top of page

Degrees of Badness Down in ABQ

Note: This article contains extensive spoilers for the entire runs of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.

Well folks, it's been a couple of months since AMC's Better Call Saul - simultaneously a prequel and sequel to Breaking Bad - aired its series finale. There have been many, many words spilled about both shows over the years, and a multitude of critical analyses of its ending has been published since the final episode on August 15, 2022. I don't think the world needs another Better Call Saul think piece at this point.

That being said, as someone who watched Breaking Bad in its entirety during its initial run on AMC (back when it, Mad Men, and The Walking Dead were establishing the network as a contender in the realm of Prestige TV), and someone who kind of forgot to watch Better Call Saul until I realized it was almost over, at which point I binged it hard over the course of three months to catch up in time for the finale, I do have some thoughts about the many wonderful characters we were introduced to over the course of this franchise. Specifically, I think both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul gave us some of the best villains in television history, and so here, I would like to give you a ranking and breakdown of the 15 most important villains in this universe, in reverse order of villainy.

So without further ado… let justice be done though the heavens fall.

15. Kim Wexler

Kim Wexler, lawyer extraordinaire and erstwhile girlfriend (and later wife) of Jimmy McGill - the man who became Saul Goodman - ended up turning into a character who was the beating heart of Better Call Saul. It's easy to argue that Better Call Saul is just as much her show as it was Jimmy/Saul's. But was she a villain?

Well... not technically. However, despite Kim being the one character who knew and loved Jimmy for who he was, and inspired him to try to be a better man, her biggest flaw is that from time to time, she would get sucked into one of Jimmy's scams and enjoy herself more than she probably should. She was her own worst enemy in this way, in one case tanking a very important career opportunity in service of one of his scams. And to be clear, the scam in question was just as much hers as it was his. In fact, she was the one who came up with the idea of the scam: to ruin the career and reputation of Howard Hamlin, her (and Jimmy's) former boss at Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill, basically because... they were sick of feeling condescended to by him, and hoped that by discrediting him they could speed up the settlement on a lawsuit for which both Kim and Jimmy were entitled to compensation. The scam worked - too well, as because of Kim's and Jimmy's machinations, it led Howard to be exactly in the wrong place at the wrong time, where he was killed in cold blood by... well, we'll get to that later. The shock of Howard's end (HA HA I CRACK MYSELF UP) shook Kim to her core, and she resigned from the bar, left Jimmy, and relocated to Florida, saying that she and Jimmy together were bad for everyone around them. Years later, she returned to Albequerque to own up to her role in Howard's death as well. Kim had a tiny streak of villainy in her, but in the end, her own moral compass compelled her to try to make things right as best she could given the circumstances.

Major props to Rhea Seahorn for her wonderful portrayal of Kim - she was robbed at the Emmys this year, and I hope they’ll make it up to her next year given that it’ll be Better Call Saul’s last year of eligibility.

14. Jesse Pinkman

Jesse, Jesse, Jesse. In many ways Breaking Bad's analog to Kim Wexler (the sidekick who got unwittingly dragged into someone else’s mess), Jesse was a good-hearted kid who made a series of bad decisions that led to his downfall, starting with his descent into crystal meth addiction, which estranged him from his family. Motivated by greed (and being manipulated by Walter White), even after achieving sobriety, he became the faithful assistant to Albequerque's leading meth manufacturer. Is he a villain?

Well, he did shoot poor Gale Boetticher point-blank in the head, but again as a direct result of Walt's manipulation, and the trauma of that experience marked him ever since. He tried several times after that to get out of Walt's orbit, even going so far as to agree to testify against him to the DEA, but in the end, the poor kid basically became a slave to his and Walt's final tormentors. His triumphant escape from captivity at the end of Breaking Bad, and his eventual grander escape to Alaska after being disappeared by Saul Goodman's infamous vacuum cleaner repairman/professional disappear-er (as depicted in El Camino, the companion movie Vince Gilligan made to give Jesse’s story proper closure) give some hope that he will be able to turn his life around and finally find some real happiness.

