Better Call Saul season 5 episode 2 review: “50% Off” puts the pedal to the metal

Michael Mando as Nacho Varga - Better Call Saul _ Season 5, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Warrick Page/AMC/Sony Pictures Television
Michael Mando as Nacho Varga - Better Call Saul _ Season 5, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Warrick Page/AMC/Sony Pictures Television /

Nacho takes center stage and Saul starts hustling as things heat up in Albuqurque in “50% Off,” which somehow manages to be even better than the season 5 premiere. 

While the first half of the two-night pemiere of Better Call Saul season 5 checked in with all central characters and moved their respective plots along, episode two, “50% Off,” focuses more on Nacho and Saul, and comes out even stronger than its predecessor.

In the pre-season promotional material, Peter Gould and the rest of the creative team behind Better Call Saul teased that Nacho would be squeezed this season between acting as a double-agent for Gus and keeping track of the new Salamanca in town, Lalo.

“50% Off” fully realizes that premise, beginning with a sudden break-in at Nacho’s house that results in a tense standoff with Gus. As the seasons have progressed, it’s become more and more clear that Nacho does everything with his father in mind, so it was just as horrifying for us as it was for him to see his father come close to being murdered by one of Gus’ men.

The midnight run-in prompts Nacho to spring into action and attempt to make himself an asset to Lalo so that he can gain more intel for Gus, or else watch the person he cares most about bite the bullet. This culminates in what will likely be  episode’s most-talked-about scene: a sequence straight out of a Mission Impossible film, where Nacho jumps across rooftops to retrieve a stash of cocaine in a house swarming with DEA agents.

In addition to the heart-pounding action that accompanied Nacho’s story this episode,  Michael Mando also delivers a stellar performance, navigating the balance between a son trying to save his father and a hardened criminal attempting to prove his worth to a superior. While Breaking Bad never really dug too deeply into the psyche of the cartel characters, the writers of Better Call Saul and Mando have formed Nacho into a deeply complex figure, and “50% Off” made it abundantly clear that, at his core, Nacho is just a scared son trying to save his father.

On the other side of the coin, while Nacho tries his damndest to get out of the business, Saul Goodman spends a majority of the episode swindling clients so he can get deeper in. After the big-top shenanigans of last week, we’re seeing more and more of the Saul we know from Breaking Bad — paying off witnesses, hustling state attorneys, and even bribing elevator maintenance men so that he can have more time to talk to the DA.

However, what Saul seems to be incapable of realizing is that the more “successful” he is in his practice, the further Kim will pull away. Early on in the episode there’s a small moment where Jimmy and Kim are literally playing house — touring a home for sale and goofing off in the shower together — but it’s bittersweet because we know that they will inevitably separate for good.

As we watch Jimmy continue to unintentionally distance himself from Kim, we’re even more impressed with Bob Odenkirk’s performance. Saul has now reached a level of self-delusion that he belives wholeheartedly that what he is doing is right for him, even though the woman he loves is begging him to change.

Another central figure who had a falling-out with a loved one was Mike Ehrmentraut, who snapped at his granddaughter Kaylee during what should’ve been a peaceful afternoon at home. Given that Kaylee is one of the people Mike loves most in the world, it’s clear that he’s still feeling the emotional strain of Werner’s murder, and once Kaylee started talking about her late father, the emotions became to much and they bubbled over.

It was a brief appearance (like Howard Hamlin and Gus Fring, who are also present but have small roles in the episode) but one that nonetheless stayed true to the character and maximized Jonathan Banks’ Emmy-winning talent. Even though Banks was great, though, Mike’s story was hardly the focus of the episode. The MVP of “50% Off” was undoubtedly Nacho. It makes us a little nervous about how is fate will pan out. Given that he’s a pretty big question mark, Nacho could very well die at the end of the season, so we’re counting our blessing with every episode where he makes it out unharmed.

The episode ends with a reunion three seasons in the making. Nacho is finally cashing in the favor Jimmy owes him and calling on Saul’s legal services. Whether it’s to help spring Krazy 8 or make a move against Lalo, it’s more than enough to keep us counting the minutes until next Monday rolls around.

dark. Next. Better Call Saul is back in full force with its season 5 premiere

Who’s your favorite Better Call Saul character? Do you think Nacho will live through the end of the show? Sound off in the comments below.