Better Call Saul’s season 5 sniper scene involving Mike Ehrmantraut gets passing marks, adding to the show’s impressive reputation for accuracy.
- Better Call Saul receives praise for its accurate portrayal of a sniper sequence, earning major kudos from a former special operations sniper.
- The show’s attention to detail, such as the way the character Mike breathes, sets it apart,
- Despite some minor discrepancies, the episode’s depiction of a sniper waiting for the car to get closer is realistic and showcases the show’s strength in staying true to the details.
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Better Call Saul‘s season 5 sniper scene involving Mike Ehrmantraut gets passing marks, adding to the show’s legacy of accuracy. Even though it could make a case for itself as the best TV spinoff of all time, Better Call Saul has another, more specific distinction. Against stiff competition, it’s been cited by a few real-life lawyers as one of the more accurate legal shows. A new video gives special mention to Ehrmantraut, detailing what makes a familiar scene work so well.
Nicholas Irving, a former special-operations sniper and an author, pauses to give special credit to Better Call Saul in a video from Insider.
Irving rates 11 sniper scenes, across film and television, including Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Extraction, Skyfall, The Wall, and Hacksaw Ridge. But it is Better Call Saul season 5, episode 8, which was titled “Bagman”, that earns major kudos from Irving. The episode, which was written by Gordon Smith and directed by series co-creator Vince Gilligan, gets little details right. Irving cites, for example, the way that Mike (Jonathan Banks) breathes. But he did have some notes. Irving’s full quote is included below:
All that little—good tactical deep breath pause, you know, before the shot was really good to be more precise. You essentially have to be calm and one of the easiest ways to calm your body down or right before the shot is to just take deep breaths and get the blood circulating. I would have got more behind the rifle as opposed to, like, having my legs off to the side like that. [I would] maybe get down like in a squatting stance or on my knees and kind of put my weight behind the gun. That way, when it recoils, it’s kind of more of a straight-back motion and not this motion. He’s going to pretty much get that just because his body alignment and the way he’s holding the rifle there.
You go, ‘Yeah, I think it was smart for him to let the vehicle get closer to him.’ Everybody thinks [that], being a sniper, we want the longest furthest shots. But, ideally, you want the closer ones just because it makes your job that much easier and, you know, it’s almost like a 100% guarantee [that] you’re going to hit. But with that, if I’m protecting someone and I shoot the vehicle within, you know, a few yards from him, [then] the guy is still going to get hit by the moving vehicle.
I don’t like that the car just did a triple axle. That’s not how that works at all. The only moving vehicles that I’ve shot, I was a machine gunner and I’ve never once made a car flip over. Normally they just crash into a wall or crash into another parked car. I’d give it a six. The only thing that’s pulling me back, giving it a lesser number, is because of the sniper waiting for the car to get closer.
Better Call Saul’s Attention To Detail Is Its Biggest Strength
In the debate of whether Better Call Saul is better than Breaking Bad, an underappreciated distinction is that the spinoff could be operatic and deliberate in the way that Breaking Bad is not often remembered for. Better Call Saul, which of course spun off from Breaking Bad, could spend entire sequences showing how something was built or lingering on something seemingly random that wouldn’t pay off until entire episodes or whole seasons later.
But when that payoff did happen, there was nothing quite like it. It was the payoff of seeing how the intricate schemes of Saul (Bob Odenkirk) and Kim (Rhea Seehorn) would eventually deliver. Sometimes the result was mostly harmless. More often, arguably, as when Saul humiliated his brother Chuck (Michael McKean) on the stand, it was truly devastating. But it is always thrilling.
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It gives the spinoff an added bonus, in terms of its rewatchability, as there are always subtle character beats and seemingly random moments to appreciate later. Better Call Saul, like any fictionalized piece of entertainment, is not beholden to accuracy over the primary goals of entertaining, evoking emotion, and generating conversation. But the show elevated when t it gets the little details right.