Aaron Paul won three well-deserved Emmys for his role as Jesse Pinkman and will probably be most famous for the phrase “YEAH, BITCH! MAGNETS!!!” for the rest of his life. I think he’d be fine with that.

13. Ignacio "Nacho" Varga

Nacho is another Jesse Pinkman analog in Better Call Saul - a good-hearted, very intelligent young man who made a series of bad decisions early in his life that led to his downfall. In Nacho's case, this was getting involved with the Salamanca cartel as a drug dealer. He hated the Salamancas, hated what his life had turned into, and tried time and time again to escape, only to be sucked back in, first by Tuco Salamanca's imprisonment (they needed a new money counter/enforcer), then by Hector Salamanca's fateful stroke (they needed someone to manage the whole Salamanca operation), then by Gustavo Fring realizing that Nacho could be a very effective mole in Gus' own long-game vendetta against the Salamancas, essentially forcing him to play double agent with the threat of harm coming to Nacho's (absolute sweetheart) father, who kept telling Nacho to call the cops on these fuckers and be done with it. (Alas, it's not that simple, Papa.) Is Nacho a villain?

Well, he was a drug dealer, and he was violent (when forced to be), and he orchestrated the events leading to Hector's stroke (but who could blame him?), and he was directly responsible for the deaths of several non-cartel-affiliated employees at the home of... well, we'll get to that later. But his character arc is one of the most heart-rending tragedies in the Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul universe, as he essentially sacrifices himself to keep his father safe and to keep the Salamancas from catching wind of Gus' treachery. He dies by his own hand, but his dignity remains intact. If he'd just stayed away from Tuco when he was a kid, who knows where life could have taken him?

Michael Mando gives a very affecting performance as Nacho; the episode where he realizes that he was set up by Gus to be sacrificed is a masterclass in making Shakespearian-level betrayal and tragedy believable on a television show about drug dealers. I’m excited to see more from him.

12. Jimmy McGill

Here's where we get into some tricky territory. Slippin' Jimmy was a small-time conman, making messes all over his hometown of Cicero until his older brother Chuck finally rescued him and tried to help him remake his life. Despite Jimmy's conman background (and his propensity for finding more avenues to keep scamming others in Albequerque), he desperately did want to become a better person, both for Chuck and also for Kim, the love of his life. When Chuck was homebound on FMLA for severe mental illness, Jimmy took care of him with tenderness and affection. When he saw avenues to help Kim succeed in her career, he was supportive (sometimes too supportive).

But is Jimmy a villain? Once he became aware of how little Chuck seemed to respect him, he stopped at nothing to discredit him and inadvertently caused the circumstances that led to Chuck's maybe-suicide. And of course, he came up with and executed the fairly elaborate scheme that Kim proposed, leading to Howard's horrible demise. Not to mention how easily he fell into the role of "friend to the cartel." And then of course there's... well, we'll get to that later. But in the end - and again, because he wanted to do right by Kim - he owned up to his mistakes and bad deeds in court and allowed for a measure of justice to be found for the deaths of DEA Agents Hank Schrader and Steve Gomez, not to mention the myriad other deaths that the late Walter White was responsible for.

Bob Odenkirk is a comedy legend - famous not only for his work with David Cross on Mr. Show with Bob and David but also as a long-time writer for Saturday Night Live. Want to know how much of a legend he is? He wrote the infamous “I LIVE IN A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER” sketch, featuring Chris Farley as motivational speaker Matt Foley. Jimmy McGill forced Odenkirk to tap into a more dramatic side of performance, and he does an exceptional job with some very sensitive character work.

