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The Real Reason This Fan-Favorite Character Had To Die On Better Call Saul

"Better Call Saul" Season 6, Episode 7 ("Plan and Execution") sees Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Kim (Rhea Seehorn) finally go through with their plan to soil the reputation of Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) in order to close the Sandpiper case. After staging photos of Jimmy bribing Judge Casamiro (John Posey), the mediator for the Sandpiper conference, with the help of a look alike actor, Lenny (John Ennis), Jimmy and Kim send off the photos with the private eye that Howard hired (who the two of them have been working with the whole time).

The private eye shows up at HHM just before the conference with new intel for Howard, showing him the photos of Jimmy and "Judge Casamiro" — and drugging him in the process when Howard touches the photos. Consequently, Howard appears strung out on drugs (due to intense eye dilation) while accusing Judge Casamiro of being "compromised" during the conference. When Howard asks his assistant to get the photos to prove his claim, the photos have been switched and are now missing "Judge Casamiro." Embarrassed over the scene Howard made, Cliff Main (Ed Begley Jr.) agrees to the previously offered deal, finally closing the case — just as Jimmy and Kim planned.

However, Howard's story doesn't end there. When he shows up at Jimmy and Kim's apartment to confront them, he is then interrupted by an unexpected guest — Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton), who Jimmy thought was dead. Eager to keep his current status a secret, Lalo shoots Howard in the head. It's a shocking ending to the mid-season finale, with many fans not expecting Howard and Lalo to come into contact, let alone for Howard to die at Lalo's hands — here's why the writers made that decision.

There had to be a consequence to Jimmy and Kim's scam

In an interview with Vanity Fair, the episode's writer-director Tom Schnauz explained why they made the decision to kill off Howard. Schnauz said, "It just felt like something horrible had to happen as a result of the scam. It couldn't just go perfectly for Jimmy and Kim. Maybe they're going to be found out or somebody's going to see or the police are going to find out ... and the more we thought about the two worlds colliding, we knew that Lalo doing something very bad to Howard Hamlin just felt almost inevitable."

Seeing as this was Jimmy and Kim's biggest scam yet, it makes complete sense that they would have to face moral consequences. With the death of Howard, the two of them will have to reckon with the fact that Howard wouldn't have died had they not gone through with their plan. Plus, according to Patrick Fabian himself, the death of Howard plays a role in how the rest of the season plays out.

Explaining the call he got when he found out about his character's death, Fabian told Vanity Fair, "[The showrunners] said, 'Look, we found a hinge that swings the rest of the season open. It reveals a lot and it involves you. But that means you won't be going forward with the second part of the season.'"

Patrick Fabian thinks the ending is so surprising because it feels like it's over already

While speaking with TV Guide, Patrick Fabian broke down what makes his death so shocking for viewers — and for him, when he first read the script. When TV Guide writer Allison Picuurro noted that she didn't expect Howard to get in Lalo's way, Fabian responded, "Why would you? It doesn't make any sense until it makes sense."

Fabian then elaborated that when Howard is made to look crazy in front of his fellow lawyers, it seems as though Jimmy and Kim's plan is complete. Fabian continued, "When Howard realizes that [the case is over], I wonder if, as viewers, there's a sense of, 'That's what they did. They undressed him in front of his peers, and his reputation is shot. They humiliated him.'"

The actor then speculated that viewers are likely surprised when Howard shows up at their apartment — even if Jimmy and Kim are clearly not surprised to receive a visit from a humiliated Howard. Fabian concluded, "You sort of get red herring-ed, in a way. He's going to go off on Jimmy, and that's why when Lalo enters, it's like, 'Wait, I wasn't even looking for that.'"