Better Call Saul has done an exceptional job of fleshing out Jimmy McGill a.k.a. Saul Goodman and showing viewers how he becomes the witty (and heartless) figure he is in Breaking Bad. However, McGill isn’t the only person we’re seeing a different side of, as viewers have also been treated to a somewhat more ruthless and hotheaded version of Gus Fring. The restaurateur and drug lord has pulled no punches since he first returned in Saul’s second season, and his actions were only amplified in Season 5. According to Giancarlo Esposito, this new direction for Gus was indeed intentional.
In Breaking Bad, Gus Fring always showed a level of restraint and typically preferred not to get his hands dirty but, for Better Call Saul, Esposito wanted his fan-favorite character to be a bit more agitated and willing to show his emotions:
It's a great point that I don't know if I've ever looked at it quite that way, but now I would probably have to agree. I wanted him to be a little more irritated, a little more hotheaded. Whereas in Breaking Bad, Gus really kept all of his chips close to the back. He always masked his feelings and in Better Call Saul I wanted you to see a little bit more of this feeling. I was doing a scene with Mike (Jonathan Banks) outside of Los Pollos Hermanos where I was quite upset about the sacrifices I had to make and I thought my emotion was too high, but I carried that feeling and was speaking to our wonderful ADR consultant, who said ‘No, I think it's perfect’.
Gus certainly hasn’t been reckless, but he’s definitely doing things he wouldn’t have done in Breaking Bad. It’s hard to imagine that Gus burning down one of his own restaurants just to maintain someone’s cover.
Nevertheless, Giancarlo Esposito further explained to TV Insider that Gus needs time to get to become more refined. But he also argues that when you’re going up against a character like Lalo Salamanca, one can’t help but bring emotions into the situation:
So he is a little less controlled than Gustavo in Breaking Bad , but he has to get there. And I always remind myself to play a little broader and probably a little more elusive. He's dealing with Lalo Salamanca, who is just a wild card. They're playing this really interesting chess match with each other, not only with words, but also with emotions and feelings and physicality. I can't wait for what happens in Season 6 between Lalo and Gus because we know that Lalo isn't quite around in Breaking Bad. I'm hoping I get a chance to exact some really horrible thing on him. And I love Tony Dalton, he's a great actor.
The sixth and final season of Better Call Saul is on the horizon, which means something is bound to happen that will shape Gus’ approach to how he handles things, and it may (or may not) involve Tony Dalton’s Lalo. Plus, as Giancarlo Esposito ominously points out, Lalo is nowhere to be seen in Breaking Bad. We’ll just have to see how things play out when Better Call Saul eventually returns for Season 6.
And if you need to catch up before the final set of episodes arrive, the first five seasons of Better Call Saul are now streaming on Netflix.