|Gustavo "Gus" Fring|
|Breaking Bad character|
|First appearance||211 "Mandala"|
|Last appearance||413 "Face Off"|
|Created by||Vince Gilligan|
|Portrayed by||Giancarlo Esposito|
Fast food restaurant chain co-founder and proprietor
|Significant other(s)||Maximino Arciniega (partner)|
Gustavo "Gus" Fring is a fictional character in the American television drama series Breaking Bad on AMC. He is portrayed by Giancarlo Esposito and was created by series creator Vince Gilligan. Gus is one of the most prominent methamphetamine distributors in the southwestern United States. He owns and operates several legitimate businesses, including a chain of successful fast food restaurants (called Los Pollos Hermanos) and an industrial laundry facility, as well as fronts for a vast and sophisticated drug operation. Gus maintains a friendly and low-key exterior; he takes an active role in managing his front businesses and personally supervises employees and serves customers at his fast food restaurants. In order to keep up appearances, Gus is a board member at a hospital in the South Valley and a booster for the DEA, and has made large donations to the agency's Albuquerque office. Beneath this philanthropic exterior, however, Gus is ruthless and Machiavellian in managing his vast drug empire. He employs a number of enforcers and has personally killed rivals and associates.
For his portrayal of Gus, Esposito won the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series at the 3rd Critics' Choice Television Awards and was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards. Paste ranked Fring number 3 in its list of the 20 Best Characters of 2011. TV Guide named him #3 in their 2013 list of The 60 Nastiest Villains of All Time.
Gus is originally from Chile. He emigrated to Mexico in the 1980s during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.[note 1] With his longtime friend and partner, Maximino "Max" Arciniega, Gus started a chicken restaurant called Los Pollos Hermanos. Max was murdered by the Juárez Cartel, leading Gus to emigrate to the United States and re-establish Los Pollos Hermanos as a chain of fast-food restaurants. Using his restaurants' supply chain as a front, Gus began distributing drugs in the American southwest on behalf of the cartel, an operation that eventually grew to encompass methamphetamine.
Gus claims to have children, yet they have never been seen onscreen and little else about his family life has been revealed. It is implied that Gus may be using an alias; neither Hank nor Mike can find any record of his existence before his arrival in Mexico. Don Eladio, the cartel's leader, mentions that he spares Gus' life only because he knows who Gus is, and warns him that he "isn't in Chile anymore"; in a flashback scene, Hector Salamanca mockingly refers to him as "Grand Generalissimo". Gilligan has stated that he purposely left Gus' origin ambiguous, comparing it to the briefcase in Pulp Fiction.
When Walter White seeks a buyer for his high-quality meth, his lawyer, Saul Goodman, puts him in contact with Gus. Walter and his partner, Jesse Pinkman, arrange a meeting with the seldom-seen Gus at a Los Pollos Hermanos restaurant, but Gus seemingly never shows up. Walter later realizes that Gus is the restaurant proprietor, and that he had purposely scheduled the meeting at his own restaurant in order to observe Walter and Jesse. Upon being confronted by Walter, Gus tells him that he is not interested in conducting business since Jesse was late and high during the meeting, and is thus potentially unreliable. Walter persuades Gus to reconsider his decision, promising that he will never have to deal with Jesse and that their product will earn him enormous returns.
Gus eventually buys 38 pounds of Walter's meth for $1.2 million; the timing of the transaction forces Walter to miss the birth of his daughter, Holly. Shortly afterward, Gus is given a tour of the DEA's Albuquerque field office, along with other local boosters. While there, he discovers that Walter is dying of lung cancer and that his brother-in-law, Hank Schrader, is a DEA agent.
Pleased with how well Walter's product has sold, Gus offers him $3 million for three months of his time. Walter, whose family life is in shambles and who has no desire to continue cooking, respectfully declines the offer. Later, Gus intervenes in a plot by the Juárez Cartel to kill Walter, narrowly saving his life. Gus finally persuades Walter to accept his offer after showing him a large-scale "superlab" housed under an industrial laundry facility that he owns, outfitted with top-of-the-line equipment and capable of producing at least 200 pounds of meth a week. He partners Walter with Gale Boetticher, a talented chemist who set up the superlab.
