REVIEW: ‘Better Call Saul’ Episode 6: Five-0

Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut - Better Call Saul _ Season 1, Episode 6 - Photo Credit: Ursula Coyote/AMC
Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut – Better Call Saul _ Season 1, Episode 6 – Photo Credit: Ursula Coyote/AMC

This episode was a punch in the gut that fans of “Breaking Bad” thought we would never see: What drove Mike Ehrmantraut to Albuquerque, New Mexico from Philadelphia?

We got hints about that life in “Breaking Bad,” but now we have a clearer picture. A stark, brutal picture of a broken man trying to rebuild his life after the death of his son.

This is a very dark, and very well put together episode. As we see what Mike has went through and what he does, you can’t help but feel for the guy. We know he’s a criminal, and will remain one. But Jonathan Banks’ performance sells the viewer on feeling for this man.

The episode begins with a flashback of Mike arriving in New Mexico, wounded both mentally and physically. He has been shot, and is self-treating his wounds. Flash forward to Mike sitting in the Albuquerque PD, with the police from Philly wanting to talk to him about what happened to his son nine months prior. As he replies only with “lawyer” to every question, they allow him his attorney, who is Jimmy McGill. Finally those business cards are paying off!

Mike recruits Jimmy into a ruse where Jimmy spills his coffee on the Philly officer taking notes. This is so Mike can find out why Philadelphia is looking into him now, by stealing the officer’s notebook. It turns out that his daughter-in-law Stacy has called them about hearing her husband, Mike’s son Matty, arguing on the phone that was heated and not long before Matty was killed on the job. And she suspects he was talking to Mike at that time.

The episode flashes back and forth throughout, but the gist of it all was Matt was killed on the job by his fellow officers, Hoffman and Fenske. Mike, broken down and angry, wants revenege. He knows how crooked cops operate because he had been a crooked cop himself. He knew Hoffman and Fenske killed his son. He knew how and why. And it’s eating away at what’s left of his soul.

During a flashback, Mike pulls a nice con: breaks into the officers car and plants a gun. He then acts like he’s getting smashed at the bar (like he had been since his son’s murder) and mumbles to Hoffman and Fenske that he knows they did it. This jars the two cops. They pick him up as he’s stumbling home from the bar, take his weapon as a “precaution” and drive him to an abandoned lot. They are going to take care of him. What they don’t know is Mike stashed a weapon away prior, and emptied the gun they took. And he kills them, though he does take a bullet himself.

But the brutal scene is Mike talking to Stacy about Matty. He screams in her face after she suggests Matty may have been crooked. That’s not the case. The case was Matty knew his partner was crooked and wanted to talk to Internal Affairs.

Mike, knowing the situation, told Matty he shouldn’t. He told his son that even he takes a taste of contraband. His son worshiped his father. “I broke my boy!” Mike cries. But convicning Matty to play along didn’t save him. Matty died because he had a slight hesitation in accepting his taste. Hoffman and Fenske murdered his son because Matty couldn’t be trusted by crooked cops.

And Mike is haunted by that. His son, a good cop, was murdered by his fellow officers because of his convictions. It haunted him as he murdered the two cops in Philly, and it’s still haunting him nine months later in New Mexico. And it’s haunting him six years later when he’s working with Walter White.

The episode ends with Stacy asking Mike “But what happened to the two cops?” to which Mike replies in a cold tone “We know what happened.The question is, can you live with it?” This is the Mike we know from “Breaking Bad.”

THOUGHTS:

* “Your friends from Philly back there? They think you killed two cops,” Jimmy tells Mike. Mike, ever the stone face simply mumbles “Yep.”

* Mike getting his gun shot wound fixed by the veterinarian, on the advice of a cab driver, was hilarious.

* Jimmy is still sporting that Matlock outfit.

* I’ve read this elsewhere, but I tend to agree. This episode can only really be appreciated if you have already seen “Breaking Bad.” I think that those who haven’t may be baffled by such a deep back story about the parking lot ticket booth guy. Mike is a complex character, and knowing more about what is to come in six years gives this episode a lot more weight.