When it comes to the list of foes fans meet in the Breaking Bad universe, it”s hard to imagine anyone shrewder than Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), the successful restaurant entrepreneur who runs a thriving meth empire on the side. Gus is exceedingly cautious, has an impeccable ability to read people, and — with one major exception, of course — always seems to be 10 steps ahead of his enemies. So whenever Gus makes a decision to end or save someone, fans know there”s a well thought-out reason for his move. Because he decides to do both for a key character in season 3, though, some fans are still confused by the character”s rationale.
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In “One Minute,” Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) is warned by a mysterious caller that two hitmen are coming to kill him, and soon the Cousins, Leonel (Daniel Moncada) and Marco Salamanca (Luis Moncada), show up and very nearly pull it off. If not for this heads up, Hank would surely be an easier target. What the voice doesn”t inform Hank is that it belongs to Gus, who has himself ordered this hit on the DEA agent. So why would Gus send these assassins after Hank and then foil their attempt at the literal last minute?
Gus” decision to help Hank likely does not stem from any warm and cozy feelings he has for the federal agent whose entire job is to snuff out his meth trade. Instead, as the commenters on a recent Reddit thread debate point out, it is much more likely that he sees a shootout between Hank and the Cousins as being beneficial to his interests, no matter how it ends.
The Cousins are out for blood for the death of Tuco (Raymond Cruz) because for Salamancas, family is everything. They initially go after Walter White (Bryan Cranston), but since Walt is vital to Gus” shiny new lab, Gus turns their thirst for vengeance to Hank instead. Hank was the one who actually killed Tuco in a season 2 shootout, so his demise should satisfy the Salamancas at least until Walt is no longer useful to Gus. If they are successful at killing Hank, the Cousins may be held off long enough that Gus can get what he needs out of Walt, so Gus wins.
By warning Hank, though, Gus also makes a parlay bet that Hank might just kill the Cousins instead. Since Gus likely doesn”t know that Hank has been disarmed over his personal attack on Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), Gus may suspect Hank can handle the twins. This would simultaneously rid Gus of their menacing presence and focus the DEA”s attention on the Salamancas instead of his own team. In that case, Gus wins even more.
Even if Gus hasn”t prepared for what actually results in the attack, with both Hank and Leonel Salamanca surviving the skirmish and Leonel eager to reveal Gus” plot to Juan Bolsa (Javie Grajeda), Gus reveals his preferred result when he has Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) finish the job on Leonel at the hospital. Maybe it”s just a matter of access — Mike would undoubtedly have an easier time accessing Leonel than Hank — but the fact that Gus sends his top henchman speaks volumes about what he wanted to happen in the first place.