Eduardo "Lalo" Salamanca is a fictional character who appears in the AMC television series Better Call Saul, a prequel spin-off of Breaking Bad. Introduced in the fourth season, he is portrayed by Tony Dalton, and was created by Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould and Gordon Smith.
|Better Call Saul character|
Tony Dalton as Lalo Salamanca in a promotional poster for Better Call Saul's fifth season
|First appearance||"Coushatta" (2018)|
|Created by||Vince Gilligan |
|Portrayed by||Tony Dalton|
|Full name||Eduardo Salamanca|
|Alias||Jorge de Guzmán|
Lalo, alongside Nacho Varga, was a character named in dialog introducing Saul Goodman within the Breaking Bad episode "Better Call Saul", and thus central to events within this series. Lalo, a member of the Juárez Cartel, is one of many nephews of drug kingpin Hector Salamanca. After Hector suffers a stroke, Lalo arrives from Mexico to help run the Salamanca family's drug operation and takes a greater interest in the day-to-day details than Hector did.
In establishing the character of Lalo, Dalton was given freedom to take his personality away from the stereotypical cartel portrayal as well as the other Salamancas shown in the series, instead taking on a cheerful and charismatic personality but with an evil and vicious side as needed. Both the character of Lalo and Dalton's portrayal have been praised by critics.
Conception and developmentEdit
In July 2018, Tony Dalton joined Better Call Saul in the role of Lalo Salamanca, and made his first on-screen appearance in the fourth season episode "Coushatta". The character was first mentioned in the Breaking Bad episode "Better Call Saul", which also referenced the character "Ignacio" (Nacho Varga) and introduced Saul Goodman (Jimmy McGill). Prior to the show's airing, Vince Gilligan mentioned in an interview that the writers had envisioned Lalo to become a major character, acknowledging that, like on Breaking Bad, they must "keep close tabs on what our characters have done in the past and make good use of it here in the present and the future." However, Gilligan and Peter Gould had difficulties in figuring in how to introduce the character properly. They considered him as a bogeyman around the second season when they started writing narrative to support the need for Lalo's introduction, but had not figured out the character's personality or other motivations. Gilligan believes this was more his fault for delaying on developing Lalo, as it was Gould that pushed on the need to introduce Lalo sooner into the story. Gould saw that Lalo needed to be different from the other Salamancas and a foil equal to Gus Fring. Gould credits their casting directors Sherry Thomas and Sharon Bialy for selecting Dalton, a telenovela star, for the role, saying that Dalton had "the charm, and the joy, and the threat" needed for the character and that he "has all the charm of a '40s movie star".
The episode "Wiedersehen", written by Gennifer Hutchison, fleshes out Lalo further. Hutchison said that while he is just as "scary" as the other Salamancas, he is "a little more circumspect about things." She explained that the producers wanted him to be "a little charming", in contrast to the other Salamancas, and "There isn't something about them where you're like, "Oh, he's scary, but he's kinda funny, too!" We really liked the idea of having a Salamanca who's charming". Additional characterization was given in the season five finale "Something Unforgivable", which provided breadth of development not seen in prior episodes, according to Dalton. The episode shows Lalo early on as a charismatic person welcomed by his extended family and the leaders of the cartel, but later showing an evil and vengeful side after his family comes under attack. In an interview with Den of Geek, Michael Mando (who portrays Nacho) described the character of Lalo as "a Salamanca in every way, just like Tuco and Hector had their own flavors to the erratic Salamancas."
Gilligan and Gould gave Dalton the freedom to take Lalo's personality as he saw fit, in the same manner they had allowed Jonathan Banks to develop Mike Ehrmantraut during Breaking Bad. According to Dalton, Lalo was not originally meant to be very charming: "I saw Breaking Bad and I saw Better Call Saul before I got the job, and I thought there needs to be somebody besides Bob [Odenkirk], [...] who is also kind of smiling and carefree and a little bit mischievous in the bad guy's part". Dalton took inspiration from Samuel L. Jackson's character Jules Winnfield from Pulp Fiction for acting as Lalo, "Kind of this smart ass, sort of scary but kind of carefree, kind of cool guy". He also sought to differentiate Lalo from his hitman role in the HBO Latinoamérica series Sr. Ávila, saying that the latter "had zero personality. If he was standing against a wall, you couldn't tell him apart from the wall." Dalton avoided giving him a thick Mexican accent because "he's kind of a second generation narco. He might have gone to a good school in Texas or Arizona or something because his family had money." Dalton further distanced his character from the typical portrayal of cartel members in past works, who typically are presented as serious about their work, and instead took on a more upbeat personality to show Lalo's normally easy take on life. He pulled in a Mexican accent that he had developed from growing up around Laredo, Texas as a further means to distance Lalo from the typical cartel stereotype.
