Real quick, SPOILER ALERT for Better Call Saul—though I’ve got a blanket spoiler warning in effect for this blog, since I’m not talking about a thirty-year old horror flick I thought I’d throw an extra one in here. Just to be nice. Okay, really because I don’t want to hear any whining.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s up with Mike Ehrmantraut’s storyline this season. While I’ve enjoyed the hell out of Jimmy’s (de)volution, Kim’s internal battle for her soul, Howard becoming a hot mess and the fallout from Nacho’s switcheroo with the meds, I’ve been baffled by Mike’s plot the last few episodes. His infiltration of Madrigal Electromotive and subsequent chat with Lydia were fantastic, but his story has flagged quite a bit after transitioning to his supervised construction of the super-lab.
Why? There’s no tension.
When the super-lab was first revealed on Breaking Bad, I did wonder how Gus Fring managed to build such an expansive meth-making operation beneath his laundromat. But at the same time I didn’t need to know—I chalked the presence of the lab up to Gus’s intrinsic Fring-ness. Let’s face it, the man could make the Earth rotate clock-wise with nothing more than a steely glare (I mean maybe a raised eyebrow too).
Flash forward to BCS, where we get the origin of the super-lab, which is about as interesting as the origin story of any other building. Someone built it, the end. There’s no tension to the storyline because we know that no matter what trials and tribulations the German team face, the super-lab gets built. We also know Mike doesn’t get killed by a random falling beam, and we don’t care enough about the Germans for any of their construction-related deaths to affect us one iota (although that Kai guy is kind of a jackass).
So what the hell is Vince Gilligan doing here?
I mean, he’s doing something, right? He’s Vince fucking Gilligan, not Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. Everything means something, everything has a purpose. He doesn’t have throwaway characters, as evidenced by some of the cameos and bit parts in the series (so glad to see Huell back and looking pretty damn healthy, by the way). Why is he showing us this?
Maybe because this is Mike’s heel turn.
Even though Mike doesn’t harbor any illusions about who Gus Fring is, he’s still a good guy who takes pride in his work, and wants others to do the same (see the aforementioned Madrigal montage). His word means something to him, a handshake is an iron-clad deal in his world.
He still thinks they’re going to build this lab and then the whole thing ends in Miller Time (as Mike might say).
And that’s the trick. Despite the precautions, despite the sally port, Gus Fring will not suffer these men to live once they’re done building his super-lab. Alex and Cyrus are going to slaughter them, and Mike’s going to lose his shit. He’ll confront Fring, maybe there’s even a moment where he comes close to killing him. We might end the season with a rift between Mike and Gus, but by next season that rift will be healed.
This storyline isn’t about Mike building a super-lab. It’s about the scales being pulled from his eyes, and when they are he’s not going to look away, completing his transition from cop to crook. And when we look back at these last few episodes, all the Bing Crosby montages and jackass German guys will have been worth it.