Breaking Bad 

Better Call Saul Shows Mike Inspired A Key Gus Breaking Bad Line

Better Call Saul's “Bad Choice Road" reveals that Mike Ehrmantraut may have inspired one of Gustavo Fring's most memorable lines from Breaking Bad.

In Better Call Saul’s “Bad Choice Road,” a line spoken by Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) shows that he may have inspired one of Gustavo Fring’s (Giancarlo Esposito) memorable lines from Breaking Bad. When Mike confronts Fring about releasing Nacho Varga (Michael Mando) from his obligation as their spy within the Salamanca drug empire, Mike says, “I don’t think fear is a great motivator,” a quote that is reminiscent of a Gus Breaking Bad line from season 3.

Throughout season 5 of Better Call Saul, Nacho acts as a secret mole for Fring in the Salamanca drug organization, but he doesn’t do so willingly. Ever since Fring discovered that Nacho was responsible for Hector Salamanca’s (Mark Margolis) stroke, Fring has been coercing Nacho to work for him by threatening his father’s life. Despite his wishes to leave the drug business altogether, Nacho has completed every task Fring has asked of him, including staging a gunfight against a low-level gang and gaining Lalo Salamanca’s (Tony Dalton) trust by reacquiring their supplies during a DEA raid. When Nacho begins to report to Mike in “Wexler v. Goodman,” Nacho asks Mike if he knows what kind of man he’s working for and reveals that Fring has been threatening to kill his father. Unaware of Fring’s methods, Mike addresses the issue with Fring, while quoting a familiar Breaking Bad line.

RELATED: How A Breaking Bad Throwaway Line Became Better Call Saul’s Best Story

After surviving being stranded in the desert with Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) at the beginning of “Bad Choice Road,” Mike finishes briefing Gus about the cartel gang that attacked Jimmy when he brings up Nacho’s case. Knowing that Nacho has held up his end of the deal, Mike suggests that they release him from their current arrangement, especially since it won’t be necessary for him to be involved with the Salamancas once they enact their plan to assassinate Lalo. When Fring decrees that Nacho will remain within the Salamanca organization as their asset, Mike advises that Fring at least rethink his methods, and says, “You want to keep Varga for the long run. I don’t think fear is a great motivator.” If the line sounds familiar, it’s because the exact expression is spoken by Gus to Mike during the episode “Green Light” from Breaking Bad.

Walt and Gus desert face-off

In this episode of Breaking Bad, Mike intervenes when Walter White (Bryan Cranston) attempts to assault his wife Skylar’s (Anna Gunn) boss, with whom she is having an affair. Meeting Fring in a parking lot, Mike reports the new development to Gus, along with the information that Walt was visited once more by The Cousins, who drew a scythe outside of Walt’s house. After Fring proclaims them to be “animals,” Mike suggests that Fring alert Walt to the death threat, as well as subtly insinuate that his protection is the only reason Walt is still alive and should therefore return to cook for him as his meth supplier. “I don’t believe fear to be an effective motivator,” says Fring. “I want investment.”

Apart from the role reversal, the basic structure of the two scenes is virtually identical, with Mike meeting Gus to update him on developments in their operation and Gus making a call about the future of one of their assets. With this in mind, the “fear as a motivator” line featured in the Better Call Saul scene may have been included intentionally to draw a comparison between the two scenes and subtly foreshadow Fring’s future plans for Nacho. Any fan of Breaking Bad knows that Gus has no problem using fear as a motivator, and while his usual methods of meticulous calculation are more effective in the long term, he often uses fear and violence as a motivator to get quick results.

While Gus isn’t willing to use fear as a motivator for Walt in Breaking Bad because he views him as an investment for the foreseeable future as long as his health improves, Gus is fine using this tactic for Nacho because he doesn’t plan to keep Nacho as an asset long term and perceives him rather as “a dog who bites every owner he’s had.” Not only does the memorable line featured in Better Call Saul insinuate that Fring plans to cast Nacho aside once his usefulness has run its course, but it suggests Fring may even be planning to kill Nacho himself to protect his own interests in the sixth and final season.

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