You know Walter, sometimes it doesn't hurt to have someone watching your back.
|― Mike Ehrmantraut warning Walter White about the incoming danger.|
Leonel and Marco Salamanca (commonly known as "The Cousins") were twin brothers and hitmen for the Juárez Cartel, a Mexican drug cartel. Despite an austere, mechanical physicality and virtually non-verbal interaction, they were a fearsome presence who killed effectively without hesitation or emotion.
The two were nephews of Don Hector Salamanca, who taught them early on that family is everything - proving so by nearly drowning one until the other fought back against him. They were also the grandsons of Abuelita and they had three cousins connected to criminal actions: Tuco, Lalo and Joaquin Salamanca. They were typically dressed in well-cut sharkskin suits and distinctive cowboy boots tipped with silver skulls, and appeared to worship the Mexican deity of death Santa Muerte, making offerings to a shrine when undertaking an assassination.
Following the death of their cousin Tuco at the hands of DEA Agent Hank Schrader and also indirectly due to his partnership with Walter White, Leonel and Marco set out to murder White as revenge for his betrayal of their cousin and nearly came close but were stopped last minute on the orders of Gustavo Fring. After growing impatient after being blocked from murdering White, Fring secretly ordered the two to murder Hank Schrader instead to satisfy their revenge and the two agreed. Their brutal attack on Hank left the latter seriously inured but it also left Leonel crippled as Fring secretly warned Hank shortly before the attack thus giving him an advantage. Marco nearly succeeded at killing Hank but was killed last minute by being shot in the head. While in hospital, Leonel was secretly poisoned by Mike Ehrmantraut to prevent him from revealing Gus' sanction of the attempted assassination of Schrader and to aid in Gus' ploy to sabotage the Juárez Cartel.
The Cousins were raised by their uncle, Don Hector Salamanca. Since their early days, Hector taught them hard lessons about life and how they should always put family in front of everything. One of these lessons are shown through flashback, when the Cousins were only kids playing in the backyard of Hector's house. Marco breaks one of Leonel's toys, prompting him to approach his Tio and tell him how much he hates his twin brother, wishing he was dead. Hector calls Marco and tricks him into getting a cold beer inside a tub of icy water, only to push his head in it. As Marco is slowly drowning, Hector coldly asks Leonel if this is what he wants. Leonel eventually punches his Tio in the face to make him stop. Hector releases Marco and then gets up, "family is all," he tells the twins ("").
Better Call Saul
Mike Ehrmantraut notices The Cousins standing on a rooftop adjacent to the motel swimming pool where he is watching Kaylee. One of them makes a gun signal at Kaylee, implying a threat on her life due to Mike's continued refusal of Don Hector's offer to clear Tuco of gun charges as Mike's face shivers in anger and he rushes Kaylee out of the pool for her own safety. They are later present at the meeting Mike has with Hector along with Nacho Varga. ("")
The Cousins are with Hector inside a shack in the desert when Nacho and Arturo bring in a tied up Ximenez, the Salamancas' truck driver who smuggled their drugs from Mexico to the US. The Cousins execute him on orders from Don Hector after he fell for an ambush and lost Hector's drug money. Unbeknownst to them, Mike was the one who ambushed Ximenez as retaliation on the Salamancas harrassing him. ("")
After Don Hector's stroke, the Cousins visit their uncle, identifying him as such to Dr. Maureen Bruckner. The doctor informs them that Hector has been getting excellent care at the facility, but they are going to try something a little different and explains how they intend to teach Hector's brain to rewire itself after his stroke. The two are joined by Nacho and Arturo partway through the doctor's explanation. The Cousins prompt Nacho and Arturo speak to the unconscious Hector and stand by silently as the two men give Hector an update. ("")
The Cousins are called to rescue Nacho in the desert after him and Arturo got supposedly ambushed by an unknown foe (in reality, this ambush was all staged by Gustavo Fring). They arrive at the scene of the ambush to find Arturo dead and Nacho seriously injured, so they recur to Dr. Caldera to save Nacho's life, as he is the only surviving witness of the ambush and the only one who could help them find who did this. ("")
As part of his plans to make more territories available in Albuquerque, Gus frames the Espinosa Gang for the attack on Nacho and Arturo. Nacho plays along with the plan, as he takes the Cousins to identify the Espinosas as the attackers. He wants to get a crew together and ambush the gang at night, but the Cousins decide to attack right away in the middle of the day. They grab their bag of weapons, kill the guard in the entrance and walk inside shooting. At one point, reinforcements arrive and Nacho decides to take action, but he is still weakened by the faked attack he suffered earlier, so he is unable to help the Cousins as they kill the entire Espinosa Gang and wipe them out of existence. Afterwards, Nacho informs Gus that Marco and Leonel traveled back to Mexico to wait for the heat to die down. ("")
