Breaking Bad may have ended in 2013, but the world it created has lived on thanks to AMC’s prequel, Better Call Saul. Over the course of two seasons, we’ve witnessed the beginnings of small-time scam artist Jimmy McGill’s (Bob Odenkirk) evolution into the fast-talking lawyer, Saul Goodman, we knew and loved in Breaking Bad.
So far,Better Call Saul has also featured Breaking Bad alumni such as Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) and Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis). In addition, Season Three will reintroduce fan favorite Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). In roughly the space of a year, increasingly overt clues have made clear that the drug kingpin and chicken restaurateur will be returning to our screens.
At this point, it is unclear how much of a role Gus will have, but we do know that it will be more than just a cameo. Odenkirk recently told The Hollywood Reporter that Gus is bringing a story with him, adding, “We get to know… more about his empire and how he built it.”
In honor of Gus’ upcoming appearance in Better Call Saul, here are Paste’s 10 best Gus Fring moments in Breaking Bad.
Season Two, Episode 11: “Mandala”
The first time we meet Gus, we learn that he’s a careful, professional man who chooses to hide in plain sight.
A frustrated Walter White (Bryan Cranston) has returned to Los Pollos Hermanos looking for the big-time distributor, who’s meant to help move his product. Gus politely denies Walt’s claims until Walt suggests that the two men may be alike. At that moment, Gus’ demeanor suddenly changes. His eyebrows lower and his voice becomes cold and authoritative. Momentarily dropping his façade, he tells Walt that they aren’t alike at all.
It’s our first glimpse of Gus’ ability to switch seamlessly from being the boss of a restaurant chain and a running drug empire, and the beginning of tensions that will culminate in Season Four’s explosive finale.
Season Three, Episode 5: “Mas”
Part of what makes Gus an excellent businessman is his ability to manipulate those around him.
Earlier in the episode, Walt tells Gus that he doesn’t suffer from being proud, and simply “respects chemistry.” In response, Gus brings Walt to a state-of-the-art laboratory and offers him a job. If Walt were truly in it for the chemistry, then this setup would surely be enough to keep him happy. But it isn’t. He declines the offer, so Gus asks Walt about the decisions that led to this moment. Knowing that Walt’s true motivation is not chemistry, nor family, but pride, Gus delivers a speech in which he explains what a man is and how a man must provide whether he is loved or not.
Gus correctly identifies that while Walt’s family may have been the catalyst for his new career, his ego is the thing that sustains him.
Season Three, Episode 8: “I See You”
A recurring theme in Breaking Bad is that Gus is consistently one step ahead of his enemies, and this moment provides a memorable example.
It begins with Gus getting a call from cartel head Juan Bolsa (Javier Grajeda) after one of The Cousins (Daniel and Luis Moncada) suddenly dies in hospital. Juan senses the Gus may have been involved and their conversation becomes increasingly heated. After Juan impatiently asks Gus if he is “there,” by which he obviously means listening, Gus responds with a deadly double entendre. He confirms that he is indeed “there” just as gunshots are heard outside Juan’s house and assailants infiltrate the premises.
After listening to Juan die, Gus snaps his phone and we are left wondering just how far his organization reaches.
Season Three, Episode 11: “Abiquiu”
Gus may be a ruthless kingpin, but he also possesses impeccable manners. So why not invite Walt over for a nice dinner?
It’s a tantalizing proposition, because it promises to give us a peek inside the villain’s lair. However, rather disappointingly, it turns out that the criminal mastermind has a home much like any other wealthy person, complete with tasteful art and furniture. As Gus is preparing the meal, he suddenly hands Walt a knife with the business end pointing at his own chest. It’s simultaneously a not-so subtle emasculation of Walt and a reminder that, whether they like it or not, they can’t kill each other (yet).
The scene also shows that while Walt must adopt a whole new persona—Heisenberg—to do the things he does, Gus is perfectly happy in his own skin whether he’s entertaining at home, running his restaurant or commanding a drug empire.
Season Four, Episode 1: “Box Cutter”
It isn’t until the Season Four premiere that we see the squeaky clean Gus literally get his hands dirty.
Gus enters the lab from the walkway above, clearly furious. The quiet and methodical way in which he suits up is contrasted with Walt’s increasingly desperate pleas for his and Jesse’s lives. Suddenly, Gus grabs Victor (Jeremiah Bitsui) and slits his throat, holding him as he bleeds out. Even Mike—who has presumably seen it all—looks startled. Exhibiting the same meticulousness with which he prepared, Gus then reverses the process, finishing with a delicate wipe of his glasses. It is a terrific physical performance from Esposito, who simultaneously exudes menace and calm.
