet Lalo. I mean, we never really thought about it after that, did we, in Breaking Bad?
PG: I don’t think we really did. Well, we had our hands full with Walter White and Gus Fring. I don’t think Saul Goodman’s problems amounted to a hill of beans at that point. Tony Dalton is so much fun and so brilliant in the way he plays [Lalo]. This guy, in some ways he’s the cartel’s Errol Flynn. He’s elegant. He’s graceful. He’s charming. Unfortunately, he’s also a Salamanca.
Q: Last we saw Mike he was struggling with having had to put down Werner. Will he be able to start fresh, or is he forever changed?
PG: I don’t think Mike’s ever going to get over killing Werner. Mike has killed before. There’s always been a justification. Mike killed because of passion. He killed to avenge his son.
VG: He probably killed in war.
PG: I’m sure he must have, as excellent a sniper as he is. But that’s different. This is killing someone who he likes. Werner was not an innocent. Werner knew exactly what he was doing. He was, as sometimes the characters put it, in the game. But, in another way, Werner is a true innocent. Werner is not a man of violence. He’s an open-hearted, decent guy, and, I think the way Mike sees it, it’s because of his own mistakes [that] he’s in a position where he does pull the trigger, and I don’t know that he’s ever going to get over that exactly. This is another weight that Mike is going to carry and I think the question is how far down is that going to take him?
VG: I just thought of this just now — Werner Ziegler is to Mike Ehrmantraut as Gale Boetticher is to Jesse Pinkman. I hadn’t really thought of that before, but maybe — and none of us had any of this stuff in mind when we were making Breaking Bad — but it’s so funny how this show now colors my perception of Breaking Bad. In other words, in this instance, maybe Mike, when he’s silently glowering at Walt and Jesse after Gale Boetticher has been shot, then he sees how broken up about it Jesse Pinkman is down in the superlab, maybe he’s thinking back — I mean, he wasn’t at the time, but maybe now he is — he’s thinking back to Werner Ziegler on some level. Who knows? I mean, it’s fascinating how this universe is sort of an organic thing. It keeps sprouting roots and growing in interesting directions.
Q: Will Nacho get any relief living his double life?
PG: Just when things look like they can’t get any worse for Nacho, they always seem to get worse. Nacho, I wouldn’t call him a victim exactly, but he is a guy who made a choice a long time ago to get involved with meth and with the Salamancas and, man, he is just not able to pull himself out of what seems to be a death spiral. But, on the other hand, he is a bright guy. The way Michael Mando plays him, he is a very intelligent, responsive person. He’s not just going to take the situation lying down. This is a guy who’s always going to be looking for a new angle. But, having said that, the ground beneath his feet keeps shifting. We’ll see how he’s going to cope with all that.
And of course the real reason that he’s trapped is his father. His father who is such an inherently decent man who, in a lot of ways, doesn’t understand his son. That is Nacho’s greatest vulnerability. And as soon as you have someone in your life who you love, whether it’s a parent, child or anyone else, you are a hostage to fortune. And Nacho is a hostage to fortune because he cares so deeply about his father and his father is unbendingly ethical, which, who knows, might be his downfall.
Q: What are you most excited for fans to see this season?
VG: There’s not a bad moment in these whole 10 episodes. People are just going to lose their minds when they see this season. And it just builds and builds and builds, and the tension grows and grows and becomes kind of unbearable by the end of it, in the best possible, most dramatic way. If I start mentioning individual scenes I can’t wait for people to see, we’d be here all day. There’s a lot of them this year.
PG: It’s interesting because the fact that we know that the show doesn’t go on forever gives us the ability to make some very big moves this season, to pull out all the stops. I think people are going to be very surprised by what happens this season, at least I hope they will. But more than that, for me it feels right, it feels organic, it feels real. But I have to say none of that makes me less worried for the characters. It’s kind of hard to talk about what we’re most excited for people to see because it’s kind of an Ali Baba’s cave full of wonders here, from my point of view.
I just have to say I’m eager to share it with people and I hope they love it as much as we do because we are the first audience for this show and I can just say I’ve really enjoyed working on this season. The work that everyone has done, from the cast and the writers through the directors, through the art department, through everybody in Albuquerque, through our post-production team — I think everyone has outdone themselves this season. Of course it’s all built on the work we did previous seasons and of course built on the work that Vince led on the first couple seasons and on Breaking Bad. But I feel like we’ve really reached an apex here. Right now what I’m worried about is how we’re going to continue for Season 6. How we’re going to wrap it up is the big question on my mind right now.
Q: It’s been announced that Season 6 will be the final season. How are you guys preparing for that?
VG: Lots of cardio, low carbohydrate diet, lots of stretching. [Laughs] It’s going to be a workout. I bet you these actors are going to get a workout in these final 13 episodes.
PG: That’s one of the joys of writing for this show is that we have a cast that can do anything. The bigger the challenges, the more they savor them, so I’m hoping that we can come up with more, better, bigger challenges for Season 6. I’m going to be very sad by the end of this thing. I will say that’s going to be one of the saddest moments of my life, but, at the same time, I can’t wait to find out how it all works out. Or doesn’t. We have ideas and I’m really pleased to say that Vince is going to be joining us in the writers’ room for at least part of the season. I’m really excited about that because we brought this show into the world and hopefully we’re going to be finishing it together.
VG: I’m looking forward to it. Man, it’s so damn good. It’s going to be one for the ages.
Relive the biggest moments from Season 4 before the fifth season premieres with a two-night event beginning Sunday, Feb. 23 at 10/9c, with the second episode airing in the show’s regular timeslot on Monday, Feb. 24 at 9/8c.
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