Warning: Storyline and character spoilers ahead for the “Klick” episode of Better Call Saul.
Better Call Saul fans who tuned in to AMC’s Talking Saul aftershow on Monday saw series creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould talk about fans’ discovery that rearranging the first letters of the Season 2 episode titles would spell out the phrase “FRING’S BACK,” a reference to Breaking Bad villain Gustavo Fring. And Yahoo TV followed up with the duo to confirm they did indeed intend to tease Giancarlo Esposito’s eventual introduction to Jimmy McGill’s universe.
Gilligan and Gould, who are already back in the writers’ room at work on Season 3, cautioned that viewers shouldn’t read too much into the hint, because even they haven’t figured out how much of a factor Gus will be yet. They also tell us it may take a lot longer than they originally anticipated for Jimmy to become Saul, share their feelings on how Chuck doesn’t deserve all the hate he’s getting, and answer the question of who definitely didn’t, and who probably — indirectly — did leave that note on Mike’s windshield.
You talked about it last night on Talking Saul, but can you confirm, definitively, that it was intentional that the first letters of the Season 2 episode titles spell out “FRING’S BACK”?
Vince Gilligan: Yes, it was, and we have to say, we are a little sheepish about how quickly it came out. This is a good reinforcement of something we already knew, which is that we should never underestimate the audience, and in particular our audience, the Better Call Saul/Breaking Bad audience. They’re super duper smart, smarter than we even thought they would be.
Peter Gould: That’s right. Yeah, we’re kind of, what’s the phrase, hoisted by our own petard?
Gilligan: Because we have control over it, and maybe after the last episode, we could say, “Hey, you might look for a clue in the episode titles,” because the fear for us when it came out before the episode aired last night, the fear was, “Oh crap, people will read this and get all excited and assume they will see Giancarlo Esposito as Gus Fring in [the season finale],” and of course, that obviously was not the case.
Gould: Having said that, we would be ashamed if, knowing this now, folks interpreted that as to think they’re gonna see an awful lot of Gus Fring coming up. We don’t really know [yet], and it’s something good to keep in mind that Gus Fring works very indirectly, that he’s not an easy guy to get to meet face to face.
Gilligan: He casts a long shadow, and he has a lot of, I don’t know, maybe that’s too much of a James Bond villain kind of allure, but he has a lot of folks who work with him. We saw that in Breaking Bad. So, he’s a wonderful spice to use in the stew, as it were, but sometimes… as we said before, we don’t quite know yet ourselves, to be honest [when he’ll show up on Saul].
A lot of viewers are betting on Gus being the author of the “DON’T” note on Mike’s windshield. Without giving that away, it’s easy to think about Gus being connected to the situation, maybe to Nacho, for instance. Nacho has a lot in common with Gus… he’s smarter than most of his cohorts, he puts an emphasis on family, he, unlike most of his associates, controls his emotions in his business transactions. Is that intentional? Is Nacho a nod to Gus Fring?
Gilligan: You know, that’s a very interesting thought. I like that theory. We’re not actually being coy when we say we’re not entirely sure yet. We really come up with this story, brick by brick and beat by beat. Hopefully that doesn’t sound kind of haphazard. Our method, we try to make our method anything but haphazard, but we truly do figure these moments and these story connections out brick by brick very often. We try very hard to plan far ahead, but very often we don’t succeed at that. We really kind of come up with the story as we go. I suppose it’s a possibility, but it’s just as likely it’s not.
Gus is, as we said before, a character with a great deal of agency, and one who uses a great number of agents, so to speak. So if indeed Gus was behind that note, which we seem to be indicating he is, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he planted it himself, personally, with his own hands, but through his agency nonetheless. As to who would be in his corner, we’ll figure that out as we go.
At the ice cream truck driver’s execution, we did see Nacho at one point look off and seem to recognize something in Mike’s direction, and then seemingly, purposely not move himself away from Tio. We saw him go into the hut with Tio, too, so it doesn’t seem like he would have had time to go write the note for Mike.
Gilligan: There’s no way, I don’t think, if you look at the geography, there’s no way Nacho… I mean, I can take that off the table right now. There’s no way Nacho could put it there, because he’s a kilometer away from Mike, and the car is two kilometers away. So there’s no way he could have gotten around [to that]. Also, we try to not nail too many things down, but I remember a few years ago on Breaking Bad where everybody thought that Jesse had not shot Gale. So having worked through that experience, I would also offer the thought, if I was Nacho, I’d be pretty nuts to put myself between Mike Ehrmantraut and Mike Ehrmantraut’s target with his rifle. I don’t think for a minute there’s much love lost between these two guys… Mike wouldn’t necessarily pull the trigger. But I would offer the thought to people not to read too much into any looks Nacho may have given, because I would not assume that Nacho knew Mike was out there with a rifle. If he were, I don’t think he would be standing anywhere near there.
