Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 – ‘Bagman’
This week’s instalment gets closer and closer to the likely cataclysmic season finale of season 5.
Jimmy and Mike converge and embark on an epic, though gruelling, journey. Kim is worried about Jimmy and takes matters into her own hands when her fears overcome her.
Leonel and Marco Salamanca (the Salamanca twins) collect Lalo’s seven million dollar bail from a body shop/garage, a front for a cartel money stash.
In a lawyer-client meeting, Lalo and Jimmy discuss the pick-up of the bail money. Lalo lays out directions towards a well in the middle of the Albuquerque desert and asks Jimmy to go there to collect the sum. Lalo assures him no-one will look at him twice because he is a lawyer and not a known criminal. Jimmy asks whether Lalo’s people could just bring the money to Albuquerque to eliminate the middle-man, but he reiterates the fact that the pick-up must be covert to avoid suspicion. Jimmy declines and is about to leave when he mutters ‘100,000’ to which Lalo asks him to repeat. Jimmy demands a hundred thousand dollar for the pick-up and Lalo eventually agrees. Here, we see the way Jimmy is swayed by the cartel’s wealth and stock of cash as he is dipping into serious dealings with them. We’ve always known Jimmy as a hook or by crook hustler, but this is an of expansion of this characteristic which is much riskier and even life-threatening.
The customary sequence begins as Jimmy is at home before Kim. Kim arrives and Jimmy meets her. Their marriage has brought on an honesty pact as seen in previous episodes, so Jimmy proceeds to inform Kim about the cartel and Lalo. Kim is against the idea deeply and stresses this feeling. She reiterates the situation as she did last episode when Jimmy discussed cartel affiliation. She states that he’ll be a bagman for them and that it is a dangerous affair. Jimmy begins to persuade her and as he does it seems as if her is talking himself into it which Kim points out. Eventually, Jimmy says his peace and embraces Kim with a long hug as to assume an agreeance. Kim is visually sceptical, but it is decided that Jimmy act as bagman for Lalo’s bail.
Jimmy leaves for the desert in his Suzuki Esteem. He arrives at the well early and waits for the money. The twins arrive and give him the bags, leaving swiftly and saying nothing. Jimmy loads the money bags into his car boot and leaves the way he came. Soon, a separate SUV in the distance seems to be following him. A bend ahead reveals two oncoming SUV’s which corner Jimmy. A few men get out of the vehicles and Jimmy slowly gets out of his, hands up. One man takes the money bags from the boot and orders another to shoot Jimmy. The trigger pull is imminent before a miraculous distant shooter kills the man with a headshot narrowly missing Jimmy. The shooter begins to pick off the surrounding men as Jimmy hides behind vehicles in utter fright. The shooter pinpoints his targets kills them all bar one who escapes in a car. Jimmy is afraid out of his mind and shelters beside his car.
The shooter drives toward the site and walks towards Jimmy. The camera pans up from the ground level of his boots and legs to his face which we find out is Mike Ehrmantraut. Mike looks at Jimmy and tells him that he is in shock and to focus on the fact that he is alive. Mike takes the money and Jimmy’s car after his breaks down. He and Jimmy drive off but after a mile or so the car breaks down and Mike stops to look at the engine to no avail. He takes off the plates and the fuel cap as he and Jimmy push the car into a ditch. They resort to on-foot travel. Mike has with him a bag with his rifle in and some emergency supplies and Jimmy carries the two bags of money. The sole survivor of Mike’s onslaught would look for them on the road, so they head out into desert.
Mike and Jimmy embark on a lengthy journey through the Albuquerque desert. There is no sight of civilisation as they walk. Jimmy has his Davis and Main water bottle and Mike his own flask. They persevere and walk for miles until night comes. Mike has a reflective blanket and offers Jimmy one, he refuses. Mike diligently fashioned a water collecting system, but in the morning only a little water had collected. A distant car, from the cartel, is spotted as Mike tells Jimmy to hide any shiny objects to avoid detection by reflection; they evade their gaze and continue with the journey.
Jimmy informs Mike about Kim and his marriage and how he told her about the pick-up. Mike tells him that she will likely call the police or someone due to his absence. Jimmy assures him that she is not the type of person to do this. We find out later in the show that Kim is highly worried about Jimmy’s whereabouts. She ends up meeting with Lalo Salamanca by posing as his lawyer. She is visibly nervous and to a degree frightened but is able to state her reasons for visitation. She tells Lalo that she wants Jimmy back safely. Lalo is wary that Kim is an accessory to Jimmy’s involvement in the cartel, but Kim asserts that their marriage is the strongest legal bond to decree secrecy.
We see Jimmy and Mike almost completely drained physically and mentally. They are dying of thirst with their lips curled, dry and wrinkling. Jimmy drags the bags of money on the floor and a hole is torn open. Money begins to escape from the bag and Mike spots this out and covers the hole internally with the Suzuki Esteem’s number plate. Jimmy’s foot is stabbed by a cactus pine while collecting the fallen money. He had had enough and puts on the reflective blanket Mike gave him earlier. Mike spots another car in the distance and hides behind a rock with his binoculars. He is weary and spots Jimmy with the blanket walking towards the dirt road. By this time, the driver has spotted Jimmy and is in hot pursuit. Mike readies his rifle and steadies his aiming. Jimmy is in the middle of the road and the car around a hundred metres away from him when Mike shoots. The shot cripples the vehicle which tosses and turns in a ball of flames and metal which narrowly miss Jimmy. Following this, we see Mike and Jimmy walk into the sunset as the episode ends.
