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With Better Call Saul’s series finale on the horizon, I feel a duty to share a take that’s equally controversial and unimpeachably true: Lalo Salamanca can absolutely get it.
Since his Season 4 introduction, the vicious cartel member (played by Tony Dalton) has simultaneously terrified and tantalized me. After evading an assassination attempt in the Season 5 finale, Lalo returns in Season 6 with his sights set on revenge. With seconds to spare in May’s midseason finale, Lalo ambushes Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Kim (Rhea Seehorn) in their apartment, ruthlessly killing a main character before their eyes. When the Breaking Bad prequel returns on July 11, Lalo will undoubtedly wreak further havoc on our beloved lawyers. So before any more heartbreaking shit goes down, we need to acknowledge two truths: Yes, this man is a criminal. But he’s also criminally hot.
Before you come at me, in the words of Salamanca himself, “Let’s talk.”
I know this guy is a conniving murderer who the late, great Ignacio “Nacho” Varga (Michael Mando) once called a “soulless pig.” As the end draws near and Lalo grows increasingly unpredictable, his foes have never feared him more. Nor have I!
In addition to killing people, this is the guy who claims he once set fire to a hotel, then risked his life to run back inside and snag a souvenir because he’s “sentimental.” He only sleeps one or two hours a night. He spent a whole episode slinking around in sewers to spy on his prey. And I’m still shaking from that time he Spider-Man leapt off a cliff onto Jimmy’s flipped car and stuck the landing with the precision of an Olympic gymnast. You don’t have to convince me the dude is bad news. You just have to admit he’s also hotter than a New Mexico desert in July.
It’s no secret that Tony Dalton is, physically, fine as hell. He lends Lalo his soulful eyes, a sexy stache/soul patch, and a luscious head of hair — complete with a silver statement streak and rebellious strands that know exactly when to break rank and tickle his forehead creases. Whether genuine or mischievous, he knows how to flash a hell of a grin. And his colorful wardrobe — ripe with hefty belt buckles and bold, patterned, generously unbuttoned shirts — instantly conveys confidence. Lalo is one of TV’s most devastatingly handsome villains, but his personality also adds to his appeal.
Lalo comes to Albuquerque on family business in wake of his uncle Hector’s stroke. From his first scene in “Coushatta,” it’s clear he’s a nuanced bad guy capable of reprehensible behavior and copious charm. When Nacho meets him, Lalo is nonchalantly singing, dancing, and cooking in the kitchen. (Again, hot.) The suspiciously upbeat moment generates major unease while brilliantly showcasing his serial schmoozing, charisma oozing side we’ve come to know and (in my case) love.
It’s not every day that a player can out-maneuver a duo as powerful as Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) and Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) — or “Michael” as Lalo suavely calls him — so we know Lalo is especially calculating, intelligent, and capable. We also know he can summon a temper when needed, but part of what makes him so complex is the fact that he’s not afraid to reveal his soft side. Whether he’s fighting for family, greeting the crew at his Mexico estate, or sparing a truck full of migrants, Lalo does experience compassion throughout the series — or at least something resembling it.
The Season 6 episode “Black and Blue” puts Lalo’s kinder facets on full display. Under the alias “Ben,” Lalo heads to a bar in Germany to chat up Margarethe Ziegler, widow of Werner, the engineer Mike hired to head Gustavo’s meth lab construction, then later killed. As Ben tries to gain Margarethe’s trust in hopes of learning more about Gus, viewers get a look at the immense potential of Date Lalo. Imagine, for a moment, that Lalo isn’t from a dangerous cartel family and is simply standing in front of you all dressed up, leading first date small talk with a martini in hand. Twitter was thirstier than Jimmy and Mike in “Bagman” when this episode aired, and for good reason! I mean, look at him.
After their strategic meet cute, Lalo as Ben walks Margarethe home (great!), then returns to her house the following day and breaks in. (Not great!) Before his magic fully fades, however, Lalo shares a sweet moment with “the man of the house,” a small pup named Little Bear, and in one of his biggest twists, he decides to spare Little Bear and Margarethe’s lives. For one peaceful moment, you wonder if this evil wrongdoer has changed. But he hasn’t. He’s just really freaking handsome, so you want to believe he has.
It’s easy to hate Lalo’s callous, violent, often unnecessary actions. But Dalton and the show’s writers do a remarkable job of making it hard to actually hate Lalo. The character’s smoldering good looks, unexpected sense of humor, sharp mind, and general likability don’t excuse or absolve his unforgivable crimes. They’re simply facts. The truth — that Lalo Salamanca is a spine-chilling villain — remains. But he’s a smokin’ hot one, and it’s time the Better Call Saul fandom says it.