In “Gloves Off,” this week’s episode of Better Call Saul, Mike Ehrmantraut gets a featured role. And in this week’s episode of the Better Call Saul Insider podcast, we learn about the origins of Mike Ehrmantraut’s character on Breaking Bad. We also get some insight into several other Breaking Bad characters and details that worked their way into this week’s stellar episode of Better Call Saul written by Gordon Smith, who also wrote last season’s Mike episode, “Five-O.”
The Scheduling Conflict Responsible for Better Call Saul
The best story from Kelly Dixon’s Better Call Saul Insider Podcast this week had nothing to do with this episode, in particular, but a scheduling conflict from Breaking Bad that ultimately made it possible for Better Call Saul to happen. In the podcast, Rhea Seehorn (who plays Kim) asked if Vince Gilligan and co. ever broke a story with a particular actor in mind (such as this week’s episode with Ray Cruz’s Tuco) only to find out that the actor wasn’t available.
In fact, that had happened back in Breaking Bad. In the series, after Krysten Ritter’s character Jane dies, a character known only as “The Cleaner” at the time is called in to clean up the scene. That “Cleaner,” of course, was our first introduction to Jonathan Banks, whose character would later get a name, Mike Ehrmantraut, and a co-starring role in the spin-off series, Better Call Saul.
However, as originally envisioned, it was Saul Goodman who was called in to clean up the mess, and had the scene been shot as written, the distance between Jimmy McGill and the Saul Goodman who cleans up after characters die from overdoses might have been too great a transformation for Better Call Saul to cover. Fortunately, Bob Odenkirk wasn’t available to film that scene on that day, so they had to rewrite it and Gilligan jumped at the opportunity to cast an actor he loved from Wiseguy. That actor, of course, was Jonathan Banks, and many years later, he’s the featured co-star in another strong episode of Saul.