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Spoilers ahead for the midseason finale of Better call Saul.
Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) has been a part of it for a long time Better call SaulThe most underrated characters. The man who, according to Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk), has “reached a level of stupidity that will last for generations” has always shown signs of being more complicated than that. As natural as he took Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) for granted during the first two seasons, he has shown an ability for surprising acts of empathy, particularly after the death of his legal partner Chuck McGill in season four; He even offered Jimmy a job at his own company Hamlin Hamlin McGill (HHM) to make amends in season five. But Howard’s generosity is often willfully misinterpreted by characters like Jimmy and Kim, who, apart from a few valid complaints, seem to hate Howard primarily because he’s an easy target.
In the midseason finale of Better call SaulIn the final season of “Plan and Execution,” Jimmy and Kim finally pulled off their complicated plan to discredit Howard, partly to force a settlement in Sandpiper Crossing’s class action lawsuit, and partly out of a petty desire to bring him down ( or 10). It was a darkly funny but devastating turn for the character – and his slur came to an even more disturbing end when the terrifying Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton) shot him in the head in the episode’s final scene. Fabian spoke to Vulture about unexpectedly moving into the violent half of the series and re-contextualizing Howard’s journey, knowing how it all ends.
I have to ask about the most important part of the episode first: the rotating can trick Howard learned from Chuck to keep a shaken soda from fizzing. Have you tried this yourself?
We didn’t do that that day. But I can almost guarantee you that people will start sending out memes saying it either works or it doesn’t work. And the problem is, I’ll get it. If it doesn’t work, it’ll be Howard’s fault, no [episode writer and director] Blame it on Tom Schnauz. That’s the price you pay.
I thought this was going to be a big episode for Howard, but I wasn’t expecting to be doing a post mortem interview here!
I’m happy about that, because the vision of the creators was realized with it. They wanted the shock value of those last 30 seconds.
I’m curious what your take on this is. Did you have the same shock moment when you first heard about the ending?
I knew I was going to retire early, I was told that before the season. I didn’t know how, I didn’t know the details, and like all seasons, it came to me script by script. So I didn’t know what was going on until 607 was canceled and I had two weeks before we started filming. But when I read it, I read it, I think, ‘Oh, those are great scenes,’ and then I get to the last page. And it’s only two-thirds of the page, but it says, “Lalo enter.” I was like, What? And then, literally half a page later, it’s over. end of episode. On the side, it kind of took my breath away. Ah, this is final. It’s like a shot in the dark when I drive away. This is the.
Have you ever shared a scene with Tony Dalton?
six years Better call Saul, and I’ve never shared a scene with a villain unless you want to say Saul Goodman is. I was on a lawyer show that has some emotional issues. I was really there. I don’t know what’s going on in the rest of the show other than those last few seconds.
As you alluded to, I often think of the show as having two halves, the attorney half and the violent crime drama half. What is it like walking into this room?
I remember watching episode four where Mike and Kim finally see each other and have a conversation. I remember getting chills like, ‘Oh, Mike and Kim are you talking now That’s something.” But my interaction with Tony is very minimal. That’s why it works. It works because it’s unexpected for me and Jimmy that he’s there. I love the fact that Tom Howard gave Lalo the line, “You Want my advice? Find better lawyers!” He’s the affable Dale Carnegie to the end, How to win friends and influence peopleeven at this moment – until he sees the gravity of what is going on and still can’t calculate it.
I always thought I had a scene with Jonathan Banks or actually Giancarlo Esposito. I thought Gus Fring and I were in a Rotary club or something in the community and I always thought they complemented each other. That didn’t happen, and that’s why I’m not a writer.
Well, I’m sure there will be some fanfiction out there. But even before that big moment, this is already Howard’s biggest episode of the series. The mediation scene is the centerpiece. What is it about this particular humiliation that really bothers Howard? It feels like he always needs to have some level of control over the environment, and he’s very precise about everything. Now he’s losing control.
Absolutely, that’s the worst. We’re in the boardroom, that’s his seat of power. Chuck overlooks us at the end of the room. I had given up my seat at the end of the table for the mediator – but that’s okay because, well, Clifford and I are going into this thinking we’re going to win. We only play the game when we already know the outcome. We are masters of the universe. That’s how we see “Poor Rich Schweikart”.
