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It seems like everyone at the higher levels of the cartel in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul is pretty intelligent; in particular, they are smart enough to avoid doing impulsive things that endanger the enterprise. Tuco's crazily stupid murder of No Doze ended up drawing the attention of the police not to mention frightening people who work under him to the point where they might well question why they are loyal to him.

I could see him being an enforcer, but just the fact that he is a user of meth, I would guess would have made his uncle (a terrible person but smart and controlled when he needed to be) not employ him as anything else. Tuco is far below people like Lalo or Nacho or even Crazy 8 intellectually and there is no shortage of violent people (where violence is needed) -- even his loyalty is shown to be in question as he is sort of abusive towards his uncle Hector once Hector has become disabled.

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  • Tuco is Hector's only option in terms of having a loyal family member since Lalo has been busted and can't be Hector's man on the ground. Unlikely he would choose Crazy 8 (since he is dead) nor Nacho as he is not family. He could have chosen the twin cousins instead of Tuco but it's possible that they prefer to stay south of the border or they need to since Hector needs his men on the ground there a well.
    – Alex B
    Apr 7, 2022 at 0:16
  • @AlexB: well, i sure would not want that psychopathic dope working for me.
    – releseabe
    Apr 7, 2022 at 2:04
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    You never heard of nepotism? Also the twins attacked a DEA agent in a parking lot in the USA broad daylight. Doesn’t seem particularly smart or measured. Jul 19, 2022 at 19:09

2 Answers 2

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I agree that Tuco doesn't fit, and I attribute it to Tuco being an early character in the series, written before the other cartel members are fleshed out.

In other words, his character was developed for the early episodes, before the subsequent seasons were written. So he doesn't match the sophistication of the other cartel characters who were developed after season one.

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    Yes, good point and probably this happens in many tv shows, let alone shows as complex at BB/BCS. I have seen the actor in many different roles, an unusual style of acting. You may have caught him in Aliens 4, a soldier (iirc) who had a real interest in AI.
    – releseabe
    Apr 9, 2022 at 0:51
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Tuco fits narratively in the sense that he acts as dumb muscle that Walt simply cannot outclever (initially).

Walt's inexperience, veiled aggression and tactical curveballs don't work on someone who is upfront, doesn't engage in quiet inference, and is spoiling for a fight; rendering Walt's key skills useless.

This is different from e.g. the Aryans who fight Walt with tactics, Gus who tries to do so with diplomacy and negotiation, and Crazy Eight who attempts emotional manipulation.

In essence, Tuco is Walt's first hurdle where he cannot take a cloak and dagger approach and remain in a safe spot himself.

As to Tuco's role in the cartel, it is not uncommon for a proverbial "rabid dog" to be put in a position of power when the role requires aggression and violence. History is littered with examples of overly violent and downright psychopathic right hand men.

If you consider the whole body of BB and BCS, it is later also hinted that Tuco puts on a facade, at least to some extent. He chooses to behave in an unhinged manner to unsettle and scare others into obedience.
Again, there are plenty of historical examples of unhinged tyrants who use fear to keep their underlings in line.

Tuco may have made mistakes, but overall he is not incapable at his job.

You bring up Hector; but don't forget that Hector used to be similarly tyrannical, as evidenced by the flashbacks, notably how he kills Max (Gus' partner), and how he pushes Nacho to not let anyone come up short for any reason. While Hector may seem more composed than Tuco, he is just as prone to violence and retribution. Tuco instills the same fear but uses a different personality to do so.

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  • I don't think Tuco would have had the brains to speak to Mike as Hector did on Tuco's behalf -- Hector came off as benign, avuncular in fact when speaking to Mike although Mike was almost certainly not fooled. Tuco could simply not have an extended conversation where his violent nature and stupidity did not become evident.
    – releseabe
    Apr 11, 2022 at 1:06
  • @releseabe Tuco chose to behave this way as it helps keep people in line. Even if it doesn't work for the particular person he's addressing, others are still witnessing it or hearing about it. If Tuco was inconsistent about it his facade would very quickly fall.
    – Flater
    Apr 11, 2022 at 12:18
  • Doesn't Nacho say Tuco acts especially unhinged when he starts using meth? At the time of BB Tuco clearly seems to be high on meth most of the time
    – user13267
    May 30, 2023 at 3:39
  • @user13267: Given the established nature of Tuco's fake aggression (i.e. what he chooses to do because it's useful to him), it's unclear where to draw the line on how the meth entered the picture. Maybe he's still hamming it up, maybe he has an unrelated meth problem, I'm not sure if and how we can distinguish the two. He clearly seems to still be using his aggression as a way to maintain authority all through BB, so I think there's still some intention here - even if the meth may have crept up on him.
    – Flater
    May 30, 2023 at 5:38
  • May be Tuco did play up his aggression at some point in time, but I think Nacho's exposition about Tuco shooting Dog when he was on meth is a signal from the show producers that Tuco is factually unhinged and violent at the time of BB, as it's also implied he was a methhead at that time
    – user13267
    May 30, 2023 at 5:43

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