‘Better Call Saul’ Co-Creator Peter Gould on That Explosive Season Finale and How Kim May Be Breaking Bad

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead if you have not watched the Season 5 finale of “Better Call Saul.”

Gus Fring needs to find better assassins. The Chicken Man’s (Giancarlo Esposito) plan to assassinate Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton) massively failed as “Better Call Saul’s” Season 5 finale, “Something Unforgivable,” which aired Monday night on AMC, closed with quite a bang.

That doesn’t bode well for Nacho Varga (Michael Mando), who was on track for a big promotion within the Salamanca operation, but was just looking to escape the family. Lalo’s a smart guy, and you can assume he knows Fring is responsible for the hit — and that Nacho was his accomplice.

This also isn’t good news for Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) and Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), both of whom narrowly escaped Lalo’s wrath at the end of episode 9 — and were only starting to breathe easier after Mike (Jonathan Banks) hinted that Lalo would no longer post a threat.

Well… now Lalo’s going to be an even bigger problem for “Better Call Saul’s” key characters as the show eventually returns for one final season.

Meanwhile, Season 5 also ended with a bit of a reversal in the dynamic between Jimmy and Kim. The newlyweds are in a bit of a bizarre place as Jimmy — still in a bit of shock from his two recent near-death experiences — has lost a bit of his mojo, while Kim seems ready to break bad and destroy Howard (Patrick Fabian). It’s definitely not where fans saw the Jimmy/Kim dynamic going.

The writers’ room is currently underway for Season 6 of “Better Call Saul,” and Variety spoke to co-creator Peter Gould about what’s next for the show, especially as it gets closer to the events of “Breaking Bad.” But first, we also discussed the events of the season finale — which Gould directed — and how the entire cast, crew, writers and directors stepped up their game this season.

Just when we thought maybe the Lalo problem would be over, talk about what happened. Lalo lives to see another day. What does that mean for the show’s other characters?

Lalo can only be fooled so many times. And then he’s caught on to a lot of what’s been going on. He’s a guy who’s not so easy to kill, and he’s on his home turf. And it looks like the guys that Gus Fring hired weren’t quite up to the job. I also think there’s a certain amount of the devil’s luck involved for Lalo. I got to direct this one, and I had not really gotten to work with Tony as a director. He was so much fun and so great. Boy, that look he gives in the last moments of that episode sure makes me worry about what’s going to happen to the rest of our characters.

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Michael Mando, “Better Call Saul” Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Tel

In particular, I’m curious about Nacho — who, as we know, we never see in “Breaking Bad.” Should I be nervous for Nacho?

That’s true! “Nervous for Nacho” — that’s a good, that’s a good mug or a T-shirt.

Nacho thought on his feet and he did everything right. He pulled off his part of the bargain, so it’s unfortunate that the assassins did not pull off their part. What kind of consequences should we expect?

You’ve got to think on “Breaking Bad,” Gus would have just sent Mike down. And if he had sent Mike down by himself, it would have been a much quieter episode. He might have gotten Lalo. I would imagine that Gus Fring might take some lessons from this, if he ever finds out about it.

I know you can’t give anything away about the final season, but in “Breaking Bad,” Saul still thinks that Lalo is alive. But he doesn’t play a role on the show. What does that mean about the fate of Lalo? I imagine that there must be some interesting debates about where to take his story.

Oh, without a doubt. We’re so lucky that the writers’ room has continued meeting electronically in virtual space. And all these characters are giving us fits. Because we’re hoping to end this all as properly, and in the most satisfying way, that we can. Certainly Lalo’s fate is this very much in debate. We have some ideas that I think are pretty damn exciting.

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Rhea Seehorn, “Better Call Saul” Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

What is going on with Kim? Where’s Kim’s head at right now?

I think Jimmy’s asking the same question. After everything that’s happened, there’s one version where Kim says, “Enough is enough. I’ve had it with you, Jimmy McGill,” and goes off into the sunset. But that doesn’t seem to be the choice she’s making. Kim is not a simple person, she’s a complex individual, and she pulls the rug out from under Jimmy at the end of the season. What that is going to mean and what the follow up on that is, is something I guess we’re all going to have to wait and see. There’s no doubt in my mind that she is very attached to Jimmy, and that she loves scamming with him. And in fact, that seems to be their favorite couples’ activity — which could turn out to be a problem.

The Lalo incident could have been the breaking point for Kim but you didn’t go that way.