You both have said you originally thought Jimmy would become Saul by the end of Better Call Saul Season 1, that it was a surprise in the storyline that he didn’t. Did you think that about Season 2 as well, that we would meet Saul by the end of Season 2?
Gould: I think by the time we got to Season 2, we kind of had fallen in love with the character of Jimmy McGill, and we started understanding that this story was going to unfold at its own pace. That, in some ways, caused a certain amount of heartache, because it makes it harder to plan and to make these big plans about what’s going to happen at what point in the season. But I have to say, I think it makes for a better, to my eye, a better show, and also it makes for a more consistent character. Because the truth is, even Jimmy McGill at the end of Season 2, the guy who is dressing up and getting in front of flags and who’s making these crazy TV commercials, this guy is still so far away from, for instance, advocating murder for profit, that I have to say, we still have quite a ways to go.
Also this season, I think aside from Kim, who emerged as just this amazing character, the best female character on TV…
Gould: Wow, and played by the best actress.
Rhea Seehorn is amazing, yes, and the rest of the cast continues to be amazing. One of the other pivotal new pieces of character development is that we got a bigger, or broader, more even picture of Chuck this season. He was kind of that surprise villain at the end of Season 1, but I think by the end of this season, even given what he did to Jimmy in that last scene, tricking him into confessing and recording it, we still have a more sympathetic picture of him. And that makes you rethink some of Jimmy’s adventures, relative to how people like Chuck are left cleaning up behind him. How important was that to you, to get the audience to be thinking about that?
Gilligan: The best way I can answer that is to say, I think it’s always important to us that characters never be one dimensional. We like characters who are all various shades of grey, instead of separate black or white. Speaking in terms of morality, even the worst of people, I assume, have some good in them. Even the best of people have some darkness. Chuck does a lot of hateful things. For me personally, he’s not necessarily a hateful character. I mean, plenty of people may read that and say, “What, are you nuts, he’s awful.” I wouldn’t argue the point too vehemently, I would just say that I personally have a fair bit of sympathy for him. I feel sorrier for him more than I dislike him. Of course, I’m talking about the character… the actor who plays him, Michael McKean, is such a wonderful person. His acting, which is stellar, stands out all the more for the fact that he’s a great guy personally and nothing like Chuck. I feel bad sometimes where we pile on all these plot points that are making the audience hate Chuck, which is not even necessarily always our intention. We just want to make him an interesting and complex character. More and more, I hear people say, “Oh my God, I hate Chuck!” That’s not necessarily our intention.
Gould: I don’t hate him, and one of the things that we often talked about in the writers’ room is, it’s really hard to be Chuck. Being Chuck McGill is a cross to bear.
Gilligan: He makes it that way for himself.
Gould: He does, but he’s also, as we meet him on Better Call Saul, he’s living by himself, with no electricity, he’s really got almost no one in his life, certainly no one who we know about. He had a marriage that seemed to work, that seemed to please him. This is a guy who’s lost everything except his career… that’s the one thing that’s sustaining him, and that’s the thing that Jimmy threatens. So I think when you threaten the one thing a man has left, he’s a little bit cornered. He doesn’t seem to be, because he’s so smart, but in a lot of ways, Jimmy has him cornered. To me, the tragedy of these two brothers that are so very different from each other, is they don’t understand each other in the least. I don’t think Jimmy understood what he was doing to Chuck when he swapped those numbers.
Gilligan: Which was a pretty s–tty thing to do. It really, truly was.
Gould: It was a s–tty thing to do. But as Jimmy says in [“Klick”], a lot of people would just shake it off. A lot of people would just move on, and say, “I made a mistake,” and Chuck can’t do that. Jimmy doesn’t understand that about Chuck. Jimmy doesn’t understand what it’s like to hold yourself to that impossible ideal, just see things in such bold black and white terms. I’m fascinated by Chuck and by the relationship between these two guys. A lot of what we did this season was exploring what is it like to be on Chuck’s side of this. Also, why did he do such crappy things to Jimmy? Why did he stab Jimmy in the back, not just logically, but emotionally? So those are great questions [to continue to explore].