TVLine's Performer of the Week: Jonathan Banks

Performer of the Week

A weekly feature in which we spotlight shining stars

THE PERFORMER | Jonathan Banks

THE SHOW | Better Call Saul

THE EPISODE | “Five-O” (March 9, 2015)

THE PERFORMANCE | We expected the Breaking Bad prequel to shed light on the origin of its titular lawyer. But perhaps no one could have anticipated the deeply emotional deep-dive this week’s episode delivered with regards to the strong, oft-silent Mike Ehrmantraut.

For much of the hour, we were treated to Banks’ known bag of tricks — the defiantly deadpan expression, a menacing intonation of the question “How well?” lobbed at a cab driver. But as Mike’s daughter-in-law Stacey pressed on about the suspicious nature of her police officer husband Matty’s death and his odd behavior just prior, Banks took his stoic alter ego to exciting new places.

Recounting the dilemma that Matty had found himself in — invited by dirty colleagues to take a “taste” of ill-gotten greenbacks — Mike detailed for Stacey the lengths to which he went, to save his son from the blowback of being a do-right cop. And as he did, Banks made sure we felt every ache in his alter ego’s heretofore hidden heart.

“He put me up on a pedestal. And I had to show him that I was down in the gutter with the rest of ‘em,” Mike said of his initially futile but ultimately successful bid to make Matty fall in line with his morally fallen comrades. “Broke my boy,” Banks lamented through wet eyes. “I broke my boy! And they killed him two days later…. I made him lesser, I made him like me…. And the bastards killed him anyway.”

Just as impressively, moments later Banks resurfaced a bit of the more familiar, pragmatic Mike, when Stacey wondered aloud who in turn killed the cops who took out Matty. “You know what happened,” he responded, the strength in his voice and resolve returning. “The question is, Can you live with it?” With his illuminating performance, Banks has us champing at the bit to revisit Mike’s every Breaking Bad moment with a new perspective.

HONORABLE MENTION | Like her POTW-The100character on The 100, it’s easy to underestimate Eliza Taylor as just another young, pretty CW face — but that would be very foolish. (Do not mess with Clarke!) Throughout the second season, the actress has played Clarke as fierce yet emotionally conflicted. Her inner turmoil culminated in her most heartbreaking moment as a leader in Wednesday’s season finale when Clarke made the decision to kill all of Mt. Weather’s inhabitants, including the innocents and children, to save her own people. Although Clarke held strong and steady in her choice, Taylor’s tearful eyes conveyed her character’s crushing loss.

HONORABLE MENTION | In thePOTW-Girls surprise-filled Girls script for “Tad & Loreen & Avi & Shanaz,” Lena Dunham and co-writer/fellow EP Jenni Konner gave Becky Ann Baker a helluva gift, and how did she repay them? By acting the living daylights out of it, that’s how! Off her husband’s confession that he’s gay, Hannah’s mom careened through a dizzying array of reactions, from disbelief to anger to, ultimately, an obscene sort of acceptance. Through it all, Baker played the rich material with a mixture of spontaneity and world-weariness that made us almost feel guilty for eavesdropping.

Which performances rocked your TV this week? Tell us in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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58 Comments
  1. aoflaherty says:

    Huck in this week’s Scandal describing how he coped in the Hole.

  2. empp says:

    I was hoping that Huck (Guillermo Díaz) would be chosen due to his work this week in Scandal: Season 4, Episode 15 – “The Testimony of Diego Muñoz.” It was incredibly moving.

  3. Tran says:

    Huck from Scandal should have been given as an “honorable mention” this week.

  4. Katie says:

    What does it take for Alex O’Loughlin to get performer of the week or even an honorable mention? He was incredible last night!

    • BJ says:

      That last scene when he was looking at those pictures was very moving. It reminded me how good he is when he’s given the right material.

