'Better Call Saul' recap: Light shed on Mike's troubled past

'Better Call Saul' recap: Light shed on Mike's troubled past
After taking an early retirement from the Philadelphia Police Department, Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) relocates to New Mexico. (Ursula Coyote/AMC)

The violent and tragic backstory of former Philadelphia cop and future drug world "fixer" Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) is revealed in "Five-O," Episode 106 of AMC's "Better Call Saul."

After traveling from the mean streets of Philly to the wide open spaces of Albuquerque, Mike is greeted by his daughter-in-law Stacey (Kerry Condon). She's the widow of Mike's son Matt, a cop supposedly gunned down by a junkie.


"I'm here for the duration -- indefinitely," Mike tells Stacey, emphasizing that he's sober now and wants to spend quality time with his granddaughter Kaylee (Faith Healey).

But Mike's troubled life is soon evident. He has a bullet in his left shoulder and pays a shady veterinarian $500 to treat the wound without alerting authorities.

Before long, Philadelphia detectives Greg Sanders (Barry Shabaka Henley) and Geoff Abbasi (Omid Abtahi) track down Mike in New Mexico. Mike was recently seen in a Philly bar speaking with two cops who served with his late son. A short time later the officers were found dead.

When queried about that bloody night, Mike sticks to his one-word mantra: "Lawyer." And whom does he call for legal representation? Mike turns to Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk), not for his attorney skills but for his lack of ethics.

"Accidentally" spilling a cup of coffee is Jimmy's only responsibility, thus giving Mike the chance to steal Geoff's notebook and discover what the detectives have uncovered. But Jimmy says he won't cooperate.

"Everything square and above board," Jimmy insists. "But this little Juan Valdez bump and dump? Not going to happen."

When questioned by the detectives, Mike doesn't offer much.

"I'm sorry you guys took a flier on me," Mike says. "I wish it'd paid off."

As he starts to exit the interrogation room, Jimmy changes his mind and dumps coffee on Geoff while Mike grabs the notebook.

"How'd you know that I would spill that coffee?" Jimmy asks as they depart from the police station. Mike, a shrewd judge of character, just laughs.

By reading the notes, Mike learns that Stacey called the police after finding thousands of dollars hidden in the lining of a suitcase. She hoped this revelation would help find Matt's killer.

"My son wasn't dirty," Mike yells when confronting Stacey. Later Mike admits that he was the dirty one -- not Matt.

"The two dead cops had been taking bribes and stealing from drug dealers," Mike explains to Stacey. When Matt was offered a cut of the action, he initially refused. After a heated argument, however, Mike convinced Matt to take the cash so he could protect his family.

"I was the only one that could get him to debase himself," Mike tearfully says. "I made him lesser. I made him like me!"


But the crooked cops still worried that Matt would report them to Internal Affairs.

"You know what a cop fears most?" Mike asks Stacey. Being locked in prison with criminals he arrested.

"You threaten a cop with that," Mike says, "you make him dangerous."

Certain that the officers killed Matt and made it look like an ambush, Mike plotted his payback. Pretending to be drunk, he told the cops: "I know it was you!" And he vowed to prove it.

This prompted the officers to pick up Mike and drive to a remote location where they planned to shoot him and make it appear like suicide. But Mike pulled a hidden gun and killed both cops, catching a bullet in the firefight.

"You know what happened," Mike says to Stacey as he confesses to this act of revenge. "The question is, can you live with it?"