It’s funny how wanting revenge on Jimmy overrides Howard’s behavior. It overrides all of his business acumen. It overrides everything he is. That’s how much Jimmy has his hooks in him. Realizing that he’s the only one in the room who’s had all the experiences with Jimmy and Kim and Chuck, this actually makes sense. But even if I explain the facts to Cliff right now, I also understand that it doesn’t make things any better. Then I realize this is the game. The game is losing and public humiliation in front of my peers while Chuck watches in my own office. It’s like stripping naked. The fact that I have to be escorted out is the height of embarrassment. But it’s double because they are, and they got me.
How has the audience’s perception of Howard, this episode, and this season in general changed?
Each season, these writers have opened another window on Howard, which I think has also oscillated the audience’s hostility or affection or neutrality towards me. We’re finally getting Howard’s wife, Cheryl, this season. I mentioned her in therapy and the internet was like, “Cheryl? There’s a Cheryl?” The LGBTQ community opined, “It doesn’t mean anything. Don’t get excited.” [Some fans have long suspected Howard is gay. —ed.]
Howard was mostly seen wearing his armor and going to work. But now you’ll see Oh, when he takes off his suit, he’s just a person like you and me. And he has marital problems and he goes to therapy. Good for him, that’s great! But the writers are giving me the best gifts in the world: he’s going to therapy and he’s becoming a better person, but he has to put “Namaste” on his jaguar. So that’s him in a nutshell. Almost there, Howard. Nearly there.
When the crash comes and everything else happens, he gets really active. He goes to Jimmy and Kim’s apartment to say, “I see. I can’t explain this to anyone. nobody will believe me But that’s okay, ’cause you know what? I am resourceful. I will bounce off And I’ll collect everything I have. I’ll use whatever influence I’ve picked up to make sure you both have your humiliation, too.” And This is a change. This isn’t a Howard we’ve seen before. Howard would always reach out: “How can I help you? How can I help you? I’m sorry I did that. What can I help you with?” This time he comes to announce, “Don’t worry baby, I’ll be right here.” And of course he gets derailed.
When he confronted Jimmy and Kim, I agreed with most of what he said. Do you generally agree with him and his opinion of her?
I think Tom Schnauz wrote a lot of things that Howard says could be some of the same questions that are on the minds of audiences. why did are you doing it ‘Cause it feels like it’s gone a little too far What was this about again? Is it the Sandpiper money? Because it feels a lot more personal. And I think that’s it. I think Howard articulates some of the questions that audiences have, and he certainly articulates everything he’s held on to for a long time.
You talk a lot about Chuck in the episode. Her character started the show as that go-between, sort of an appendage of Chuck. You previously talked about how easily you could be written off when he left the show, but you kept going. Chuck hasn’t been alive since season three, but what lasting influence does he have on this story? What does it mean that Howard mentions him so many times in his last episode?
I think Howard probably always wondered if he could run HHM without Chuck McGill. I was the guy on the golf course who made the deals, but Chuck is the brains of the operation. That was the attitude. Which implicitly means Howard doesn’t have a brain, which isn’t true – he’s smart. He may be vain, but he’s no idiot. And I think the destruction and rebirth of HHM shows just that. The fact that he’s still holding Chuck in the boardroom with that picture, even though he left on such unkind terms — that’s a secret Howard keeps to himself. It shows there is honor and a tip of the hat. I think he’s always under Chuck’s watchful eye.
I also think I’ve become a surrogate for Jimmy’s anger at Chuck. Chuck is with HHM in all things. And by the time HHM is gone, there’s no doubt he’ll be there. I think that’s why Jimmy doesn’t take the job when I offer it to him when I say, “Chuck is a thing of the past. We’re the future.” It’s like, “The dead are the dead, we’re the living, come on man, let’s do this thing.” And Jimmy says no, that great scene where Melissa Bernstein is in season five directed as I exit the courthouse and he’s screaming behind me that he’s a god.
This is such a turning point.
Howard was washing his hands at this point. He did everything he could. And what is Jimmy really yelling at? Is he really yelling at a guy trying to get him a job? Is he yelling at Chuck? What is it about? I think there’s a lot of Chuck color in there. You know, serious deaths like this affect everyone, and they resonate. They don’t just stop and disappear. The waves of the river keep rolling.
I’m so excited to see everyone else freaking out like I did after watching the episode.
You know, I had a great way of getting on the show with that boardroom scene with Jimmy and the network Speech. On the way I have to box, Kim has to give me my ass and I can go out with Lalo, the most handsome man on TV, and shoot myself in the head. What more do I want in life?
This interview has been edited and shortened for clarity.
https://www.vulture.com/2022/05/better-call-sauls-patrick-fabian-on-howards-violent-exit.html Better call Saul’s Patrick Fabian on Howard’s violent departure