Gus' protection of Walter puts him at odds with the Cartel, which harbors a grudge against Walter for betraying Tuco Salamanca, Hector's nephew, who was subsequently killed by Hank, who, as a DEA agent, has been declared off-limits by the Cartel. Gus promises one of his superiors, Juan Bolsa, that the Cartel will be free to kill Walter once his cooking tenure has been completed. When Leonel and Marco Salamanca, Hector's twin nephews, object to this agreement as they do not want to wait, Gus overrides the Cartel and gives the pair permission to kill Hank instead. However, Hank manages to survive the hit after being warned by an unknown caller of the imminent attack. Hank kills Marco and critically injures Leonel. Gus later sends his enforcer, Mike Ehrmantraut, to poison Leonel in his hospital bed.
The attempted assassination of Hank causes the U.S. and Mexican governments to launch a crackdown on the cartel. Juan Bolsa, who realizes too late that Gus has engineered the entire fiasco in order to seize control of the methamphetamine market, is killed by the Mexican Federales. After learning that Hank was contacted moments before the hit, Walter makes the same conclusion and requests a meeting with Gus to discuss the future of their arrangement. Gus offers to extend their agreement to a long-term, $15 million-a-year deal, which Walter accepts. Gus lets Walter keep Jesse as his cooking partner, but makes it clear that he only tolerates him because he respects Walter's abilities.
Walter's relationship with Gus is jeopardized when Walter kills two of Gus' dealers to protect Jesse. Gus, along with Mike and Victor, meets Walt in the desert and demands that he explain himself. Walt implies that Gus ordered the dealers to kill Tomas, the eleven-year-old brother of Jesse's girlfriend Andrea, which Gus denies. Gus seemingly accepts Walter's plea to regard the episode as a "hiccup" and allow him to continue cooking meth, but re-appoints Gale as Walter's assistant. Gus visits Gale at his apartment and surreptitiously instructs him to learn Walter's formula so as to be able to cook alone should Walter die from cancer.
Walter deduces Gus' true intentions and plots with Jesse to kill Gale, as insurance against Gus killing Walt and/or Jesse. Walter surmises that any delay in production would weaken Gus' position, and that without Gale, Gus would be forced to retain Walter as the only cook capable of producing the high-quality meth needed to sustain the operation. As Walter sets out to kill Gale, he is intercepted by Victor and brought to the lab, where Mike is waiting for him. Walter convinces Mike to allow him to call Jesse, under the pretext of luring Jesse to the lab to betray him to Mike. Instead, Walter instructs Jesse to kill Gale. Victor rushes to Gale's apartment, but is too late to stop Jesse from shooting him.
In the aftermath of Gale's murder, Walter and Jesse are taken before Gus in the superlab, while Victor tries to clean up the murder scene but is forced to flee after being seen by Gale's neighbors. Gus calmly changes into a hazmat suit and, in a gruesome show of force, fatally slashes Victor's throat with a box cutter. Walter and Jesse are spared a similar punishment, although Walter knows that he has fallen out of favor with Gus and fears that he will eventually be killed. Walter decides to pre-emptively strike against Gus, illegally purchasing an untraceable snubnosed revolver for the task.
In response to Mike's concerns that Jesse's guilt-ridden recklessness could attract unwanted attention, Gus instructs Mike to take Jesse along as a passenger on a series of seemingly mundane pick-up runs around New Mexico. Aware that Jesse can't be scared into behaving, Gus instead orchestrates a fake robbery for Jesse to foil, thereby boosting his loyalty and self-esteem. Later, Jesse helps Mike retrieve stolen meth from a pair of junkies. Impressed with Jesse's mettle, Gus deems him ready to take on a greater role in the operation.
Meanwhile, Gus' conflict with the Cartel escalates. The Cartel sends several men to kidnap Gus' chemical supplier, but Mike foils the operation. They also attack Gus' delivery trucks and distribute his meth to local junkies. Gus arranges a meeting with the Cartel where he offers a one-time payment of $50 million in exchange for a settlement of grievances and a complete severance of their partnership. The Cartel refuses, reiterating its demand that Gus hand over Walter. A flashback scene reveals the origin of Gus' animosity toward the Cartel: twenty years earlier, Hector executed Gus' partner Max during a meeting with the Cartel's boss, Don Eladio Vuente.
Hank begins to suspect that Gus is involved in "blue sky" when he finds a Los Pollos Hermanos napkin among the evidence collected from Gale's apartment, knowing that Gale was a vegan. Hank retrieves Gus' fingerprints during a visit to Los Pollos Hermanos and matches them with prints found in Gale's apartment. Gus is questioned, but his explanation satisfies both the DEA and the police. Hank remains suspicious and investigates Gus on his own. Still handicapped from injuries inflicted by Leonel and Marco, Hank obliviously asks for Walter's help in attaching a tracking device to Gus' car at Los Pollos Hermanos. Gus is warned by Walter and removes the device before driving anywhere but home and the restaurant.
