We are five seasons deep into Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s Better Call Saul, but so far, the two lead characters — Jimmy McGill and Michael Ehrmantraut — have only pinged off of each other on occasion. Their paths have crossed occasionally, and the two have done each other favors, but there’s nothing on Better Call Saul that has really bonded the two characters together. Yet.
That changed this week with the eighth episode of the season, “Bagman,” in which Jimmy and Mike spent most of the episode together traversing the desert on foot while Jimmy carried $7 million in two heavy bags, money meant to pay for Lalo Salamanca’s bond. This came after Mike used his sharp-shooter skills to effectively neutralize a small gang. The episode also featured a scene in which Jimmy drank his own urine in order to save off dehydration, and according to the folks on this week’s Better Call Saul podcast, the writers have been noodling episode titles for this episode of years: “Urine Trouble. Urine Danger. Urine the Money. Urine Over Your Head. Urine for it Now.”
It’s also the kind of episode that can bring two people together, and I think that by the end of the episode — after Jimmy put his life on the line while trusting Mike’s sharp-shooting skills — Mike gained an immense amount of respect for Jimmy. That bond, of course, is crucial to their loose partnership in Breaking Bad.
Speaking of Breaking Bad, this episode was shot in the same place that parts of “Ozymandias” — arguably the best episode of Breaking Bad, and one of the best episodes of any show ever — was shot. It was also directed by Vince Gilligan, who typically shoots premieres or finales. However, this season, Gilligan’s availability did not come open until he’d finished shooting El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.
“I put the right guy in the seat for this episode,” showrunner Peter Gould said during this week’s episode of the Better Call Saul podcast. “This was the hardest single thing I will ever do,” Vince Gilligan replies. The episode took seventeen-and-a-half days to shoot, which is twice the normal schedule for an episode on Saul.
But the episode itself has been a long time in the making, according to its creators, Gilligan and Gould.
“When we started the show,” Gould said on the podcast, “Vince and I were kicking around who could be on the show. Obviously, we’d have Bob [Odenkirk], and we’d call it Better Call Saul, if Bob is willing to do it. Who from Breaking Bad should be on the show?” they wondered. “And we both knew right away that it has to be Mike, It has to be Jonathan. He has to be on the show.”
And as we were both saying that,” Gould continued, “I think we both had the image of Midnight Run, which is personally one of my favorite movies.” Midnight Run is a 1988 action-comedy starring Robert DeNiro and Charles Grodin about an accountant who is chased by bounty hunters, the F.B.I., and the Mafia after jumping bail. “And just the idea of [Bob and Jonathan] together kind of, well, for years, we were pitching that they were handcuffed together. And that’s what I thought the show was going to be when we started.”
The road-trip buddy movie obviously did not come to immediate fruition on the series, as Mike and Jimmy have spent most of their time apart. However, as Gould noted on the podcast, “on the 48th episode of the show, we finally got to do what I thought we would do on the second episode.” That was “Bagman,” the kind of episode they envisioned when they came up with the premise for this show, and the kind of episode that will arguably go down as one of the best ever of Better Call Saul.
Source: Better Call Saul Insider Podcast