Title: Better Call Saul, Season 5 Episode 8 – “Bagman”
Release Date: April 6, 2020
Genre: Crime Drama
As the title of this episode of Better Call Saul suggests, Jimmy McGill is the bagman. Tasked by Lalo to grab his $7 million bail money from some associates in the New Mexico desert, McGill is in for one of the most tense experiences of his life. But, in return, it gives us an excellent ‘buddy comedy’-style episode that brings out the best in both Jonathan Banks and Bob Odenkirk.
While reluctant to undertake this mission, our (anti)hero quickly comes around to his client’s demand and decides to do it. This isn’t without some resistance from Kim, who is understandably worried about what could happen given the dangerous nature of her husband’s client and the cartel in general. Immediately, when we hear Jimmy shrug off the task as something that can be easily pulled off, with him being back that night, it’s obvious he won’t be. That’s not how the Better Call Saul writers work – and things never run smoothly with Jimmy.
So, on the level of ‘smooth,’ how smoothly do things run? Well, let’s just say ‘caught-in-the-crossfire’ kind of smoothly. So, not very smoothly at all. Jimmy gets the bag off Lalo’s associates, Leonel and Marco Salamanca, but it isn’t long before he’s pulled over by some other goons who appear to have it in for Lalo. In fact, it seems as though he’s about to get killed before Mike Erhmantraut intervenes with a sniper rifle.
How did Mike know Jimmy was running the errand for Lalo? It’s not immediately clear at this point. What is clear is that more of those mysterious thugs are on the lookout for Jimmy and Mike – and with both of their cars busted, the pair are forced to flee on foot.
Of course, trying to get home to Albuquerque from the middle of the New Mexico desert brings with it a number of problems. Namely, the heat of the sun, the lack of water (Mike even solemnly suggests that Jimmy drink his own piss at one point), and Mike having to put up with a whining cowardly lawyer whose motivation to go on slowly erodes throughout the episode. Unfortunately for him, but good for us as both Odenkirk and Banks have extraordinary onscreen chemistry.
One of the episode’s more impactful moments comes when Jimmy slumps on the floor and asks Mike what keeps him going. It’s here that we get a response that really defines Mike’s character. He responds frankly that people depend on him (his daughter and granddaughter) and that he’ll do anything to ensure their needs are met, to make sure they are taken care of long after he’s gone. It explains why Mike returned to Gus after his brief exit a few episodes back, and it’s also one of this episode’s most touching moments and brilliantly acted by Jonathan Banks.
Meanwhile, as the night passes, and Kim is worried about the fate of her husband. Needless to say, he didn’t make it back the night he promised. This leads her to talk to Lalo, who appears offended that his lawyer would talk about his business with an outsider. Kim unsuccessfully tries to find out where Jimmy is and leaves empty-handed. But Lalo certainly didn’t leave the conversation empty-handed – he knows that Kim is Jimmy’s wife. This further opens the possibilities for the show, as should anything happen to the money Jimmy is arduously carrying through the desert – if he should lose it – then Lalo can threaten him to ensure that he makes up for it somehow.
Indeed, there’s a sense that Kim is ‘in the game’ now. Before, she’d been outside the world of Saul Goodman and the cartel. But, whether she realizes it or not, knowing about this makes her part of the action now. Could Jimmy’s actions have unwittingly embroiled her in a world she can’t escape from? Could his actions potentially lead to her fall, her undoing? Kim isn’t present by the time Breaking Bad begins – and the chain of events just begun could be why. Regardless, it’ll be exciting to see where the story goes now that Kim is becoming involved in the events of the cartel.
But the drama aside, it’s nice to see Leonel and Marco Salamanca again. The first scene of the episode shows them working as perfectly in sync as ever. They leave the car at the same time, fill the duffel bags with cash at the same time and leave at the same time. Unlike many TV dramas nowadays, Better Call Saul never gets totally swept up in its darkness. Amongst the tragedy, there’s always been an irresistible quirkiness in both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.
Verdict: A comedic but powerful episode that brings out the best in both Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Bank’s performances, while bringing Rhee Seahorn’s Kim Wexler into the thick of things.
- Fantastic acting from Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks.
- Kim is becoming involved in the Jimmy-cartel plot, raising the stakes.
- Is this the last we see of Jimmy's 1998 Suzuki Esteem? Nooo...