When its unforgettable pilot premiered on television back in 2008, Breaking Bad became appointment television that took viewers on a deeply satisfying adventure. It’s due to that show’s extreme success that the mere idea of doing a spin-off series seemed like it would be doomed for failure. However, now three seasons in, Better Call Saul is defying expectations and creating the same sort of magic that viewers came to expect from Breaking Bad for five wonderful seasons.
Breaking Bad introduced many powerful characters—both of the altruistic and evil nature—to television. Better Call Saul is now thankfully able to allow some characters who stories were cut short a second chance to shine. A prime candidate is Giancarlo Esposito’s Gustavo Fring, a character from Breaking Bad that viewers have been hungry for more of the moment that he left the screen. Now, with the character comfortably complicating things over on Better Call Saul season 3. here here 15 Things You Never Knew About Breaking Bad’s Gus Fring!
Getting rid of strong villains is never an easy thing to do. That's why many great characters are slowly diluted due to sticking around long past their welcome. Vince Gilligan and company knew exactly how long to keep Gus around in Breaking Bad, as well as the perfect time to bring him back into the fold on Better Call Saul.
After Gus’ death at the end of Breaking Bad’s fourth season, a definite absence was felt with the departure of the character. The show’s creative team wrestled with the idea of spoiling audiences with a surprise Gus appearance via flashback in the series’ final season, but decided against it in the end. No brief flashback appearance ever felt worthy of bringing the character back.
That being said, audiences want to see characters like Gus Fring and Mike Ehrmantraut kicking ass in their prime. It’s the same reason a Han Solo Star Wars prequel film is happening. There’s just too much gold to pass up. So while a Breaking Bad season five appearance might have not been in the cards for Gus, he’s certainly made up for it in Better Call Saul.
In “Abiquiu,” the eleventh episode from Breaking Bad’s third season, Gus Fring and Walter White are getting to know one another. Their relationship might ultimately end up in tragedy, but there’s nothing quite as tense as watching the early stages of their relationship. “Abiquiu” sees Gus inviting Walter over for a dinner, a gesture which instinctively makes viewers fraught with anxiety.
Gus isn’t trying to poison Walter or anything of that nature. In fact, he attempts to genuinely be trying to help him. He even tells Walt that he made plenty of mistakes in this crazy line of work when he was getting started. This talk is paired with Gus cooking up for Walt some Paila Marina, a classic Chilean seafood stew or soup. Not enough of Gus’ personal life is shown in the show, so getting a glimpse of this recipe from back home is particularly exciting.
Paila Marina is also a traditional dish to share the morning after a party, to assist in recovery from hangovers. Maybe Gus should have served some up to Jesse during those dark, catatonic days during Breaking Bad’s fourth season.
A lot of what makes Gus Fring so unforgettable is a testament to Vince Gilligan and the excellent team of writers on Breaking Bad. That being said, Giancarlo Esposito adopted a number of strategies and interpretations for the character that were entirely his own doing. Gus Fring’s most identifiable traits are his effortless calm and ability to stay in control. This is a character that needs to be capable of masterminding a multi-million dollar methamphetamine empire while also moonlighting as a mild-mannered fast food chain proprietor. To make Gus’ unshakable resolve appear more authentic, Esposito ended up turning to the teachings of yoga.
Esposito was told that Gus is extremely polite, and chose to interpret t play him like he’s hiding some secret. This air of mystery definitely seeps into the character, giving Gus an enigmatic presence in the series. By focusing on the relaxing nature of yoga, Esposito is able to tap into Gus’ eerie calm. Esposito describes him as “being a good listener” and it’s that stoic touch that makes him so frightening. Plus, yoga is great after heavy amounts of fried chicken.
One of the most satisfying aspects of Better Call Saul is the show’s ability to shine a light on the shadowy history of Breaking Bad’s colorful drug cartel. Sure, learning the origins of Jimmy McGill’s metamorphosis into Saul Goodman is riveting, but people also want to see this drug empire getting built before Walter White eventually tears it all down.
The fourth episode of Better Call Saul’s third season, “Sabrosito” starts all the way back in the ‘90s as Gus’ empire is merely in the making. The flashback shows the relationship between Gus and Hector Salamanca, as they both report to Don Eladio. Both Gus and Hector are vying for Eladio’s approval, but Gus’ fastidious nature makes him the clear favorite.
Fring’s front may be well-known by audiences as Los Pollos Hermanos, but Salamanca was using an ice cream store as his cover. He even named the place El Griego Guiñador, “The Winking Greek,” after Eladio himself. It’s almost humorous to picture Gus scheming to destroy an ice cream shop, and yet that’s what was happening, so to speak.
Fried chicken or ice cream? Which is more delicious?
Something that the Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul are both very good at is knowing how to parse out just enough information and let viewers figure the rest out for themselves. Gilligan has frequently brought up the glowing briefcase from Pulp Fiction as a reference point. Some mysteries are better when there aren’t definitive answers.
