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How We Learned More About Mike Ehrmantraut In One Night of 'Better Call Saul' Than In Five Seasons of 'Breaking Bad'

By Vivian Kane | TV | March 11, 2015 |

By Vivian Kane | TV | March 11, 2015 |

Vince Gilligan said recently that towards the end of this season, we’ll see a major “heartbreak” on Better Call Saul. But after this week’s episode, I honestly don’t know if my heart can take any more breakage from this show. Because the last episode, “Five-O”, broke more than I was expecting from what I’ve viewed thus far as the kitschy (but still substantial!) cousin to Breaking Bad.

This show gave us a wonderful gift this week. When Breaking Bad ended, we all assumed that was the end of those characters. And when Better Call Saul was announced, most of us figured it was going to be an unnecessary dragged-out ruining of characters we once loved. But “Five-O” proved us all wrong. Because while we spent five seasons loving Mike Ehrmantraut for his taciturn baddassery, Better Call Saul had set him up this far as a stinkfaced guy trapped in a box, for Jimmy to rail against. But in one hour, we learned who this man really is.

A quick breakdown of what we learned about Mike this week. (Obvious spoilers for those who haven’t seen the episode, but if you haven’t seen the episode, WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING WITH YOU LIFE?) Mike and his son Matty were both cops in a corrupt precinct. While Mike learned to embrace to “dirty” aspect of the job, Matty couldn’t, and, after seeing his father fall from his pedestal, Matty’s principles ended up getting him killed by two of his fellow cops. We knew from Breaking Bad that Mike had a desperate desire to keep his daughter-in-law and granddaughter protected, but this finally explains why. He feels a debt we never could have even guessed at.

Even more than his backstory, in this episode we finally saw Mike as a person— a raw, emotional human. Because Mike was a fan favorite to a crazy degree on Breaking Bad, but how much did we know about the guy aside from his general baddassness, his love for his granddaughter, and the fact that this is the one face he makes?

Okay, fine. Sometimes he shows something resembling a positive emotion.

For for the most part, he has the best and most permanent resting bitch face this side of Westeros. This episode was not just an instance of an actor showing us he can give a good cry. It was a character we (and presumably he) waited years to see crack open, and the result did not disappoint. There’s a reason why “Jonathan Banks” and “Emmy” (or possibly “Golden Globe”) made up roughly (by my made-up calculations) 33% of the words being typed into Twitter on Monday night. Few of us thought this show could actually compete with Breaking Bad, but in one hour it proved why this prequel is not just great, but entirely necessary.

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