Better Call Saul season 5 episode 8 review: “Bagman” pushes Jimmy to the limit

Daniel Moncada as Leonel Salamanca, Luis Moncada as Marco Salamanca- Better Call Saul _ Season 5, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television
Daniel Moncada as Leonel Salamanca, Luis Moncada as Marco Salamanca- Better Call Saul _ Season 5, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television /

Jimmy is pushed to his limit,  Kim makes a fatal mistake, Mike extends an olive branch, and Lalo gets a new bargaining chip in Better Call Saul’s remarkable”Bagman.”

At long last, the highly anticipated Better Call Saul episode “Bagman” is finally here – and it’s a stunningly shot slow burn with some huge character moments and a scene that will change the stakes of the show forever. (And likely for the worse.)

Since the beginning of the season, the cast and crew have been dropping small hints that “Bagman” is one of the largest episodes in the show’s history – everybody from Bob Odenkirk, to Vince Gilligan, to composer Dave Porter have told fans that “Bagman” is an episode not to be missed. Although we can’t help but feel a little let down due to just how much hype has surrounded the episode, it’s still a strong entry to an already stellar season – and it contains a scene that fans have been expecting (and dreading) since the show’s inception.

“Bagman” centers around a very simple concept – Jimmy/Saul is tasked with retrieving $7 million cash for Lalo Salamanca’s bail money, and what should be a ‘simple’ task ends up spiraling into a harrowing misadventure with more than a few close calls.

The episode begins with a cameo from one of our favorite pair of guest stars – the Moncada brothers return as the Salamanca cousins Marco and Leonel. It’s always a treat to see the cousins in action – their suit game is immaculate, and their identical physicality walks the line between terrifying and comedic in a way that only Better Call Saul can manage.

After Jimmy, pink shirt and all, successfully gets the money from the cousins, things go downhill quickly – he’s ambushed by a group of unknown men with guns – which results in one of the most brutal gunfights in either Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul‘s run. We can hardly expect anything less, considering “Bagman” is directed by Vince Gilligan, but the firefight leaves Jimmy silent and shaking, a rare occurrence for the usually mouthy lawyer.

However, just before he bites the bullet, his savior in a bucket hat swoops in for the rescue – one Mike Ehrmentraut, armed with a rifle and his signature scowl. From there on out, the episode morphs into a cinematic, western-esque sequence of two men fighting for their survival, and though at times it feels like a little too much of a slow burn considering there are only two episodes left in the season, there are some great character moments that make it worthwhile.

Over the course of 40 minutes, we see the intense physical transformation of both Mike and Jimmy – a landmark of Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks’s commitment to their art form. Jimmy, in particular, sinks to his lowest low in “Bagman” – although he’s certainly done lower things morally, his spirit is shattered during his time in the desert, and it has to be carefully pieced back together by a reluctant, stony-faced Mike.

Jonathan Banks never turns in a subpar performance, but he has an especially moving speech to Jimmy about soldiering on for the things you love – and after his trauma earlier in the season with Werner and Kaylee, his pep talk carries even more weight, and just enough to light a fire under Jimmy’s ass to risk his life to get them out of the desert.

Although he’s beaten down and uncharacteristically quiet, we can still see the pain in Jimmy’s eyes, and the compassion he has for Kim that drives all of his actions. During his final run into the middle of the road (bundled in a space blanket, just like Chuck) Kim is undoubtedly the only thing on his mind – but little does he know, she’s gotten herself into a world of trouble on her own.

We’ve been wondering since we first met Kim if she’ll ever cross into the world of the cartel – and at last we have our answer – a resounding yes. However, in true Kim fashion, she doesn’t let herself be dragged into it, she jumps headfirst into the underworld, believing that it’s the only way to save Jimmy. Her involvement with the cartel is so “Kim” that it hurts – she’s trying to do the right thing, and she certainly has good intentions, but she’s in over her head, and her devotion to Jimmy and her belief in upholding the law will no doubt cause trouble for her in the end.

Desperate for answers about Jimmy (who’s been gone for more than a day) and his whereabouts, Kim takes things into her own hands and pays a visit to one Lalo Salamanca – a fatal mistake that she doesn’t even know she’s committed. Even though Kim is in the meeting room first, the second Lalo steps foot in the visitation center, it seems as if Kim has entered the lion’s den.

He may be under lock and key, but Lalo feels more dangerous than he’s ever been – the way he sizes Kim up feels borderline psychopathic, and Tony Dalton nails the charismatic, easygoing Lalo we know, and the terrifying druglord we know he must be behind the mask.

Their scene is short, but there’s no question that it will have massive implications going forward- Kim has placed herself on the massive chessboard that is the world of the cartel, and in doing so, inadvertently given Lalo a new pawn to hold over Jimmy’s head.

In the end, “Bagman” is full of small character details and gorgeous cinematography, and while it may feel a little too slow at times, the ramifications of its biggest scenes will ring through the entirety of the show’s run.

Next. Better Call Saul season 5 episode 7 review: Up in flames. dark

What did you think of “Bagman?” Will Kim die at Lalo’s hand? Sound off in the comments below!