Breaking Bad: Who Was Gustavo Fring Before Better Call Saul? (2023)

Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) has become one of the most popular characters in the Breaking Bad universe. Yet, much is still unknown about this chicken-slinging drug dealer despite further exploration into his character in the prequel series, Better Call Saul. At one point in season three of Breaking Bad, Gus tells Walter (Bryan Cranston) to never make the same mistake twice, largely in reference to Walt's trust in Jesse (Aaron Paul), a "junkie." This seems to have been a formative lesson in the way Gus carries himself and does business, yet audiences are left to speculate, like with much of Gus' past, what this formative experience was. There are two Gustavo Frings, the man he was before meeting Don Eladio (Steven Bauer) and the Juarez Cartel, and the man he was after, driven by calculated revenge.



When Gus and his partner, Max Arciniega (James Martinez), meet with Eladio, Gus appears more cheerful and full of life, a confident and radiant man. After Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) kills his partner, Gus' confidence becomes internal, displaying a cold and introverted demeanor. The light in Gus' is extinguished forever as he watches Max fall to the bottom of the pool. Not only had he lost his partner, but in all likelihood, the love of his life.

From the moment Gus met Eladio, he was doomed. The dominoes on the path to his downfall had begun to fall. The path of revenge would lead Gus to Walter White and his eventual demise. Gustavo Fring was on another path during his time in Chile, a path to the top, creating a reputation that would spare his life at the hands of the Cartel.

GeneralissimoBreaking Bad: Who Was Gustavo Fring Before Better Call Saul? (1)

In the eighth episode of the fourth season of Breaking Bad, "Hermanos," Gus is questioned by Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) in connection to his fingerprints being found at Gale Boetticher's (David Costabile) apartment. Hank tells Gus that he's surprised he couldn't find any records of Gus living in Chile, although he discovered he immigrated to Mexico in 1986 and later was given an entry visa to the U.S. It's important for Gus that nobody knows who he was in Chile, as he asks Mike (Jonathan Banks) to see if he can find any trace of him, with Mike stating that if he can't find him, then nobody can.

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Hector Salamanca refers to Gus as "Generalissimo" when they meet for the first time, a title meaning commander of a combined military force. Gus had worked for the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, one that came into power in 1973 after staging a coup against a democratically elected leader, Salvador Allende. If Gus is the same age as Giancarlo Esposito, that would make him fifteen years old at the time of the coup. It's unlikely that Gus would have been a soldier during this time, as that would have made him a career military man, and his character simply doesn't read like that. Gus was likely receiving a degree at this time in the business field, possibly at a top-tier institute.

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Gus is, in all likelihood, a man from military intelligence rather than a general in the field, with Hector's comment likely being an exaggeration of his position in the Pinochet regime. If Gus were a part of the CNI (National Information Center), he would have been a party to numerous assassination attempts, kidnappings, and torture. With the Pinochet regime being a far-right anti-Communist regime, the CIA heavily supported it in the hopes of curbing the rise of Communism in Latin America. Many in the Chilean intelligence agencies had ties to the CIA, so if that's the case, there's a good chance Gus worked for Pinochet and the CIA.

(Video) Analyzing Evil: Gustavo "Gus" Fring From Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul

The way Gus' operation works in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul is a bit like an intelligence agency with the way he frames crimes, kills people/has them disappear, tails, and records people in secret. If Gus were a "General," it is likely he would have had a more militaristic approach like the Salamancas. The CIA ties would explain why the Juarez Cartel didn't kill Gus.

The Juarez CartelBreaking Bad: Who Was Gustavo Fring Before Better Call Saul? (2)

Although it is never directly stated, Gus works for the Juarez Cartel in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. When Hank is in El Paso, he finds himself in conflict with the Juarez Cartel, using an informant named Tortuga (Danny Trejo) to infiltrate them. Juan Bolsa (Javier Grajeda) and the Salamanca Twins (Daniel and Luis Mocada) discover Tortuga's deception and have him decapitated. This action all but confirms that "The Cartel" in the show is the Juarez cartel since Bolsa was one of the founders. When Gus immigrated to Mexico from Chile in 1986, it was likely with the help of the CIA, as later, he was given a visa to the U.S., seemingly with ease.

Some may argue that Gus was an agent working to infiltrate the Mexican cartels on behalf of the CIA, but that would make it difficult to explain why Gus isn't still doing this in Better Call Saul. If the CIA knew Los Pollos Hermanos was a front for drugs and Gus had stopped helping them, why would they allow it to still exist? In terms of government/crime collaboration, this would be a bigger blunder than the FBI's connection with Whitey Bulger. It's more likely that Gus was given entry to Mexico and a visa to the US as a reward for his service to the CIA. Their collaboration is likely in the past, with the CIA's knowledge of Gus' drug dealing being minimal or non-existent.