11. Howard Hamlin

When we first meet Howard in Better Call Saul, he sure seems like a villain. I mean, look at that perfectly coiffed hair. The impeccable tan. The bespoke suits. The Jaguar with the "Namast3" vanity plates. Everything about him screamed "silver-spooned douchebag". Then there’s the arrogance with which he takes Kim away from her office and sends her to document review purgatory after one mistake? The condescending way he spoke to Jimmy ("Charlie Hustle!")? The way he always took Chuck's side against Jimmy, and also enabled Chuck to remain locked in his mental illness? And let's not forget the way he dumped his theory about Chuck's death being a suicide into Jimmy's lap just to make himself feel less guilty for his own role in Chuck's downfall (by forcing him to retire from HHM). That being said, over time it is clear that Howard’s affection for Kim and for Jimmy is genuine. His loyalty towards Chuck is not misguided - Chuck was his mentor, and a damn good one - he just took it too far for too long. When Kim or Jimmy called him out on his missteps, his first instinct was always to acknowledge their feelings and ask how he could make things right. He struggled hard to repair his marriage with his wife. He took therapy seriously. He wanted to be the best version of himself. Even at the very end of his life, when it was clear that there was real danger afoot because of... well, we'll get to that later... he tried in the moment to diffuse the situation. Unfortunately, he did not succeed.

RIP Howard. Like many of the seeming villains in the Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul universe, you were fundamentally a good egg who made some terrible choices that led to your untimely end.

Patrick Fabian does a terrific job embodying Howard, a character that could so easily go off the rails as caricature. He portrays a very complex man under the veneer of comfort, wealth, and a polished appearance, and Howard’s death was very upsetting because of how well Fabian depicted Howard’s humanity and capacity for compassion. (Unrelatedly: Can someone please make a TV show or movie where Patrick Fabian and Neil Patrick Harris play brothers? They would be so perfect together.)

10. Chuck McGill

Here's where things are going to get murkier. Did Chuck love his little brother Jimmy? Yes. Did Chuck respect his little brother Jimmy? He tried to. He really did. He was proud of Jimmy for putting himself through law school and passing the bar. He even stood up and vouched for Jimmy when he officially joined the New Mexico bar. But ultimately, the trauma of knowing Jimmy was his parents' favorite child even though Chuck was a high achiever, having to repeatedly save Jimmy from himself during his Slippin' Jimmy days, and the perfectionistic pressure he put on himself to be the best lawyer he could (along with his deep love of the law), forced him to turn on Jimmy and pursue action to get him disbarred for, let's be frank, perfectly legitimate reasons. Jimmy deserved to be punished for breaking and entering Chuck’s home and tampering with evidence - even if his only motive was that it would help Kim’s career (see above regarding Jimmy sometimes being too supportive of Kim).

But did Chuck really do it because he loved the law, or did he do it because he was just fucking sick and tired of Jimmy? Probably a little of both, but the level of vitriol he spewed about his little brother, who, as we noted before, heroically took care of him through the worst of his mental illness, gives one the sense that he was motivated more by spite than by an altruistic need to protect the law as sacred. Chuck didn't deserve his horrible end, dying as his house burned down around him, but Howard wasn't wrong to ask him to retire and couldn’t have known that it would cause a mental health relapse (and even if he did, that’s not the right way to make business decisions). Chuck's decision-making was entirely impaired by that point by anger, vengeance, and arrogance, and that's not a good recipe for a leader. Chuck's villainy is well-earned.

Michael McKean, another comedy legend most famous for being in Christopher Guest’s company of actors, does a great job walking the line of keeping the viewers guessing as to how he truly feels about his little brother - to the point where even after his death we are not quite sure. McKean and Odenkirk’s physical resemblance and natural chemistry make the relationship feel very real, lived-in, and like you know the whole backstory even though we’re only given pieces of it. It was sad to lose him at the end of Season 3, but the plotline had served its purpose and it was time for Chuck to go.

