Better Call Saul finally makes a direct reference to Breaking Bad’s Lalo scene. The now-famous sequence occurs in Breaking Bad season 2, when Walter White and Jesse Pinkman kidnap Saul Goodman to force him into becoming their lawyer. Saul is absolutely petrified he’s been captured by Lalo’s associates, becoming relieved to discover Walt and Jesse have never heard of the dangerous cartel member. What was once a throwaway bit of dialogue to provide addition shading for Saul’s character has transformed into a springboard for an entire storyline in Better Call Saul season 5. With Lalo now a series regular, fans are learning more about his history with Jimmy McGill.
In last week’s “Wexler v. Goodman,” Lalo was arrested thanks to Mike’s handiwork. Being in custody, it was quickly apparent he’d need legal representation, and Jimmy would most likely be his lawyer. Early on in this week’s “JMM,” Jimmy is called in (by Nacho) to be Lalo’s counsel and the two have a meeting to discuss the various options on the table. It’s here Better Call Saul makes a subtle nod to the aforementioned Breaking Bad scene.
During Jimmy and Lalo’s conversation, Lalo says he’s not interested in making a plea deal or going to trial. He wants to get out on bail. Considering the severity of the charges against Lalo (including murder), Jimmy feels this will be impossible. In response, Lalo asks Jimmy – first in Spanish and then in English – if he wants to be a friend of the cartel. The message is clear. Jimmy better find a way to get Lalo out on bail, or he won’t be a “friend of the cartel.”
That phrase, “friend of the cartel,” was first heard in Breaking Bad. As Saul pleads for his life, he frantically says in Spanish that he has “always been a friend of the cartel.” Fans now know that he was intentionally repeating something Lalo said to him several years earlier in an attempt to get himself out of trouble. It’s a cool link between the two shows and another illustration of how the creative team bridges the gap between them in ways that don’t appear so obvious on the surface. This isn’t something that could cynically be dismissed as empty fan service, but it still does enough to spark memories of Breaking Bad and that Lalo scene in particular. The line works within the context of the Better Call Saul episode itself (underscoring the danger Jimmy’s in taking on this client) while also allowing those in the know to connect the dots of the larger universe.
“JMM” ends with Lalo being granted $7 million bail (thanks to some classic shenanigans from Jimmy), and Lalo instructs Jimmy to collect the money. It’ll be interesting to see how this thread progresses over the remaining few episodes of the season and if it has any further ties to that Breaking Bad sequence. The fact “friend of the cartel” is repeated in relation to Lalo’s bail could mean this is why Jimmy and Lalo had a falling out. Of course, there is a sixth and final season of Better Call Saul coming through the pipeline, so perhaps this is something that will be resolved much later on.