Better Call Saul season 6, episode 12 revisits a key season 1 setting, but this subtle callback picks the scab of an infamous Breaking Bad death.
Better Call Saul viewers might’ve thought they’d finally recovered from Mike Ehrmantraut’s death, but a dark callback in season 6’s “Waterworks” opens that old wound. Mike Ehrmantraut debuted in Breaking Bad as a jack-of-all-trades criminal and Gustavo Fring’s right-hand man, but a gruff demeanor and no-nonsense personality immediately endeared Jonathan Banks’ character to audiences. By the time an out-of-control Walter White gunned Mike down in Breaking Bad season 5, viewers were standing firmly on his side and weeping as the cop-turned-crook’s life slowly faded away on a river bank.
Better Call Saul has made Mike’s death even more upsetting by expanding his backstory. Watching Mike start out as a (mostly) upstanding grandfather before gradually dropping one moral line after another amplified the tragedy around his eventual downfall in Breaking Bad. From earning money so that his young granddaughter could live in a better neighborhood to watching Nacho Varga die, Mike’s prequel story is just one sympathetic twist after another, but Better Call Saul season 6’s “Waterworks” hides one final knife-twist up its soggy sleeve.
An unexpected phone call from Jimmy McGill prompts Kim Wexler to fly back to Albuquerque, where she makes a legal confession detailing the truth of Howard Hamlin’s death, and how she and Jimmy conspired to conceal his murder with cartel criminals. As Kim drives into the courthouse parking lot one final time, her gaze lingers upon the empty attendant’s booth. This is where Mike Ehrmantraut worked back in Better Call Saul season 1, scraping a meager living before being tempted by bigger money underground. The empty booth in Better Call Saul season 6 – with Mike’s old job now rendered completely obsolete by ticket machines – stands as a sad monument to his passing. The Breaking Bad world has moved on and forgotten Mike. Similar to how Jesse admits he’s never heard of Lalo Salamanca, Better Call Saul’s empty parking booth shows the ruthlessness of how major criminals die without a trace. More importantly, this shot brings Mike’s entire arc full circle. This parking booth is where Mike’s tale chronologically began, and revisiting it in the post-Breaking Bad landscape shows how his journey was every bit as wild as Walt and Jimmy’s.
Why Kim Stares At Mike’s Booth In Better Call Saul Season 6, Episode 12
Better Call Saul‘s parking booth callback may be a poignant stinger for Breaking Bad fans who still have Mike Ehrmantraut’s death seared into their brains, but why does Kim Wexler stare curiously at the booth as she drives past? Earlier in Better Call Saul season 6, Kim encountered Mike for the first time, recognizing him as the old courthouse parking attendant. When she mentioned this, Mike sounded almost remorseful at the strange direction his life had taken. Mike and Kim would next see each other in the aftermath of Howard Hamlin’s death, but instead of taking her money, he was taking the bloody corpse on Kim’s apartment floor.
Kim hears about Mike’s death from her phone call with Jimmy, so when she drives past the courthouse parking lot booth a day or two later, she’s likely remembering the grumpy bald guy who once worked there, weighing up the fact he’s now dead and buried alongside so many others she knew in the Better Call Saul days.
Better Call Saul concludes Monday on AMC.