Monday, April 6, 2020

REVIEW: 'Better Call Saul' - Jimmy Secures Money for Lalo Only for Things to Drastically Go Awry in 'Bagman'

AMC's Better Call Saul - Episode 5.08 "Bagman"

When a simple errand for a client goes sideways, Jimmy is pushed to the limit. Mike takes measures to contain the wrath of the cartel. Lalo gets an unexpected visitor.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of AMC's Better Call Saul.

"Bagman" was written by Gordon Smith and directed by Vince Gilligan

Jimmy was presented with an opportunity. Through his legal representation of Lalo, he could become a friend of the cartel. It was a prospect that would absolutely change his life. It was fun for Jimmy and Kim to think about what that kind of influence could mean for their lives. However, it's an ongoing decision that Jimmy is choosing to make. The evidence was given to him that allowed him to do the impossible in getting bail for Lalo. That was such a daunting prospect at first. Mike gave Jimmy everything he needed though. Jimmy saw that as doing his legal responsibility for his client. That's all that it could have been too. But he keeps applying that logic which digs him deeper in with the cartel. Lalo assumes that Jimmy will be the one to pick up his bail money from his cousins. Jimmy has his doubts and Lalo even suggests that someone else could go. For the right price though, Jimmy can be convinced. He is still tentative in asking for that money himself. However, he still does it. That is the start of his trajectory towards a complete corruption of his soul. He sees all of this as him doing his job as Lalo's lawyer. That's the mentality he embraces. Jimmy and Kim got married because it came with the understanding that he would be completely honest with her about everything in his life. And yes, he has followed through on that promise. He tells her exactly what he is going to do for Lalo. That doesn't include the specifics of where this pick up is happening. But it's also enough for Kim to be concerned. Jimmy is honest because those are the rules of this relationship. However, Kim still pushes back hoping for him to change his mind. She never wanted to be blindsided by him again. She felt that she needed to trust him in order for this relationship to work. And now, she's seeing the choices he is making. He's honest about them but she wants to be part of the decision. He is choosing to expand this relationship with the cartel. It was a prospect he did bring to her. It keeps increasingly growing more and more real. That is traumatic in its own way. It means that Kim is a part of this world too. Jimmy believes he can keep her at arm's length. He doesn't have to worry about how she'll react. She has no reason to be afraid for his safety. And yet, she is right to be concerned. He is ambushed on the road after collecting the seven million dollars. The various fractions of the cartel target one another. All it takes is one phone call for things to go disastrously awry for Jimmy. Lalo believes that no one will suspect Jimmy. He is just the lawyer. Jimmy also buys into that argument. It's not enough though. Jimmy is ambushed and is saved only because Mike is keeping a close eye on him. That sets in motion an episode where Jimmy and Mike spend the most of the time wandering the desert together trying to return to civilization with this money. The direction does such an incredible job in depicting the many mistakes made before this journey drags on. Jimmy wastes water cleaning dirt off his shoes. Mike shoots out the tires on all the vehicles in this confrontation. Every suggestion that Jimmy has doesn't boost their chances of survival. In fact, it may only damn him further. He is out of his depth. This is what it means to be a friend to the cartel. It carries these kinds of risks to it. These are the consequences of such a relationship. This could change his understanding of what Lalo needs from him at any moment. Jimmy does have courage from time to time. He submits himself as prey when Mike needs to take out the one person still targeting them for the cash. It's just disastrous that that takedown also has to destroy yet another vehicle. This is an agonizing journey for Jimmy and Mike. It pushes them to the brink. Mike has to share his water but Jimmy is still reduced to having to drink his own urine in the hopes of surviving. For the first time, Mike can present his argument for how he lives his life and justifies everything he has done. He is fighting to secure the future for his family. They don't need to know what he does for a living and how he can supply them with tons of money. They are safer that way. He makes that calculated decision. It stands in sharp contrast to what Jimmy and Kim need from each other to make their marriage work. Jimmy believes Kim will only be freaking out by herself regarding his disappearance. However, she goes to Lalo. She has that immediate agency. Mike is right to suggest that she is part of this world whether Jimmy wants it or not. That is incredible damning. These characters coming together isn't a good thing. It may only force more dangerous and traumatic things to occur. Nothing should feel secure just because the audience knows that some of these characters will survive whatever situations they are currently in. Jimmy and Mike aren't saved yet. They are still battling the elements. They just overcome their most immediate obstacle. That is a rousing success. It's one that proves Jimmy's strength and resolve in the face of daunting obstacles. That may reinforce this relationship. He can trust Mike no matter what. But it may also prove that these risks should come with much more money attached because of all that he endures here. He keeps the money safe and freaks out when some starts to slip out. He wants to be creative and productive. In the end though, every single action risks tearing the world apart as he pushes his body to its limits while remaining haunted by the decisions and remnants of the past. It holds personal significance for his character arc across the series. He takes on that personal responsibility. Some instinctively understand him. Others try their best to make it work. That may be futile in the end. But again, this is a story about resilience and strength. One that will forever be seen as a turning point for Jimmy as Saul Goodman.