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How Nacho Got Too Deep in the Game

Nacho isn’t perfect. No one that knowingly gets involved with the cartel could be. It’s a decision that has dictated his life and impacted the lives of his loved ones, no matter how hard they try to distance themselves from him. As we watch Nacho struggle with the danger his job has put him and those he loves in, we can’t help but wonder: How does someone like him even get involved with an international drug organization?

“I think [Nacho] wanted to be somebody and thought that to be somebody was to have value in the eyes of your peers and your friends and to have flashy things,” Michael Mando explains. “And I believe, as life has sort of pushed him to maturity, he’s become very clear about what truly holds value in his life, and I think the only respect that matters to him at this point is self-respect.”

Of course, you can’t just leave the cartel because you’ve come to realize that your freedom and the safety of your family outweighs what you stand to gain. Nacho can’t erase everything he’s seen and most importantly, he can’t change how integral he’s made himself to the operation.

Just like with quicksand, the harder Nacho fights to get out, the deeper he sinks into the darkness. Here are the top five moments from Better Call Saul that show how Nacho got too deep in the game.

Working for the Salamancas
Sure, the cartel is the cartel, but like any job, some bosses are tougher than others. In Nacho’s case, the Salamancas are arguably the most unforgiving and unpredictable cartel bosses he could have gotten himself involved with. To date, Nacho has experienced the leadership of three Salamancas — Tuco, Hector and Lalo — with each one being as dangerous and murderous as the next.

Remember the time that Nacho’s family friend, Domingo, came in and his money was short? Nacho told him to make it up next time, something he had faith that Domingo would do since they had history and Domingo is a man of his word. As this happened, Hector listened from his usual position one table behind Nacho. When Domingo walked out, Hector made it clear that’s just not how the Salamanca’s do business.

“Who works for who?” he asks. It’s a simple question laced with violent undertones. Knowing that he can’t look like a pushover to Hector, Nacho follows Domingo out and beats the crap out of him.

Letting the Cartel Near His Family
When Hector gets wind of the business that Nacho’s father runs, a car upholstery company, he decides he wants to use it as a front for their drug deals. Nacho doesn’t even want his father knowing he’s a part of the cartel, let alone requiring him to be involved. But how do you say no to Hector Salamanca? You don’t.

So, Nacho does the expected thing and brings his boss to his father’s business. He gives Hector a tour of the building and walks him through how the operation will work. If Hector were listening, he’d hear a seamless plan with all points accounted for. But instead, Hector is more interested in where Papi, Nacho’s father, is. No matter how hard Nacho tries to pull Hector’s attention away from his beloved, innocent father, the tyrant just won’t let up. And so, Hector and Manual Varga meet:

Trying to Kill Hector
It’s fair to say that Nacho had no other choice but to kill Hector. Hector was now aware of Nacho’s father and what role his business could play in expanding the Salamanca operation. He was also aware that Nacho’s father had no intention of doing so willingly. If Hector didn’t go, then Nacho’s father was sure to be gone soon.

A devil’s advocate, such as Michael Ehrmantraut, might say killing someone like Hector Salamanca is not only damn near impossible, but will likely come back to get you. Turns out, Nacho would rather be dead than watch his father get killed because of him.

One night when Hector slams down a mouthful of pills to calm a coughing fit, Nacho watches as one stray pill hits the floor — and with this, he has his plan. After everyone has gone, Nacho retrieves the stray pill and uses it to create more of them, ones that won’t have the necessary ingredients to save Hector’s life when he needs them. The last step is to swap out Hector’s real pills for the fake ones:

Working With Gus
Late one night as Hector has yet another coughing fit, he goes for his pills and finds no relief. The men, including Gus Fring, call an ambulance and scramble to keep Hector alive. As Hector heads to the hospital, Nacho tries to discreetly retrieve the pills, a tip given to him by Mike Ehrmantraut, so there’s no evidence that someone actually tried to kill Hector. A good tip, except Gus watches Nacho do it and immediately puts the pieces into place.

Now he has leverage over Nacho and Gus is not one to let go of perfectly good leverage. He approaches Nacho with what he knows and just like that Nacho is now working for Gus too. And if Nacho were even considering trying to pull something with Gus like he did with Hector, he isn’t after this:

Making Himself Integral
With Hector out of the picture, Nacho has a new boss: Lalo. While Hector certainly had it out for Gus, Lalo has taken on this new job, and new enemy in Gus, with an energy that only a man fresh on the job could. And he’s giving Gus a run for his money, literally.

As Gus runs out of patience, he turns “the heat up on Nacho as far as it can possibly go,” Executive Producer Peter Gould says in this behind-the-scenes video:

Yet again, Nacho is faced with seeing his father killed or diving deeper into the world of the cartel. Here we see just how far Nacho is willing to go to protect his family, even if it means digging himself deeper into the dark world he’s desperate to escape.

Finally when Lalo is heading down to Mexico to disappear for a bit while the heat around him dies down, Nacho sees a light at the end of the tunnel. As Nacho drives Lalo to the border, he learns that Lalo intends for Nacho to drive him all the way to Mexico and even stick around for a while. This is bad, but what’s worse is that Gus has put a hit out on Lalo and now Nacho will have to play a vital part in making it happen:

Will Nacho make it out of this alive? We’ll have to wait until Season 6 to find out. Until then, catch up on episodes of Season 5 on amc.com and stay up-to-date with all the latest news by signing up for the Better Call Saul Insiders Club.

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