No matter what Breaking Bad says, Lalo Salamanca can die in Better Call Saul season 6. Since debuting in 2015, Better Call Saul has redefined the possibilities of a prequel spin-off, boldly living up to the storied reputation of its predecessor. With but a single chapter left in the tale of Jimmy McGill, there’s still so much to play for. Better Call Saul season 5 ended with Gus Fring’s botched assassination on Lalo – an attempt Nacho Varga and Jimmy McGill (indirectly) were co-conspirators in – and a final showdown awaits in season 6, as a vengeful Lalo readies a surprise counter against Gus. Which of these cunning criminals will prove victorious?
Gus, obviously. A cursory glance at Breaking Bad reveals that the chicken man emerges standing tall, whereas Lalo is nowhere to be seen. Although Tony Dalton’s villain doesn’t appear until the later seasons of Better Call Saul, the Salamanca underboss is first mentioned in Breaking Bad season 2. Walter White and Jesse Pinkman drag Saul Goodman out to the desert as a threat, and the bedraggled lawyer yells out “it wasn’t me, it was Ignacio… did Lalo send you?” These lines heavily imply that Lalo is alive enough in Breaking Bad‘s timeline to dispatch goons after his enemies, but regardless of what Saul says to Walt and Jesse, Lalo could still die in Better Call Saul season 6 – and without creating a plot hole.
On one hand, it’s possible that Jimmy simply isn’t told about Lalo’s death. Gus Fring and Mike Ehrmantraut are more than capable of taking down Lalo without Saul Goodman’s bumbling assistance, which means the Salamanca could be killed and Jimmy technically wouldn’t be lying when he asks if Walt and Jesse work for Lalo in Breaking Bad. But as Better Call Saul‘s main character, it makes little sense for Jimmy to remain ignorant about the final season’s big Salamanca showdown. Moreover, leaving Jimmy in the dark about Lalo’s death fails to explain his “it was Ignacio” line.
A more likely scenario is that Jimmy, Nacho, Gus and Mike (and perhaps even Kim Wexler) band together to kill Lalo Salamanca, their shared enemy, but must maintain the pretense that he’s still alive afterwards. The cartel’s head honcho, Don Eladio, is a big Lalo fan, and is aware of the animosity between Gus and the Salamanca family. To avoid suspicion, Gus might force his allies, Jimmy included, to act like Lalo is still alive, thereby avoiding any loss of favor with Eladio.
Maintaining the illusion that Lalo is alive could even explain why Jimmy and Kim are recruited into the plot. When it comes to killing, there’s not much Saul Goodman and his wife can offer that Gus and Mike don’t already have covered. But the loved-up lawyers possess a different “special set of skills” that involves forging documents, falsifying records, and manipulating legal loopholes. If Gus and Mike pull the trigger, Saul and Kim can trick Eladio and the New Mexico authorities into thinking Lalo is alive and well, when he’s actually buried in the shallowest of desert graves. After all, if they can make Huell Babineux look like a public hero, anything’s possible.
So when Jimmy thinks Salamanca goons have captured him in Breaking Bad season 2 (before Walter White’s cough gives away the truth), and he asks whether Lalo sent them, he could be holding up his end of a murderous bargain. If there’s one thing Jimmy excels at, it’s conning his way out of trouble, and the best way to avoid angering the cartel is to con them into thinking Lalo Salamanca still breathes at the end of Better Call Saul.