Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) is heading down a path he’ll never be able to recover from. “JMM” concluded with a terrifying thought: Saul will get in bed with the cartel. Despite a clearly hesitant Kim (Rhea Seehorn), Jimmy/Saul continues to get in deeper. “Just Make Money” becomes an ethos for Saul Goodman over the course of his life. It’s also what leads him to a darker future as Gene Takavic. In “Bagman,” directed by Vince Gilligan himself, Saul finds himself in survivor mode.
The Salamanca twins (colloquially known as the “The Cousins”) load bags of money in Mexico. It’s heading north, and Saul needs to pick it up. Despite originally stepping away from Lalo (Tony Dalton), Saul agrees to pick up the $7 million of bail money for $100,000.
Saul/Jimmy informs Kim (Seehorn) of his decision, which he says will be an easy drive south. Kim does not agree. The next morning, Saul waits for the Salamancas. They deliver the bail money and he begins the drive home. Almost immediately, he’s stopped by cartel rivals who plan to shoot him. Someone saves Saul, taking out all but one member of the rival gang.
Mike Ehrmatraut (Jonathan Banks) saves Saul, but the two men are in grave danger. They hop in Saul’s car, but it quickly dies. They dump the vehicle in a ditch and run into the desert. When they’ve gone as far as they can, they make camp. In their discussion, Mike discovers Saul’s opened up about his cartel connections to Kim.
The next morning, Saul and Mike get back on the road. With only a little water and a bottle of urine, they have almost no way to hydrate. Kim awaits Lalo in a jail pod where she reveals what she knows about the cartel. Lalo processes the information but refuses to tell Kim anything. He returns to his cell, watching her the entire time.
Saul is exhausted and wants to give up, but Mike tells him they have to keep going. They owe it to the people they love. They spot the rival cartel circling the road and Mike takes cover. Saul, on the other hand, puts on a thermal blanket and walks into sight. Mike preps his rifle and takes a shot at the oncoming car, killing the driver who proceeds to crash. A broken Saul takes a long sip from his urine-filled water bottle and continues to carry the bags.
Thoughts on the Episode
Perhaps the lightest episode in terms of plot, “Bagman” features heavy implications for the upcoming season finale. Kim is left exposed at the end of this episode, squarely in the crosshairs of the Salamancas. Lalo represents the ultimate wildcard for “Better Call Saul,” and the way he looked at Kim was terrifying. That shot in question felt like it was out of “Psycho,” and certainly make us worry about the tragedy that was promised this season.
The episode represents the best performances of the season for both Odenkirk and Banks. Odenkirk internalizes the performance, bringing frustration and self-hate into every scene. The “I am a Lawyer” mantra from Kim reverberates in his mind. In the moments before he picks up the money, he repeats the phrase in Spanish (“Yo soy abogado”). Kim’s influence has affected him. It might have come too late.
Banks turns up the emotion late in the episode, but it comes as part of a well-rounded performance. He inhabits the soldier persona that makes Mike a valuable asset for Fring for the majority of the episode. We know his purpose has always been the betterment of his family, and for the first time he opens up about that motivation. However, as Mike sits with Saul by the campfire, Banks mixes previously unseen jealousy and sadness to perfection. He subtly conveys envy for Saul. Saul has someone to trust with his darkest secret, a part of Mike’s life that he cannot share with anyone. He also realizes the danger Saul and his wife face. The thing he envies most about Saul may also lead to unthinkable pain.
“Bagman” feels like a Vince Gilligan-directed episode through and through. The focus on character building through small actions allows Gilligan to play with negative space throughout the episode. Despite cutting back the dialogue, every word spoken builds to a crescendo. The tension-driven “Bagman” advanced the show toward the end game faster than we realized. It also leaves us on the edge of our seats for next week’s episode.