In an attempt to defuse tensions with the Cartel, Gus agrees to share Walter's formula. Because he does not trust Walter, Gus and Mike take Jesse to Mexico, where Jesse cooks a batch of "blue sky" in the cartel's own superlab. To Jesse's alarm, Gus seemingly agrees to have Jesse work for the Cartel on a permanent basis. However, during a party celebrating the agreement, Gus kills Don Eladio and the rest of the Cartel's leadership with a poisoned bottle of tequila. To convince Don Eladio and his crew that the tequila is safe, Gus drinks the first shot, having taken capsules that delayed the poison and allowed him to purge. Gus, Jesse, and Mike shoot their way out of Don Eladio's compound and drive to an elaborate medical tent that Gus arranged for in advance. There, Gus is treated by his private doctors and quickly recovers.
Gus deems Jesse fit to cook Walter's formula and run the superlab on his own. However, Jesse insists that he will not cook for Gus if Walter is killed. Gus' henchmen kidnap Walter and take him out to the desert, where Gus fires him, tells him that he intends to neutralize Hank, and threatens to kill his entire family if Walter attempts to interfere. Believing Gus will make good on his threat, Walter plants a car bomb in Gus' Volvo, but Gus manages to evade the trap. Meanwhile, Gus visits Hector in his nursing home and tauntingly informs him of the deaths of the rest of the Salamanca family members and the end of the Cartel, the culmination of Gus's twenty-year vendetta against the Salamancas for killing Max.
Walter learns from Jesse about Gus' visits to Hector's nursing home. Realizing that Gus and Hector are enemies, Walter visits Hector and offers him an opportunity to exact revenge on Gus. The two hatch a plot to lure Gus back to Hector's nursing home, starting with Hector paying a visit to the DEA. Gus learns about Hector's visit from Tyrus and, assuming Hector has become an informant, decides that he must be eliminated. Against Tyrus' advice, Gus visits Hector and prepares to inject him with a lethal poison. However, Hector begins ringing his bell frantically, activating a homemade bomb Walter had attached to his wheelchair earlier. Gus realizes this too late and the subsequent explosion immediately kills Hector and Tyrus. A dazed and horribly disfigured Gus walks out of Hector's room, calmly adjusts his tie, and collapses dead outside the doorway.
Initially, Giancarlo Esposito was offered a character that was described to him as "very admirable, very polite", and he decided to play that character as if he had "some kind of a secret". Without knowing what that secret was, Esposito understood the potential Gus had as a growing character, therefore rejecting offers for guest appearances and insisting on becoming a series regular. In order to achieve Gus' trademark calmness, Esposito utilized yoga techniques, which allowed him to convey the character as "being a good listener". The humanity of Gus' personality played an integral role in his development, especially the very deep relationship with Max, which was interpreted by some viewers – and even Esposito himself – as possibly romantic. The loss of Max contributed to Gus' evolution into a ruthless criminal; he stops at nothing to avenge Max's death, including the gradual killing of Hector's entire family. However, the loss of Max is also what cultivated Gus' desire to create a new "family" by empowering his meth empire, as well as the chicken restaurants. Gilligan has stated that he decided against the show officially confirming or denying whether or not Max and Gus were, in fact, lovers; however, he also said that they "probably were lovers".
Even moments before dying, Gus manages to calmly adjust his tie, even after having half his face blown off. Esposito saw it as an important gesture of "when a person goes to what they’ve always done", in order "to be complete in his leaving this world." Gus' death scene has made an impact on fans of the series, who compared his face to that of Two Face as seen in the film The Dark Knight; some proceeded to create Halloween masks and T-shirts. His popularity, as well as his importance to the series' development, made room for possible "flashback" type appearances in future episodes, but that idea never came to fruition.
- Gus left Chile in 1986, the same year in which the Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front attempted to assassinate Pinochet. Although there are no existing Chilean records of Gus, there are two instances which demonstrate his likely involvement in the Pinochet government: Hector Salamanca refers to Gus as "Grand Generalissimo," and Don Eladio tells Gus that he is "not in Chile anymore" but spares his life because he knows who Gus really is.
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