Written by Gordon Smith
Directed by Adam Bernstein
Last episode, we finally got some more definition of the secondary players in Better Call Saul‘s drama, but this episode we got essentially nothing but a fill-in of Mike Ehrmantraut’s back story. Like “Hermanos” on Breaking Bad (04.08, 2011), this is an episode that gives us a ton of insight into one character (and gives that actor his Emmy submission episode) but doesn’t really move forward the primary storyline.
We already had quite a bit of information about Mike’s history from veiled clues in the past, but this episode made it all clear: Mike was a dirty cop whose son was killed for failing to go along with a protection scheme. In response, Mike killed his son’s murderers and moved immediately to New Mexico, where his daughter-in-law (h/t, Chase had that right last week.), Stacey, had taken his granddaughter, Kaylee (He also had the spelling right–Kayleigh looks much better, though, doesn’t it?). None of this is earth-shattering information–it’s pretty close to what we could have gathered from what clues we had in the past. Instead, it’s just adding some depth and specifics.
However, the scene between Mike and Stacey wherein he confesses to the phone call to Matt and discusses what was weighing on Matt in his final weeks and eventually got him killed is still a powerful scene, largely because we are watching the typically withdrawn Mike show emotions. A man who has never given us any sign of emotions beyond annoyance cries, suffering under the crushing weight of both the loss of his son and guilt over having contributed to Matt’s death. He tells Stacey, “You know what happened. The question is, can you live with it?” supposedly meaning that she needs to decide whether to accept his murder of Matt’s murderers but in reality meaning that he needs to learn to live with his own role in Matt’s death. And major kudos to Jonathan Banks for pulling it off so well.
All that said, the episode still felt like something of a filler episode. Not only did nothing happen to move the story forward, but unlike the way both this series and Breaking Bad have so often telegraphed the result and then gotten there in surprising ways, this episode was pretty obvious every step of the way. As soon as Stacey talked about the phone call, it was pretty easy to put everything together, and nothing surprising happened along the way.
However, credit to Adam Bernstein and Arthur Albert for an absolutely beautiful-looking episode. The darkness enveloping Mike in his confession and the interrogation scene while others still have lights and surroundings behind them is a powerful visual element and the first time so far that this series has seemed willing to delve into Breaking Bad‘s visual palette.
- “I doubt that qualifies under the definition of assault; but hey, you’re the lawyer.” In tort law, it would definitely be battery, so in at least many criminal codes it would probably actually fit the definition of assault.
- “Philadelphia? Go Eagles.” Somehow, Jimmy doesn’t seem like one to make a football reference. More like a Rocky reference.
- Mike was much less smooth taking the notebook than Huell was taking the cigarette on Breaking Bad.
- It seemed bizarre for people back in Philadelphia to call him “Mikey.” Mike does not seem like someone who would go by “Mikey,” even to close friends or family.
- “Smart. It’s what I would have done if I were you.” No, Mike, I think you would have been smart enough to discuss the plan before the moment of truth. That was the height of stupidity.
- Kerry Condon is gorgeous, but I’m a little worried if the show is actually going to try to keep her role important–I’ve not seen any evidence before that she’s capable of performing on the level that has been the norm for this show so far.
- I assume we’re going to see the doctor again because Clea Duvall is too big of a name to use for a role that small, so I’m surprised that we didn’t see her this episode. Then again, Jimmy–the guy in the title of the show–was essentially a cameo in this one.
- Does anybody else always feel like the end credits music is essentially a slowed-down, lengthened version of the title music from Breaking Bad or is that just my brain projecting?
- Every episode in the first season has a one-word title ending in “o” except “Alpine Shepherd Boy.” I have no idea what that means, but Breaking Bad once gave away a major plot element with the titles, so I can’t imagine that it doesn’t have a reason. (The reason may be to mess with people like me, though!) I also am now hoping for an appearance of Warren Zevon’s song “Hostage-o” to fit the theme, because the world could always use more Warren Zevon.
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