In that sense, it’s entirely possible that Gus and Max Arciniega are just dear friends, but it also seems pretty clear that the two were more than that. Max was Gus’ cook and chemist— in fact, Gus actually paid for Max’s entire education at the University of Santiago. He in turn also sets up a college scholarship fund in Max’s name (Gale Boetticher happens to be one of the winners, FYI) after his demise.
On top of all of that, Hector’s execution of Max is what really ignites Gus’ rivalry and bad blood with the cartel in the first place. In spite of the large evidence towards it, and even Gilligan and Esposito saying that Gus and Max “were probably lovers,” the area has still been left open to interpretation. Like a Georgia O’Keefe painting.
Jimmy McGill is no stranger to creative advertising. It’s his brilliant, scheming mind that can allow him to turn a bungled billboard opportunity into publicity heaven. Better Call Saul adopted a bit of that same creative spirit at 2017’s SXSW festival. The television and film festival is typically the sort of event to feature impressive displays of awesomeness, but this year Better Call Saul put everyone else to shame.
AMC helped build a shockingly accurate Los Pollos Hermanos pop-up store in the middle of Austin, Texas. The store was open for eager fans to take in the Pollos experience and marvel at the crazy amount of detail that went into this reproduction. The place was even serving food to everyone (albeit not fried chicken)!
The best part of all of this is that Giancarlo Esposito, the King of Pollos Hermanos himself, was part of the team helping serve food to everyone (with Bob Odenkirk in tow). Fring’s certainly got enough experience in the field, after all.
Before Gus was terrifying drug kingpins in Albuquerque, it’s hard to believe that he managed to have somewhat of a normal life back during his days in Mexico. Gus had his mind set on a simple, bright future when he emigrated from Chile to Mexico in the ‘80s with Max Arciniega. It was here that Gus and Max opened up the first Los Pollos Hermanos. This restaurant was Gus’ slice of happiness and what he wanted to ride things out on.
After the untimely death of Max at the hands of the cartel, Gus is deeply shaken. With him no longer having his “Chicken Brother” around to help run the restaurant, Gus decides to re-locate once more, this time to the United States. Now, with a changed agenda and strong vendetta, Gus re-brands Los Pollos Hermanos into a fast-food chain. With the success that Gus finds, he’s able to avenge Max’s name to some degree.
After everything that goes down and all the power that Gus ends up with here, he’d seemingly trade it all to just be running that first Los Pollos Hermano with Max.
When gamers are first introduced to Giancarlo Esposito’s eerie character, the Dentist, from out of Payday 2, he tells players, “Some choose to hide in the shadows, some behind monitors and servers, I hide in plain sight. You will hear from me when I require your specific expertise." Sure sounds a lot like a certain New Mexico-based drug mastermind, doesn’t it? That could easily be line from Breaking Bad.
Esposito’s character, the Dentist, basically has dirt on everyone while nobody has anything on him. Hell, nobody even knows his real name. The Dentist is a criminal contractor who’s able to set up the Payday crew on their various illegal activities.
The Dentist is certainly a “less is more” sort of character, but it’s beyond clear that both the game itself and Esposito are having too much fun with all of this. The game’s teaser trailer even prominently showed off the character, coasting off of residual Breaking Bad love and hoping to see cross over from the audiences. Who knows, maybe Aaron Paul will be showing up as a future Payday series villain!
Some viewers might find the incorporation of Gus Fring into the Better Call Saul universe a rather obvious decision, but that still didn’t keep the show from operating under the utmost secrecy when it came time to actually pull the trigger. Esposito’s Fring fills a rather large role in Better Call Saul’s third season— and the actor even signed a multi-year contract upon returning— but Esposito was still sworn to a scary amount of secrecy regarding his return.
Fans of television have naturally gotten so savvy that sights like Esposito at an ABQ airport are obviously going to set off some red flags. As a response to things like this, Esposito was carefully instructed to inform people that he was actually in town for a yoga retreat.
That wasn’t all, though: Esposito’s entire time in Albuquerque while filming required him to jump through hoops to stay unnoticed. Whenever he went out in public, Esposito was required to wear a hat to help evade attention, plus he wasn’t allowed to go to his favorite restaurants or other places where he would be recognized. It’s a level of efficiency and thoroughness that would make Gus himself proud.
Breaking Bad finales hit viewers in a big way. An entire season’s worth of white-knuckle drug drama would come crashing down on Walt’s shoulders. The finale of Breaking Bad’s fourth season, “Face Off”, is a powerful piece of television for a number of reasons, but there’s also a very gruesome reason the episode’s so beloved.
The climax of this finale sees Gus sustaining massive facial wounds via an explosion, requiring a sequence and effects that most series just wouldn’t be capable of pulling off properly. Due to having the proper foresight that such effects would be needed, Gilligan and company were able to recruit the talents of those from their sister series over at AMC, The Walking Dead, to spend months slowly perfecting the desired look.
