‘Better Call Saul’ Star on Howard’s Meltdown, Playing the Villain and That Flashback

Spoiler alert: Do not read until you’ve watched episode 406 of “Better Call Saul,” titled “Pinata.”

As a prequel to “Breaking Bad,” AMC’s hit series “Better Call Saul” relishes in playing with time, jumping forward and back in the characters’ lives.

So while Chuck (Michael McKean) died in the season finale, it was inevitable that we would see the character again. And in the teaser to Monday’s episode, titled “Pinata,” Chuck made his comeback — a flashback to the early days of Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Kim’s (Rhea Seehorn) time at the law firm Hamlin Hamlin McGill, learning the ropes as young lawyers. And while the scene served to offer a sharp contrast between Jimmy and Kim’s approach to the law (no surprise that Kim had done her homework!), Chuck’s partner, Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian), was on hand as a witness, setting up a sharp contrast of his own. We got to see the slick, confident Hamlin once again, a far cry from his teary breakdown in the men’s room last week.

Fabian says it’s been a treat this season to watch the ever-increasing moments from “Breaking Bad,” particularly last week’s episode which opened with Saul’s frantic escape. “People went nuts! And I get excited to see the show because half the show is in a play that I’m not even in,” he says. “I watch it, and I’m like, what’s going on in this dirty desert? Good lord!”

Here, Fabian talks to Variety about whether Howard can return to form, Kim’s dance with the devil, and whether Chuck will make another comeback.

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‘Better Call Saul’ star explains the story behind that f-bomb

by Michael Starr

Warning: This story contains spoilers from episode “Pinata” of “Better Call Saul.”

Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) finally told off Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) with an f-bomb in Monday night’s episode of “Better Call Saul” — as Howard continued to spiral into an abyss of self-loathing.

“From the very first episode, when Jimmy burst into Howard’s boardroom and did that ‘Network’ speech on him, I think this ‘f-you’ has been boiling since then,” Fabian says of the scene, in which Jimmy noted the usually fastidious Howard’s disheveled appearance. “You’re a s–tty lawyer, Howard,” he said to him, “but you’re a great salesman” — triggering Howard’s explosive retort.

The sartorial Howard, with his fancy suits and gold tie bars, has been virtually unflappable since Day 1. But this season he’s been crushed by guilt following the suicide of his emotionally disturbed ex-law partner — and Jimmy’s brother — Chuck McGill (Michael McKean), whom Howard fired in last season’s finale. He tried to make amends with Jimmy, who told him Chuck’s suicide was his “cross to bear.”

“From the beginning, Howard has done everything to help Jimmy along,” says Fabian, 53. “He’s given him jobs, given him breaks, shielded him from Chuck, tried to take the guilt of his brother’s suicide off of him. And this is Jimmy’s response?

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Better Call Saul Q&A — Patrick Fabian


Patrick Fabian, who plays Howard Hamlin on AMC’s Better Call Saul, discusses how Howard’s grief spirals out of control, his anger towards Jimmy, and his last gift to Chuck.

Q: Reflecting on the end of last season, where do you think Howard’s head was at coming into this season — before Chuck‘s death?

A: Howard and Chuck have always had a relationship of shared manners. They both viewed the world in the same way: They were scotch drinkers, they knew who was in power, there was a world they existed in. When he dips into his own account and his own personal money in order to rid himself of Chuck, it’s the equivalent of taking a sledgehammer to him. That means that what Chuck has done to Howard [hurt] him so deeply that he reacted. I think at the end of the season, there’s a thought in Howard’s brain of, “OK, that was bad. It was terrible. I was saving HHM, but after six months, maybe cooler heads will prevail.” But of course we never get that chance because of the events that occur. We open this season on the ramifications and finger pointing and who’s responsible.

Q: What do you think Howard’s first reaction was when he heard about Chuck’s demise? 

A: I think immediately there’s a stab of guilt. What he says to Jimmy and Kim in Episode 1 is exactly what runs through his brain when that happens initially, but Howard Hamlin being Howard Hamlin, it merely gets pushed to the side because now there are things to be done. If indeed he’s dead, which I assume he is when I get the call, then I need to alert a certain chain of people. I need to get to Jimmy, all of these things have to be taken care of. I already know that I’m most likely his executor. I think Hamlin would go into work mode. Some people break down and they can’t do anything and they can’t eat. I think Hamlin would be the exact opposite. He would be responsible for things especially – and ironically – because Chuck would not be there to deal with these responsibilities. I think Howard would kick into care-taking mode as Howard knows how to.

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