9. Mike Ehrmantraut

Here's where we get even murkier because Mike Ehrmantraut was a fan-favorite character on both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. But Mike is not a good guy. Sure, he's a loving presence in his daughter-in-law Stacy's life and a doting Pop-Pop to Kaylee, but his history as a dirty cop in Philly directly resulted in the death of his son Matty, and that history is what led him to continue to make decisions that led him down a criminal path, culminating in his becoming Gus Fring's fixer and a behind-the-scenes power player in the ongoing Fring vs Salamanca cartel civil war. He killed poor Werner Ziegler, who just wanted a long weekend to spend with his wife after nearly a year trapped as the foreman of a crew building what became Gus' meth superlab (eventually run by one Walter White). He sacrificed Nacho in order to save Gus from... well, we'll get to that later. He helped cover up the evidence of Howard's murder in Kim and Jimmy's apartment, and later he helped cover up the evidence of the death-by-overdose of Jesse Pinkman's girlfriend Jane. He lived by a strange moral code, trying to talk Gus out of killing Werner and Nacho while also vowing to Nacho's father that he would help ensure there would be justice after Nacho's death (implying blood for blood and disgusting Papa Varga to no end). He helped Gus achieve his ultimate goal - a long game that stretched back decades - of carnage in killing off all of Don Eladio's men and specifically every living Salamanca. He threatened to kill Lydia Rodarte-Quayle, head of logistics at Madrigal Electromotive (and his and Gus' boss) in her home while her daughter was asleep in the other room. And maybe worst of all, he didn't do a good enough job of warning Saul Goodman to stay away from Walter White. His death in Breaking Bad at the hand of Walter was heartbreaking, but though he may have meant well and cared in his own grumpy way about Nacho and about Jesse, in the end, he just did what he was told. He followed orders. And many people died as a result. We like Mike, but we probably shouldn't. He's definitely a villain.

Jonathan Banks is absolutely brilliant at playing the gruff, cynical, world-weary Mike. His scenes with his granddaughter are a wonderful counterpoint to the horror of his job. Mike’s life is complicated, and Jonathan Banks shows it not just in his voice but his physicality. Amazing work.

8. Don Eladio

This is a no-brainer; he runs the branch of the cartel that the Salamancas and Gus operate within, he's craven, crass, and gross, he doesn't care who of his people lives or dies as long as he gets his money, and he has terrible taste in shirts. This is a bad dude. Absolutely a villain.

Steven Bauer looks like he’s having the time of his life whenever he’s on-screen as Eladio, and there’s something just so infectious and enjoyable about watching him perform like that, even though he’s playing someone objectively awful.

7. The Twins

Also known as Marco and Leonel Salamanca. These motherfuckers are scary as fuck. They don't speak, they just kill. Everyone. Always. They threatened to kill Mike's granddaughter, for fuck's sake. They almost killed Hank Schrader. They literally shot Nacho in the shoulder and the kidney in order to stage the murder of another cartel lackey and not be detected by Gus, and left him in a field to bleed out and hopefully be rescued in time. Villains. There's no ambiguity here.

Daniel and Luis Moncada play the twins, and I gotta say, they’re pretty good at scaring the shit out of people without saying a word. Kudos, gentlemen.

6. Hector Salamanca

This guy. This fucking guy. He raised the twins to be vengeful killing machines through abuse. He shot Gus' partner (and maybe lover) Max point blank in the head and let him die in Don Eladio's pool (oh yeah, and Eladio did nothing about it) - setting in course Gus' long-game plan to seek revenge. He hated Gus seemingly because he was Chilean and dark-skinned, so on top of the murderous streak, he's racist and xenophobic. He forced Nacho's sweet father to turn his upholstery business into a front for drug running. And even after being permanently paralyzed by a stroke, he continued to orchestrate violence behind the scenes in order to get at Gus or anyone who threatened his family. But Hector is a particularly scary brand of evil because he's also smart; despite Nacho dying while covering for Gus, Hector knew, somehow, that Gus was responsible for the death of... well, we'll get to that later... and never, ever gave up on that instinct. He went out swinging (or I guess more accurately, dinging that damn bell), but he was a horrible person and I don't feel sorry for him in the slightest. Absolute villain.

Mark Margolis spent the entire run of Breaking Bad in a wheelchair playing Hector post-paralysis; it was nice to see him on his feet, speaking, and in action in Better Call Saul before the stroke, to get a real sense of how intimidating he is. It’s an impressive feat that he’s just as scary sitting in a wheelchair ringing a bell angrily as he is walking around terrorizing everyone.