      • S McMary says:

        I thought that final scene was incredible with those haunting images and especially the heartbreaking look on Alex O’loughlin’s face as he scrolled through those horrifying pictures like it was some nightmarish rolodex. I’ve only seen the actor in H50 but I’ve been impressed by how he can take a typical action hero role and really give it some dimension. I thought he was also good in the what if episode when a disorientated Steve was asking to see his dead father. As for why he is never cited, I don’t think the answer is a simple as that the show he is just a standard CBS procedural. TVLine actually gave an honorable mention to Scott Caan (also well deserved) last fall in the episode when Danny is trying to save his brother Matt for this very same show. In addition, they have also cited David McCallum and Cote De Pablo (sp?) for NCIS in their past columns. I like to think the reason is there are a lot of good performances during a given week and this site tries to spread the wealth in terms of praise. Although, I can always guarantee the comment section will be quite passionate, both for and against ;) Sorry for the length but I would like to add that the actor who played Aaron’s father was also very good.

    • He would have to be on a better show. And this is coming someone who became a fan of his from when he was on Moonlight.

    • Mark says:

      Don’t be on a generic CBS procedural.

  5. arial2 says:

    Guillermo Diaz (Huck) in Scandal deserved this week’s recognition. Incredible performance.

  6. rachelb says:

    ryan phillipe should’ve gotten performer of the week or at least a mention omg

  7. SPAMMER says:

    [SPAM DELETED]

  8. aa says:

    Nothing for Ellie Kemper?! She was amazing in the first season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt!

  9. Mark says:

    Much deserved unfortunately the middle aged women who are fans of Once Upon a Time, Scandal and NCIS can’t appreciate a show like Better Call Saul because there isn’t enough “cute guys”

    • jennvozik says:

      Sexist and ageist much?? Your loser flag is showing.

      • Mark says:

        Sorry I’m just stating the fact most of the commenters here ignore quality tv and love formulaic procedurals and poorly written and poorly acted CW soap operas, These type of people aren’t smart enough for VInce Gilligan series. Jonathan Banks was miles ahead of any one on tv this week. It’s just Breaking Bad isn’t a fun cute series with lots of love triangles which is how you attract people on these boards to a tv show

        • wrstlgirl says:

          WOW!

        • Fran says:

          Wow indeed. Snobby and judgmental.

          • Mark says:

            Because I like quality shows and don’t care about formulaic procedurals and cheesy soap operas? A lot of people here don’t like realistic, dark shows with morally ambiguous character. They need to know who the good guys are and the bad guys are and the good guys always catch the bad guy, boring imho but a lot of people can only appreciate these type of shows,

          • I like me some quality shows too, but I’m not going to address a ton of people just to insult them and feel superior about it. You’re just showing all of us that having good taste isn’t proof of being a decent human being. Way to be an elitist troll.

        • dnm says:

          What is wrong with you?! Your comment reeks of bigotry and sexism. I’m a 21-year old female who’s as big a fan of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul as CW “soap operas” such as Arrow or Jane the Virgin. I don’t watch a show depending on the number of cute guys in it or the romance factor. I watch whatever entertains me. Just because they’re not the type of shows you watch doesn’t mean they’re any better or worse. And it certainly does not mean that I’m not “smart enough” to understand Vince Gilligan and his genius.
          P. S.: I also watch Hannibal, Orphan Black, True Detective and Black Mirror. Are those smart enough for you?

          • wrstlgirl says:

            Thank you!

          • S McMary says:

            You summed up a pet peeve of mine much better than I ever could. I really have no respect for these so called “enlightened” TV viewers who think that people who don’t share their taste in “quality” shows or more likely, dare to also enjoy shows that may not be considered award worthy, have no taste or are not intelligent enough to warrant any consideration. (Not that I really watch a lot of their shows, except Supernatural, but
            have you ever noticed how the CW seems to be the litmus test for your television IQ? LOL. You stated it perfectly; we watch shows to be entertained. Sometimes, we’re in the mood for serious drama, sometimes comedy, sometimes just shutting off our mind FUN.
            If they entertain us, then they’re all worthy of our time and respect.