Dalton did actually perform one of the action stunts in the show, that of Lalo jumping through the roof of the Travelwire store before attacking the store manager Fred in "Winner". While Dalton was eager to do other stunts as Lalo, such as jumping onto Jimmy's car in "Bad Choice Road" and from the roof of his house in "Something Unforgivable", the producers insisted these be done by stuntmen.
Fictional character biographyEdit
Eduardo "Lalo" Salamanca is a member of the Juárez Cartel and one of many nephews of drug kingpin Hector Salamanca. Little is known of his background before his appearance on Better Call Saul. The fifth season finale "Something Unforgivable" shows him to have a home in Chihuahua, Mexico where many of his friends, his family, and a large staff live. Lalo is shown as a respected member of the Mexican cartel who has gained the favor of its leader, Don Eladio Vuente. Lalo drives a 1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
Better Call SaulEdit
After Hector suffers a stroke and becomes confined to a wheelchair, Lalo arrives from Mexico to Albuquerque to help run the Salamanca family's drug operation. He takes a greater interest in the day-to-day details than Hector did, which makes Hector's subordinate Nacho Varga (secretly responsible for Hector's stroke and turned into a mole for rival kingpin Gus Fring) uneasy. Lalo visits Hector in the nursing home and gives him the gift of a front desk call bell, which Lalo kept as a souvenir when Hector killed a hotelier and burned down the building after the hotel owner was disrespectful to him. Lalo attaches the bell to Hector's wheelchair, enabling him to communicate more effectively with his right index finger, the only body part Hector can move after he emerges from his coma. Lalo thanks Gus for giving Hector first aid and paying for his care, but also surveils Gus's subordinates to learn their regular activities.
Werner Ziegler escapes from Mike Ehrmantraut's supervision. Lalo, who had been staking out Gus' Los Pollos Hermanos chicken farm, follows Mike as he tracks down Werner. Mike stops at a Travelwire store and reviews security footage showing Werner looking at travel brochures, as Lalo watches from outside. Mike guesses Werner is going to a nearby spa to meet his wife and asks Gus to allow him to persuade Werner to return rather than killing him. After Mike and Gus leave, Lalo enters the store and attempts to learn what Mike knows, but the clerk, Fred Whalen, refuses to tell him. Lalo kills Fred and reviews the footage himself, burns the store as he leaves, then begins calling travel resorts to track down Werner. Pretending to work for Gus, Lalo obtains some details about the construction of the meth lab before Mike arrives at Werner's location and ends the call. Realizing that Lalo is partially aware of Werner's activities, Gus tells Mike that Werner will have to be killed and offers to send men to do it. Mike accepts responsibility because Werner escaped on his watch, and kills Werner himself.
Gus draws Lalo to a meeting by having Nacho secretly slip methamphetamine into the Salamanca's share of the cartel's cocaine. At this meeting with Gus and Juan Bolsa, Gus tells Lalo that Werner was working on a legitimate construction project, stole cocaine, and escaped, after which Gus had him killed and attempted to cover up the theft. The cover story explains events of which Lalo is aware, so he accepts Gus' explanation and apology. Bolsa tells Lalo the cartel considers the matter closed. However, Lalo remains suspicious after confirming with Hector that the cartel only tolerates Gus because he is a top moneymaker. Gus later uses threats to Nacho's father to coerce Nacho into gaining Lalo's trust so he can provide Gus inside information on the Salamancas.
Domingo "Krazy-8" Molina is arrested when police discover a Salamanca drug house. Nacho climbs over rooftops to sneak in and recover the drug stash before police enter. Lalo is impressed, and begins taking Nacho into his confidence. Nacho brings Jimmy to Lalo, who knows of Jimmy from Tuco. Lalo asks Jimmy to get Domingo out of jail by feeding the DEA information on Gus's dead drops. Jimmy not only secures Domingo's release, but protects Domingo by making him a confidential informant for DEA Agent Hank Schrader, which gives Lalo a way to feed the DEA more information about Gus's operation. Lalo congratulates Jimmy, but Nacho warns him that when it comes to working for drug cartels, "Once you're in, you're in."
Nacho warns Gus about the dead drops, and Gus accepts the loss of nearly one million dollars to the DEA to protect Nacho's role as his informant. Instead, Gus has Mike work with Nacho to arrange for Lalo to be arrested for Fred's murder by having Mike trick a witness into providing details about Lalo's car to the police. Lalo is detained under the alias "Jorge de Guzmán" and denied bail, but contacts Nacho with orders to destroy one of Gus' restaurants. Gus again accepts the loss to continue protecting Nacho's role as his mole, and Gus and Nacho burn down one of Gus's restaurants. While at a meeting with Peter, the CEO of Madrigal Electromotive, the parent company of Los Pollos Hermanos, Gus privately informs Peter and Madrigal executive Lydia, his co-conspirators in the drug business, that Lalo remains a threat even while in prison, but assures them he has a plan to solve the problem.