5. Todd Alquist (and some Nazi randos)

I have been very vocal with anyone who will listen to me that the final season of Breaking Bad suffered once the Mexican cartel ceased to be the bad guys and Todd Alquist and his Neo-Nazi family became Walt and Jesse's final nemeses. The cartel villains were complex and interesting, and the machinations of the cartel are frightening (I grew up in California, trust me, the Mexican drug cartel is scary beyond belief), which really made the stakes of the situation that Walter got himself and Jesse very high and full of tension. Then, once the cartel was dispatched with, we get the Neo-Nazis. They're Nazis. We hate them. Of course, we hate them. Why wouldn't we hate them? We’re supposed to hate them. Nazis are bad. And worst of all, Todd's Nazi family was so thinly characterized that it wasn't even possible to really care about them as individual people. We just were glad that they all die in the end, because, again, NAZIS.

That said, Todd, himself is a fucking psycho. He killed a little innocent kid who was in the wrong place at the wrong time! He killed Jesse's girlfriend Andrea and left her son motherless just to fuck with Jesse’s head! He kept Jesse as a prisoner in chains locked in a cage forced to cook blue meth day in and day out, and treated him like a pet who he abused for fun! Todd is bad! Todd is very, very bad!

Jesse Plemons does give good psycho, and it was the first time audiences got to see him play a bad guy after years of being a good one as Landry on Friday Night Lights. Playing Todd opened a lot of doors for him, leading him to the career successes he’s having now (he was nominated for an Oscar this year!). Yay Jesse Plemons! Boo Nazis (and bad writing).

4. Saul Goodman

(Aha, you see what I've done here, right? I’m so clever.)

Jimmy McGill was only ambiguously a villain, but there was a good heart in there and he tried hard to be honorable for the people he loved, so I ranked Jimmy fairly low in this villain countdown. However, once he lost Kim after the tragedy of Howard's murder, he slipped not just back into Slippin' Jimmy but whole-hog into being Saul Goodman - who initially was only meant to be his DBA alias when his law license was reinstated. Without Kim there to push him to keep trying to be a good person, Jimmy turned Saul into a full-fledged despicable human being, representing any criminal lowlife who would pay, giving advice on money laundering to the Whites, preying on vulnerable victims of crime, mistreating his long-suffering receptionist Francesca, sleeping with hookers, and completely embracing his reputation as the official lawyer to the cartel and the financial perks that came with that.

One of the intriguing things about Better Call Saul is the way that it recontextualizes the story we were told in Breaking Bad, and we see this firsthand after he talks his way out of trouble when Walt and Jesse kidnap him to the desert (somewhat ineptly) and sees the impeccable professionalism of Walt's meth-making operation in the RV meth lab. Mike warns him to stay far away from Walter - he's an amateur and will easily get in way over his head - but Saul's greed knows no bounds, and all he can see is how much money he could make as Walt's lawyer if Mike can orchestrate connecting Walt with Gus Fring to run his underground superlab. In Breaking Bad, we're led to believe that Walt's hubris is what led to the chaos he wrought. In Better Call Saul, we see that it was Saul Goodman's interference that put Walt on Gus' radar and escalated the Heisenberg business rapidly. So in a way, everything tragic that went down in Breaking Bad is Saul's fault. Saul maybe didn't know how bad it would get, but he's definitely a villain when you put it all into the larger context of these two shows together as one contiguous story.

When Saul Goodman was first introduced as a Breaking Bad character he was almost a joke - some tension-relieving comic relief - and casting Odenkirk (as noted before, a comedy legend), made a lot of sense. When you see the juxtaposition of him as Jimmy McGill against him as Saul Goodman, the mind boggles at the amount of deep character study Odenkirk had to do to keep these two separate alter egos as very different people, but similar enough that it would be believable that it was the same man. Absolutely tremendous work. Odenkirk needs an Emmy. Television Academy, I’m watching you next year. You know what you have to do.