        • A Fan of TV says:

          It’s also not smart to be the guy who posts sexist, bitter commentary for no good reason. The show you like, the actor you think yourself smart enough to appreciate, got top-billing this week, and all you can post about is gripes for this site’s readers and the shows getting honourable mentions. What a waste of your time. Just maybe, since you seem to view yourself as above the other people who comment on this site, you should just read the stories and save sharing your opinions with like-minded fans elsewhere, because no one here deserves your holier-than-thou whining.

        • Honey says:

          Hope you’re happy now.
          You have insulted the whole community.

    • Tamim says:

      Intelligence can be just as sexy (or even a hell of a lot more sexy) that just being a “cute guy” -cute guys can be nice to look at, but so many of them are written as flat, cute characters. No, not all, true, but a lot of them…

    • Honey says:

      You are kidding? Please say that.
      I love BB and BCS. Yes about middle age, but do not insult people on the TV shows a person enjoys. It’s down right rude.

    • Cas says:

      First off I enjoy all those shows except NCIS. Granted I am not quite middle aged yet but it is possible to enjoy some of both.

  10. I had zero doubt Banks would take this.

  11. amy says:

    Alison Wright in The Americans. Martha’s panic when the bug was discovered in Gaad’s office, and finally being jolted out of her denial about her “husband” was amazing.

  12. DanielleZ says:

    Jonathan Banks….absolutely!

  13. Cobra says:

    Well-deserved, too. I didn’t even wait for any of my other shows to air this week before knowing Banks deserved this award. A brilliant performance.

  14. wrstlgirl says:

    I got more emotion from H50 Alex O’Loughlin last night than I did this entire season of Eliza Taylor. Sure she’s in turmoil but her scenes just fall flat to me.

  15. Jenna says:

    Yay Becky! A true tour de force!

  16. Juan says:

    Eliza Taylor has shined bright this season and truly deserves this. The finale was heartbreaking having to see her make that decision.

  17. LAwoman says:

    Jonathan Banks and Becky Ann Baker were both stellar. I also thought Allison Wright on The Americans gave a great performance this week.

  18. Yunuem says:

    I was hoping for an honorable mention of Paul Wesley and Candice Accola, their last scene was incredible

  19. Whatever says:

    Loving Jonathan Banks on “Better Call Saul” .
    Hope he is nominated for an Emmy along with the show and Bob Odenkirk

  20. E. says:

    Would love to see Ellie Kemper recognized for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Such a tricky role, and she manages to be charming, hilarious, and touching. Hope next week isn’t too late to recognize her for the show!

  21. Roberta says:

    Timothy Olyphant and Walter Goggins were amazing in justified this week. Those two on screen together is magic.

  22. Frank says:

    Absolutely agree, Banks put in a performance deserving of an Emmy.

  23. J. says:

    Eliza Taylor is brilliant. I think when she’s done with The 100, she’ll become huge. SHe’s destined to be a movie star.

  24. Heathers says:

    I am a middle aged woman, and I am no fan of any of those crap soap opera type shows. I agree with Amy, Allison Wright was excellent as Martha . She deserved an honorable mention. Jonathan Banks was well deserving this week.

  25. kirads09 says:

    Thank you! I love every moment of Jonathan Banks. ♥ Better Call Saul is fantastic!!

  26. Joey Padron says:

    Jonathan Banks was great on Better Call Saul this week. He’ll get another Emmy nomination as Mike for this powerful episode & storyline.

  27. jbj says:

    I don’t watch Girls, but Becky Ann Baker is always so effortlessly real.

  28. snappy says:

    Jonathan Banks — the performance was so real, so raw. I did cry. If that is not an award winning performance, I don’t know what is.

  29. Nick says:

    You might think this accolade belongs to someone else from this week….you’d be wrong. Jonathan Banks could not be more deserving. I hope he gets an Emmy this year. I loved the HM of Eliza Taylor, too. She’s been wonderful.