But things are becoming particularly overly scrutinized now that Saul starts its fifth season on February 23, and AMC announced that season 6 will be the show’s last. As we prepare for the penultimate season of creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s backstory of how Bob Odenkirk’s “Slippin’” Jimmy McGill went from being a regular con-artist who couldn’t keep his nose clean to the show’s titular shyster attorney, there are rampant fan theories not just about the character spent his final days before he came into contact with Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul’s meth cooking duo Walter White and Jesse Pinkman – but what was going on with others involved in the criminal underbelly of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“I feel like this is the first season where we could really say, to all the Breaking Bad fans, ‘This is the season you’ve been waiting for,’ and to all the Better Call Saul fans, ‘This is the payoff you’ve been waiting for,’” Saul co-star Michael Mando told Rotten Tomatoes after he participated in a panel for the show at the winter Television Critics Association press tour.
Mando comes to Saul with a unique perspective. As opposed to other characters on the drama — such as Jonathan Banks’ permanently exasperated fixer Mike Ehrmantraut or Giancarlo Esposito’s Gus Fring, the fastidious small business owner participating in an extremely long revenge scheme — Mando’s laconic cartel lieutenant Ignacio “Nacho” Varga is not seen in Breaking Bad. Although his character is briefly referenced in the original series in a way that suggests he does make it out of Saul alive, Mando is mum to say more other than “this is Nacho’s biggest season, and he’s very heavily involved both at the beginning and at the end.”
He specifically spoke of Nacho’s relationship with his father, Manuel (played by Juan Carlos Cantu). A working-class upholstery shop manager who just wants his son to stay out of trouble, Manuel has already had some dealings with Nacho’s business associations — and was not too pleased about it.
“You really get to see how deeply Nacho loves his father in the third episode [of this season], and you really get to see how hard their relationship is,” Mando said, adding that “[Nacho] gets his heart broken in every direction. It’s like his stars are so dim, and everyone seems to break his heart, and I think his sanity is questioned at times. Someone’s got to care. Someone’s got to say this is wrong. I think it’s heartbreaking for a character to realize that maybe no one will — or, maybe Mike will.”
By “Mike,” he means Banks’ aforementioned gruff henchman – for whom Saul is as much an origin story, even if his name is not in the show’s title (“Are you talking about the animated series, Baby Mike?,” Banks joked during the show’s TCA panel when asked if there could be more Bad-related spin-offs, given the success of this show and last year’s El Camino movie). A dirty cop with his own guilt over his derailed father-son relationship, Mike’s time on Saul has been a penance as he routinely gets his hands bloody out of an obligatory need to support his granddaughter and widowed daughter-in-law.
“Mike doesn’t put much value on his own life,” Banks told Rotten Tomatoes in an interview after the TCA panel. “It’s not bravado. It’s just, in many ways, a beaten man.”
Mike becomes a regular presence on Bad, but Banks deadpanned that it’s not a given that he’ll stick around Saul because “they could put him in a coma.” He added that, although much of his screen time on this show has been spent developing his relationship with Odenkirk’s character, “any time you spend with a human being, you learn more, you like them more, or dislike them more. And that does unfold to a greater extent with Jimmy’s and Mike’s [relationship].”
Plus, he said, he’ll be creating the backstory for Mike “until the day I die,” reminding us both that the character spoke of his own rough childhood last season and that we’d previously learned that he was a sniper in Vietnam.
“My opinion? Nobody comes back clean,” Banks said matter-of-factly of Mike’s veteran status.
Banks’ hope before Saul wraps its upcoming sixth and final season?
“I kind of want to know who my son’s mother was,” Banks said, who also speculates that Mike was a single father and that his son’s mother is still alive … somewhere. “Where did she go? Who was she? She’s never part of the picture. She’s never mentioned.”
Apparently, even the Breaking Bad–Better Call Saul stars have fan theories about the shows.
Better Call Saul returns for a two-night season 5 premiere on Sunday, February 23 and Monday, February 24 on AMC. Subsequent episodes will air on Monday nights.