Gus and Max tricked Juarez into a meeting by concealing meth underneath the lid of one of their Los Pollos Hermanos chicken buckets. Gus's partner Max is an educated Chemist, while Gus is referred to as "the businessman." It is suspected these two met at the university together, creating their partnership. Eladio pretends to humor their proposal but then has Hector kill Max by shooting him in the back of the head. As Gus collapses to the floor, Eladio tells Gus that the only reason he's alive is because of who he was in Chile.

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Breaking Bad: Who Was Gustavo Fring Before Better Call Saul? (3)

In 1985, Kiki Camarena, a DEA agent, had been kidnaped, tortured, and killed in Mexico, a year before Gus came over. This kidnapping set the standard that American government officials were off-limits to the cartel. Eladio likely didn't kill Gus, not because he was a Chilean intelligence official, but because he was a Chilean intelligence officer with CIA ties, whereas Max was just a civilian. So what was the mistake that Gus made twice? It might have been trusting the wrong people.

In Better Call Saul, Gus tells Peter Schuler (Norbert Weisser) that with their backs against the wall in Chile, it was Peter who saved them. Gus might have gotten into meth dealing in Chile and connected with the wrong people, risking his being caught by fellow intelligence officers for a severely punished crime under the Pinochet regime, getting away by the skin of his teeth. The wrong people could also refer to the CIA ruining Gus' life and forcing him to flee his home. When Gus came to Mexico, trusting the wrong people got his lover and partner, Max, killed. It's safe to say whatever mistake he made in Chile was likely repeated in Mexico.

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Man in the North

Breaking Bad: Who Was Gustavo Fring Before Better Call Saul? (4)

In Better Call Saul, Gus is at his peak in the states, using Los Pollos Hermanos as a front for meth distribution while building the lab his prodigy, Gale, would end up running. The way that Gus sees Gale mirrors what Gus' original values were before revenge corrupted him. When being interrogated by Hank, Gus tells him that Gale was a kind and gentle person he thought a lot of. Gale is much like Gus' lover, Max, a kind and gentle Chemist eager to make meth on the side. While Gus may not be in love with Gale, he adores him for the qualities he maintains. It only makes sense that when Max dies, Gus' loses his kind and gentle side, becoming the cold and imposing man audiences have come to know. In a way, Gus can be seen as envying Gale because he's yet to be robbed of this kind side, so when Walt and Jesse have him killed, it's like having Max shot all over again.

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Gus is so particular as to whom he goes into business with, and if the lesson he learned during his time pre-Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul was to be careful getting into bed with the wrong people, then Walt's betrayal is yet another example of why trust is not something to be thrown around lightly. When someone loses Gus' trust and respect, it can never be gained again because each time that wound is inflicted, it's as if Gus goes back to that pool with Eladio, Bolsa, and Hector and witnesses the love of his life die all over again.


Who was Gustavo Fring supposed to be? ›

Fring was created as a character to replace that of Tuco Salamanca (played by departing actor Raymond Cruz) during the second season of Breaking Bad. Gus, as a stoic businessman, was created to be opposite to that of the chaotic Tuco and act as a foil to Walter White.

Who was Gustavo Fring before Breaking Bad? ›

Gus had worked for the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, one that came into power in 1973 after staging a coup against a democratically elected leader, Salvador Allende.

What was Gus Fring's past? ›

Originally collaborating with the Mexican drug cartel to distribute cartel cocaine, Gus eliminated his dependence on the cartel and began distributing methamphetamine himself, and eventually became the kingpin of his solo drug empire, which was the most successful drug operation in United States history until his ...

Who was Gus in chili? ›

In Season 4, Hector mockingly refers to Gus as "Grand Generalissimo", suggesting he was part of the Pinochet regime. This has since been confirmed by Giancarlo Esposito (the actor who played him). We also discover Gus arrived in Mexico in 1986 - about the time Pinochet's political control was beginning to collapse.

Who is the real villain in Breaking Bad? ›

Jack Welker (Michael Bowen) is the leader of a neo-Nazi gang and the most evil Breaking Bad character.

Does Saul ever meet Gus? ›

Jimmy/Saul and Gus never meet in either Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul. Jimmy was roped into the Salamancas' orbit, so he couldn't work for Gus even if he wanted. The two would have communicated using Mike as a go-between if necessary, but there's no evidence that they did so. They knew each other by reputation only.

