‘Better Call Saul’: Why Saul Goodman’s Journey Through the Desert Was Titled ‘Bagman’

Better Call Saul Season 5 brought fans closer to the Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) from Breaking Bad. One of the most compelling episodes of season 5 was episode 8 — “Bagman.” Many fans wonder why showrunners gave the episode that title. Screenwriter Gordan Smith has an explanation. 

Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut an Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman
Jonathan Banks and Bob Odenkirk in ‘Better Call Saul’ | Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

‘Bagman’ furthers the connection between ‘Better Call Saul’ and ‘Breaking Bad’ 

In the episode, Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman met up with the Salamanca Cousins to give them their bail money. The exchange quickly turned into an ambush, but Jimmy managed to survive, thanks to Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks). This left the duo stranded in the desert, avoiding the main roads in case their assassin returned. 

“Bagman” features a location familiar to Breaking Bad fans. It’s also the location of Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman’s (Aaron Paul) first cook. What’s more, the episode demonstrates how Jimmy and Mike furthered their relationship. 

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Mike has been around since the first season of Better Call Saul. Initially, he and Jimmy were acquaintances. But with every season, the two get more involved with one another. In “Bagman,” Mike and Jimmy reach a whole new friendship level, thanks to the need to survive. 

Vince Gilligan had a hard time directing ‘Bagman’ 

Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul fans will attest that Gilligan is a mastermind when it comes to creating compelling television. Still, every master has their moment of struggle. For Gilligan, that was “Bagman.” 

On the surface, “Bagman” seems like a straightforward idea. After the big shootout, the episode is essentially two men walking across a desert. 

“This was the single hardest thing I’ve ever directed in my life,” the Emmy Award-winning writer, producer, and director told AMC. “And this was coming off of my first movie, El Camino. I thought that would be the hardest thing ever and that was certainly the longest thing because it was a movie, but this Episode 508 was as tough a job as I’ve ever had.”

Gilligan blamed the desert terrain for most of his struggle. “It’s a beautiful but deadly land in which nothing good is going to happen when you’re in Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul,” he said, continuing:

Just the idea that we’re going to be shooting out in this location in murderously hot weather, miles away from the nearest source of water, in a land where there are tarantulas and scorpions.

You could roast to death and then die of heatstroke and dehydration because this is a land that — if you were plopped down into this place without a canteen, without a hat with a big brim on it — you’d probably be dead within an hour and a half.

Why ‘Better Call Saul’ Season 5, Episode 8 is called ‘Bagman’ 

During a Q&A on Twitter, Smith revealed where the name for the episode came from. As it turns out, “Bagman” is meant to be taken both in the literal sense and the slang meaning. 

“We were using the word in the underworld sense of a person tasked to collect or distribute illegal money — a runner or delivery boy for criminals,” he tweeted. “But we also liked the idea that Jimmy had to carry these two very, very heavy, literal bags through the episode.”

When a fan asked about alternative titles for the episode, Smith had this to say: “I really liked ‘Bagman’ from the beginning. I think I also pitched ‘Malpais’ (bad land in Spanish).” 

Either name would have worked! Fans are looking forward to seeing what happens to Jimmy/Saul in the next and final season of Better Call Saul