Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan explains why he originally didn’t want Lalo in Better Call Saul. Following on the huge success of Breaking Bad, Gilligan and his collaborator Peter Gould returned to New Mexico in 2015 for a prequel series following the exploits of shady lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk).
Of course, on Breaking Bad the outrageous and slimy Goodman was mostly used for comic relief and the occasional information dump. But Better Call Saul has massively fleshed out the character by showing his pre-Breaking Bad days as a small-time con artist named Jimmy McGill, tracking his evolution over the years to become the Goodman fans came to know and love. Along the way, Better Call Saul has revisited and expanded upon other Breaking Bad characters, most notably Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) and Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis).
In season 4, Better Call Saul brought in another character who was never seen on Breaking Bad but was only mentioned once by name in a seeming throwaway line. As it turns out, that character arrived on the spinoff over the objections of series creator Gilligan. Speaking to Rolling Stone, Gilligan explained how he fought Gould over the inclusion of Lalo Salamanca and told why he’s glad he ultimately lost the fight:
“I’m embarrassed to admit this now, but back in Season One or Two, when I was more active on the show, Peter kept saying, ‘We’ve gotta answer who Lalo is,’ and I finally said, ‘I don’t know that we need to answer every single question.’ And, man, I was wrong. If Peter hadn’t pushed, we wouldn’t have Tony Dalton. We wouldn’t have this amazing character. So, some of the ones that I found the most frustrating to deal with, that I said, ‘Ah, the hell with them. Who cares?’ tend to be the best ones of all.”
Fans of course remember Goodman’s own introduction on Breaking Bad when he was kidnapped by Walter White and Jesse Pinkman and taken into the desert, and believed for a moment they were murderers sent by someone named Lalo to take him out. The minor detail established that Goodman was involved with some pretty scary people and didn’t seem to have any further significance, until Better Call Saul brought Lalo into the fold and began showing just why Goodman had reason to be so scared of him.
Played by Tony Dalton, Lalo is indeed a calculating and scary character. Late in season 5, he and Goodman became more intimately associated, as Goodman took him on as a client and helped get him out of jail by personally delivering $7 million in bail money to the court. The Gilligan-directed episode in which Goodman journeyed to the desert to collect the bail from the Salamanca cousins (who of course also played a huge role in Breaking Bad) became an instant classic and showed exactly why Goodman would be so terrified of being taken back into the wastelands to be bumped off.
Lalo has indeed become an integral part of Better Call Saul, and will continue to be in the future after surviving the events of the season 5 finale. That Gilligan initially balked at even including him seems almost amusing now that the character has become so memorable, but at the same time, it’s understandable that Gilligan would be hesitant to address too many of the minor details of Breaking Bad. On the one hand, it’s important to point up those connections between the two shows, but on the other hand, it’s vital to let Better Call Saul stand on its own as a show. For five seasons, Gilligan and Gould have made lots of great calls and managed to maintain a perfect balance between answering lingering Breaking Bad questions and letting Better Call Saul grow and evolve into a great show in its own right.