Were Gus and Max lovers? ›

After Better Call Saul season 6's wine bar scene, it's safe to say Gustavo Fring was in love with Max, as many viewers already suspected.

Was Gus Fring afraid of Walter White? ›

No, he didn't. He was wary of him, but he didn't fear him. A commonality between the people who Walt goes up against is that they all underestimate just how far Walt is willing to go in order to achieve his goals, and that underestimation ends up costing them big time.

Why did Gus Fring yell before he died? ›

No, I think it was just a purely spontaneous cry of shock, fear and possibly rage. He doesn't have the time to process anything more complex in that situation because it's so unusual and unexpected. The most primal behaviour Gus ever shows in the whole show.

Did Saul not know Gus? ›

He claims not to directly know Gus Fring — “Let's just say I know a guy who knows a guy who… knows another guy,” he later tells Walt — and seems to believe that Mike Ehrmantraut is simply his freelance investigator. (In one episode, he compares their dynamic to Higgins and Magnum on Magnum, P.I.)

What was Gus Fring's weakness? ›

Hatred. Gus Fring's biggest weakness was his unending hatred for Hector Salamanca, who, twenty years ago, had shot his partner in the head just to make a point. That's why he spent the next 20 years in the drug business and not just go back to cooking fried chicken and making a stable profit.

Who is Gus Fring's wife? ›

Margarethe Ziegler | Breaking Bad Wiki | Fandom.

Why is Gus called Hank? ›

Before the Cousins could assassinate Hank in a shopping center parking lot, Gus called the man to warn him about the attack. However, Gus' warning was never about protecting Hank directly.

Is Gus the Chicken Man? ›

Gustavo "Gus" Fring, mockingly referred to as the Chicken Man, is the main antagonist of the Breaking Bad franchise, serving as the main antagonist of the AMC TV series of the same name, a major character in its prequel series Better Call Saul and a posthumous antagonist in the 2019 sequel film El Camino: A Breaking ...

Why did Gus called Hank? ›

Gus (or one of his men) called Hank in order to give him a chance to defend himself. This was Gus' way of almost sticking it to the cartel without being too obvious. If Gus ordered a hit out on the brothers himself, it's likely the cartel would know and declare war on Gus and his operation.

Who is the most hated character in Breaking Bad? ›

For the majority of Breaking Bad's run, Skyler White was the subject of immense vitriol -- moreso than any other member of its morally gray cast. Fans of Breaking Bad viewed Bryan Cranston's protagonist Walter White as the everyman.

Who is the creepy guy in Breaking Bad? ›

Todd Alquist is the secondary antagonist of the fifth and final season of Breaking Bad and the posthumous central antagonist of its 2019 sequel film El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.

Why does Mike hate Walt? ›

Because Walt asked him to help him kill Gus, and Mike, being loyal to Gus and not really liking Walt, refused by beating him. One of Walt's big flaws in the series is that he kept pushing his luck, and this was one of those instances where that didn't work out for him.

Who kills Gus in Better Call Saul? ›

With a pipe bomb equipped in his wheelchair, Hector carried out the assassination of Gus, but his death wasn't instantaneous. After the bomb detonated in Hector's nursing home, Gus walked out of the room seemingly unharmed. However, his final moments in Breaking Bad unambiguously confirm the Gus Fring death.

What did Gus poison Don Eladio with? ›

Zafiro Añejo is a fictitious brand of tequila and distilled beverage created for Breaking Bad. During a party with the Cartel, Gustavo Fring gifted a poisoned bottle of Zafiro Añejo to Don Eladio and his capos, causing them to drop dead within minutes.

Who shot Fring's boyfriend in the head? ›

Offended by Gus' boldness, Hector Salamanca shoots Max in the head, and Gus is forced to watch his close friend and partner bleed out in Don Eladio's swimming pool. This is also why Gus Fring stares at the pool during a later meeting with Don Eladio in Better Call Saul season 6.

Why was Max killed in Breaking Bad? ›

After attempting to establish a partnership with the Cartel, Max was murdered by Hector Salamanca on the orders of Don Eladio as punishment for Gustavo's disrespectful actions of manipulating Eladio into a meeting by selling drugs to his men without consent.

Why doesn t Hector look at Gus? ›

Not looking at Gus is a sign of disrespect. Hector hates Gus but doesn't have a lot of ways of showing it. He's been reduced to a little man in a wheelchair while Gus just keeps growing in power and influence. Since he happily shot Gus' lover, Max, he has to know that Gus revels in his misery.