Although Walt has trouble processing what happened, Jesse understands perfectly. Later, he explains to Walt that they’re “all on the same page.” It’s the one that says, “If I can’t kill you, you’ll sure as shit wish you were dead.”
Season Four, Episode 8: “Hermanos”
Every great villain needs an origin story, and Gus is no exception.
This flashback scene takes place poolside, which in the world of Breaking Bad is already a bad omen. To make matters worse, it’s the first time that we’ve seen Gus appear nervous. Cartel head Don Eladio (Steven Bauer) isn’t too happy; sensing the danger, Gus begins to apologize profusely. We’re on a close-up of Gus when we hear a gunshot and see Max’s blood spatter across Gus’ face. He then uncharacteristically lunges at Hector and is thrown to the ground. There, he must watch Max bleed into the pool as Hector reminds him that the only reason he is alive is because “they know who he is.”
During a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session, Esposito said this scene was the hardest to film because Gus “had to feel emotions he had never felt before,” namely fear and “a loss of control”.
Season Four, Episode 9: “Bug”
In this scene, we see how the increasingly untenable situation with the cartel leads to Gus becoming more reckless.
While Mike exchanges fire with a cartel sniper, Gus walks outside, ignoring Mike’s call to take cover. He then calls the attacker’s bluff by striding towards him as warning shots pepper the ground. Gus stops and raises his hands in a “Come at me, bro!” pose and we see a shot of his face through the sniper’s sights, staring intently. It’s a shocking display of bravado from the usually calm and reserved Gus.
Later in the episode, Jesse asks Mike what the deal is with the “Terminator shit,” and Mike tells him that Gus is indispensable to the cartel due to his vast distribution network. Well played, Gus.
Season Four, Episode 10: “Salud”
Just as pride is Walt’s true motivation, we eventually learn that revenge is one of the main forces driving Gus.
I remember being truly surprised by the way things played out in “Salud.” Yes, I saw Gus take the pills as he stared into the pool, and I was aware that something was up with the tequila. But when he went into the bathroom, I must confess that I had no idea what he would do inside. At first, I thought—as a nod to The Godfather might have a weapon hidden there. Instead, Gus elegantly removes his jacket and carefully kneels down in front of the toilet to expel the poison. He then returns to the unfolding carnage below and yells at what’s left of the cartel, telling them that Don Eladio is gone and they have nothing to fight for.
It’s an extraordinary sequence and a fitting conclusion to the cartel narrative.
Season Four, Episode 11: “Crawl Space”
In 2013, Gilligan told The Daily Beast that that he sees Breaking Bad as a “modern Western,” and this scene—the last of several standoffs between Gus and Walt—is a great example of that.
As dark clouds roll ominously above, Walt dares Gus to kill him. Slowly, the storm passes, and it becomes clear that Walt will be spared. However, Gus does warn him that he can no longer use Jesse’s loyalty as leverage. Emboldened by his recent triumph over the cartel, Gus then declares that he plans to deal with Hank—and if Walt tries to stop him, he’ll kill his whole family, including his infant daughter.
Gus’ threat is a chilling reminder of just how far he’s prepared to go, and this showdown is the last time the two ever come face to face.
Season Four, Episode 13: “Face Off”
Every great villain has a fatal weakness. For Gus, it’s his thirst for vengeance.
Gus is finally ready to kill Hector, but as he approaches, we see Hector’s face change from a pathetic scowl to an expression of pure hatred. Gus, who until now has been able to anticipate everything, realizes what is happening a moment too late. Our last glimpse of him is grotesquely poetic. Emerging from the destroyed room, the camera approaches from his left. At first, it appears as if he has miraculously survived the explosion, until the camera completes its turn and we realize half his face is missing. The resulting image not only makes the episode’s title literal; it also alludes to the theme of chirality in the series.
Gus fixes his tie—the final act of a fastidious man—and collapses, dead.
Season Three of Better Call Saul premieres Monday, April 10 at 10 p.m. on AMC.
Stefan Kostarelis is an Australian-based freelance writer. Prior to moving Down Under, he lived in Taiwan for over a decade. You can read more of his work on
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