Better Call Saul: “Five-O” Season 1 Episode 6 Review

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“Everybody’s guilty.”

Mike Ehramantraut first appears in Breaking Bad‘s second season finale “ABQ” after Jane’s death when he cleans up the mess and tells Jesse what to do to come out looking innocent. His final appearance on that series was season five’s “Say My Name,” where he dies by Walt’s hand on his way to live the remainder of his life in peace. “Five-O” gave us Mike’s backstory and in turn makes his death all the more tragic. He was never free of his guilt or the lifestyle he felt he couldn’t escape from.

Before this episode, Better Call Saul only gave us teases of the character we know and love from Breaking Bad. After half a season, it was time to prove that the character was back for a reason. How Mike’s story will intersect with Nacho’s threats to Jimmy in the last four episodes of the season I do not know, but it’s become clear that Mike walks the same path as the man who will become Saul Goodman.

Told via flashbacks through the blue filter of gritty ’90s police thriller, Mike’s backstory is laced with tragedy. We learn his son was on the force too, but that he was killed in action in a crack house raid, something Mike clearly doesn’t believe. Not too long after, two more cops end up dead the night before Mike ends up in Albuquerque.

The way “Five-O” intertwined the flashbacks with Mike’s questioning was simply masterful. These are the folks who made Breaking Bad at the height of their powers. But the final flashback proved the most interesting. Anyone familiar with the character knows Mike isn’t the type to get wasted and start talking nonsense to whoever is around him, but they had me for a second. He accuses the two cops of killing his son when they knew he could put them in prison. They drive to an abandoned lot, where we get our first glimpse at Mike’s master plan as he shoves a hidden gun into his pocket. The funny thing is, Mike already told us what he was going to do to them a few years ago.

Full-measures.

To close the episode, Mike tells the truth to his daughter-in-law. Jonathan Banks has never been better, choking up as he explains how he ruined his son by getting him to take the money only to be killed two days later. This is the kind of event that could ruin a person. Make them into a killer when they need to be. Better Call Saul will eventually have to tell the story of how Mike became Gus Fring’s cold-blooded assassin. This feels like the first step to that. I can’t wait for the next step. Grade: A

 

Some Other Notes:

– When Mike plans on getting out at the end of his time on Breaking Bad, he’s not alone. Jesse plans to follow his lead. Now of course the young Pinkman is hardly the stand-up guy Mike described to be his son, but doesn’t Mike’s influence on Jesse suddenly feel like he’s righting the wrong he made with his own flesh and blood? Only when Jesse agrees to get out does Mike start taking it seriously. He’s the son he can save. Jesse driving off in “Felina” a free man just became a major victory for the then-deceased Mike. Fucking brilliant.

– Are we ready to give Jonathan Banks an Emmy yet? If you weren’t crying with him int hat final scene, I don’t know what to say to you.

– When Better Call Saul ends, I’m not opposed to a spinoff starring Mike as a cop in Philadelphia.

– Well this was super depressing. Here’s one more Breaking Bad clip to cheer things up a bit and celebrate Mike Ehramantraut.

 

By Matt Dougherty

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