Even though he’s only appeared in half of a season so far, Lalo Salamanca is on the track to becoming the best villain the Breaking Bad universe has ever seen. Ever since its debut in 2015, Better Call Saul has been constantly compared to its parent show Breaking Bad. BCS originally faced a significant amount of skepticism from even the most diehard of Breaking Bad fans — it seemed like AMC was trying to capitalize off of the original show’s massive popularity and acclaim, and many were doubtful as to how a spinoff about a hokey side character could hold its own against a show that defined a decade of television.
However, in its five-season run thus far, Better Call Saul has more than proven fans wrong: its measured, detail-oriented storytelling has kept fans hooked since episode 1, and even sparked a discussion amongst viewers about whether or not it’s surpassed its parent show, Breaking Bad. Whether or not the sequel series is better than Breaking Bad is a question that can only be answered once Better Call Saul has ended because there’s still a season and a half to air before it reaches its conclusion.
One of the reasons Better Call Saul is so well-loved is because of its ability to take minor details and aspects of Breaking Bad that would seem otherwise unremarkable, and transform them into gripping narratives and complex characters. One of the best examples of a minor detail becoming a major character is Lalo Salamanca, the current Salamanca wreaking havoc in Albuquerque. Although he was only introduced at the end of season 4, Lalo has already made a big impression on the show, and has wormed his way into the hearts of Better Call Saul fans — so much so, that he’s on the fast track to becoming the best villain the Breaking Bad universe has ever seen.
Lalo Has Been Built Up Since Breaking Bad Season 2
It’s no secret that multiple plotlines and characters from Better Call Saul were plucked from throwaway lines on Breaking Bad, and Lalo Salamanca is one of those characters. He was first referenced in Breaking Bad season 2, episode 8, ironically titled “Better Call Saul.” Although most fans know the episode as the introduction of Saul Goodman, the episode also served as a mini-introduction of both Nacho Varga and Lalo Salamanca.
When Saul is dragged into the desert, he fears for his life, thinking that Jesse and Walt are members of the cartel. As per usual, Saul begins to run off his mouth when he believes he’s in danger, and among other things (including a line that blames “Ignacio”), he asks them “Did Lalo send you? No Lalo?” That single line was the beginning of an entire antagonist; although he isn’t mentioned again in Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul has also done its share of setup for Lalo, but not in the same way its parent show did.
Up until this point in Better Call Saul, the show’s villains have been contained to one “side” of the show or the other. On the legal drama side, early villains included the Kettlemans, Howard Hamlin, and Chuck. They were foes that Kim and Jimmy handled on the legal side of things, who never bled over and got involved with cartel characters like Mike and Nacho. Adversely, early villains on the cartel side like Tuco and Gus caused trouble for Mike and Nacho, but never crossed paths with characters on the legal side of things — other than Jimmy’s unfortunate run-in with Tuco in the series premiere.
However, as the seasons have progressed, the show’s plotlines have slowly begun on a trajectory that will eventually see them collide. Of course, if the legal side and the cartel side cross paths, there needs to be a villain who encompasses all aspects of that side of the show — and it looks like that villain will be Lalo.
How Lalo Compares To Other Breaking Bad Villains
Part of what makes Lalo so perfect as the antagonist for Better Call Saul is how he combines traits from the show’s previous villains, and contrasts incredibly well with the antagonists from Breaking Bad. Compared to some of the other Salamancas that have been featured on Breaking Bad, Lalo is much more level-headed. In the early seasons, characters like Tuco and Hector wreaked havoc for Walt and Jesse, and were known for their trigger-happy tendencies and unpredictability. While Lalo certainly has no qualms getting his hands dirty, viewers have seen from his interactions with Mike and Gus that he knows how to play the long game, and likes to observe and plan before taking action — a trait he shares with another major Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul villain, Gus.
In Breaking Bad, Gus is such a difficult enemy for Walt to defeat because he’s the exact opposite of someone like Tuco — Gus is incredibly precise, methodical, and cool during every interaction, even when things go awry. His calculating mind is always working, which mirrors Walter White’s ability to create a “perfect” cook of meth. Although Lalo may not be as extremely controlling as Gus, he still does know how to stay cool under pressure, and he even tells Nacho the first time they meet that he “has a good head for numbers.”
Lalo also stands out when compared to some of Breaking Bad‘s other villains like Todd and Uncle Jack because of his charm and likability onscreen. While Uncle Jack was certainly a fearsome enemy, he was relatively one-note in the sense that he didn’t have much in the way of audience empathy — a white supremacist isn’t the type of character that’s easy to love. In contrast, Lalo is incredibly likable and has already gained a significant fanbase in the brief amount of appearances he’s had. He doesn’t rule by fear like Jack or Hector — he gets others to let their guards down with his chatty, extroverted personality and easy smile, and then moves in for the kill when it’s least expected.
Lalo’s Better Call Saul Future & Breaking Bad Impact
Lalo’s future on Better Call Saul and his lack thereof on Breaking Bad is simultaneously one of the most exciting and worrying parts about his character. Moving forward, it will be Lalo who merges the two worlds of Better Call Saul into one: viewers have already seen him introduced to Jimmy via Nacho, as well as interact with Gus and Mike during his investigations into Werner Ziegler. With the groundwork already laid and the showrunners promising that things will come to a head sooner rather than later, Lalo will likely be the key to worlds colliding on Better Call Saul.
As of right now, Lalo and Gus are on good terms — or so it seems. However, it’s clear that Gus will stop at nothing to avenge Max, and the Salamanca family has never been known for sharing things nicely. Things will eventually have to come to a head — and likely not in Lalo’s favor. Although Saul’s fear that Lalo has sent someone after him in Breaking Bad would imply that he’s still kicking around, it’s important to consider that Lalo is seemingly not in control of the ABQ cartel wing during the events of Breaking Bad; furthermore, Gus tells Hector the Salamanca family dies with him, which would imply that Lalo dies before Hector.
Regardless of his eventual fate, however, Lalo Salamanca is still one of the most interesting and magnetic characters to be introduced in the Breaking Bad universe. His presence on Better Call Saul not only brings humor and a new tension to the show, but is also a sign that things will begin to shift into high gear in the near future. Although he is a bad guy, it’s hard not to root for Lalo Salamanca (even if it’s just a little) each week on Better Call Saul.