Oh, how quickly the world can change.
We’ve discussed before that part of the greatness of Better Call Saul is the slow-burn transformation of Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman. There hasn’t been any singular event that turned Jimmy into Saul.
However, Jimmy’s journey to Saul doesn’t exactly coincide with his journey into becoming a “criminal” lawyer, and the journey to Saul took a huge leap forward on Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8, "Bagman," and it did so in a single moment.
Up until this point, Jimmy had been using Saul to scheme his way into clientele and some extra cash. His biggest job was working with Lalo to get Krazy-8 out of prison, and that was mostly because Jimmy was forced into it.
And while all of Saul’s dealings have been shady, to say the least, none of them had truly plummeted him into the danger of the drug world, so his proposal to pick up Lalo’s bail money for $100,000 made sense.
Nothing has gone wrong so far, so what can go wrong this time?
Jimmy, this is insane.Kim
I’m tempted to say “a lot,” but really, only one thing actually goes wrong, and that one thing leads to a string of consequences -- some with which Saul hasn't yet come face to face.
With the two sides of this show coming together (the Mike/Gus/Nacho crime side and the Jimmy/Kim lawyer side), I have split feelings on this moment of collision.
On the one hand, I like the background provided by getting the inside look at the universe Saul is about to enter. It lent a bit of context to what happened to Saul and provided for some extra dread and tension when Kim went to visit Lalo.
It also maintained a thematic resonance with the prequel nature of the series, as we knew what Saul was going to get into before he did.
On the other hand, if we hadn’t been so privy to the other side, we would have had a stronger connection to Saul’s perspective.
When the bullets started raining down, it was a horrifying moment for Saul -- one that left him in shock.
For the audience, though, we’re more accustomed to that side of things, and part of me wishes we could have really experienced the gunfight from Saul’s point of view.
It would have been much more jarring if we hadn’t known it was coming.
I think both feelings have legitimacy, and I'm curious to see how others felt, so if you have thoughts, let me know below!
One thing I think we can all agree on, though, is that Kim was out of her mind going to see Lalo.
Of course, part of that is me knowing what Saul has gotten into and how dangerous Lalo is. Kim only got the easy, “no big deal” kind of description from Saul, so Kim’s view of Lalo probably isn’t quite as complete as ours.
Nice to meet you, Mrs. Goodman.Lalo
I still feel like Kim would be smart enough to wait to visit Lalo until she was truly desperate, at least waiting more than one day. But of course, if she does wait, it might be too late.
I wish we could have had a scene of Kim worrying, just to provide a bit more context as to her state of mind before visiting Lalo.
No matter, though; Kim is in now, just as Mike said she was.
I am overjoyed at the Mike and Saul team-up in this episode. I’ve wished the show took more opportunity to explore this relationship for a long time, and “Bagman” delivered.
The intrigue of Mike and Saul’s relationship goes beyond just the funny guy and straight man; they have wildly different approaches to problem-solving.
Mike has always been a man of precision. He works smart, slow, and with purpose.
Jimmy/Saul is the opposite. He uses misdirection, disorientation, and confusion to overwhelm people until they settle with him to stop the madness.
However, both characters are hard workers and men of detail, ensuring that their disagreements tend to boil down to philosophy instead of the goal.
This is why putting them together is so great. They still make a good team when they share the same goal, but they are in constant conflict both personality wise and philosophically.
It matters that these two are working together because Mike’s slow-paced methodology kept them alive through the first leg of their journey, and Saul’s headfirst approach ensured their safety for the rest of it.
Two other characters would have had a completely different approach to survival, so this story was specific to Mike and Saul.
Their personalities also reflect their actions and motivations. Mike, man of precision and purpose, always knows what is driving him forward.
Jimmy uses misdirection and disorientation (through Saul) to fool himself into moving forward after Chuck’s death. He places blame on Howard and declares himself a God above all things regular lawyers do.
So it’s no wonder he didn’t have quite the same level of comprehension as to why he was out in the desert trying to stay alive.
That's it, I'm done. Done!Saul
Looking into the future, we know Saul and Mike aren’t going to be best friends on Breaking Bad, but there is a sense of intimacy in their relationship. They are certainly familiar with each other.
Thus far on Better Call Saul, these two have mostly just been acquaintances/coworkers, essentially the manifestation of “I know a guy.”
The experience they shared on “Bagman” is powerful, though, and two people who go through something like that absolutely come out connected on the other side.
This experience will likely be a major step forward in their relationship.
Story- and plot-wise, “Bagman” is excellently constructed, as there are many obstacles for Saul and Mike to overcome.
Not only are they trapped in the desert, but Saul has to carry two heavy bags of cash, and they have a man hunting them down.
Now, plot-wise, this man meant very little. All he did was drive them off the main road, and while that extended their time in the desert, they could have just had Mike and Saul further away from civilization to achieve the same effect.
They also dispatch the man by the end, so he doesn’t change the overall plot much.
Story-wise, though, he is absolutely essential. His use to drive tension for the duo and provide another threat for them pushes them further to desperation and brings out more character work from both of them.
Saul’s decision to take him out at the end told us so much about his change of attitude and brought to life the different approaches to problem solving in Mike and Saul.
Hey, you're alive. Focus on that.Mike
Better Call Saul isn’t a series that is content just putting its characters into interesting plot scenarios; they use every plot device they can to enhance the storytelling, and that’s exactly what “Bagman” does with the loose gunman hunting down Mike and Saul.
I have to mention the directing in this episode, as I found it to be quite excellent. The aerial shots of the gunfight really drove home Saul’s isolation, and the depiction of the desert solidified the danger Mike and Saul were in.
“Bagman” was an excellent character piece that also threw our protagonist headfirst into the criminal world, emphasizing the danger he has put himself and Kim in.
It pushed us to the edge of the narrative and it seems as though we’re about to tip over into some major story beats as the season wraps up.
What do you all think of the episode?
Did anyone find the trek through the desert boring?
Let us know and don’t forget to watch Better Call Saul online!
Tommy Czerpak is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.