Defending Lalo Salamanca for the murder of innocent bystander Fred Whalen is the start of Jimmy’s transformation into Saul Goodman in Better Call Saul
While Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton) is arrested and put on trial for the murder of Fred Whalen (James Austin Johnson) during season 5 of Better Call Saul, it’s easy to forget exactly who Whalen is and why Lalo killed him, given that the minor character only appeared in a single episode from season 4. Introduced in the episode “Winner,” Fred Whalen was the innocent bystander and TravelWire agent who happened to get caught in the middle of the war between the Salamanca drug empire and Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito).
Despite having a minor role in season 4, Fred Whalen created an opportunity for Fring to remove Lalo from his leadership role within the Salamanca drug empire. In season 5 of Better Call Saul, Fring has Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) implicate Lalo in Whalen’s murder during the episode “Wexler v. Goodman,” placing Lalo in jail where he can no longer interfere with the expansion of Fring’s drug empire. By posing as both a private investigator and a detective, Mike indirectly provides the police with enough evidence, including a witness statement and a hit-and-run police report, to place Lalo’s car within range of the scene of the crime on the day of Whalen’s murder. While his death may have led to long-term consequences for Lalo, such as being arrested and forced to flee to the Mexico border, Lalo’s encounter with Whalen was entirely coincidental.
SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAY
Related: Better Call Saul: How Old Jimmy Is In The Prequel, Breaking Bad & As Gene
In the season 4 episode “Winner,” Lalo kills Whalen because he happened to work at the TravelWire office Werner Ziegler (Rainer Bock) visited. After Ziegler fled Fring’s warehouse, Mike tracked his movements to the TravelWire office where he picked up a money transfer from his wife in Germany. Pretending that Ziegler was a lost family member afflicted with dementia, Mike convinced Whalen to show him the surveillance tapes of Ziegler’s visit, which revealed that Ziegler planned to meet his wife at a hotel. Tailing Mike to the TravelWire office, Lalo also interrogates Whalen, but is unable to convince him to share the same information. When Whalen is distracted, Lalo breaks into the front desk by crawling through the ceiling. While the viewers never actually see Lalo kill Whalen, his feet can be seen lying motionless on the floor, insinuating that Lalo shot him with his gun shortly after entering the enclosure.
Fred Whalen’s Tragic Death Due To Lalo Salamanca Explained
Since Whalen wasn’t involved with the cartel, Lalo only killed Whalen because he was an obstacle that kept him from uncovering Fring’s movements. When Whalen became suspicious of Lalo and refused to disclose any further details about Mike or Ziegler’s visit, Lalo opted to take the information by force, deeming Whalen’s life insignificant in comparison to the opportunity to gain an advantage over Fring. Despite meeting Fring for the first time in the previous episode “Wiedersehen”, Lalo already hated Fring due to the bad blood between him and Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis), his uncle whom he greatly admires. Since Whalen was the only thing preventing Lalo at the time from potentially gaining information that could oust Fring from the Juárez Cartel, Whalen’s life was a small price to pay in order to take down “The Chilean” his uncle has always loathed.
Since the scene involving Whalen’s death bears some similarities to the incident at Hotel Tulipan, a story Lalo and Hector reminisce about at Casa Tranquila, the events at TravelWire also hint that Lalo’s actions are motivated by a respect for his uncle and the power he wields under the Salamanca name. During the incident at Hotel Tulipan, Hector tortured the hotel owner and burned down his business because the man was disrespectful to him. Similarly, after Whalen disrespected him by turning him away from the TravelWire office, Lalo killed him and burned down the establishment, which subtly indicates that Lalo’s main goal was to pay homage to his uncle’s legacy.
How Fred Whalen’s Death Had A Surprising Impact On Better Call Saul’s Story
While Fred Whalen may have appeared to be a rather minor character whose life was disconnected from the Juárez Cartel and Jimmy McGill’s (Bob Odenkirk) law practice, his death was actually the catalyst for Jimmy’s transformation into the criminal lawyer Saul Goodman within season 5 of Better Call Saul. While Jimmy has previously represented low-level members of the cartel in the past, acting as Lalo’s lawyer and bagman officially made Jimmy a “friend of the cartel.” It was getting caught up in Lalo’s murder trial and the events that followed which cemented Jimmy’s position as more than a sideline player. There’s still half a season of Better Call Saul season 6 to come, but already the domino chain of events that started when Lalo entered that TravelWire has led Jimmy down a much darker path than helping small-time criminals shave time off their sentences ever would.
Related: Better Call Saul: Mid-Season 6 Finale Ending Explained
Fred Whalen’s death seemed more significant with every episode of season 6. Representing Lalo Salamanca didn’t just bring Jimmy closer to the Albuquerque criminal underworld in a professional sense. It made him question his own moral integrity, and the lengths he was willing to go to protect his own interests. The answers he found throughout season 6 are arguably what propelled him across the final leg of his journey from the Jimmy McGill of Better Call Saul into the Saul Goodman who’s approached by Walter White in season 2 of Breaking Bad.
More: Better Call Saul: Why Jimmy Is Working In A Cinnabon (As Gene)
Better Call Saul season 6 part 2 airs on AMC 07/11/2022
Obi-Wan Kenobi Season 2 Possibility Addressed By Star Wars Director