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Breaking Bad (TV series): Why did Gus kill Victor?

Breaking Bad (TV series): Why did Gus kill Victor?

Breaking Bad (TV series): Why did Gus kill Victor?

The circumstances surrounding Victor’s killing are similar to the circumstances when Tuco Salamanca killed No-Doze. In that earlier episode, No-Doze overstepped his boundaries, so Tuco punished him. As part of the punishment, Tuco went on a tirade asking No Doze if he thought Walt or Tuco were stupid. No Doze tried to placate Tuco, insisting he had only been trying to help, but to no avail.

Likewise, Victor overstepped his boundaries with Gus because he boasted about how he knew Walt’s recipe. Unlike Tuco, however, Gus did not need to berate Victor to make the point about his intelligence. After all, Gus had the reputation of a “brilliant businessman.” But Victor’s boasts implied that Gus had not considered the possibilty that Victor would learn the recipe while guarding Walt and Jesse. Obviously Gus knew that.

This simpler explanation seems more plausible to me than all the more detailed analyses because violent crimes are usually not the result of extensive planning. Both Tuco and Gus maintained and exercised their power and control through fear. They were like mid-level managers who reported to a higher person in the chain of command, i.e. the Cartel in general and Don Eladio in particular. Fear was entrenched in the corporate culture.

And here is something else to consider. Willful, deliberate, and premeditated murder does not require the same amount of planning and attention to detail as, say, building a meth distribution network like Gus Fring had constructed. That Gus possessed the ability to plan and execute does not mean he necessarily applied those skills when he killed Victor. Gus was already furious about Walt and Jesse. But Victor made him even angrier.

One distinction appears between the circumstances involving No Doze and Victor. Arguably, Tuco committed Involuntary Manslaughter because he recklessly killed No Doze, while he only had intended merely to injure him. Tuco was high on Walt’s meth when he did this. But when Gus killed Victor, it was no accident because he slit Victor’s throat.

In addition, the audience has no firm basis to believe he did this while intoxicated by a controlled dangerous substance or alcohol. Though intentional, it was not willful, deliberate, and premeditated. The other answers I saw to this question suggest it was but I dissent from that theory.

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In Breaking Bad, why did Gus Fring kill Victor?

Gus killing Victor in such a brutal manner sends a clear message to Walt and Jesse that he would not hesitate to kill them if they put the operation at risk. The decision to kill Victor not only protected Gus’ drug operation but also displayed his cold, calculated nature as a villain.

Walt and Jesse had just killed Gale, mainly to protect themselves. Gus wouldn’t have another chemist to make meth with Gale gone. They also wanted to let Gus know how far they were willing to go.

Victor was in charge of security at the lab, so Gale’s death was his responsibility as far as Gus was concerned. Victor was also wanted by the police, because he was spotted in Gale’s apartment.

Gus was fed up with Walt, and may have arrived at the lab with the idea to kill him, letting Jesse handle it from then on. But he also needed to do something about Victor, so he settled for brutally cutting Victor’s throat in front of them. His message was clear. “You wanted to show me what you were capable of? Now I’ve shown you what I am capable of. Get back to work.

There are a number of reasons that Gus might have killed Victor. His decision is purposefully ambiguous for Walt & Jesse, so it may be impossible to say for certain what his motivations were.

Some possible reasons:

  1. Victor got himself seen by eyewitnesses at the scene Gale’s murder
  2. Victor left his car parked at Gale’s apartment
  3. Victor & Mike let Walt make a phone call & that led to Gale’s death; Gus went to bed thinking he had Gale running his fully functional lab & Walt dead, to a dead Gale & an unstable Walt+Jesse still very much in his otherwise clockwork business
  4. Gus may have wanted to demonstrate that he was in control & that letting Jesse + Walt live was his decision
  5. Victor started a meth cook instead of letting Walt & Jesse do it — this *might* have ruined a batch (though it certainly looked like he was doing everything right from Walt’s reaction)
  6. Victor was the least important of anyone in the room. His death would have had the greatest effect and cost Gus the least in money or effort.
  7. Gus couldn’t have killed Mike. As demonstrated in the earlier seasons, Mike is a formidable opponent, so killing him either would have been too dangerous for Gus at the time or would have been beyond his capabilities (the full range of which we have yet to see)
  8. (SPOILER) Despite what transpired at the end of the last season and his current machinations, Gus really can’t kill Walter White. Not only is Walter the brother-in-law of a current DEA agent (although Hank is now on medical leave) he has demonstrated signs that he is capable of both tactical and strategic thinking. Gus had no idea (still does not) whether Walter has left any information that would lead others to his operation in case of his demise or disappearance.
  9. Gus can’t kill Jesse because Walter has made it abundantly clear (twice,at the risk of his own life) that he will not work without him. While this could always change (which may have been the course of Fring’s machinations) it was clear that Pinkman’s death would likely damage the situation further and being a businessman, Fring knows when to “cut” (sorry for the pun) his losses.
  10. Gus had to scare Mike. Walter White’s death and Jesse’s wouldn’t have “shocked” a veteran like Mike as he would have taken it in stride and perhaps viewed it along with Gale’s death as a sign that Fring was “slipping.” By executing a loyal employee in front of him, Fring made it clear to Mike that he was willing to do whatever it takes to maintain control.