Who was smarter Walt or Gus? ›

It is shown in the show directly that Walter White outsmarts Gus Fring. Not just Gus Fring , Walt outsmarts everyone. In the end, Gus Fring is killed by Walt White which is a clear indication Walter is smarter than Gus.

Why didn t Gus forgive Walt? ›

Over time, the relationship between Walt and Gus deteriorated significantly. Walt organized the murder of Gale, had a brother-in-law in the DEA, and was far too intelligent and arrogant for his own good. In simpler terms, Walt and Gus were far too alike as far as both wanting to be the boss and in total control.

Why is Walter White called Heisenberg? ›

Walt, the trained scientist, calls himself “Heisenberg” after the Heisenberg Uncertainly Principle by the German physicist Werner Heisenberg, who posited that the location and momentum of a nuclear particle cannot be known at the same time.

What were Hank's last words to Walt? ›

Wounded and with a gun to his head, Hank tells Walt, "You're the smartest guy I ever met, and you're too stupid to see. He made up his mind 10 minutes ago."

What disorder does Gus Fring have? ›

One way Breaking Bad captures these disorders is through the character of Gus Fring, who constantly demonstrates psychopathic tendencies. Gus is a drug distributor and former cartel member. He operates, with his partner Max Arciniega, in the guise of a manager of a fast food restaurant chain called Los Pollos Hermanos.

What did Hector say to Gus before he died? ›

Gus gloats to Hector about the death of his nephews and associate, mentioning the cryptic phone call that Hank received before the Cousins attacked him that lead to their demise. He leaves Hector to seethe impotently with a few parting words: "Sangre por sangre", blood for blood.

Are Lalo and Tuco brothers? ›

A member of the Salamanca family, Lalo is the grandson of Abuelita and one of Don Hector's nephews, having four cousins who are also involved in criminal activities within the Salamanca drug operation in the cartel: his main cousin and fellow distributor Tuco, his hitmen cousins Marco and Leonel, and his first cousin ...

Why did Lalo laugh when he died? ›

Lalo died smiling as a nod to the maniacal personality he carried throughout life, but also to stress the satisfaction he derived from having been right about Gus. The familiar, creepy smirk was one final act of rebellion. Even in his most painful moment, he refused to let Gus see a glimmer of defeat on his face.

Did Gus have a lover? ›

Since that 2011 episode of Breaking Bad, fans have long assumed that Gus and Max were romantically involved, regardless of the fact that Gus only ever referred to Max as his "partner." Now, Gould has officially confirmed the fan theory that Gus' mission to destroy the Salamancas is rooted in revenge for the murder of ...

Did Walt outsmart Gus? ›

It is shown in the show directly that Walter White outsmarts Gus Fring. Not just Gus Fring , Walt outsmarts everyone. In the end, Gus Fring is killed by Walt White which is a clear indication Walter is smarter than Gus.

Who is Gus Fring's best friend? ›

Max Arciniega was the business and romantic partner of Gustavo Fring and co-founder of the Los Pollos Hermanos franchise. He held advanced degrees in both biochemistry and chemical engineering. Max's education was financed by Gus after Gus rescued him from the slums of Santiago.

How powerful was Gus? ›

Gustavo Fring's Drug Empire, known simply as Gus' Drug Empire, was an American drug organization based in Albuquerque, New Mexico and run by drug kingpin Gustavo Fring. It was the second most powerful drug organization in United States history, being surpassed only by Walter White's Drug Empire.

Who was Hector to Gus? ›

He is also the business rival and arch-nemesis of Gus Fring, whose drive for revenge was created by Hector when he murdered his boyfriend, Max Arciniega, in front of him under Don Eladio's orders.

What happened to Ted Beneke? ›

Ted tries to escape but trips on his rug and crashes his head. It's unknown what happened to him. It's revealed in Season 5 that Ted ended up hospitalized with severe neck trauma. He has to keep his head in a huge protective brace and his head was completely shaved.

Did Walter poison the kid? ›

Later on, Walt himself admitted to Jesse that he poisoned Brock with a Lily of the Valley plant just to keep Jesse on his side in order for them to orchestrate the death of Gus Fring, but by that point, their relationship was already in shambles.

How did Hank realizes Walt is Heisenberg? ›

At dinner at the Whites, Hank goes to the bathroom and while there, pages through a copy of Leaves of Grass that Gale had given Walter. He recognizes the writing from Gale's notebook, and from Gale's dedication to Walt, is shocked to conclude that Walt is Heisenberg.

