Better Call Saul – Five-O

                          Five-O - Episode 6

Better Call Saul makes a strong return this week with episode 6, entitled ‘Five-O’. Privily reaveling Mike’s mysterious back story.

I wasn’t far off with my guess last week. The lady we see at the end of episode 5, ‘Alpine Shepherd Boy‘ is Mike’s daughter-in-law, Stacey, mother of Mike’s granddaughter, Kaylee from Breaking Bad. Effectively linking the two series together ‘Five-O’ promises an intriguing and dramatic insight to Mike’s elusive back story.

Dragging Mike’s past kicking and screaming all the way from Philadelphia to Albuquerque ‘Five-O’ opens with a flashback to a weary-eyed Mike Ehrmantraut stepping off a train to a lonely platform. Breaking Bad utilised flashbacks to great effect during its hugely successful longevity and Gilligan and Adam Bernstein have drawn on its powers once again to introduce this compelling episode of deceit, conspiracy, and honesty.

Rarely did we see Mike’s raw emotion during the Heisenberg years. Obligated to hold a stern front as Gus Fring’s Head of Corporate Security, it was tough to see beyond his superficial troubles but ‘Five-O’ scythes through his exterior and reveals the origins of his deep cynicism.

We’re kept in the dark about Mike’s visit to Stacey and Kaylee, simply stating he’s moved to the West indefinitely, looking to help, to be around his family. Unable to shake her natural curiosity Stacey questions Mike about Matt’s, Mike’s son, behaviour before he was killed and a specific phone call three or four days beforehand. Full of questions and doubt Stacey reluctantly admits her suspicion Mike was on the other end of an intense conversation in the early hours of the morning. Looking uncomfortable in the first of three interviews concerning the death of his son Mike brushes Stacey’s suspicion aside leaving the answers up in the air and warranting a round two later on.

After Mike gets himself patched up by a Vet moonlighting as a bullet wound surgeon we witness one of the smoothest transitions moving us from flashback to present day finding ourselves confined in an Albuquerque interview room with Mike and the two Philadelphia detectives. Simply answering their small talk questions with, “lawyer”, Mike plays catalyst to Jimmy’s introduction to the episode. Entering with coffee in hand we know from experience Jimmy has his game face on but this coffee represents more than just a tasty beverage, it will serve as the breaking point of Jimmy’s disciplined lawfulness. When Mike unknowingly asks Jimmy to draw on Slippin’ Jimmy’s prowess Jimmy refuses profusely to the extent we actually believe he believes what he is saying.

Tying the quote of the episode in nicely Jimmy, as always, provides the fluent and consistent comic relief evidenced in all five episodes before. “This little Juan Valdez bump-and-dump? No.” On first viewing we barely notice the coffee, sitting idly by on the table, the viewer too engrossed in the intriguing dialogue to notice it’s glaring significance. But in hindsight the coffee steals the scene, this is testament to Adam Bernstein’s excellent direction and again Arthur Albert’s continually impressive cinematography.

Giving in to the temptation, client request, or whatever you want to call it Jimmy aids Mike in gaining possession of the Philly detective’s notebook containing the case notes on the death of his son and his son’s partner and sergeant, Hoffman and Fensky, found dead six months later.

Jimmy’s cameo role in what is Mike’s special episode lasts a mere 8 minutes and the humour leaves with him when he departs the car park, guilt in tow. But this is where Mike’s story comes into its own. Reading through the case notes he stumbles across a piece of information that musters every willing emotion to arms for round two with Stacey.

What with the two Philly cops planting the seed that Hoffman and Fensky were, whether directly or indirectly, somehow involved with Matt’s death, Bernstein employs the flashback once again to add context to Mike’s adamance that Matt wasn’t dirty, at once shocking Stacey and the viewer. Mike’s scheming, vengeful brutality shines in the episode’s best sequence. Stumbling out of McClure’s bar after drinking like “they were fixing to bring back prohibition” our senses are heightened when Hoffman and Fensky pull up and bundle a loosened Mike into the back of their car.

As we know from our time spent with Mike over the course of Breaking Bad and so far from Better Call Saul Mike isn’t stupid. Aware that his suspicions surrounding the guilt of Hoffman and Fensky are more than likely fruitful to say the least his drunken charade soon falls to the wayside in a tense shootout, at once establishing Mike’s grief and explaining his decision to leave for Albuquerque.

Pouring his heart out to Stacey in the third and final interview of the episode it plays out like a confession. From his reserved, guilt free stance in the first bout with Stacey, to the uncooperative and unlawful second round with Philly P.D., Mike’s third ring of the bell ends in tears and confession cloaking Mike’s image with guilt and regret. Honorary quote of the episode, “I broke my boy.” Jonathan Banks puts in a strong contender for performance of the series so far.

Expecting the fun, lighthearted approach of previous episodes my first viewing of ‘Five-O’ left me a little disappointed but in retrospect this is the best episode so far. As much as I love Jimmy’s bounce episode after episode it started to feel a little like a sketch show, what’s Jimmy upto this week? So, ‘Five-O’s honesty and derailment of the Better Call Saul whimsy train came as a welcome reminder of why we love Gilligan’s vision and exemplified the power of Mike’s character, no doubt becoming more than a parking booth troll in episodes to come.

* * * * *

Episode 7, titled ‘Bingo’ airs next Tuesday so get viewing and come back next Wednesday for my recap session.

Happy Viewing

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