Gustavo Fring is a mysterious individual. As one of the main antagonists on both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, fans have been equally thrilled and repulsed by the calm, controlled manner Fring employs with everyone. It doesn’t matter if he’s ordering a hit or ordering a sandwich — no matter what, Fring is always completely composed.
But for as levelheaded as Fring appears, there is a lot seething beneath the surface. He may not show emotion often. But he does feel things, especially the extreme loss of his former business partner Max Arciniega. Fring was so upset about Max’s death that fans speculate they may have been lovers — especially after Lalo’s most recent comment.
Gus Fring and his partner Max Arciniega go way back
The backstory of Breaking Bad often included flashbacks to fill in the details, like in Episode 8 of Season 4, “Hermanos.” That’s when we found out that Fring entered the drug trade alongside his business partner Max Arciniega after they founded the restaurant Los Pollos Hermanos (“The Chicken Brothers”) together.
The two men accidentally disrespected the volatile drug lord Don Eladio. Hector Salamanca reacts by shooting Max in the head while a stunned Fring absolutely loses his mind, clearly unprepared for how little provocation it takes for the cartel to murder someone.
But Fring’s dramatic reaction has some fans questioning if maybe there was more to Max and Fring’s relationship than meets the eye.
Max pleads for Gus Fring’s life before he’s killed
Just before he dies, Max frantically tries to save his partner’s life. His last words are:
“Don Eladio, Gustavo didn’t mean to offend. l know Gustavo like a brother. He’s an honorable man. The most loyal man l have ever known. He rescued me from the Santiago slums. He made me the man l am today! Gustavo is a genius. He will make you millions! Just find it in your heart to forgive him this one small mistake. Please! He’s my partner. l need him! l swear to God!”
And in the aftermath of the murder, Fring becomes obsessed with avenging Max’s death, targeting the Salamanca family specifically. It’s reasonable to believe that Fring would want revenge even if his relationship with Max was purely business. But the tenacity he pursues revenge makes everyone wonder if the two men were really romantic partners.
Lalo makes an offhand joke about Max and Fring being lovers
Fans aren’t the only ones speculating about Fring’s sexuality. In the Season 5 premiere of Better Call Saul, Lalo Salamanca tells drug cartel liaison Juan Bolsa to keep an eye on Fring because he was still angry at Hector over killing his “boyfriend” Max.
There’s a good chance Lalo was joking or exaggerating when he made that comment. But we’ve come to learn over the years that most references on Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad are very intentional. Running a drug empire doesn’t leave time for relationships, yet that doesn’t fully explain why Fring is single for the entire series. Is he mourning his one true love? Or just keeping attachments to a minimum?
We might find out more in the upcoming Episode 5 of Better Call Saul, which is called “Dedicado a Max” (Dedicated to Max). Even if these two men didn’t have a romantic love, they did love each other like brothers. Fring never stopped avenging his partner’s death until the day he died.
Catch new episodes of Better Call Saul on Monday nights a 9 ET on AMC.