3. Gustavo Fring

The fastidious-bordering-on-OCD owner of the Los Pollos Hermanos fast food chain - an elaborate money laundering front for his participation in drug trafficking for Don Eladio (as well as his own rogue meth distribution pipeline via Walter White's product manufactured north of the border) - Gustavo Fring was, for me, the most intriguing villain on Breaking Bad when it was airing. There are allusions to a questionable past in Chile (which we never learn more about, much to my disappointment). There's the tragedy of the loss of his partner Max at Hector Salamanca's cruel hand. There's his frightening display of violence-as-power-play when he casually kills his henchman Victor in front of Walt and Jesse as a warning after Gale Boetticher's death. There's the astute instinct he has upon learning of the death of... well, we'll get to that later... that proves to be right. There are his intentional displays of philanthropy, patronage, and volunteering for meaningful causes in Albequerque (including being a supporter of the police force and the DEA) that are a part of his calculated way to never be suspected as a drug dealer. And there's his epic, epic long-game of revenge against the cartel and the Salamancas for Max's death that was years in the making.

If Hector Salamanca is evil-but-smart, Gus is a fucking bonafide evil genius. And were it not for his hubris - for his need to go taunt Hector in his assisted living facility after he, Mike, and Jesse return from the carnage of his epic revenge plot at Don Eladio's house - Gus would have gotten away with becoming the de facto leader of the trafficking of crystal meth in the Southwest. Alas, Walt and Jesse knew that he would do that, and helped Hector booby-trap his wheelchair in order to orchestrate an explosive (literally!) murder-suicide, blowing half of Gus' face off in the process. (Gus, dapper till the end, manages to straighten his tie before collapsing to his death.) Unfortunately, this leaves room for a certain bitter former chemistry teacher and cancer survivor to try to become the meth kingpin of the Southwest, and... yeah. It doesn't end well.

Giancarlo Esposito has been a favorite of mine since his days on Homicide: Life on the Street and his performance as the meticulous Gustavo Fring is masterful; I was truly sad when he was killed on Breaking Bad. It was nice to get to see him as a major player and gain some more context in Better Call Saul, but come on Vince Gilligan - tell me what the deal is with this mysterious Chilean backstory? Was Gus working for the CIA to help Pinochet take power before relocating to Mexico? I gotta know!

2. Walter White

And here we are - the second most awful but compelling villain in the Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul universe and the man who ruined it all for everyone he knows and lots of people he didn't. Say his name: Heisenberg, also known as Walter White. He is the One Who Knocks. Breaking Bad creator and showrunner Vince Gilligan has always stated that his mission for the overall arc of Breaking Bad is watching "Mr. Chips turn into Scarface." And indeed, that is what happens - Walter White turns into Heisenberg. But I never thought it was that simple. Yes, his purported plan at the beginning of Breaking Bad was to manufacture and sell enough meth to support his family when he died of the terminal lung cancer he was diagnosed with in the pilot episode, but by the time the final season rolled around, Walt's cancer was in remission and he arrogantly told Jesse that after Gus' death they weren't just in the meth business anymore, they were in the "empire business." (Jesse quite correctly asks if a meth empire is really something to be proud of.)

He had made more money than his family could ever need by cooking meth for Gus in the superlab, more than his long-suffering wife Skylar could even try to launder through the car wash they bought specifically for money laundering (thank you Saul Goodman for that advice, by the way). He could have stopped. But he didn't want to. And as he finally confesses to Skylar in the Breaking Bad series finale, in the end, he didn't do it for her, or for their kids. "I did it for me," he says. "I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really... I was alive." After years of bitterness about losing his shares in Grey Matter (the company he co-founded with two of his grad school friends), toiling away as an underpaid high school chemistry teacher, knowing that his own son Walt Jr. loved him but thought Uncle Hank, the DEA Agent, was a much cooler role model and suffering through the shock of a surprise cancer diagnosis, he slowly sheds his timid milquetoast personality to become Heisenberg.

