The show is titled Better Call Saul but it had to call on Mike to get shit done. Last week I called for more grit from this spinoff. In order to propel to another level it needs more tenacity, more consequence, more cold sweat moments that leave the audience feeling queasy afterward. Yes, the show has got charm galore, that’s basically the most abundant element in Jimmy McGill’s composition, but it lacks a tonal quality that helps raise the stakes and truly invest the viewer. The character Mike Ehrmantraut was introduced to the viewers in the season finale of Season 2 of Breaking Bad. His appearance after what is a solid candidate for the best hour of that show (“Phoenix”) resonated with me because like Jesse in that episode I felt, distraught, confused and panicked by the death of Jane. Mike, who never introduced himself and was known simply as “The Cleaner” by fans between Season 2 and 3, waltzed into Jesse’s apartment, scrubbed the scene of incrimination and left the young man with a good enough story to avoid being arrested. From that first moment Mike made an impression. He was one of the only people on the show to exude confident calm. He knew exactly what to do and when to do it and didn’t rely on eccentrics to do so. You can tell this guy was cut from pure stone. Over the following seasons we slowly obtained bits information on Mike, but really we never really were allowed to dive too into the stoic enforcer, and for good reason, it wasn’t his show. In one scene during Breaking Bad Mike is shown picking up his granddaughter and when he arrives he waves to a woman standing on the curbside. There was some speculation as to why Mike would not approach and embrace the woman who was clearly the guardian of the child. Actor Jonathan Banks expressed in an interview that he was also bothered by that, and in his attempts to understand the character disclosed that he played it from the perspective that the woman was his daughter-in-law and something terrible had happened to her husband, his son. The two minimize their contact in an effort to cope It’s very cool, and not very shocking, that the savvy writers of Better Call Saul took this small character moment and expounded on it for a full episode. This hour is undeniably Mike-centric, to the point that Jimmy’s appearance about halfway through could be considered a cameo. It opens up with Mike meeting up with the woman he shared a stare with last week at a train station. This woman, Stacy, is in fact his daughter-of-law, and yes, sadly Mattie Ehrmantraut is deceased. We quickly discover that Mike is hiding an apparent bullet wound on his shoulder which expertly introduces vicious tension at the start of the episode. This show has established it will chop up timelines so I can’t say it was uncharacteristic or even risky to use a non-linear plot in “Five-O” but I will say it fucked with me a bit. The episode jumps forward and back and even takes a nice long trip out east to Philly. While a little jarring, the information presented is luscious and charged. The mysterious death of Mattie hurls the episode forward while also giving it a central thread, and it all erupts in the best emotional moment on the series so far. Mike’s confession, where he details to Stacy how he convinced his son to participate in police corruption by revealing its ubiquity, is the pinnacle of many great scenes. Jonathan Banks nails just about every interaction and does just as well in the solo moments. The parts with Jimmy probably are the best, not only because of the caliber of acting by both Banks and Odenkirk, but because it has the most impetus on the plot. When murder police from Eastern PA come into town to question Mike about the circumstance of the deaths of Mattie’s ex-partner and boss, the vet cop demands council and calls upon Jimmy McGill. Upon arrival, our hero is instructed to perform a “Juan Valdez bump and dump” so Mike can swipe a detective’s notebook. Jimmy scoffs at the demand, but then gives in after hearing a bit about Mike and Mattie’s story. It’s interesting to discover Mike’s influence in the creation of Saul, there’s an implication that he detects a bit of the Slippin’ Jimmy charisma and pulls it out. This episode rocked it; a touch of mystery, a swath of fan-favorite character and thematic poignancy all over the place. On quality alone I would say that this episode sets this show on a trip to Must Watch Land but there’s a small problem — It’s not about Jimmy. This is the type of episode you’d typically see embedded in a second or third season. While Mike’s established persona allows the writers to cheat a bit in that regard it’s not really a good look when a side character with certain limitations has a killer episode before the protagonist does. Mike does inject a little life into the Jimmy plotline but I need to give this a minor black mark for its too-digressive tone. Then again, I’m glad this plotline didn’t stretch out over many episodes. We’re past the halfway point of Better Call Saul. I’m liking it so far but still waiting for it to hit the next gear. Let’s hope Monday is the start of that. Better Call Saul 1.06 "Five-O"Jamil's Rating4.0Overall ScoreReader Rating: (1 Vote)Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.