With Better Call Saul, Jonathan Banks has returned as the beloved Mike Ehrmantraut from Breaking Bad. But long before Breaking Bad, Community, or Better Call Saul, Jonathan Banks always seemed to show up on some of our favorite shows.
In honor of his latest triumphant return, we take a look back at 10 other geeky roles this wiseguy has played.
director: Joe Dante
A stealth prequel to Breaking Bad, Banks played Deputy Brent, a beat cop sent to deal with the gremlins harassing Ms. Deagle. While driving the gremlins in to the station, one of them decided to hum Danny Boy. Banks, irked by it, pulled over the car, put the revolver in Stripe’s mouth and planed on killing it, but decided to keep it at just a warning.
Two weeks later, the gremlins killed Ms. Deagle. Of course. Threw her out the window with a chair lift.
Moral of the story: he chose a half-measure, and that’s why he ended up working in Albuquerque with drug manufacturers.
A cross between Lost in Space and Gulliver’s Travels, this short lived ’80s sci-fi adventure show used the family aspect as a façade for satire and commentary about Reagan’s America. Banks played Kommander Nick Nuveen Kroll, the Gerard to the family’s Dr. Kimble (if Gerard was a space Nazi allegory) who chases them every week, but is always a few steps behind.
The show is unfortunately not on DVD, but should be, if just for the episode where the family accidentally causes a revolution against a fascist government by introducing the population to Beatlemania.
director: Geoff Murphy
In the near future of 2009, Anthony “THIS is your follow-up to Silence of the Lambs?!” Hopkins uses time travel to “bonejack” (abduct) Emilio Estevez so he can transfer his consciousness to the younger body/make Estevez an action star (obviously, neither plan succeeds). Banks plays Mark Michellete, Hopkin’s employee that hires Mick Jagger to hunt down Estevez, a “freejack” (an escaped abductee).
Because he’s both a heavy and a rich guy in an early ’90s B-movie, his character traits consist solely of “miniature ponytail” and “collects Fabergé eggs.” At the end of the film, after Banks thinks everything is resolved, he’s betrayed and unexpectedly shot by Jagger. Poor guy can’t catch a break.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 1: Episode 12 – “Battle Lines” (1993)
Instead of committing to long hair or baldness, Banks’ Golin Shel-la was an alien leader suffering from patchy hair loss. His faction, the Garth Ennis, wage an eternal war with the Nol-Ennis on a moon in the Gamma Quadrant. Apparently in the future, someone took that “Send the mutants to the moon forever” protest sign from X-Men seriously, as the episode revealed that the two factions were sent there by their planet’s leaders because they couldn’t stop fighting.
Makes sense; if you want to punish two groups for fighting, give them a small moon and microbes that grant them immortality so they can continue to wage war with each other forever. That’ll teach them!
Highlander: The Series
Season 2: Episode 12 – “Under Color of Authority” (1994)
Banks plays Mako, an Immortal English bounty hunter obsessed with upholding the law. His main target in the episode is a fugitive wanted for murdering her husband. Duncan’s friend, Richie Ryan tries to protect the woman, but Mako accidentally runs her over during his pursuit (apparently hit and runs aren’t just Walt’s thing). In anger, Richie fights and beheads Mako, receiving his first Quickening.
Unlike Walt, Richie is a decent human being and afterwards questions if he was morally wrong for killing Mako. The episode also featured Jim Byrnes, Banks’ costar on Wiseguys, as Duncan’s Watcher.
Tales from the Crypt
Season 6: Episode 8 – “The Assassin” (1994)
In an odd departure from his usual roles, Banks plays this one excessively chatty and extremely campy. He, along with Corey Feldman and Chelsea Field, are CIA fixers sent to interrogate a housewife on the whereabouts of her husband, a rogue CIA assassin. Most of the episode is told through shaky POV shots and dutch angles that make Battlefield Earth look like a Wes Anderson film.
Banks’ performance fits though, as he chews through the scenery (and the crunchiest carrot ever). He jokes around while planning a murder (on picking a bag to dispose of the body he asks, “Draw-string or twisty-top?”) and is stabbed in the face with a stiletto while on the toilet. Actually, that last part does sound like something Breaking Bad would have done.
“Whale Song” (1994) and “Resurrection” (1995)
In order to make the world better for his granddaughter, eco-terrorist Max Scully purchased a Russian submarine to hunt down illegal whalers (this is not a man who takes half measures). After accidentally torpedoing a cruise ship, he flees from seaQuest and in the third season forms an undersea colony named “Ecotopia.”
After convincing the UEO that he’s changed his ways, he hijacks seaQuest and tries to use it to blow up a nuclear waste dump, destroying all of humanity except for Ecotopia, who, hundreds of years from then, would resurface and colonize Earth properly (again, no half measures here).
Season 1: Episode 13- “Friendly Neighborhood Ghost” (2006)
Banks gets practice being an over-protective grandfather by playing Lyle Chase, a ghost that’s haunting the man he blames for killing his granddaughter. Because he’s Mike the Cleaner, he can do things most ghosts can’t do, like knock ladders down and assassinate groups of cartel hit men.
In the end it’s revealed that the man did not send the granddaughter to Belize, but instead replaced the dust filter for her Hoover MaxExtract Pressure Pro Model 60 so she could escape abuse.
Parks and Recreation
Season 5: Episode 6- “Ben’s Parents” (2012)
Hired because of his performance on Breaking Bad, Banks shows why Mike’s child was never around on the show. Banks played Steve Wyatt, Ben’s estranged frightening father. Steve and his wife divorced when Ben was young and constantly fought throughout his childhood; perhaps if he wasn’t so distracted arguing with his wife, he could have pointed out to Ben that Ice Town was a dumb idea (should have gone with laser tag). Their bickering continues throughout the episode and is equally terrifying and hilarious.
Also worth noting is his stand-off with Ron Swanson over the last remaining appetizer; few people can get between Ron Swanson and his dinner and survive.
Season 1: Episode 3 “An American Story” (2013)
In what is probably his most badass role ever, Banks voiced Book Cop, the Revolutionary War era (?) great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather of Axe Cop. Book Cop uses the Secret Attack Almanac to learn how to kill bad guys with secret attacks (and also “food getting powers”).Eventually he leads a group of characters that look similarly like Axe Cop’s friends (but wearing 1700s clothes) in a fight against the British army (and the Burger King design-influenced King of England) and single-bookedly win the war for USA.
Axe Cop is about to kick off another season, so perhaps there will be an episode involving Book Cop trying to provide for Granddaughter Cop.
This article originally ran on October 1st, 2013. It has been lightly updated.