Fun week of TV this week!
Episode of the Week
Better Call Saul – “Five-O”
Let’s all just take a moment to appreciate the amazingness that is Jonathan Banks in the role of Mike Erhmantraut. This episode was a tour de force for him and should immediately put him into contention for an Emmy in the fall. It was also arguably the best hour of Better Call Saul yet.
A little more than halfway through its first season, we still hadn’t spent much time with Mike. He’d interacted with Jimmy a bit to argue about parking stickers, but until the end of last week, that had been mostly it. Now, we’ve finally seen what brought him to Albuquerque in the first place – and, in the process, probably his first steps toward being the guy we all know from Breaking Bad. And it was heartbreaking.
As it turns out, Mike had a son named Matt who was also a cop in Philadelphia who was killed (so everyone thought) on the job. Mike, however, knew better – his son’s partners had killed him to cover up for the fact that they were dirty. Mike hung around cop bars in Philly, drinking and listening and making everyone think he was just a sad old drunk (I think there was an element of truth to that, to be honest) until he could get the two guys alone – where he shot them both.
The episode did a beautiful job of presenting this story to us – rather than one long flashback, we picked up details from Mike’s encounters with his daughter-in-law Stacey, his exchanges (and tension around) the cops from Philly investigating the deaths of the two cops, his interactions with Jimmy, and a few brief (and out of chronological order) flashbacks. The show left it up to us to piece everything together – Mike’s bullet wound from the beginning, whether or not he was truly an alcoholic or playing it up for the sake of catching the bastards that killed his son, etc.
But the real highlight of the episode was the last sequence, when he sits down and tells Stacey everything that happened. She thought Matt might be a dirty cop as well, because of some extra cash she found lying around and a late-night phone call to Mike the night before he was shot and killed. As Mike would explain, Matt called him to ask whether he should turn his partners in. Mike – who had been a dirty cop himself – told him to protect himself and not turn them in. It broke his son’s heart to find out that his father had been a dirty cop and would suggest taking the money and not doing the right thing – and it got him killed anyway. The pain in Mike’s eyes as he explained all of this was apparent – more unbelievable work by Jonathan Banks. After he finished telling Stacey everything, she quietly asked what happened to Matt’s partner’s if it wasn’t some sort of related crime to Matt’s shooting.
His answer? “You know what happened. The question is, can you live with it?” Heavy, powerful stuff. You can easily see how Mike, in his grief, guilt, and anger, could turn into the man who works with Gus Fring.
This was a terrific hour of television and makes me really excited for the last handful of episodes Better Call Saul has to offer this season.
Moment of the Week
Agents of SHIELD – “Who You Really Are”
This is really silly, but I’ve always gotten a huge kick out of stone-faced Melinda May’s crush on Thor, which came up in a funny moment with Lady Sif this week.
Guest Star(s) of the Week
Alia Shawkat and Kelly Ripa, Broad City
How have I never realized how much Ilana Glazer and Alia Shawkat look alike before now?! Casting Shawkat as a girl Ilana falls for mainly because she looks JUST LIKE HER was a stroke of genius. The two of them were fantastic together and had great chemistry. It was hilarious to see the entire relationship fall apart just because Adele didn’t smoke weed.
And then there was Kelly Ripa, who completely blew me away with how funny she was. Abbi’s quest to find her coat after their chance encounter at the coat check was funny enough, but watching them bond over Bed, Bath & Beyond (what else?) – and Ripa get crazier and crazier as they drank more – was wonderful. I get such a kick out of watching people play completely exaggerated, ridiculous versions of themselves, so this was right up my alley.
Binge-Watch of the Week
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Tina Fey has done it again, you guys. I’ve already watched this entire series twice, and I am COMPLETELY in love with it. From it’s catchy-as-hell theme music to the utter delight of Ellie Kemper, this show is a blast. I cannot fathom how it ever would have worked on NBC and I am forever grateful to Netflix for rescuing it and letting it exist in the world.
There’s so much to love about this show. It’s got the same weirdness to it that 30 Rock did – if anything, it’s weirder – but there’s also a much darker tone to a lot of the comedy. Kimmy has been through some shit – being kidnapped and living in a bunker for 15 years is no joke. But the show does a terrific job of balancing that darkness with really powerful messages of surviving and not letting life or being a victim destroy you, and I really love that. I don’t think it would work with anyone but Kemper in the lead – she has an amazing energy and joy to her that does a great job of making some of the darker humor not feel all that dark.
The supporting cast is also amazing. We all know what Jane Krakowski can do from her turn as the one and only Jenna Maroney on 30 Rock – and there’s a lot of Jenna in Jacqueline Vorhees – but I think Jacqueline has a lot more layers to her. She feels real human emotions, for one thing – I’m not convinced Jenna ever did. Tituss Burgess is absolutely hilarious as Kimmy’s roommate and guide to 2015 existence Titus Andromedon – his put-uponness at having to do basically anything for her (or anyone), while simultaneously sincerely caring about her, was wonderful to watch.
If you haven’t checked it out yet, I highly recommend it. Just listen to the theme song, how can you resist?!
What was your favorite thing on TV this week?