‘Better Call Saul’: Patrick Fabian on Howard’s Tragic Turn in ‘Heavy’ Midseason Finale

Better Call Saul Season 6 Patrick Fabian
Spoiler Alert
Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 6, Episode 7 of Better Call Saul, “Plan and Execution.”]

Better Call Saul delivered a shocking midseason finale installment at the expense of one of its purest characters: Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian).

The accomplished lawyer became more than the butt of the joke in Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Kim’s (Rhea Seehorn) scheme against him, he also became collateral damage. After managing to make him look like a mad man in front of his HHM colleagues and Sandpiper case collaborators, Jimmy and Kim find Howard at their door later that evening with booze in hand.

Better Call Saul Season 6 Episode 7 Tony Dalton Patrick Fabian

(Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television)

Offering them the bottle, he goes to congratulate them on making him look bad, but he vows that he’ll get back up. Sadly, the promise will never become a reality as Howard wasn’t the only visitor at Jimmy and Kim’s apartment. Lalo (Tony Dalton) shows up, seeking some counsel from his lawyers, one of which is shocked to see him. For Howard though, confusion sets in as he tries to figure out who Lalo is. Instead of heeding Kim’s advice to leave the apartment, Howard catches a bullet in the head when Lalo’s unpredictability takes hold.

Below, Fabian opens up about his character’s shocking demise, thoughts on Howard’s words for Jimmy and Kim, and much more.

How are you feeling? How are you doing now that the big reveal is finally out there?

Patrick Fabian: It’s funny, Michael Mando actually called me about five days ago and said, “Hey, it’s different when it actually happens. Call me a couple of days after it happens, when it really sinks in.” And I was like, “Oh, what’s he talking about?” Because intellectually, I understand what’s going to go on, but he’s not wrong. There is a difference when it actually airs and you’re like, “Oh, it’s over.” The finality of it all, both as a character and actor became crystal clear with one shot from handsome Lalo Salamanca if you know what I’m saying?

Better Call Saul Season 6 Patrick Fabian

(Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television)

How far in advance were you told about Howard’s death and is there a chance we might see him pop up in a flashback before the series is through?

The show certainly does do time shifts quite a lot. So I won’t venture whether we see Howard up and about anymore at this point. I think we’re just going to marinate with what we just saw. But I will say, I was notified of this before the season even began. Melissa Bernstein, Vince [Gilligan], and Peter [Gould] called to let me know. They didn’t know how it was happening, they just knew that something was going on. And that was it. After that conversation, I forgot it because we didn’t talk about [it again]. And so I didn’t tell my wife. I didn’t tell Rhea [Seehorn] and Bob [Odenkirk].

Really?

They didn’t know. But when they found out, they were like, “Have you told Patrick?” And the [writers were] like, “Yeah, we told Patrick like six months ago.” It wasn’t until I read [Episode] 607 that I got to the end, as I’m reading it, I’m like, “Wow, there’s an awful lot of Howard here. Boy, he’s really talking. Oh, this is a good scene. Oh, this is cool. I get to work with Cliff again. Yay, yay. Oh, I’m back in there. Well, look at me. I’m giving Kimmy and Jimmy their comeuppance… Oh, what’s Lalo doing in here?” And then like a third of a page later, “Whoa.” I closed the script and my heart was pounding. I think that effect of reading it is exactly what we ended up seeing on the screen.

Better Call Saul Season 6 Patrick Fabian as Howard Hamlin

(Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television)

Howard has shown such restraint over the seasons, but he didn’t in this situation. If he could feel regret over losing that restraint to go visit Jimmy and Kim’s apartment, would he?

I think he stewed on it exactly as long as he was going to. At that point, everything involves what Jimmy and Kim have done to him. But Howard’s the only one who really knows that. Howard’s the only one who has that privileged information. He’s the only one who knows the Chuck (Michael McKean) thing that bonds them. They’re like a bad family. And so, at that point, Howard knows that he has no options. He has lost indeed. And so, at that point, he realizes the one thing he is going to do is destroy their reputation, which is so not a Howard Hamlin thing to do, but they’ve driven him to it.

He wants to go over and let them know. I even say in that lovely script by Tom Schnauz, “Yeah, don’t worry. You’re right. I’ll get back up again. I know how to dig myself out of a hole.” So his confidence of what he’s going to do, which is destroy Jimmy and Kim, that’s what he’s going to do. It’s just a case of wrong place, wrong time. I also love Tom’s script, because when I’m like, “Who are you?”, [to Lalo], he’s like, “No one. I just want to talk to my lawyers.” Howard gets to say the great line of, “Oh, really? Want some advice? Get better lawyers.”

The minute Lalo walks in though, you just know that it’s over for Howard. You just have that gut feeling. What was it like putting the scene together? Was the tension palpable or do you and your costars keep it light behind the scenes?

