Em, *cough*, well.
There comes a point when you just have to admit that you were wrong. I was losing faith. BCS has largely up to this point been the Saul Goodman show. It was my expectation that it would remain so and the cast would orbit around him praying he becomes the Saul quickly.
‘Five-O’ has poured an avalanche of sawdust on that mistake and I feel all the better for it. After five weeks Mike Ehrmantraut is back on form. Visceral is an understatement, this episode combined to huge effect an unexpectedly tragic backstory. It was a coiled surprise waiting to strike and the pay-off was that it adds and doesn’t taint our experience of the character in Breaking Bad.
As Pat Pandey explores, a large part of that is due to the episode being a huge homage to The Godfather. From a dead son to telling the murdering police officers that he knew it was them, there is a strong sense of betrayal among family, in this instance among the brotherhood of officers of the law (paralleling Michael and Fredo Corleone).
I’d suspected that the background that got Mike into the drug business was less than pretty, and while ‘Five-O’ doesn’t quite show the push into Gus Fring’s arms, it certainly explains the catalyst and then some. Mike was always a dirty cop, not just your ‘there are no half measures, Walter’ type. Here he became a murderer. Had he done it before? Why did he retire at all?
Certainly drinking in a cop bar makes me think whatever he did wasn’t that bad. Perhaps it was the events alluded to in the Breaking Bad episode ‘Half Measures’ where he threatens a wife beater who subsequently goes on to murder his wife. We never learn the fall out of that and that might be something to do with it.
In any event, the Mike we have here is on spectacularly nuanced and patient form. He was never a thug, but this episode makes plain clear just how much of a tactical bastard he can be. The whisky was a nice touch; a Checkov’s gun used in the best way.
Admittedly, he was a little too good, making me think there is an even darker undercurrent to the character to explain how he got that way.
Jonathan Banks has confirmed himself as one of the franchise’s (can we call it that yet?) best assets. For anyone that thought he was a funny but blunt character has been put in their place as the writers flush him out even more.