The show Better Call Saul has been plagued by a tragic inevitability all along. Because it’s a prequel to the critically acclaimed drama Breaking Bad, we already know where Jimmy McGill will end up. Saul Goodman has loomed large throughout the past five seasons.
But in Season 5, Episode 8 fans witness the metaphorical death of the Jimmy McGill we know and love, except this time it’s not because of a con gone wrong. Instead, Jimmy learns the hard way that being a “friend of the cartel” means violence, death, and mayhem at every turn.
You’re either a lawyer or a bagman. Jimmy finally figured out which side he falls on.
[Spoiler Alert: Spoilers ahead for Better Call Saul, Season 5, Episode 8, “Bagman”]
Jimmy underestimates the danger of being involved with the cartel
When Jimmy explains to Kim that he’s heading to the desert to pick up $7 million cash for Lalo’s bail, an admission he’ll come to regret later, he truly thinks that the mission will be just as straightforward as withdrawing some cash from the ATM. He downplays Kim’s valid concerns, promising he’ll be back in the early afternoon, no problem. But we know it can’t be that easy.
Though the meetup with the cousins is uneventful, Jimmy is ambushed by machine gun-toting men who quickly relieve Jimmy of his duffel bags stuffed with cash. But then an unseen sniper starts taking them out one by one while Jimmy hides, terrified, finally forced to confront the immense danger he’s been in all along.
Key pieces of Jimmy’s identity are killed during the shootout
Jimmy escapes the shootout physically unharmed despite being seconds from execution just before Mike rescued him. However, some of the very symbolic pieces of his former life are irreparably damaged.
First and foremost, Jimmy is forced to confront the reality of what he’s set in motion. Being a friend of the cartel means being put into life-threatening situations on a regular basis. The desert shootout represents a loss of innocence for Jimmy in that way.
Jimmy’s bullet-ridden Suzuki Esteem also doesn’t survive. The car has been a huge part of Jimmy’s identity for the last five seasons, and fans felt a true sense of sadness when Mike pushes it into a ditch to cover their trail from the one would-be thief who escaped.
Equally upsetting is when Jimmy realized that the “World’s 2nd Greatest Lawyer” coffee mug Kim gave him as a gift is also ruined. His signature salmon-colored shirt will need to be thrown away after this, too.
Nothing will be the same when Jimmy gets back to civilization
It’s a credit to episode director Vince Gilligan that he’s able to create a sense of tension even though fans know Mike and Jimmy will definitely survive their desert trek — Mike won’t die until Walter White murders him in the last season of Breaking Bad, and Saul lives on post-Heisenberg under the assumed identity Gene Takovic.
However, a major part of Jimmy died in that desert even if his physical body survives. Now that he’s fully complicity with the cartel, Jimmy is well on his way to becoming Saul. Just like he ditched the Chuck-reminiscent foil blanket and kept walking, Jimmy is shedding the notion that he can hold onto both sides of his personality, only doing bad things some of the time. “Jimmy has now hardened into a piss-drinking monster. Old Jimmy is gone,” one Redditor wisely observed.
Jimmy made his bed and he has to man up and handle the consequences of his actions.
Catch new episodes of Better Call Saul on Mondays at 9 p.m. on AMC.