UPDATE: From “Inside Breaking Bad: Episode 401 “Box Cutter” Wrap Up” (available on iTunes as part of the Season 4 package), Giancarlo Esposito indicates that he has to kill Victor because he was seen by witnesses. A bonus is that he gets to scare Walt & Jesse.

Breaking Bad (TV series): Why did Gus kill Victor?

There are a few theories to this, but let’s see what the actor who played Gus had to say.

In a 2018 reunion of Breaking Bad, Giancarlo Esposito spoke a bit on why Gus killed his loyal henchmen Victor out of the blue.

Remember, it’s the first time you see Gus do anything that nefarious by his own hand.

He did it for a reason. This is for you (Walt) to become awakened because he might do it to you and he might do it to you himself. Certainly the message was sent.

It seems that he thinks it’s Gus sending a message to Walt and Jesse that he was not one to be messed with.

Victor’s murder happened while Gus was in the process of giving Walt and Jesse another chance. This was after Jesse shot Gale when Gus was just about to shoot Walt.

Gus is left with only one good cook now. Yet, he wants to show Walt that he still has the reins. So he slits the throat of Victor in front of them, serving as a message. This makes sense.

Breaking Bad (TV series): Why did Gus kill Victor?

I think it’s also a two-birds-one-stone situation. Prior to that, Victor was seen by witnesses running to Gale’s apartment right after Gale was shot, and the police had a pretty good sketch of him. It was only a matter of time before they caught Victor and pressed him about the murder. Victor was a liability. He had to go.

I have another explanation. I don’t think the mistakes Victor made (being seen by witnesses, leaving his car, letting Walt make the call in the first place) give Gus a reason to kill him: Victor is absolutely loyal; he would do anything to protect Gus if he were arrested. Victor would never be a direct threat to Gus’ operation or Gus himself. I also don’t think one single messed-up batch would get Gus to commit murder, he’s too cold for that.

The problem I see is this: by starting to cook a batch, and apparently doing it right, he becomes a threat to Walt and Jesse. The “problems” Walt brings up (humidity, etc.) seem to be made up. Therefore, further business with peaceful coexistence is impossible on both sides: Victor hates Walt and Jesse and thinks he can just cook himself, W&J on the other hand would always be afraid of being replaced by Victor. Gus has always struck me as a very pragmatic man, so, if I may, I would like to review options with you, of which, it seems to me, he has two:

A. Kill Walter+Jesse and have Victor cook, which is risky since the quality of the product is insecure.

B. Kill Victor. W&J then should have no reason to be afraid of being replaced by someone else. They see themselves as a critical part of the operation and can continue cooking. As a bonus he gets to puzzle them all and scare the crap out of everybody.

Now that’s a very strategic explanation, on an emotional level Gus probably doesn’t like Victor seizing that much power and wants to cut him down to size.

I see scaring Mike as a disadvantage for option B. If I was a drug lord I would want to show my trusted employees that loyalty is rewarded.

Breaking Bad (TV series): How does Gus Fring keep from getting caught? How does he distance himself from his distributors?

I’m almost certain Gustavo Fring’s meth empire was based on pseudoephedrine, from 1989 to 2005. See, pseudoephedrine is an amphetamine, but it’s also a decongestant, and therefore a major ingredient in most over-the-counter cold and allergy medicine. The 1970 Controlled Substances Act restricted (and mandated reporting of) the sale, import, and export of pseudoephedrine and other amphetamines.

However, in 1989 — the year in which Gustavo first met Don Eladio to propose meth as a new enterprise for the cartel — legislators managed to get pseudoephedrine listed as an exception, to prevent artificial market restrictions on cold and allergy medicines. This led to a wave of cycles of meth production until 2005, when the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act (CMEA) was passed to undo those earlier exceptions.