Why did the Salamanca twins crawl? ›

Cranston told Here & Now's Robin Young that the men crawling on the ground are worshippers of Santa Muerte, a dark off-shoot of Catholicism. "The Santa Muerte is a deity that does not discriminate on what your prayers or wishes are," Cranston said.

Why did Fring warn Hank? ›

Gus Fring tipped Hank off. Even though he did send the brothers to attack Hank in the first place, he warned Hank so that he would be aware of what's going on and proceed to kill them, thus wrapping up a loose end.

Who is the main villain in Better Call Saul? ›

Don Eduardo "Lalo" Salamanca is a major antagonist in the Breaking Bad franchise, serving as one of the two main antagonists (alongside Chuck McGill) of Better Call Saul and a posthumous antagonist in Breaking Bad.

How did Walt know that Gus was the guy? ›

The key scene is when Walter sits down at the restaurant, looks in the window (it's dark outside) and sees the reflection of him, and Gus. Both have short (or no) hair, and are wearing glasses, and Walt realizes that Gus fits the description.

Is Gus a human? ›

Gus was the first human-animal hybrid created at Fort Smith Labs by Birdie in a scientific experiment with live microorganisms.

Why was Walt scared of Gus? ›

Gus would have killed Walt, his family and even Jesse after he got another lab guy to learn the recipe. Gus was ruthless and would never leave any loose ends or liabilities for long. Walt knew this.

Who killed the Salamanca twins? ›

Marco shoots Hank multiple times while Hank couldn't get a decent shot because of Marco's vest. Marco wanted to kill Hank with his axe and went to get it while Hank put the bullet Marco dropped into the gun chamber and shoots him in the head which instantly killed him.

Who killed Tuco Salamanca? ›

With Tuco distracted, Jesse overpowers him and wounds him with his pistol. When they see a vehicle approaching in the distance, Walt and Jesse quickly crawl into hiding. Hank arrives at the hideout and gets into a shootout with the wounded Tuco, whom he kills in self-defense.

Was Gus Fring supposed to be a main character? ›

The character Gus Fring was created as a fill-in villain

While he'll go down in history as one of the greatest villains in television history, Gustavo "Gus" Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) was never supposed to be a part of the "Breaking Bad" story.

Was Gus Fring supposed to be in Breaking Bad? ›

Giancarlo Esposito, who played Gus Fring in both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, was originally supposed to appear in a guest spot for the hit series, but he played the Los Pollos Hermanos founder so terrifyingly well that Vince Gilligan decided to make his character a regular - and I'm so glad he did.

Who was the black guy who worked for Gus Fring? ›

Background information. Tyrus Kitt is a mysterious and ever watchful enforcer of Gus's skeleton team. He had already worked for Gus as an enforcer by the time Gus and Mike first met.

What did Don Eladio mean when he said I know who you are? ›

When his boyfriend Max is murdered, Don Eladio spares Gus' life saying “we know who you are”, meaning they understand his connections back home. If they killed Gus, there were be serious repercussions.

What made Gus evil? ›

After Max was killed in front of his eyes, the loss of such an emotional and possible romantic factor of his life snapped Gustavo into a ruthless crime lord.

Is Gus Smarter Than Walt? ›

It is shown in the show directly that Walter White outsmarts Gus Fring. Not just Gus Fring , Walt outsmarts everyone. In the end, Gus Fring is killed by Walt White which is a clear indication Walter is smarter than Gus.

Did Gus actually respect Walter? ›

This created a rift between Jesse and Gus. Walt went to Gus, essentially pleading for Jesse's life, and Gus acquiesced, agreeing to spare Jesse. He did this out of (Gus's words) "respect for" Walt. A peace was brokered. Walt and Gus were very much cooperating and had a good relationship.

Was Gus the one who called Hank? ›

It was none other than Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) who contacted Hank about an impending cartel assassination attempt, despite being the one who ordered the hit in the first place.

Why do they call Don Eladio the winking Greek? ›

The traditional Greek amulet he wears — a ward against the evil eye — earned him the nickname El Griego Guiñador, "The Winking Greek."


1. Don Eladio Origin - Most Influential And Mega Boss Of Drug Cartel In Breaking Bad & Better Call Saul
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2. Mike Ehrmantraut Origins – This Ex-Cop & U.S Marine Is Better Call Saul’s Resident Badass!
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3. I Watched Breaking Bad After Better Call Saul
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4. The Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul Universe (2008-2022) TIMELINE EXPLAINED! FULL UNIVERSE RECAP!
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5. Gus Fring: Scarier Than We Thought
6. Better Call Saul S04E06 Clip | 'Gus's Sinister Story' | Rotten Tomatoes TV
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