Vince Gilligan and team weren’t shy of using motifs and allusions to tie together plot threads in Breaking Bad. The method, if the patient man’s game, made all the intricate web weaving stronger and spotting them a sport (a drunken one, occasionally).
Not only that, as was the case with the majestic season 2 of Breaking Bad, they served as a broad daylight indicator as to where the series was heading (flight numbers, pink teddy bears and dead girlfriends, any one?)
So when he got the band back together for Better Call Saul, the big question wasn’t whether he would continue to do it, but whether he would replace artistry with endless Los Pollos Hermanos vans in the background.
‘Five-O’, this week’s episode, was hard-hitting and arguably among the best of his and Jonathan Banks’ work to date and it answered the question with an unexpected, and very telling, series of references:
1.“You call the cops? Why didn’t you ask me? Why didn’t you COME to ME?”
Mike Ehrmantraut’s question to Stacey (his daughter-in-law) is near an exact quote from The Godfather, when Marlon Brando says, “Why did you go the police? Why didn’t you come to me?”
The famous line at the beginning of the film tells you everything you need to know about the emphasis on family, loyalty, and respect that defines the eponymous Vito Corleone as head of the organized crime family, and how disrespected he feels when Bona Sera, the undertaker choses to go to police for justice instead of him.
Mike’s line comes in a similar fashion before we get a glimpse of his past. Mike feels disrespected in the same way as the Godfather does (both heads of their family, both criminals with a deep sense of family and both with dead sons).
2. Mike puts his arms around two police officers and says: “I know. I know it was you”.
In The Godfather: Part II, Michael Corleone says to his brother: “I know it was you Fredo!” The line in sense and style is repeated when Mike gets the two officers in an elbow lock, much like how Michael does with Fredo (holding his face and then giving him the kiss of death). Both parties know the game is up, not least with the look of fear on their faces. Brothers betrayed; in family and in the fraternity of police officers.
3. The elaborate plan for how Mike gets the cops to confess/catch them red handed resembles Michael Corleone’s plan to get the truth out of his brother.
It’s not until Carlo Rizzi confesses that “it was Barzini” who convinced him that Michael executes his plan to settle “family business”.
4. Similarly, Mike waits until the two cops turn on him.
“So Mike here decided to eat his gun”; “he’s drinking himself to death”; “we’re doing him a favour” to settle HIS “family business”.
And then the trap is sprung.
5. We don’t expect either of the characters of both Vito or Mike to break down in tears, both are strong masculine characters know and know how to take care of business.
But when they do, when they talk about their dead sons, it’s impossible not to feel for them:
Vito: “Look how they massacred my boy!”
Mike: “I had to show him that I was down in the gutter like the rest of them!”; I broke my boy. I broke my boy.”
Did we miss any? Leave a comment below with your spots and your thoughts about what direction the show is going in.