Better Call Saul: Giancarlo Esposito breaks down Gus' first scene, what's next
[Spoiler alert: This story contains plot details from “Witness,” Monday’s episode of Better Call Saul.]
For 364 days — ever since Mike was distracted from killing Hector by an ominous “DON’T” note that someone left on his car — we’ve been waiting for Better Call Saul to bring the Fring.
And on Monday night, the Fring was brought. Drug lord Gustavo Fring — why, yes, the man that Mike Ehrmantraut will team up with as head of security and general fixer — made his first reappearance in the Breaking Bad universe since being destroyed by a bomb in the mother show’s season 4 finale. Here on Better Call Saul, a handful of years before the death of Gus (Giancarlo Esposito), Mike (Jonathan Banks) followed the trail of a tracking device to Los Pollos Hermanos, which Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) uses as his front, and he instructed Jimmy McGill/eventual Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) to pose as a customer and keep his eye on a guy with a backpack. Jimmy did his best snooping, but his undercover agent skills were no match for the Spidey sense of Gus, who intuited that something was wrong and quietly aborted whatever exchange/drop was supposed to take place. (Shades of Gus nixing that first meeting with Walt and Jesse?)
“He completely knows what Jimmy is doing and is just relaxed and calm about it, because before anyone even walks in the door, Gus sees what’s going on,” Esposito tells EW. “It’s not really worry about Jimmy. Gus is smart enough to know that Jimmy has just brought someone else here. … That scene establishes Gus’ tentacles and what he knows. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he knew that they were coming before they came. His awareness that something is about to happen — because he’s been having his guys track Mike for a while — is clear, so in a way the audience is catching up, after Gus made certain moves already. We haven’t seen the moves that Gus has made to be able to research what Mike is doing and who he is, but he’s had time to suss that out. And I like the fact that they throw back in the feeling of Breaking Bad, Gus knowing, thus complicating the story, especially for Saul Goodman. You know [Gus] is going to meet Mike, and you know that’s going to have to happen soon, but how will he next meet Saul Goodman is the interesting question.”
Gus was first seen out of focus cleaning up in the background, though he was recognizable with that trademark yellow shirt and black tie. And when Jimmy — confused by the lack of contact in the restaurant between Backpack Man and… anyone else — started rifling through the trash that Backpack Man threw out, the spy-on-spy game suddenly got a little more tense and intriguing: Gus approached Jimmy, asking if he needed any help. Jimmy slyly dropped his watch in the trash and claimed to be looking for that, which Gus graciously fished out the garbage for him and effectively sent him on his way. “It was fun to do that,” says Esposito of the Jimmy-Gus meeting. “I think it’s pretty cool to have two actors playing two different things with two different meanings, with the understanding of one thing in the same scene in such proximity.”
When Jimmy exited the restaurant and ambled across the street to report back his (lack of) findings to Mike, viewers got a wide shot of the scene, complete with Gus cleaning up outside the restaurant. The look on his face indicated that he was aware that these two individuals were up to some kind of surveillance operation — and that he was possibly now formulating a next step of action. So, what can you expect in the coming weeks between Mike and Gus? “It’s definitely cat-and-mouse with Mike,” says Esposito. “It’s to figure out how to position Mike to be able to be accepting of whatever offer Gus is going to give him, and also to have Mike understand the longevity of the gig. If he’s loyal and he does his job right, he has the ability to really do well. But I think these next two-to-three episodes are going to be exactly that cat-and-mouse game. After that cat-and-mouse game gets developed, then Gus will be interjecting himself into Hector’s [Mark Margolis’] world.”
In other words: Out of the fryer, into the fire.