No, I mean, I think it was more the breaking point for Jimmy in some ways.

Jimmy/Saul is still very damaged from what happened in the desert, and there has been a bit of a role reversal in his relationship with Kim. At this point Kim’s raring to go and Jimmy’s the one saying, “hold on, do you really want to do this?”

That’s exactly right and I think Jimmy, and we’ll see if it sticks, but he’s grown up quite a bit since we first met him. And in this season finale he seems to have gained some insight and some perspective into himself and his behavior and where his life is going. And he asks I think the question that I think we’re all asking, which is, “Am I bad for you?” I think most of us would look at the two of them and say, yeah, he is bad for her. On the other hand, Kim is the captain of her own ship. And the actions she takes are her choice, so it’s a complex situation. It’s something that we can all debate, that’s for sure.

Howard thought he was doing her a solid by revealing Jimmy’s secrets, and instead she was offended. Howard seems to have become a bit of a good guy. Or at least better than we thought he was. Is that possible?

Isn’t Patrick Fabian great. When we first met Howard, those first impressions have stuck. It’s one of the things that I’ve learned in life and certainly it’s even truer in television. Our first impression of Howard was that he was kind of a shit heel. But I think as time has gone by, he’s grown, and I think he has a lot of regrets for some of his sins of omission early in the series. And now he seems to be a pretty good guy, and he is definitely worried about Kim.

He keeps extending these all have branches and he keeps like getting beat up for doing so.

That’s absolutely true and you’ve got to wonder how far can you push this guy. Because I think there is a decency to Howard Hamlin, but underneath all that, the man has a backbone. So we’ll have to see.

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Tony Dalton, “Better Call Saul” Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Let’s talk about Episode 9 and that the moment in the apartment between Jimmy, Kim and Lalo. I think everyone agrees that was a tour de force Rhea Seehorn moment.

Rhea Seehorn is no longer a secret weapon, she is an incredible performer and she and Bob just work together so beautifully. Here we have a scene where, for the first time she’s meeting Tony’s character, Lalo, and between the three of them, it was combustion on screen. That was written and directed by Tom Schnauz, who has an incredible palate. The four of them worked on that scene quite a bit. That sequence is a tour de force. It’s a very long sequence and has a lot of dialogue. They spent hours on set, without the crew, and they perfected the scene. I got to see just a little bit of it while it was shooting, and it was like watching an absolutely riveting play. Then on screen, it took a new dimension. Kim, she really is somebody to be reckoned with. She sees Jimmy starting to sink there, and she comes in like a ton of bricks. I knew it was going to happen, but when I first saw the scene, I was very worried for Kim, and what was going to happen to her.

As for the progression of Jimmy into Saul Goodman, we started to see him really morph into that character this season. But then in these final few episodes, including after his life was saved by Mike and then again by Kim, it seems like he’s regressed back to Jimmy again. I feel like he’s lost Saul, at least at this moment. How is he going to climb back into that?

That’s true, as the season went on, his actions got worse. The low point for this character, and maybe one of the worst things that any of these characters have done on any of the shows, was in Episode Seven, when Jimmy deceived the court in front of the victim’s family in order to get a murderer out on bail. And he knew exactly what he was doing. It’s interesting because it’s a courtroom scene, and there’s no bloodshed in the scene, but it’s one of the most horrific, upsetting scenes in the series — to me, anyway. He sort of hit bottom with Saul Goodman, and now in Episode 10, I think there’s something else going on with him. I like the way you put it, maybe Saul Goodman has left the room briefly, but something’s going to have to change for him to get back to being that guy.

How does this all lead to the final season? Set the table for what we should expect when the real world returns to normal and we get a final season of “Better Call Saul.”

We just started working the last few weeks, and it is going to be a really big, big season. There are some things going on in the writers’ room that I’m really excited about. I’m so proud of all the seasons of the show and Season Five in particular, so we’re hoping for Season 6 not to be an anti-climax. Hanging over everything is the fact that I was so pleased with how “Breaking Bad” ended. People can’t help but start drawing comparisons between the two shows, and my fervent hope is that we’re able to stick the landing, the way Vince [Gilligan] led us to stick the landing on “Breaking Bad.” I am happy to say that I twisted Vince’s arm and I got him to return to the writers’ room for a good chunk of the season. It’s wonderful to have him there, so we can finish this show that we started together.

With “Breaking Bad