Sunday, March 20, 2016

TV Watch: "Tio" Salamanca talks! Or, how much are we loving Season 2 of "Better Call Saul"?


Look who's back! In case you were wondering, no, in the future, which is to say in Breaking Bad times, Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) and "Tio" (Mark Margolis) never did meet -- or never do meet? (It's hard to get the verb tenses right.)

by Ken

Okay, I'm reminded in the interview we're going to get to with that great character actor Mark Margolis that in Breaking Bad we actually did see Hector "Tio" Salamanca, the onetime cartel-kingpin uncle of the terrifying Tuco Salamanca, talk: in flashback. And I confess that when -- late in last week's Episode 5 of Season 2 of Better Call Saul, "Rebecca" -- a hatted gentleman strolled into the diner and slid into the booth opposite the still-visibly-battered Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), it took me a moment to recognize the younger self of one of the iconic Breaking Bad characters.

When last we saw "Tio," late in Season 4 of Breaking Bad --

He was still mute and virtually paralyzed in his wheelchair, with only those amazing eyes -- and of course the finger on his goddamned little bell -- to show us that there was something going on, and possibly a whole lot going on, inside his head.

There was a little surprise in store for arch-villain Gus "The Chicken Guy" Fring (played so gorgeously by Giancarlo Esposito), come to dispose of "Tio."


Even on second viewing, it wasn't until after "Tio" started talking to Mike that I recognized him. No doubt other Breaking Bad-aware viewers were quicker on the uptake, but whenever the moment of "Tio" recognition came for any particular viewer, how magical that moment was likely to be! Possibly even better than the moment in the series premiere when we suddenly found ourselves face-to-face with none other than the younger Tuco Salamanca, as gamely re-(pre-)created by The Closer and Major Crimes' Det. Julio Sanchez, Raymond Cruz. Cruz, as you probably know, is reported to have found playing the monstrous meth-addled Tuco so stressful ("frighteningly lethal" is how his IMDb bio aptly describes the character) that he implored the Breaking Bad creative team to set him free, leading to the terrifying Tuco's untimely demise.

What was so stressful about playing the terrifying Tuco?

Hey, it's just acting, right? Or --

Um, nobody ever accused Breaking Bad's Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) of being overly bright, but really, going into Tuco's lair alone and expecting to dictate terms to him? How much imagination did it take to see where that was likely to lead?


How can you not love that jaunty hat on the "young" Hector S?

I've made frequent mention of the lovely online features with which AMC backs up its shows,  even the many crummy ones. Following the airing of the episode "Rebecca," I was delighted to find an interview with "Tio" himself, Mark Margolis. In case you missed it:

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