Warning: This post contains spoilers for Monday’s Better Call Saul midseason finale.
We thought Better Call Saul might end the first half of its final season with a bang – but we didn’t know that would literally be true.
The last few minutes of Monday’s midseason finale left us with our jaws on the floor, as a defeated Howard confronted Jimmy and Kim after their carefully planned scheme to humiliate him and get the Sandpiper case settled worked like a charm. Howard came to their apartment to congratulate them and then to berate them – but he was interrupted by Lalo, who barged in wanting to speak to his lawyers while he calmly screwed a silencer into his pistol. Before anyone could react, he nonchalantly shot Howard in the head, leaving him to die on the floor before turning to Jimmy and Kim: “OK… let’s talk.”
Yeah, after seeing that, we definitely did need to talk, so TVLine reached out to Saul executive producer Thomas Schnauz – who wrote and directed this episode – to unpack that shocking final moment, what Howard’s murder means for Jimmy and Kim’s future and what’s on tap for Saul‘s final six episodes (premiering July 11).
TVLINE | Peter Gould told me you and the writers didn’t know the final season would be split in two when you were writing it. But you couldn’t have picked a better scene to end on, could you?
It’s really funny… I mean, in the history of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, we’ve had some very good luck – and I don’t want to call Bob [Odenkirk] having his heart incident and COVID “luck” – but facing these horrible things and doing what it did to the season, it just so happened that Howard’s death came right in the middle of the season. And it was a good breaking point, midseason, for AMC.
TVLINE | Did you always know that Howard wouldn’t survive?
No, we didn’t. I mean, at the beginning of the season, if you’d asked me when we started breaking it. I didn’t know. I probably could have guessed that he wouldn’t make it, but I didn’t know how. We knew for sure that Jimmy and Kim going after Howard was going to lead to something very bad for Jimmy and Kim. We didn’t know that it meant that he would be shot right in front of them in their apartment. But we knew some bad outcome had to happen because of what they were doing. They couldn’t just succeed, and whether that was Kim getting caught or Howard getting suspicious and getting Kim disbarred… Whatever different scenarios we had, we didn’t know for sure Howard would die. But as we went along, we just felt like, “Well, this is where it’s going.” We really wanted the two separate storylines, the cartel world and the legal-slash-scamming Howard world, to come together, and it just happened to come together like it did in this episode.
TVLINE | Yeah, I was just going to say: It feels like now the Jimmy/Kim storyline and the Gus/Mike storyline have collided, violently, and there’s no going back from here.
Oh, absolutely. As far as getting Jimmy McGill down the pathway to Saul Goodman, this was a giant, giant step.
TVLINE | The return of Lalo kind of overshadowed the fact that Jimmy and Kim’s scheme went off perfectly. Jimmy will get his cut of the Sandpiper settlement, but does that even matter now?
Yeah, there’s this dark cloud hanging over all that. The Sandpiper settlement, I don’t think that’s on their minds right now after what happened at the end of the episode. We spent more time on this scam than any other scam in the history of the show, showing every step. And we did something that we don’t always do is, which is keep some information from the audience, like the private detective being on Jimmy’s and Kim’s side, as opposed to being Howard’s. That was the biggest thing we hid from the audience.
TVLINE | It was impressive how Howard deduced the whole thing and explained it pretty rationally to Cliff, all things considered. But by that point, it was too far gone.
Yeah, that was also one of the tricky things we had to do. We had to think: How do they do this scam? And we know Howard’s going to figure it out, but the results have to be in a way that it ruins the Sandpiper settlement. Even if Cliff believes Howard and everything that he says, it does too much damage to the Sandpiper case. So it’s better to settle now, as opposed to going back in and refighting. Schweikart knew he had those guys over a barrel, so he took advantage.
TVLINE | I did love that shot of Jimmy and Kim making out as Cliff announced the settlement. That kind of proves Howard was right: They do get off on it!
Oh yeah, definitely. Right from Episode 1 this season, when Jimmy says, “So we were doing this?” And Kim says, “Wait, we’re not?” Kim kind of withdraws, and Jimmy sees the disappointment there. It’s like, if we’re going to have that magic spark, we better go ahead. It ties into our “Days of Wine and Roses” concept, that these guys are addicted, not to alcohol, but they’re addicted to the scamming, and the rush of that.
TVLINE | One thing that did puzzle me: Why didn’t Kim tell Jimmy that Lalo was still alive, after she had that conversation with Mike?
Well, for the very reason we were just talking about: The scam is the most important. If she told Jimmy about Lalo, that means they go back to the hotel, they go into hiding, he freaks out… The scam goes away, basically. So she did it to save the plot against Howard. She also had Mike telling her: “We have guys watching you, so if Lalo does show up, we’re here.” What she doesn’t know is that Lalo hears the phone tap at Casa Tranquila. So he knows that Gus knows, and he pulls a little switcheroo, saying “I’m gonna come after him tonight.” They pull everybody to Gus’ house. So whoever was watching Jimmy and Kim that night left to go to Gus’ house.
TVLINE | Yeah, I was going to ask you what changed Lalo’s mind. I didn’t pick up that he had realized Hector’s phone was tapped.
That’s a very tricky thing. It’s in the episode, and that’s the one thing that’s always worried me. It was in the script that he hears a click on the phone. That’s why he smashes the lawn chair in the tunnel. He hears this clicking noise. He’s like, “Oh crap, it’s being tapped, and, well, who would tap Hector Salamanca’s phone?” That’s why he says, “Clever Chicken Man.” He thinks, “Shit, this guy knows. He just heard my voice. The cat’s out of the bag. So I’m going to call Hector back and just say, ‘I couldn’t find proof. Back to Plan A. I’m gonna go get him.'” And that’s when he looks through the binoculars and he sees Mike coming out, Tyrus going in. He knows that this place he was going to go into and shoot everybody is more heavily armed. If it wasn’t for Gus’ phone tap, he would have gone in there and died, because there was no way he was going to get in there and shoot the couple of guards that were there, when there’s Mike and all these other guys inside.
TVLINE | Howard mentioned Chuck in this episode, and it’s really one of the first times Chuck’s name has been mentioned in the last couple of seasons. He was such a big part of the first three seasons. Will Chuck’s legacy play a bigger role in what ultimately happens to Jimmy?
I think even though we don’t talk about Chuck, Chuck hangs over everything. Jimmy is responsible for Chuck’s death. In Season 3, he does this insurance scam that totally messes with Chuck and actually leads to him being let go from HHM, which is what makes Howard think that Chuck’s suicide, tipping over the lantern, is his fault, when in reality, if Jimmy hadn’t done this childish prank, Chuck would still be alive. And I think Jimmy carries that with him all the time. All this guilt that Howard’s been carrying and going to therapy for, everything that Howard’s doing, is the thing that Jimmy should have been doing: admitting what he’s done, working it out with a therapist and getting better. Instead, he just fell in love with Kim and decided to do all these horrible scams to Howard instead.
TVLINE | So now we have just six episodes left, and a whole lot of loose ends left to tie up and connect it all back to Breaking Bad and Gene in Omaha. What can you tease about this final run of episodes?
Uh, I’m basically not allowed to say anything. [Laughs] But I’m very, very proud of them. We don’t spell a lot of things out for the audience, so hopefully everything ties together in a way that is satisfying for the audience, so when we get to the end of [Season 6], the Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul of it and the Gene world all make sense.
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