Emmy episode analysis: Jonathan Banks’ quest for vengeance on ‘Better Call Saul’

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Jonathan Banks is back again being nominated for playing former cop turned hired gun Mike Ehrmantraut on AMC’s freshman series “Better Call Saul.” Banks was nominated in this category for playing Mike in 2013 when he was on “Breaking Bad” and was also nominated in 1989 for playing Frank McPike on “Wiseguy.” Banks has chosen “Five-0” as his episode submission this year for Best Drama Supporting Actor.

Click here to see the updated list of all 2015 Emmy episode submissions

The episode opens in a flashback with Mike arriving in Albuquerque from Philadelphia. While waiting for his ride, he treats a gunshot wound that he’s managing to keep hidden in the bathroom. He’s picked up by his daughter-in-law Stacey and he explains that he wants to relocate there, remain sober and be a part of the life of his granddaughter, Kaylee. Stacey is apprehensive about having Mike in her life since she’s still unclear about certain things surrounding the death of her husband/his son, Matty. In the present, Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) helps Mike get out of a bind with cops from Philly who are investigating Matty’s death and the death of his partners. Back with Stacey, Mike is confronted by her about what was going on with Matty in the weeks leading up to his death.

We then flashback to Philly with Mike getting drunk at a cop bar and seeing Matty’s old partners. Later as he’s stumbling home, the partners offer Mike a ride home in the back of their cruiser. As Mike drunkenly rambles about how they set Matty up, the cops drive Mike to an alley in a rough neighborhood where they intend to kill Mike and make it look like a suicide. Mike then surprises the cops at gunpoint, showing that he had been faking his drunkenness all along to set up the cops just as they set up his son. He shoots and kills both of them but one of the cops shoots Mike, explaining the earlier gunshot wound. We then see Mike with Stacey, tearing up at how he made Matty a lesser person telling him to go along with taking the money. When Stacey asks what happened to the cops, Mike responds that she knows what happened but that the real question is, can she live with it?  Will the third time be the charm for Banks? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons:

Banks dominates this episode as the lead and is in the entire hour. The show’s normal lead Odenkirk only appears in one scene.

Banks gets an incredible amount of emotional range over the episode’s span. We see him as his normal curmudgeonly and stone-faced self but also get to see him as a vengeful father and a man full of remorse and sadness for the son that he lost.

If there’s any residual love for “Breaking Bad” and its characters, that can only help Banks in this situation.

The broader voting pool could reduce the importance of the episode selection in how they rank the nominees on their ballot.

Those who weren’t big fans of “Breaking Bad” might not fully get the emotional impact of everything that we find out about Mike.

Being overdue for an Emmy has never been a big factor in helping some people get Emmy love.

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Photo Credit: Ursula Coyote/AMC

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