Major spoilers below for Better Call Saul's Season 5 finale, so be warned!
To the surprise of no one, Better Call Saul wrapped up its fifth season with lots of stress, turmoil and sweaty foreheads. On the Jimmy and Kim side of things, the latter seems to be embracing her own inner Saul Goodman, and Jimmy seems both enthused and frightened about it, though not as frightened as they both are of Lalo Salamanca. To be sure, everyone is freaked out by Tony Dalton's cartel mini-boss, and it appears as if Nacho will be at the top of Lalo's hit list when Season 6 arrives.
Michael Mando spoke with CinemaBlend ahead of the finale, titled "Something Unforgivable," and the actor was clearly very appreciative that Nacho's story didn't end with the fifth season. To that end, however, Mando says that trying and failing to arrange Lalo's death, while setting up various innocent people's deaths instead, produced a point of no return for Nacho and his journey. In the actor's words:
What's unbelievable about the show is we're actually literally seeing a character become a man. These guys write so beautifully that it's done in such a natural way. I'd feel it every time we started edging closer and closer to the end of a season, and when he finally runs off into the forest, there's that sense that nothing is ever going to be the same. This guy in Season 6, it's just never going to be the same person. You know when you put someone under such hard pressure, and you intimidate him and put a gun to his father's head, you realize what they're really made of and you realize this guy, this warrior, is not going to give up. He's not gonna lay low. You can't break this guy; you can't break his spirit. You can break him physically, but you can't break his spirit.
Of course, Nacho ran into the woods believing that the assassination attempt on Lalo was a success, though viewers saw that wasn't how things wrapped up at all. Lalo was quick to assess the situation and took down the team that was sent to kill him. The final look on his face as he stormed through the corpse-littered house was one that would probably cause many other men to cower like children. Perhaps Nacho will fare better than most.
Below, Michael Mando drops in a worthy Star Wars reference to partially explain why Nacho is now able to more comfortably accept that he has reached the idealized concept of manhood.
I have a feeling that heading into Season 6, we're going to see a fully developed man, and I don't know how he's going to make it out. It seems utterly impossible. But I do feel that he's grown into himself, and that self-confidence, I think, is finally there at the very end of the season. Because now he knows that he's got to stand on his own two feet. And he's met with Darth Vader; he got to the heart of the Death Star with Don Eladio. So he's seen the end of the rabbit hole. He knows how deep it goes, and at this point, it's like the return home.
Even if Michael Mando was fully aware of everything that was going down in Season 6, it's not like he could say anything about it so early on. Case in point: he didn't bite when I asked his general thoughts about whether Nacho could possibly be the way this franchise introduced Ed the Disappearer, as portrayed by the late Robert Forster. His answer didn't hint at more Forster, but did address more about Nacho's all-around character growth.
I really don't know where it's going. I feel we end the season with Nacho truly standing up. It's like that part in 2001: A Space Odyssey where the monkey suddenly stands up tall and becomes fully a man. I feel like in that moment, metaphorically, Nacho truly becomes his own man. He runs into the forest and he wants to return home, but he's forever a changed man. I don't know how he's going try to get out, but I do know that there's something in that character at that point that solidifies, and he suddenly earns his lion crown, and now he's a man amongst men. No matter what happens – you know, I don't know if he'll make it out – I do know that we're going to see a Nacho that's a fully grown man from now on.
It's hard to feel purely optimistic about a 2001 reference, Dave. Speaking to that, many Better Call Saul fans have worried about Nacho's safety in every scene he's been in, with that character not automatically coming across like he would outlive the majority of the show's non-Breaking Bad characters. I asked Michael Mando if he gets worried about such things, or if he had any guarantees from Saul's creative team.
I had talked very briefly once with Peter, and he said, 'When the time to go will happen, we'll call you before.' [Laughter.] So we'll see. When my phone rings sometimes, I look at it and I say, 'This is it!' But it's 'They want you in for costumes,' and I'm like, 'Okay, good!'
If there's any silver lining attached to and actor getting that job-ending call from Peter Gould and/or Vince Gilligan, it's that their character's death will be a memorable one that stands the test of time, regardless of if it's Danny Trejo, a beloved DEA agent or a kid with a spider. Of course, sometimes a character not getting to die is the miserable part, but I digress.
Speaking of a memorable Breaking Bad death, let's return to Steven Bauer's fearsome cartel leader Don Eladio. The character first appeared in Better Call Saul for Season 3's "Sabrosito," and he made a warm return for this finale when Lalo visited the Don's estate (with gifts in tow) in order to introduce the head honcho to the up-and-coming Nacho. Though he was initially a bit of a wallflower, Nacho sat for a picturesque conversation with Eladio and perfectly sold himself as a cunning and clever force to be reckoned with...all while freaking the fuck out on the inside.
According to Michael Mando, filming that scene was quite powerful in and of itself, and it really stuck out for him in that it's one of the only times where Nacho gets to convey his deeper emotions.
It was unbelievable, man. Steven [Bauer] had asked Peter, and they asked me if it was okay for Steven to go first, and I said of course, give the leeway to the veteran. And when we got to my coverage, the sun was about to set, and something unbelievable happened. The crew got so quiet, and while we were doing a scene, there was a hummingbird that just popped out of nowhere. We could hear the flapping of his wings, and I'll never forget it looking into Stephen's eyes during that scene, and we both knew. It felt like the hummingbird was blushing in this moment; he was kind of like putting his stardust on us. It was just a really, really unbelievable experience. When I got home, I couldn't believe how it felt like we were in a vortex in time. And in that brief, subtle moment, you get a real, very honest look into Nacho's heart, and he really says what he thinks, even though it's coded, and Don Eladio doesn't really understand the depth in which he's speaking. He's actually truly showing the vintage of his soul, and it's a beautifully written scene.
For all of Michael Mando's fans who will be sad to see Nacho Varga leave our TVs for the next year or so, take comfort in knowing he has added "pop star" to his bag of tricks. His very first single, titled "The Wild One," debuted recently, and you can jam out to it below.
Sadly, Better Call Saul Season 5 has already burned through ten episodes and is already over until the sixth and final super-sized season, which will presumably premiere on AMC in 2021. In the meantime, start getting excited about all the big shows that will be debuting this summer!