In other words, Gus had sixteen years of unlimited purchase of various innocuous items, from which to have a chemist derive methamphetamine. Pseudoephedrine is almost the same molecule as meth; the process is mostly about removal of impurities. The profits allowed Gus to set up an infrastructure wherein meth could be cooked on an industrial scale, under the guise of fast food franchising, which would in turn protect him from lower market demand and harsher legislation.

Even if Jesse were better at chemistry (the chili powder in his original meth is there to compensate for the impurity and therefore impotence), he’s 23 when Breaking Bad starts in 2008, so he was operating under a very real supply restriction that Gus was not. Under CMEA, selling more than a few ounces of pseudoephedrine-based meth is impossible without getting caught.

With regards to actual business practices, Gus Fring is a professional as well as a strategist. Virtually every move he makes is part of a plan that accounts for problems years into the future, as seen with his systemic execution of the cartel. Gus only meets with people through multiple layers of others — “I know a guy, who knows a guy, who knows another guy”. He has multiple highly skilled mercenaries to solve complex problems on the go, freeing him to only deal directly with the greatest issues at hand.

Breaking Bad (TV series): Why did Gus kill Victor?

There’s his immense donations to organizations like the DEA, so as to buy familiarity, loyalty, and ergo an unwillingness for law enforcement to suspect him — Gus understands perfectly that suspicion is the true enemy, because once someone truly suspects you of something, lack of explicit proof will rarely stop them. Gus doesn’t work with junkies or unreliable people, in general; even in his foot soldiers, we can see the competence. In other words, there’s never anything to tie him to anything, and so he never gets caught.

In fact, the overarching reason why he loses in the end is because he bends or breaks many of his own principles to account for unforeseen problems (which were caused by the bending and breaking of other principles). Gus accepts Walter and Jesse, despite one not being careful and the other being a junkie, prioritizing uncertain higher profits in exchange for greater risk, instead of sticking with his current stable profits at the risk he’s comfortable with. He gets rid of Gale at Walter’s behest despite how much clear greater skill and reliability Gale possesses.

When Walter has Gale killed to keep himself alive, Gus outright contradicts himself by killing a subordinate right in front of Walter and Jesse to scare them — even though he stated much earlier he doesn’t believe fear to be an effective motivator — all so he can get some insight into who Walter and Jesse are as people, to drive their alliance apart. And when the cartel is dead, Gus keeps Tio alive simply to torture him, even though this leaves a potential weak point for someone to eventually exploit. Every single thing he represents in the series is sacrificed for temporary profits, security, or revenge.

The explanation for these kinds of slip ups is the same as for Walter: why do people become criminals in the first place? Need, want, or both. Gus could make a stable living on his fast food restaurants alone, but he doesn’t, because he doesn’t want to. It’s never explained what specifically drives him, but one might assume it’s something similar to Walter’s pride, especially given his history with and subsequent treatment of Tio.

In any case, at its prime, Gus’ meth empire is due to taking advantage of glaring legal loopholes, using the success to establish a barrier against future problems, and churning out steady profits. Everything Gus is and values, until the volatile cocktail of uncertainty named Walter White showed up and ruined everything.


There are a few reasons but before telling if you rewatch the scene notice how Jesse reacts by intensely staring at Gus and Gus continuing to stare back, I will bring this up later.

  1. Victor was seen at Gail’s crime scene, Victor was reckless and could cause a man as careful as Gus alot of headaches had Gus not killed him.
  2. A power move, Gus was telling them that they were not in charge, he could kill them at any moment without care but he chooses not to, it’s meant to scare them into subordination, this is where I wanted to bring up Jesse staring back at Gus intensely, he knew exactly what Gus was doing, and he knew exactly why Gus was doing it, this locked stared was a visual conversation, Jesse was telling Gus “I get it, but I’m not scared”.
  3. Victor was not a good cook, Victor knew the recipe, he knew the steps and he knew the ingredients to use, but, he didn’t know the chemistry he didn’t understand how to handle measures that would come up he didn’t know how the chemicals worked or reacted meaning he wouldn’t take as much care with the cook as Walter does.
  4. He couldn’t kill Jesse without killing Walt too, as stated in the first point Gus chooses not to kill them but he couldn’t just kill Jesse because Walter would refuse to work with Gus without Jesse.

Breaking Bad (TV series): Why did Gus kill Victor?