Jimmy is conflicted maybe more than ever in his full cooperation with the cartel; this is a big step in his character arc. He is certainly unsuited to this lifestyle and line of work and we see this in his complete horror and shock during the desert shootout. Jimmy’s meeting with Lalo symbolises the risk-taking and often brash decisions made by him. We see his common sense and morality in play after Lalo lays out the plan for the bail and asks Jimmy to fulfil it. However, this is a ponderous decision which he goes back to just as he is about to walk out of the room. He mutters to himself the money he could make as a vocal thought and returns to Lalo to ask for a hundred grand for the job. This is a prime example of Jimmy’s inner conflict. May I add that Bob Odenkirk’s acting was especially amazing in portraying this. The nuances in facial expression were another example of pure acting and demonstrations of subtle emotion.
Rhea Seehorn’s strong, but crumbling front in her meeting Lalo is epitomised by her gentle shaky voice. She also portrays Kim’s standing up to Lalo defiantly and assertively. Her reaction to Jimmy telling her of the pick-up is another example of moral conflict in the show. Jimmy is determined to be bagman for Lalo, so Kim is left with no choice but to accept due to his enthusiasm. Seehorn displays this conflict through her dialogue and facial expressions.
Jimmy and Mike’s Desert Escapade
Mike refutes Jimmy’s unorthodox methods in him holding the bags in a certain way or going about something differently. It’s almost played out as a parental arrangement with Mike advising Jimmy what to do and not do; Jimmy is like his protégé/son. This is a comedic dynamic because you have reason and reality in Mike and ignorance and brashness in Jimmy. This episode reminded me of a Bear Grylls survival show as we got to see the survival techniques employed by Mike. Mike’s water collecting methods are specifically reminiscent of Bear Grylls methods and the urine drinking too. Mike balances Jimmy’s qualms and offers his wise and experienced judgements for them to survive.
The cast and crew shot in the desert for a full two days and I commend such perseverance. I am always impressed by shows which go the extra mile to garner as realistic/authentic a shoot as possible.
Significance of the shiny blanket
This blanket is synonymous with Chuck McGill and his mental illness. We see him through the first three seasons with the garment as he believes it deflects electromagnetic waves which he claims he is has a sensitivity to. In Jimmy using the blanket we see this likeness to his brother and the act in walking into the road mimics the giving up on life Chuck embodied. It is a tragic symbol and intelligently used as a callback.
The Salamanca Twins Cameo
It is always welcome and exciting when this duo are on the show. Played by real life twins Daniel and Luis Moncada, these characters are iconic, individual dynamos. Their cold-heartedness and signature synchrony bring something new and fresh to the way television characters are portrayed. Their snake figurine embellished boots are a symbol of brotherhood, status and elusive fashion. I love this dynamic duo and what they bring to the show and yearn to see them in the show again.
A sequence commences with Jimmy and Mike walking from place to place in a slideshow style shoot as music plays. This music happens to be the instrumental to Eminem’s ‘My Name Is’ (The Slim Shady LP, 1999). I did some research on this as I was certain there was another song used as a sample. I found out that it originated from Labi Siffre’s 1974 song ‘I Got The…’. Funnily enough, as the music payed I was expecting Eminem to start rapping.
When Jimmy gets out of his car and the cartel corners him in the desert, a shot of them is seen from the ground level between Jimmy’s legs; reminiscent of an opening shot in Breaking Bad during Walter White’s confession.
In the desert, Jim has his ‘World’s 2nd Best Lawyer’ flask and Davis and Main water bottle for hydration. Unfortunately, his flask is ruined when he realises that it has been shot through.
The predicament that plagues Mike and Jimmy is thirst. The original meeting point for Jimmy and the money is at a well, so I guess this is ironic symbolism.
Incidentally, the gun pointed at him is golden like the one Nacho had at the airport earlier in the season.
The greatest part of the episode is the Mike and Jimmy screen time. They are such interesting characters with arguably opposite personalities and their meeting and journey brings out their bond as well as plenty of laughs for us watching.
The season begun in spectacular fashion and each episode has built upon this to become better and better which is an absurd probability given the show’s already outstanding quality. I guess this is the effect of Vince Gilligan and the Breaking Bad legacy of deliriously profound episodes of exponential excellence.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this episode as it leaps into the action without inhibition. The shootout is a perfect example of the danger zone Jimmy has entered. Mike and Jimmy will escape the desert but at what cost. No Gus Fring or Nacho this episode but we did get to see the infamous Salamanca twins, Leonel and Marco. Lalo is the most unpredictable character on the show, so his next moves are largely unknown. Kim has highlighted herself to Lalo as a part of Jimmy’s cartel affairs and her future and life is in jeopardous territory.