Tweetable Takeaway: Mike opens up in this week’s #BetterCallSaul.Tweet
Airtime: Monday at 10pm on AMC
By: Jeff Iblings, Contributor
This may be one of the strongest episodes of BETTER CALL SAUL so far this season, and it reveals something we’ve been waiting for since Mike first appeared in Breaking Bad. The question in all of our minds has been how did Mike become this way? This grunting man whose anger simmers just on the cusp of exploding out of him has been an enigma, until now.
“Five-0” is the first episode in the series where Jimmy is not front and center the entire time. He’s been relegated to supporting player in this Mike centric episode, but even in the small amount of time he’s on screen, his moments are magical. It’s a bold move for the show, but one that pays off big time. It’s even sparked a “Spilling Jimmy” meme online in honor of his well-timed caffeinated “accident.”
There had already been hints and implications of Mike’s past. He has been a cop in Philadelphia, and based on the way he carried himself and ran his life (Breaking Bad included), there was always the idea in the back of my mind he’d left the department disgracefully and backed into a life of crime. I never realized how poetically tragic the truth would turn out to be.
The action of the episode takes place primarily on the couch of his daughter in law Stacey and in the streets and bars in Philadelphia. Although the majority of the story is outside of Albuquerque, it in no way seems out of place. The events, the tragedies, and the twists are all right in line with the well thought out story telling of the Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul world.
Based on the quick glimpse we got of Mike watching the house as Stacey leaves in episode 5, it was obvious she was some sort of relation to him. I thought she was his daughter when I first watched the episode, but it turns out she was married to Mike’s son Matty, who is dead. The events that happened right before and right after Matty died are the main focus of the episode.
Before I go any further, I just want to address what a tour de force performance Jonathan Banks gives this episode. We’ve never seen much emotion from him in all of the time we’ve spent with him, so for the curtains to be lifted enough to witness the tragedy of a father on full display was a real masterful touch.
The entire episode plays out in non-linear time, as if told in story piecemeal to Stacey. It is the truth about what happened to her husband. Matty was a good cop who followed in his father’s footsteps. He was a by the book kind of guy. In short, he was a good cop. The problem is, a good cop in a precinct that’s completely crooked is a target. When his partners offered to cut him in on dirty money they were taking he balked at the offer and turned to the one man he regarded above all others … his father.
Advice given to others when it backfires, is advice that may haunt the giver for the rest of their lives. Mike was just as dirty as Matty’s partners. He was on the take just like everyone else. It was out of fear for his son’s well being that Mike showed his true colors to his son. I’m sure it was like the disappointment of finding out your childhood hero isn’t the wonderful human being you always thought they were, and those kind of things always crush you a little bit. But Matty took his father’s advice. He took the money, only his hesitancy signed his death certificate. His partners Hoffman and Penske took his reluctance as untrustworthiness and lured him into a crack house where they murdered him, and made it look like a crack head did it.
A father’s guilt, and a father’s vengeance is what the episode is really about. Mike feels culpable for what happened to his son, and decides to take care of the mess he feels responsible for. It makes for great television, that’s for sure. Mike has always been smart as hell, and not one to do the emotional or poorly thought out thing. The way he takes care of Hoffman and Penske is absolutely genius. He’s five steps ahead of these idiots the entire time, while they believe they have the upper hand on him.
Mike avenges his son’s death and gets away with it, but is left a broken man. He follows Stacey to Albuquerque to watch over and protect her and his granddaughter, and in his own way to ask for Stacey’s forgiveness. This episode is a confessional. Mike unburdens himself of the guilt, the shame, and the gut wrenching sadness that fills him inside, but it clearly isn’t enough for him stay on the straight and narrow path. How much Jimmy has to do with that will be interesting to find out.
- One of my favorite moments was watching how Mike played Jimmy into being his co-conspirator in lifting the notebook from one of the detectives. Mike’s fast fingers and Jimmy’s great doofus act worked like a charm.
- Although Mike admits all to Stacey, it seems clear their relationship is severely strained afterward.
- I loved seeing Mike know enough to have a veterinarian to get the bullet out of his shoulder so there’s no proof he was shot. It helps eliminate any trail to him having any role in murdering Hoffman and Penske.
- We’re now halfway through the first season and I’m waiting for Nacho’s threats to come back around on Jimmy. When the time comes, will Mike help get Jimmy out of a jam and cement their uneasy partnership?
For six months out of the year Jeff is holed up in his home with nothing to do but shovel snow, watch television, write, and dream of warmer climates.