Tuco Salamanca only lasts two seasons in Breaking Bad but he does enough to make him stand out as one of the best fictional villains of the 21st century. The high-ranking Juarez Cartel member heads the Albuquerque branch of the Mexican drug empire and during his time as boss, he earns a reputation for being ruthless beyond what is considered reasonable.
Though he is violent towards everyone else, Tuco respects Walt because of his rare intelligence and guts. He gets killed off quite quickly but his journey is explored once again in the prequel series Better Call Saul. Before his death in the original series, he says some pretty outrageous and interesting things.
10 “I Like Doing Business With A Family Man. There’s Always A Lot Of Collateral.”
Plan B’s often come in handy in the underworld, so Hank’s efforts to round up members of the Juarez Cartel’s Albuquerque branch don’t bother Tuco at all. He makes plans to take Jesse and Walt to Mexico so that they can continue cooking for the cartel. After all, their skills are far too valuable.
He is sure that Walt won’t resist this move because he has a wife and son. If he tries to do anything stupid, the cartel will simply go after his family. Well, this threat really doesn’t stop Walt from teaming up with Jesse to do something stupid moments later.
9 “Sometimes You Got To Rob To Keep Your Riches.”
Jesse’s first encounter with Tuco counts as one of the worst business meetings of all time. Shortly after Krazy-8’s death, Skinny Pete (who served time with Tuco) introduces Jesse to the big-bad Juarez Cartel dealer. Jesse demands $35,000 cash upfront for the product during the meeting but Tuco refuses.
Jesse thus tries to run away but he is caught and brutally beaten. Tuco then takes the product. An angry Walt later goes to Tuco’s base by himself and demands $50,000. When Tuco refuses, Walt blows up the place using a crystalline nugget. The action humbles Tuco who explains that taking Jesse’s product and not paying was all part of the game. No hard feelings.
8 “Heisenberg Says Relax. I’m Relaxed.”
Part of being a baddie is instilling fear in associates and enemies. Tuco’s henchman No-Doze thus gets carried away after Walt and Jesse deliver the product at the junkyard. He warns them to never forget who they are working for. This angers Tuco because he didn’t give No-Doze permission to speak.
Tuco thus begins yelling at the henchman, telling him he’s disrespecting his partners. A concerned Walt tells Tuco to calm down but the drug lord finds it funny. Seconds after insisting he is relaxed, he begins raining blows on No-Doze.
7 “Blue, Yellow, Pink. Whatever, Man. Just Keep Bringing Me That.”
In his business, Tuco has learned to be a bit skeptical. Enemies can fool you at any moment. Understandably, when Walt hands him meth that is blue compared to the clear one he had been shown before, he questions the change in color. He feels he is being shortchanged.
A calm Walt explains that the change in color is all due to a new ingredient that he was testing. Tuco likes the meth and instructs him to keep bringing it. He doesn’t care what color it is. From there on, the blue meth becomes Walt’s signature product.
6 “Tell Me What You Did!”
Walt and Jesse have family and friends in Albuquerque so it isn’t a surprise to see them disgruntled when Tuco informs them he’ll be taking them to Mexico to cook. Tuco is unhinged and they have no desire to continue working with him. As they wait for The Cousins to come and pick them, they decide to poison the drug lord using ricin.
Tuco’s uncle Hector Salamanca notices what is going on. Though he can’t speak, he tries to use his bell to warn Tuco. Realizing something is wrong, Tuco begins interrogating the duo. In an impressive show of courage, Walt calls him a degenerate piece of filth and confesses that they were going to kill him because they hate the kind of person he is.
5 “Talk Is Talk. But Owing Me Money, That’s Bad.”
The partnership between Walt, Jesse, and Tuco is mostly characterized by violence but there are a few moments when they do business like gentlemen. During one of the exchanges, Walt hands over two pounds less than what he had promised. Tuco is disappointed but Walt blames it on production problems.
He even goes ahead to ask Tuco for more money as an investment. The drug lord is impressed by Walt’s courage so he loans him money at 25% weekly interest. Walt promises more and this time Tuco warns him to not fail on his promise otherwise there will be consequences.
4 “Are You Saying That I’m Stupid? Is That It? Is That What You’re Doing?”
The dressing down that Tuco gives No-Doze before he beats him to death is quite iconic because it shows just how deranged he is. The scene is definitely inspired by the nightclub scene in Goodfellas where Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) gives Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) a dressing down for laughing at his jokes.
In the Breaking Bad scene, Tuco wonders why No-D0ze bothered to talk in the first place. He concludes that the henchman thinks of him and his partners as stupid, which is clearly not the case. No-Doze’s efforts to explain himself fall on deaf ears as violence soon follows.
3 “I Hate Chili Powder!”
Killing Tuco proves to be a harder task than Jesse and Walt anticipated. At the desert cabin, the duo tries to poison the drug lord using ricin. They figure out the best way to do it is to make it seem like a new type of meth so that he can sniff it. Jesse informs Tuco that he and Walt have been working on a new formula and it’s the best thing he’ll ever come across in his life.
The mention of a new ingredient makes Tuco curious so he asks what it is. Jesse states that it’s chili powder and that turns out to be the deal-breaker. Tuco hates chili powder.
2 “Do Something! You’re Smart, Right? Do That Thing!”
Since Walt has proven that he is a genius who can cook unique meth, Tuco expects him to perform miracles and save No-Doze’s life after he beats him till he’s unconscious. He doesn’t get the fact that Walt is a chemist, not a doctor.
The drug lord orders Walt to do something to save the henchman’s life. Unfortunately, No-Doze is already dead. Even if Walt had medical knowledge, there is nothing he can do about the situation.
1 “It’s Your Ride… I Ain’t Gotta Clean Jack.”
The minutes after Tuco realizes he was about to be poisoned are quite tense since viewers aren’t sure who is going to die. Tuco prepares to kill Jesse but the former juvenile delinquent isn’t planning to go to the afterlife quietly.
Jesse refuses to move and insists that Tuco shoots him in the car. That way, he’ll at least have to clean the mess up later. Leaving behind some hard labor for your killer is a good idea. However, Tuco doesn’t seem to care because the car belongs to Jesse. He doesn’t have to clean up a car that isn’t is. As a ruthless narcotrafficker, he doesn’t care about getting rid of evidence either.
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