Lalo intends to avoid a trial and promises to make Jimmy wealthy as a "friend of the cartel" if he succeeds in obtaining bail. Gus instructs Mike to give Jimmy the details of the investigation Mike did under an assumed name, which Jimmy uses to accuse police of witness tampering. The judge sets bail at $7 million cash. Lalo arranges for his cousins Leonel and Marco Salamanca to deliver the money to Jimmy at a remote desert location, and Jimmy agrees to go in exchange for $100,000. On his return trip, Jimmy is attacked by gunmen sent by Bolsa, who believes he is protecting Gus's business by keeping Lalo in jail. Mike was tracking Jimmy for Gus and kills all but one of Jimmy's attackers. After Jimmy's car breaks down, they are forced to push it into a ditch to hide it and walk through the desert for two days. On the second day, they work together to kill the remaining attacker. When Jimmy fails to arrive home as planned, Kim pretends to be Lalo's lawyer to meet him in jail and ask for Jimmy's location. Lalo refuses, saying that Jimmy will be fine because he is a survivor.
Jimmy and Mike make it to a truck stop and Tyrus Kitt and Victor bring them back to Albuquerque. Mike and Jimmy agree on a cover story for Lalo. Jimmy posts the bail and Lalo is released. Jimmy tells Lalo his car broke down and he walked alone cross-country so he would not risk losing the money. Lalo tells Jimmy he plans to avoid a trial by returning to Mexico the next day. Lalo says goodbye to Hector, and then has Nacho take him to the same drop-off point where Jimmy met Leonel and Marco. Lalo realizes he did not see Jimmy's car, so he searches until he finds it. Instead of returning to Mexico, Lalo instructs Nacho to drive back to Albuquerque. At Kim's apartment, Mike listens in via Jimmy's cell phone and keeps a sniper rifle aimed at Lalo while Lalo confronts Jimmy and Kim about Jimmy's story and reveals he found bullet holes in Jimmy's car. Kim tells Lalo that passersby probably shot at the car for fun and berates Lalo for not trusting Jimmy. Lalo seems satisfied and leaves, then tells Nacho they are going to Mexico. Kim and Jimmy check into a hotel so Lalo will not find them if he returns.
The next day, Gus tells Mike he has sent gunmen to kill Lalo and says Nacho's unexpected presence may be able to aid them. Mike informs Jimmy of the pending attack and Jimmy tells Kim, causing them to believe it is safe to return home. In Mexico, Lalo and Nacho arrive at Lalo's home in Chihuahua, where they are greeted by Lalo's friends and family. Nacho receives a phone call directing him to leave Lalo's back gate open at 3 am. Lalo introduces Nacho to Don Eladio, who blesses the plan for Nacho to oversee the Salamanca drug business in Lalo's absence. Lalo is awake at 3 am, so Nacho starts a fire in the house as a distraction. When Lalo goes to investigate, Nacho opens the gate and flees, while the gunmen enter. The gunmen kill Lalo's guards and most of his family, and Lalo is wounded. He escapes the house via a hidden tunnel, then sneaks back in and kills all but one of the gunmen. He forces the survivor to call the middleman who set up the attack and report that Lalo has been killed. As Lalo looks around, he realizes that Nacho is missing.
Though Lalo never appeared in Breaking Bad, he is mentioned by Saul when Walter White and Jesse Pinkman attempt to coerce Saul into representing Badger (who has been arrested for selling drugs) by kidnapping and holding Saul at gunpoint before a newly dug grave in the desert. Saul mistakenly believes Walt and Jesse work for Lalo and says in panic, "It wasn't me, it was Ignacio [Nacho]! He's the one!". Saul is relieved when Walt and Jesse's confusion confirms they have no connection to Lalo.
Reviewing the episode in which Lalo is introduced, Alan Sepinwall of Rolling Stone said Dalton "makes a solid first impression in the role, so hopefully this will turn out to be more than filling in a blank most viewers had long since forgotten existed." The final scene in season five's "Bad Choice Road", the confrontation between Lalo, Jimmy, and Kim, was regarded by Sepinwall as one of the best scenes of the series, attributing its framing to the scriptwriter and director Thomas Schnauz, and to performances by the lead actors particularly for Rhea Seehorn as Kim and Dalton as Lalo. Steve Greene of IndieWire said, "There's a reason that Lalo is the perfect catalyst for a scene like this. He's Anton Chigurh, only the coinflips are happening in his head. Better yet, he's consulting his own internal algorithm with different inputs dialed up or down according to his second-by-second whims. He has the unpredictability of his impulsive, petulant brother combined with the faux geniality of his chicken CEO rival. He's spontaneity and meticulousness in one deceptively volatile vessel. Tony Dalton makes that poisonous, affected smile work, especially when it's coupled with Lalo's blatant disregard for bodily harm."
- Gomez, Adrian (April 10, 2020). "Crazy charm: Tony Dalton's Lalo character takes on regular role in 'Saul' Season 5". Albuquerque Journal. Archived from the original on April 13, 2020. Retrieved April 13, 2020.
He's also this Mexican narco that you’ve never seen before.
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