The Cousins collect Lalo's seven million dollar bail money from a chop shop. They later meet with Saul Goodman in desert spot designated by Lalo. After trading a slightly bemused look at Saul’s cheerful introduction in halting Spanish, they hand over to the two bulging bags of bail money before taking off again. ("")
After handing over Lalo's bail money, Saul discovers that the Cousins put an extra $100,000 into the bags to pay him as Saul had requested of Lalo. Lalo subsequently asks if the Cousins paid Saul which he confirms. Lalo later prepares to have the Cousins pick him up at the same spot they dropped off the bail money, but changes his mind after finding Saul's wrecked car. When questioned by Nacho, Lalo simply states that he will get a message to the Cousins later. ("")
The Cousins are briefly mentioned when Tuco Salamanca kidnaps Walter White and Jesse Pinkman following a police crackdown on his operations. His plan was to take Walt across the border to cook for him full-time, mentioning that his cousins would be arriving to help them across, but before the Cousins were able to arrive, Walt and Jesse escaped and Tuco was shot dead. ("")
It is revealed via flashback that the Cousins had an off-screen participation in this point of the story. Their boss, Juan Bolsa, finds out that one of his drug runners, Tortuga, was working as a DEA informant. Juan Bolsa visits Tortuga in a bar and tricks him into going to the back to show him a gift. When they get there, Tortuga is assaulted by the Cousins. They proceed to use a machete to decapitate Tortuga as punishment for him betraying the cartel. ("") Later on, Tortuga's head was placed on a tortoise's back with C4 as a trap to kill the agents that Tortuga was working for. ("")
The Cousins arrive in an expensive Mercedes at a small village in the Mexican desert where they find men and women crawling on their bellies up a dusty, adobe-lined desert road. The Cousins join them, leading up to a path toward a candlelit shrine to Santa Muerte. The two men rise to their feet. One makes an offering; the other pins something to the shrine: a sketch of "Heisenberg." Later on, they drive to a dilapidated desert farmhouse, where they leave their car and approach a clothesline. They change their clothes, keeping only their boots and their guns as the family who lives in the farmhouse watches the scene in fear. Marco then leaves the Mercedes keys to the family and the two continue their trip up north on foot.
They manage to get a lift, hidden amid a farm truck's bales of straw, sitting with others sneaking across the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas. A young man called Olive Oil brags to the Cousins about painting cars for Michoacan gangsters, but clams up when he notices the silver skulls on their boots. As the Cousins realize that they have been recognized, they pull their guns out and kill everyone inside the truck; the driver stops the truck to investigate, then flees when he notices the situation. The Cousins emerge from the bales and Leonel shoots the driver dead. The two set the truck and its murdered passengers ablaze. They walk away as the vehicle is engulfed in flames. ("")
After crossing the border into the States, they track down their uncle, Hector Salamanca, in a nursing home located in the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Familiar with the routine, they procure a Ouija board from a pile of board games and Hector uses his bell to spell out the letters of the real name of the meth cook the cartel knows only as Heisenberg, the man that killed their cousin Tuco: Walter White. The pair soon after show up at Walt's house with an axe where, coincidentally, after living away for two weeks, Walt had returned and broken into his own home. The Cousins let themselves in while Walt is, unsuspectingly, taking a shower. They enter his room and sit on his bed, but before they can take any action, one of them receives a text message that reads: "POLLOS." The two exchange a look, and once Walt exits the shower, his room is empty ("").
Juan Bolsa sets up a meeting between Gus Fring, the Cousins, Hector and himself. Bolsa, who speaks on their behalf and that of Tio, explains to Gus that their cousin, Tuco, was betrayed by Walter and they have a family right to execute him, a claim backed by the entire cartel. Gus, who controls all of the drug trafficking north of the border into New Mexico, tells them that they cannot kill Walt as he is still valuable to his business. Gus, however, says that they may kill him whenever he is finished with Walt. After the meeting, Juan Bolsa calls Gus aside and explain to him how he may control the Cousins for now, but eventually they will go after Walter even against Gus' orders. The Salamancas never forgive the death of one of their own (""). As they are waiting, the Cousins take residence on a reservation outside of Albuquerque after killing the elderly woman who lived there. A few days later, a tribal police officer who is investigating her disappearance shows up at the house and finds the woman's corpse in the backyard, the officer stumbles upon Leonel and surrenders him with his shotgun, but Marco approaches the officer from behind with his axe and strikes him in the head, killing him instantly.