With the help of Greg Nicotero and his team, in conjunction with Breaking Bag’s crew, a combination of heavy practical effects makeup and two elaborate CGI shots spliced together were needed to bring Gus’ chilling final look to life.
Gus Fring is one of the most ruthless characters from out of all of Breaking Bad. In spite of all of that carnage, Fring seems to have children to his name, whether biological or adopted. This gets a little tricky since Gus’ children are never seen within Breaking Bad and have mostly been mentioned in conversations that have taken place in off-screen promotions for the show.
Gilligan and Esposito have mentioned that not only does Gus have children, but he’s also married. Esposito goes as far as saying that Gus’ polite, meticulous habits would even make him the ideal candidate to be raising children in this world.
Gus’ alleged children might never appear, but in the Breaking Bad episode “Abiquiu”, Walter is invited into Gus’ home and gets to peer into his life for a minute. There are childrens’ toys strewn on the couch as well as kiddie furniture on display. However, the most telling moment is when Gus is preparing his paila marina dish for Walt. He tells him that his children aren’t much for the fishy stew.
With Gus now back in the spotlight on Better Call Saul, maybe Gus’ kids will finally appear.
Prequels can be a great place to expand on exciting story material that never had a chance to reach its full potential. It can also be a messy place where people trip over paradoxes and continuity errors. It almost feels like Better Call Saul is trying to have fun with these things. If Breaking Bad tells viewers that two characters never meet, Better Call Saul will work its hardest to canonically work around that detail. Better Call Saul is consistently pushing itself harder because of the “limitations” placed on it by Breaking Bad.
In Breaking Bad, Saul Goodman very clearly explains that he’s never met Gus and only knows him through Mike. Better Call Saul has largely been divided between the McGill family drama and the criminal dealings that involve Mike. This safely has Jimmy and Gus out of each other’s paths.
But in the episode “Sabrosito” Mike uses Jimmy to gain intel about Gus. The two end up interacting, only they don’t realize the significance of one another. Brilliantly, these two do get to exchange words, it just probably won’t ever go any further than guidance at a garbage can.
One of the best things about the Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul writers is that they’re full of so much brilliance that it’s literally spilling beyond the scripts of the episodes. These guys are so good that they’re actually playing games with the audience and leaving them messages via the season’s episode titles. Ever since Breaking Bad’s second season episode titles “decoded” a message for viewers regarding the events of the season’s finale, audiences have become trained to pick apart every aspect of production.
Better Call Saul’s premiere season played a fun, albeit useless game by ending (almost) all of its episode titles with “-o.” The second season however drastically ups the stakes. By rearranging the first letter of each episode title, viewers can spell out “FRINGS BACK,” a mammoth hint for the direction that Saul would be heading in for season 3.
The funny thing is, the show’s audience has become so sophisticated that this secret message was cracked by viewers even before the finale had aired!
Much like AMC’s creative idea of building a pop-up version of Los Pollos Hermanos in Texas for SXSW, they were also determined to come up with a unique new way of announcing Gus’ return to the Breaking Bad universe. The idea that was decided upon— which Esposito himself was crucial in engineering— is a very tongue-in-cheek novelty.
AMC released a Los Pollos Hermanos training video that puts the company’s owner front and center and talking about fast food policy. Rather than this just being a one-off treat though, this video was actually the first in a ten-part video orientation for Pollos Hermanos, with a new installment hitting each week.
What’s brilliant about these fun videos is that they’re played completely straight and are absolutely believable as fast-food training videos. At the same time though, they’re also chock full of Breaking Bad Easter eggs and connections. It’s always great to see Gus’ cheerful demeanor slowly melt away as he begins to get into any of Los Pollos Hermanos various “side businesses.” And Esposito looks like he’s having the time of his life here, too!
For many people, the most interesting detail about the highly-guarded Gus Fring is his roots in Chile. Details about Gus’ history back in Chile have certainly been scarce in the series, but there is definitely enough there to put together a compelling history for the character. To begin with, both Mike and Hank are unable to find any traces of a “Gus Fring” pre-dating his arrival in Mexico, implying that it’s probably a false identity.
What’s even more telling is a pointed moment between Don Eladio and Gus where Eladio tells him that the only reason that he’s sparing his life is because that he “knows who Gus is.” He also adds that Gus “isn’t in Chile anymore” and that he better watch himself. When that’s paired with Hector mockingly referring to Gus as “Grand Generalissimo” in a flashback, it seems pretty likely that Gus’ history is tied to Pinochet’s aggressive rule of Chile.
Hey, maybe after Better Call Saul has run its course, Giancarlo Esposito will get a chance to headline the Chile-set prequel sitcom, Hey Generalissimo!
Has the latest season of Better Call Saul rekindled your love for Albuquerque’s most placid drug kingpin? Are there other necessary Gus goodies that have gone overlooked? Here’s your chance to sound off in the comments below!