How did you know that I would spill that coffee?
Better Call Saul episode 1.06, Five-O, is a total game changer in terms of what this show can be. It was a captivating hour that raced by…you know television is compelling when you’re shocked to see closing credits.
Let me quickly apologize to any fan I insulted when I doubted, last week, that episode titles are all one word (or hyphenated phrase, I guess) ending in “o”. Apparently Alpine Shepherd Boy was originally titled Jello, and I can only imagine the corporate shenanigans that led to a quick renaming.
The titles are glib, as Saul/Jimmy is glib. But Mike is the opposite. Taciturn, to Jimmy’s loquacious. But there’s also something else going on here, which is that the show itself risks being too glib when it’s all Jimmy, and Mike balances that, with deeply felt drama that gave me chills.
Chuck is interesting. Kim is interesting. But none of the other characters provide any gravitas. Without Mike, Better Call Saul lacks soul. Fortunately, Jonathan Banks is more than up to the task.
Who knew the guy had this performance in him? Not me. I’ve loved him as an actor since his first episode of Breaking Bad, but he had a very finite range on that show.
The flashback that we open with—Mike arriving in New Mexico by train—takes place about three months before our main 2002 timeline. Mike has just left Philadelphia, and the rest of the episode will move back and forth in time, telling us the story of how it all happened.
Mike’s voice is different, more melodic. There’s less gravel, less of a monotone. It’s not that he’s sweeter because he’s not yet wounded—he’s deeply wounded. But it hasn’t all settled in yet, and he’s talking to family. He has feeling in this voice, and later in the episode, we’ll see how much feeling. (Emmy reel-level feeling, frankly.)
You look like Matlock.
Meanwhile, Jimmy is still Jimmy, and we see another contrast between Mike and him. Mike knows who and what he is, and who and what other people are. He knows Jimmy will spill the coffee, while Jimmy still thinks he’s Matlock. Now, I’m thinking that Mike will soon be in need of a crooked lawyer, and one who doesn’t know he’s crooked can have uses as well, but I’m also thinking that Mike has just lost his son, and might find it appealing to take a hapless fool who is nonetheless really damn smart under his wing.
Professor Spouse and I argued the whole time that Mike was staggering out of the bar. Is he faking? Is he really drunk? I kept going back and forth, but she was sure it was fake and that he’d broken into the cop car to stash a gun under the seat. In all my life, I’ve never seen anyone quite so good at figuring out exactly what’s going to happen on a television show as my Professor.
It’s a perfect setup, actually. He knows they’re murderers, so he doesn’t doubt they’re capable of it. They provide him with an alibi, because they need one themselves. They leave before he does, no one sees them pick him up, and they take him somewhere isolated—all this because they need the defense, thereby giving Mike his own. It’s an amazing little setup. The only thing is, what do the Philly cops investigating him know, and what will they discover? Tune in next week.