Warning: Contains SPOILERS for Better Call Saul season 6, episode 3.
Content warning: This article contains discussion of suicide.
Nacho Varga (Michael Mando) kills himself in Better Call Saul season 6, episode 3’s ending, a shocking decision that links into his entire character arc and changes the show’s future. Nacho is one of the Better Call Saul characters missing from Breaking Bad, which means he’s long been seen as someone who will eventually have to die. That’s certainly fit with his story so far as well, as Nacho has increasingly got in deep with the cartel and found himself up against a number of problems on all sides, with no real chance of escape either way.
That’s something Better Call Saul season 6 has continued, with Nacho stuck in Mexico after his failed assassination of Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton). With the Salamancas chasing him, and Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) happy for him to be killed, Better Call Saul season 6, episode 3’s title, “Rock and Hard Place,” perfectly sums up the dire situation he’s in. Nacho manages to buy himself some leverage with the threat of telling the Salamancas that Gus was behind the Lalo plot if they capture him, but that only serves to get him back across the border and his dad to safety.
Otherwise, Nacho’s time is up. Not even Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) can fix this mess, and so it’s agreed that Nacho will take the fall, but things don’t go according to plan. Instead of sticking to Gus’ script, Nacho takes matters into his own hands and, in Better Call Saul season 6, episode 3’s ending, takes his own life too, a haunting end to one of the show’s best characters.
Gus’ Nacho Plan Explained
With Nacho backed into a corner, so too is Gus. The chaos caused by Gus’ attempt to kill Lalo, fuelling tensions with the Salamancas, and Nacho’s fate all ultimately rests upon his decision making, which then means it’s something he has to fix. Had Nacho died in Mexico as he hoped, then life would’ve been a lot easier; Gus can no longer simply kill Nacho now, because it would result in Mike turning against him, as well as showing him in a situation he can’t control, when Gus likes to present himself as the cool, calm individual who is always a few steps ahead. That means Gus has to find a way out of the mess that works best for everyone: in this case, it’s Nacho agreeing to say he was working for a rival gang. This would satisfy Juan Bolsa (Javier Grajeda) and the Salamancas inquiry into Lalo’s supposed death (though it’s faked) while at the same time diverting any attention or suspicion away from Gus and his men; the only “loser” among Better Call Saul‘s characters is Nacho, who has to die, but he at least gets to ensure his father’s safety.
Why Nacho Goes Against Gus’ Plan
At first, Nacho goes along with Gus’ plan, seemingly making peace with his death because of the knowledge that it will at least save his father. But in Better Call Saul season 6, episode 3’s ending, something inside of Nacho changes, meaning he can no longer stick to the script. Not that Nacho goes completely against what Gus had laid out – although it seems close at points, he very much avoids pointing any fingers at Gus himself, instead doubling-down on the idea that “the chicken man” could in no way be responsible. For Nacho, it’s a way to have his cake and eat it, a far more satisfying last meal than the dry chicken he’s served up earlier on.
Over the course of Better call Saul, Nacho has becoming increasingly resentful and even hateful of the game he’s been forced into, unable to escape his life of crime, despite the fact he’s a good person at heart, because of the hold these people have over him. With Bolsa questioning him, Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) looking on, and Gus calling the shots, it all becomes too much for Nacho, who instead realizes this is his last opportunity to do tell these people what he really thinks; that if he’s going to die, he should do it with nothing left unsaid, because there’s nothing to lose anymore so long as his father his safe. He even gets to take shots at Gus, without jeopardizing his father’s life because he doesn’t incriminate him, meaning he really does go out swinging.
Why Nacho Kills Himself In Better Call Saul Season 6 Episode 3
All of that leads into one of the most shocking moments in the show’s history, as Nacho kills himself in Better Call Saul season 6, episode 3’s ending. Even up to the point he pulls the trigger, it feels like there’s going to be another twist: that Mike, who is watching on through the scope of his own gun, will make a save, or that something else will happen. But no, Nacho takes his own life in the end, which relates to just how trapped he was, both in this specific moment, and in his life generally. Whether Nacho went into that meeting having already decided to take his own life is unclear, but it seems more like it was a response to the presence of people he hates and the words they said.
In particular, it’s Juan Bolsa who gives the words that best explain Nacho’s fate in Better Call Saul: “There are good deaths and bad deaths.” That itself is telling, because there’s no third option: for Nacho, at that point, there had to be death. But he could choose, and the one offered up by Gus and Bolsa was not, in his mind, a “good death.” But the ending he gets? To look Hector in the eye and tell him the truth, with him unable to do anything about it; to stab Juan Bolsa and refuse to be killed running away; to get one over on Gus; to take a final, brief victory and go out on his own terms? That, for Nacho, at this time and in this moment, is something he sees as a “good death.”
Why Did Better Call Saul Season 6 Kill Nacho So Early?
Looking at it from an out-of-universe perspective, then Nacho’s death in Better Call Saul season 6, the show’s last, perhaps feels even more surprising. It’s not that Nacho has died, because that has long seemed inevitable, given how far his story has taken him into the battle between Gus and the Salamancas. It’s not that Nacho killed himself, either, because that fits with what’s known for his character, and a refusal to let others dictate his life any longer. But to kill Nacho in just the third episode of the final season, with another 10 installments to come? That may be the biggest shock of all.
From the point-of-view of creators Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan, then killing Nacho so early serves a few purposes: it’s a major death that creates a real sense of shock and momentum, while establishing that no one – save those characters viewers know are in Breaking Bad – is safe. But it also makes sure that Nacho’s death truly matters. The character had been written into a corner anyway, and so had to die at some point; perhaps it is better to do it now, when the reverberations of his loss can be fully explored and felt across those remaining 10 episodes, than to do so in Better Call Saul‘s series finale and the weight of that not been seen.
What Nacho’s Death Means For Better Call Saul Season 6
Nacho’s death at the end of Better Call Saul season 6, episode 3 is the spark that will truly ignite the cartel side of the story in the show’s final season. In terms of an immediate impact, it has at least spared Gus from the glare of the Salamancas, but when Lalo reveals himself to be alive then it’s likely only going to become a bigger issue for him to deal with. And since Mike had to go along with the plan too, then there could be further tensions there, since he quite clearly cared a lot about Nacho. That will weigh heavily upon Mike, and better explains why he protects Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) so much in Breaking Bad, because he can’t go through that again, having already lost his own son, had to kill Werner Ziegler (Rainer Bock), and now watched Nacho die.
For Gus, it’s a sign that he needs to get things in order: there have been cracks starting to show with the Los Pollos Hermanos owner in Better Call Saul season 6, such as the broken glass in the previous episode; now, with Nacho going against his plan and Juan Bolsa being stabbed, there is even greater pressure and scrutiny upon him, and how he reacts to that, and what moves he decides to make against Lalo and the other Salamancas, could determine much of how the story plays out.
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