Season 5 of Better Call Saul turned what was a simple, throwaway line of dialogue in Breaking Bad – concerning “Lalo” and “Ignacio” – into its best storyline to date. Better Call Saul season 5 is the show’s penultimate run of episodes, and because of that its various plot threads started to coalesce, as Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) and Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton) encircled one another more than ever before, Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) became a friend of the cartel, and even Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) was dragged into the dangerous underworld game.
The events, which included Kim standing up to Lalo, seemingly breaking bad herself, and a failed attempt at a hit on Lalo from Gus, nicely setup Better Call Saul season 6, but they also tie into a moment even further into the future of the universe’s timeline: from Breaking Bad season 2, episode 8, “Better Call Saul.” The episode that introduced the slippery lawyer to fans sees Saul kidnapped by Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and taken out into the desert. Increasingly desperate, he tells them that “it was Ignacio”, and then, when they’re confused, queries “Lalo didn’t send you?”, which Jesse confirms to be the case. At the time this didn’t mean anything, and it was never built upon in Breaking Bad, but it’s something Better Call Saul has found fertile ground with.
The Ignacio part of the line was introduced straightaway through Nacho Varga (Michael Mando), but it wasn’t until season 4 Lalo appeared (despite the objections of Vince Gilligan). His introduction setup a bigger role in season 5, with Lalo actor Tony Dalton promoted to series regular, and his and Nacho’s fates intertwining with Jimmy, Kim, Gus, and Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks). What’s made Better Call Saul‘s take on the Lalo line work so well – and transformed it into its best story – is that it’s finally managed to bring all of the elements of the show together. For a long time, the Mike part of the show felt like a Breaking Bad addendum to Better Call Saul, which was more about Jimmy, Kim, and Chuck. But through Lalo and everything brought with him, the show feels more cohesive than ever before. That in turn leads to higher stakes, and more thrilling storylines, while still staying true to the core of the series.
Through Lalo, too, Better Call Saul has found perhaps its best villain. Chuck McGill (Michael McKean)’s relationship with Jimmy was more complex and contained a lot of tragedy within it, whereas Lalo is more of an outright antagonist, and serves not only as one for Jimmy and Kim, but also Gus and Mike, proving more than a match for them. Through Dalton’s incredible performance – which brings a winning mix of charm, menace, and the ability to leap onto cars – Lalo has been transformed from a single line of dialogue into one of the smartest and most formidable members of the Salamanca family. By putting him alongside Nacho, in particular, the tension is further raised. As viewers, there’s an obvious expectation that something will happen between them – that paid off in spectacular fashion in the Better Call Saul season 5 finale, and yet Breaking Bad‘s Lalo line still hasn’t been explained fully. There’s more to the story of what happens with Nacho and Lalo, and it’s expertly poised to be built on in season 6.
By introducing Lalo, Better Call Saul has found the final piece of its puzzle, one that connects all that dots and adds a shot of adrenaline into the storyline. It adds another layer of connectivity to Breaking Bad, but more importantly has made for Better Call Saul‘s most daring and thrilling storyline yet – so it’s a good job series co-creator Peter Gould pushed for his inclusion, otherwise the line would have remained nothing more than a careless, unexplained bit of dialogue.