Better Call Saul Season 5: Patrick Fabian Compares Howard to Peter Pan

Patrick Fabian, who plays Howard Hamlin on Better Call Saul, explains his character’s journey so far, and his hopes for Season 5.

Patrick Fabian on AMC's Better Call Saul Season 4

Better Call Saul recently dropped a bomb of disappointment on fans who were anxiously awaiting a new season this year, revealing that Season 5 won’t arrive until 2020. However, with principal photography for AMC‘s Breaking Bad prequel series set to commence in Albuquerque this month, fans can, at least, be assured that it’s coming without any further delays. Indeed, cast member Patrick Fabian just provided additional confirmation on Season 5’s status.

Participating in a panel for Better Call Saul at the AMC Networks Summit 2019 in New York City, far from the aridity of the ABQ, Fabian – there to discuss the arc of his character, embattled HHM law firm partner Howard Hamlin – updates on the soon-to-shoot Season 5 of the series, stating:

“I got the first script for Season 5. – That’s all I have, so I don’t know what’s coming up. I’m hoping that there’s no gunplay for Howard, that’s all I’m doing is crossing my fingers on that.”

That was the extent of the details that Fabian provided, since, as the panel touches upon, the producers and writers of Saul tend to fly by the seats of their pants when it comes to the scripts. Consequently, he divulged nothing, since he had nothing to divulge. However, he did provides some insight regarding the arc of Howard, who started out in the beginning of the series as an antagonistic force to Bob Odenkirk’s Jimmy McGill and Rhea Seehorn’s Kim Wexler; a pretentious, seemingly callous character who represented the embodiment of the glass ceiling that would not break for Jimmy, who, after a past life as a sleazy con man nicknamed “Slippin’ Jimmy,” was earnestly trying to turn over a new leaf in the lawyerly world.

Yet, the initial viewpoint on Howard would experience a dramatic evolution over the course of the series. As Fabian muses:

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“I don’t think of Howard as being anything but a light character. I think of him as sort of a Peter Pan, living a great existence and then these McGill Brothers – Michael McKean and Bob Odenkirk – are sort of mucking it all up.”

Moreover, we started to see how Howard was the never-thanked glue that was holding things together professionally for both Jimmy and his older brother, Chuck (McKean), at HHM (Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill), the successful law firm that Howard’s father, George, and Chuck had built. Yet this embattled Peter Pan had to watch the once-sacred institution unravel with (his mentor,) Chuck’s descent into madness and eventual suicide, along with the scheming Jimmy, who has become an unholy amalgamation of his old con man persona, only now armed with a law degree – even if it’s a correspondence one from the “University of American Samoa.” Thus, the ironic truth is that Howard – initially introduced as a douchebag – has become a victim of the show’s inevitably-tragic trajectory.

Pertinently, Fabian touches upon one key scene with Jimmy, from last year’s Season 4, which effectively illustrated how the hero/villain dynamic had reversed. The scene – from Episode 6, “Piñata” – shows Jimmy visiting Howard at HHM, battering him with tough-love platitudes over the ignominious state of the downsized, once-reputable firm. It’s an especially callous tounge-lashing when you understand how Jimmy initially lit this figurative – and in the case of Chuck, literal – fire, creating the current state, leading Howard to uncharacteristically retort with two fateful words carefully allotted by the network censors. As he explains of the cathartic moment:

“We did a whole series of outtakes of different levels of “f**k you,” and the one they picked isn’t the one that I wanted – I wanted the big Greek tragedy “f****k you!!” He further explains, “In the end, when I saw what they picked, how they picked it and how they edited down, it was so much more powerful than I ever could have imagined myself.”

It will certainly be interesting to see where Howard’s arc lands, especially as the series inches closer to the Breaking Bad timeline, and, as the closing moments of Season 4 showed, Jimmy’s transformation into Saul Goodman now seemingly set in stone.

Better Call Saul will return on AMC sometime in 2020 on a date to be revealed.

Joseph Baxter is a contributor for Den of Geek and Syfy Wire. You can find his work here. Follow him on Twitter @josbaxter.