One of the interesting questions that Better Call Saul inherently posits, in its exploration of Jimmy McGill's transformation into Saul Goodman, is the question of "Can anyone ever really change their nature?" Was Jimmy always secretly Saul, with Kim as the only potent antidote? And as the events of Better Call Saul, as a prequel, recontextualize the story of Breaking Bad, we are left to wonder this as well about Walt. Does Walt really transform into the murderous, greedy, reckless Heisenberg? Or was Heisenberg always there and just got more and more loose as he got away with making more and more money and gaining more and more power in the drug trafficking world? His manipulative behavior knew no bounds - he poisoned Brock, Andrea's son, to get Jesse on his side to follow through with the plan to assist Hector in killing Gus (by convincing Jesse that Gus was responsible for the poisoning). He poisoned a child! Walter White, the devoted father to Walt Jr and Holly, poisoned a child! Yes, Brock pulled through, but seriously. What a monster.

Can anyone ever really change their nature? Did Walt change? Or did he just remove the gasket and unleash the Heisenberg lurking within? "I did it for me," he admits. Maybe Heisenberg was his true nature.

Bryan Cranston came into Breaking Bad mostly known for playing Malcolm’s dad on Malcolm in the Middle, but his performance as Walter White showed a huge depth and range of acting ability and won him three Emmys. He has since received an Oscar nomination as well. However, as a card-carrying Seinfeld superfan, I have to admit that in my heart, he will always be Tim Whatley, DDS to me. Don’t be an anti-dentite, folks.

1. Eduardo "Lalo" Salamanca

I thought Gus was the best villain in the Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul universe, and then, during Better Call Saul's fourth season, we are introduced to Lalo Salamanca, whose brand of villainy is so truly insane, who is a true bombastic agent of extreme chaos, and who is extremely, disconcertingly, charming (and, it has to be said, incredibly sexy), that it completely upended my entire viewing experience. I'd have a drink with Lalo. I'd have a few. He's great! He's everyone's friend! But he'll also kill random people who get in his way with no qualms about it (even Hector doesn't murder randos at whim)! He's a legitimate sociopath, but he's also... so much fun? He loves to cook! He's tenacious! He does his research! He's also ruthless! He forces Saul (and Mike) to hike through the Mexican desert for days picking up $7 million in bail money! He travels to Germany just to talk to Werner Ziegler's widow to try and suss out what Gus is up to with the underground meth lab construction project! He was so charming that she almost invited him into her house for a nightcap (and maybe some torrid sex and who could blame her goddamn just look at the man)! He hides in sewers for days scoping out Gus' superlab site under the laundromat! He plans ahead for any contingency - even one in which he would need to fake his own goddamn death! This man takes "evil genius" to a whole new level.

Lalo had to be written to account for a continuity error between Better Call Saul’s cartel storyline and Saul Goodman's original introduction during the run of Breaking Bad - when Walt and Jesse have him in the desert with a bag over his head, he asks if "Lalo [sent them]", which was never explained or followed up on afterward during the rest of the tale of Walter White. So, here comes Lalo... and then Lalo becomes not just the best fucking villain, but the best fucking character on the whole damn show. Seriously, I gotta say, how is it possible that fairly late in Better Call Saul's run, after all of the mess with Jimmy's bar hearing and Chuck's death has been dealt with, we are handed someone like Lalo? The audacity of creator and showrunners Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould to present us with a villain THIS good after so much brilliant writing over the course of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul... my god. And to give us this man with us FULLY KNOWING that he does not survive because he isn't in Breaking Bad... it's almost criminal.

I've been talking about how we're gonna get to something later throughout this whole listicle, and here we are. It's Lalo. Lalo is everything. All roads lead to Lalo. Lalo is the one who is betrayed by Nacho (who let Gus' assassins into his house to murder Lalo’s house staff and seriously wound him), leading not just to Nacho's eventual self-sacrifice but also Lalo faking his own death and then returning to figure out how to extract revenge from Gus, whom he knows was behind the attack. Lalo lets Hector (and only Hector) know that he is still alive. Gus has a sense that Lalo is still alive and goes to extreme measures to protect himself. Mike tells Kim that it is believed that Lalo is still alive, but Kim doesn't tell Jimmy because she's afraid he'll call off the