From the very start of Breaking Bad, the franchise has told stories about people who essentially “break bad.” That obviously started with milquetoast chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) cooking meth and creating a criminal empire after he’s diagnosed with lung cancer. Better Call Saul has continued the tradition in the sense that the prequel series shows how Jimmy McGill had gotten into law with good intentions only to wind up bending the law and becoming a friend of the cartel.
Conversely, Michael Mando’s Ignacio “Nacho” Varga has had a very different journey. Introduced in the first season of Better Call Saul, Nacho had become a fan favorite by the sixth and final season. Many viewers felt for Nacho who was originally introduced as an antagonist, a lackey to hotheaded drug dealer Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz). Once his criminal lifestyle had started to get too close to home by involving his father, Nacho had gone to great lengths with his attempts to break free from it. Ultimately, there was no escape from that world for Nacho, though the character went out on his own terms in a way that ensured his father’s safety.
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Speaking about playing Nacho in a Reddit AMA, Mando touched on Nacho’s story arc. He explains how Nacho had realized that this criminal lifestyle wasn’t for him once it was too late to go back. Mando also compares Nacho’s journey to that of Jonathan Banks’ Mike Ehrmantraut, who is heading further down this path into the criminal world as the right hand man of Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). While Mike and so many others in this universe are always breaking bad, Nacho was the character who has been breaking good.
“I believe Nacho knew quite quickly that his moral disposition wouldn’t allow him to live a life of crime. But his intelligence and charisma made him an asset to both sides and he was stuck between a rock and a hard place – essentially, man vs corporations. I believe there is mutual respect between Mike and Nacho. Though at the very end Nacho transcends that relationship and they both go separate ways. Nacho ‘breaks good’ and Mike continues into ‘Breaking Bad’.”
In another post, Mando added:
“Nacho respects and even likes Mike… I think Mike lets him down in a way – but that’s the beauty and tragedy of the characters. One transcends his archetype and ‘breaks good,’ the other gets pulled further down the slippery slope of morality and cartel life.”
And an additional answer provides more insight into Nacho’s mindset.
“I believe Nacho has been through more than most and was persistent in doing the right thing. Turn down money, power, greed, in the name of a noble and innocent life. He was human, not all 100% good – but was 100% serious about trying his best to be, given his circumstances.”
Nacho Varga Is a Better Call Saul Fan Favorite
The Nacho Varga character was created thanks to a throwaway line in Bob Odenkirk’s first episode of Breaking Bad. That episode, titled “Better Call Saul,” involves Saul Goodman getting abducted by Walter White and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) outside of his law office. Unsure of who they are when the men take Saul to a burial plot, the attorney says, “It wasn’t me, it was Ignacio! He’s the one!”
Who would have thought that one line would spawn one of the franchise’s most beloved characters.