The Cousins become impatient and visit Gus at Los Pollos, sitting silently in a booth for the duration of the restaurant's hours. After they return again the next day, Gus grows tired of their intimidation tactics and sets up a meeting with them in the desert. There, he questions why they want to kill Walter so badly, noting that although he may have "betrayed" their cousin, he wasn't the one who murdered him. Marco says that the man who killed Tuco is a DEA agent and Juan Bolsa strictly forbids them from targeting any law enforcement. Gus tells them that it is he who controls the territory north of the border, not Bolsa, so it should be his decision to make. He gives them the name of the DEA agent in question, Hank Schrader, and tells them that he hopes his death may satisfy them ("").
Similiar to the previous event, the Cousins visit a shrine of Santa Muerte somewhere in the New Mexico desert. They follow the same procedures of before, only that this time they pin a picture of Hank to the shrine. Later on the same day, the Cousins meet with an arms dealer to buy vests. The dealer leads them inside his truck where he tries to sell them hollow-point bullets, even giving Marco one free sample, but the Cousins refuse. After giving them two vests, they ask him if the vests are good, the dealer says that he never leaves his house without one. Leonel pulls out his gun and shoots the dealer point blank in the chest, when he survives, the Cousins decide to buy the vests.
The Cousins track Hank down to a store parking lot. Hank, who has just been suspended and forced to surrender his weapon after beating Jesse up, is unarmed when he receives a mysterious phone call. The voice on the other end, distorted by a modifier, warns Hank that he has one minute before the Cousins arrive to kill him. Seeing Leonel approaching him in the rear, he backs his car up rapidly, pinning Leonel against another car forcefully and crushing his legs. Marco opens fire on Hank and forces him to run, then frees his brother Leonel who whispers, "Finish him." Marco pursues Hank, killing a passerby in the parking lot, he stops to reload his gun and accidentally drops the hollow-point bullet sample to the ground. Hank managed to take Leonel's gun and surprises Marco by shooting him multiple times in the chest, but the bullets end up being absorbed by his Kevlar vest, Marco then shoots Hank twice, one shot in the chest and the other in the abdomen. Hank falls to the ground helpless and with no bullets. Marco prepares to shoot him in the face, but he then decides that it is "too easy" and goes back to the car to retrieve his signature axe. In the meantime, Hank manages to reach the hollow-point bullet Marco dropped earlier and loads it into his empty gun, when Marco returns ready to strike Hank dead with his axe, Hank shoots him in the face. The hollow-point blows out the back of Marco's head, killing him instantly ("").
After the shooting, both Hank and Leonel are rushed by ambulance to the hospital. While Hank is in surgery and in critical condition, Leonel is conscious fairly early much to the disgust of Hank's friends and family, although both of Leonel's legs are amputated as a result of Hank's attack. After recognizing Walter White amongst a group of Albuquerque police officers who were watching him through the room window, Leonel rips off his IV lines and monitors and attempts to crawl to the door, trailing blood from his stumps until he is restrained. He later dies after going into cardiac arrest. It is revealed that Mike Ehrmantraut gave Leonel a fatal injection under orders from Gus to prevent him from revealing to Bolsa that it was Gus who sanctioned the hit on Hank ("").
Their deaths would later be avenged by their uncle who killed Gus by suicide bombing him.
Personalities and traits
- ―Gus describing the Cousins
Leonel and Marco were both extremely dangerous, cunning, cold and sociopathic men. The cousins both showed dedication to family, which was instilled in them by their uncle, Hector, who taught them that family was the most important thing in life, and was exemplified by their dedication to avenge the death of their cousin, Tuco who was killed by D.E.A. agent Hank Schrader. Even after being gravely injured during his assassination attempt on Hank, Marco still even attempted to attack Walter White, despite the futility of his attempt, further exemplifying his dedication to avenge a loved one. Both were blindly loyal to the Juárez Cartel and followed any order without question and killed whoever they were ordered to, notably Tortuga and even when minutes away from killing Walter they followed orders by abandoning the hit, despite their strong desire to murder him.