We take our work seriously, but we do have fun in between and stuff like that. But it was a heavy day in a lot of ways because of the material, and also we knew it was my last day. So when it gets to that moment, the claustrophobia of having our faces really tight with Lalo coming in and stuff like that gives the audience the sense of menacing. And when you’re doing it, it is menacing because we’re playing for real. We’re not half ass-ing it when it comes to our work.

Better Call Saul Season 6 Patrick Fabian

(Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television)

And so when he enters, what was hard for me as an actor in one respect is knowing what was going on action-wise to still be in that mindset of Howard laying out his stuff with Kim and Jimmy, and he really is interrupted. He’s so distracted that he doesn’t do what Howard Hamlin would do, which is [introduce himself]. He’s still off his game. And so when Tony [Dalton] comes in, I remember not wanting to be afraid like the [way they’re] afraid. I mean, Jimmy’s seeing a ghost.

So I think, keeping in that moment, there was no menace for me until the gun comes out. And Howard’s not a guy who has firearms. He doesn’t play around with that at all. He looks at that and he gets his wits about him way too late.

When Howard mentions having troubles at home on top of being sabotaged, do you think Jimmy and Kim feel any sense of regret for their actions?

Yeah. I think Kim is the one… he turns to Kim and says, “But you had so much potential.” When he recognizes that thing, he says, “Oh, you have a piece missing.” What a horrible thing to say to somebody. And he says it to Kim. Jimmy’s included by proxy, but he’s saying it to Kim. He’s saying, “oh, you’re damaged.” She also recognizes that there’s something amiss. Rhea Seehorn has played the struggle of Kim Wexler being in love with Jimmy so exquisitely, and it pays off in a moment like that, where someone is actually sort of inside of her head, teasing out those thoughts and reflecting.

Better Call Saul Season 6 Bob Odenkirk Rhea Seehorn

(Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television)

So in terms of guilt, I think she shores herself up in that scene to be like, “Nope, get out. You’re wrong. We made the right choice.” And that would be something for her to contemplate later. But again, it all goes wildly awry. And so the contemplation is now literally lying at their feet, bleeding out of his head. When I say I’m sleeping in the guest house, they have a look that passes between them that feels like a, “Oh, I didn’t know that.”

Yeah, like that information would’ve changed their course of action.

Yeah, because Jimmy is like, “Don’t worry, you always get back up on your feet.” I mean, I think part of the rationalization is that Howard always gets back on his feet. In Jimmy’s mind, those people like Chuck and I always win. They got the game rigged in that respect. And in that moment of saying like, “Oh, guess what? You don’t know everything about Howard. He’s this,” that gives them pause for a second, but a little too late.

What has your initial reaction been to fan responses over Howard’s surprising death?

There is a shock. It’s great. These writers have given me such gifts from all these seasons and these last couple of episodes in particular, and Tom Schnauz’s episode last night specifically. I think they allowed the fans to also feel like Jimmy and Kim, because they’ve been rooting with them, but I think even in this season, there’s a bit of, “What are they doing this for?”

Better Call Saul Season 6 Patrick Fabian

(Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television)

Howard gives voice to that. So when he does abruptly get taken out for no other reason than being in the wrong place at the wrong time, the shock value is huge. People have been very gracious and kind. I’ve been proud and excited about seeing people saying how they hated him, then they didn’t, and then they hated him again, and then they came around. I think that’s a tip of the hat to the writers who gave me such wonderful things to be able to do each and every season that made the character not a stock villain but allowed him to have more depth.

Before Howard is shot, he tells Jimmy and Kim that they’re soulless. Is that really the case or are his words just meant to wound?

Howard’s trying to hurt. Howard is using his words absolutely, specifically, because he plays by the rules. He may be vain, he may be a narcissist, he may be the kind of guy who gets good therapy and puts a Namaste plate on his Jaguar. That’s okay, he has his foibles, but he’s striving and he’s trying, and he doesn’t understand this not playing by the rules at all. The bowling balls, the hookers, the whole nine yards; “what is this?”

'Better Call Saul': Jimmy & Kim's Scheme Blows Minds in 'Plan and Execution' (RECAP)See Also

'Better Call Saul': Jimmy & Kim's Scheme Blows Minds in 'Plan and Execution' (RECAP)

Plus, Lalo has a plan up his sleeve in the midseason finale.

And so, therefore, “How do you hurt these people?” He’s telling them how he is going to hurt them, but first, it’s the idea of, they are soulless. Because he can’t comprehend, what would drive them to do that to him? What has he done other than extend his hand in either money, jobs, apologies, and taking the responsibility for the death of Chuck, which Jimmy says, if you recall, “I guess that’s your cross to bear, Howard.”

Right.

So Howard goes to therapy for a crime he didn’t even commit. That’s who he is. So guess who is soulless? These people. He doesn’t understand what they’re getting from it. So, again, Tom Schnauz gave Howard words to hurt, and they landed, without a doubt.

Better Call Saul, Season 6 Returns, Monday, July 11, 9/8c, AMC