The cousins were both very silent individuals, avoiding any kind of unneeded conversation, and only speaking when absolutely necessary. They seemed to have both mastered a complex system of nonverbal communication. As they were shown to be able to effectively do their jobs without saying a word on multiple occasions.
They are both portrayed as vicious and professional killers, capable of murdering civilians and innocent bystanders needlessly, without any hint of remorse and were even able to destroy an entire gang of rival drug dealers themselves and have no qualms about harming the elderly or even children.
Despite being cold-blooded killers, they seem to have a sense of morality and fairness, despite rarely showing it. A noted example was seen when purchasing vests from a black market arms dealer, who was wearing one of the bullet proof vests they were seeking to purchase and after shooting the dealer to test the effectiveness of the vests and seeing that it worked well, they paid the money owed for the vests and left the dealer alive rather than killing him and taking the vests free of charge. This is also shown to an extent when they took civilian clothes from a poor and defenseless Mexican family to cross the border and as a show of gratitude, they left their expensive car and it's keys to the family as payment. This shows that the cousins are not incapable of mercy and do not kill unnecessarily.
Murders committed by Marco and Leonel
- Ximenez Lecerda: Shot in the head by Marco on Hector Salamanca's orders.
- 21+ Members of the Espinosa Gang: Two stabbed by Marco. Others all shot to death by Marco and Leonel.
- Tortuga: Decapitated on Juan Bolsa's orders.
- D.E.A. Field Agent: Blown to pieces by a bomb strapped to a tortoise. Other agents may also have been killed.
- Olive Oil: Shot to death after recognizing the Cousins.
- Nine Mexican Stowaways: All shot in the back of the truck.
- Unnamed Coyote Driver: Shot in the back by Leonel while trying to escape.
- Mrs. Peyketewa: Killed in an unknown way.
- Bobby Kee: Struck in the back with an axe by Marco.
- Unnamed Man: Shot to death by Marco in the parking lot.
- Bolsa: "Don Salamanca had a nephew named Tuco."
- Gustavo: "Yes, I knew of him."
- Bolsa: "Then perhaps you know Don Salamanca mentored him in the business. Thought of Tuco as a son. When Don Salamanca was no longer able, Tuco took over for his uncle. He was a key man in our organization north of the border. He was loyal. This "Heisenberg" he was one of Tuco's local suppliers. Until he betrayed Tuco. So now you see...blood must be repaid by blood. Tuco's cousins here...they have the right to exact vengeance. The Salamanca family, the cartel...everyone stands shoulder to shoulder on this."
- ―Juan Bolsa explaining the situation to Gustavo Fring.[src]
- "I will advise them to be patient. But I recommend you finish your business with the man quickly or you risk losing the good graces of the cartel. That would not be wise. And those boys inside.......I cannot guarantee that they will listen. They are not like you and I."
- ―Juan Bolsa speaking to Gustavo Fring about The Cousins
- Gustavo: "I told you before. You will not kill Walter White. Not until my business with him is concluded."
- Marco Salamanca: "We've waited long enough. We won't wait any longer."
- Gustavo: "You'll have to. The decision is not yours to make. Explain to me...why this man White? He betrayed your cousin Tuco, yes. But he's not the one who murdered him. Was there not another man who pulled the trigger?"
- Marco Salamanca: "A DEA agent. Bolsa says the DEA is off-limits."
- Gustavo: "North of the border is my territory. My say. As a show of respect...I say yes. The agent's name is Hank Schrader. May his death satisfy you."
- ―Gustavo confronts the Cousins and turn their hunt to Hank.[src]
- In a 2013 online article posted by Bustle, Leonel and Marco were ranked as being the fifth most evil characters on Breaking Bad, being surpassed by their uncle Hector, Todd Alquist, their cousin Tuco, and Jack Welker.
- Director of Photography Michael Slovis chose to film all the Season 3 exterior scenes of The Cousins with a strong yellow-brown coloration.
- They are the second and third people of Hector Salamanca's family to be killed, following Tuco Salamanca's death. Many more Salamancas die following these two.
- In the scene where they blow up the truck that takes them over the border, the film crew used practical effects to blow up a real truck. Due to this, only one take was possible. They used a camera trick to make the truck seem closer to the brothers to ensure safety.
- The actors who play the cousins, Daniel Moncada and Luis Moncada, are real life brothers, though they were born 3 years apart. Luis is the older brother.
- Marco shares his name with Marco Pasternak, friend of Jimmy McGill.
- The cousins are shown driving several cars including: