Nacho takes a huge chunk of the spotlight on Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 2, “50% Off,” and I couldn’t be happier.
One of my biggest complaints of Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 1 was that we haven’t seen enough of how Lalo’s presence has affected Nacho, as most of that storyline drew focus to Gus and Lalo.
That’s rectified here, and it’s becoming clear that Nacho will be the link between the Gus storyline and the Jimmy storyline — but more on that later.
The benefit of bringing Gus onto the series is becoming clearer now as well, as Nacho is absolutely trapped between a rock (Gus) and a hard place (Lalo).
Initially, it seemed that Lalo was the biggest threat to Nacho’s continued existence, as Lalo’s interest in all of the business dealings put Nacho’s position as Gus’ informant at risk.
If Lalo ever discovers that Nacho is two-timing him, well, that’ll probably be the end of Nacho.
Now, Gus has revealed himself to be an even bigger threat to Nacho because Gus won’t just knock off Nacho, but Nacho’s kind and loving father.
This is how these storylines are affecting Nacho, and this is where the focus should remain. Nacho has a drive — protecting his father — and that gives him an agency even when all control seems to be taken from him.
And now this agency can be used to advance the plot, instead of the plot advancing the characters.
For so long the creation of the lab seemed to be the driving force behind the drug business storyline, it’s great to see some character choices once again pushing the plot forward.
Gus’ distaste for Lalo drives him to use his secret asset Nacho, which forces Nacho to gain Lalo’s trust.
Gus: Gain his confidence. Make him rely on you.
Gus: Find a way.
I love that Nacho asks Gus how to accomplish this.
Nacho is in such a state of desperation, having already agreed to do anything that Gus asks him to spare his father’s life, that he’s completely abandoned his hope for any agency.
He just wants to be told what to do so he can do it, like a child in school completely unprepared for the “no rules” project the teacher just heaped on you, except instead of getting a failing grade your parent gets murdered.
This positions Nacho as the shrimp in this group. Compared to Gus and Lalo, Nacho is nobody. This makes his journey an uphill battle rife with tension and intrigue while also making him somebody to root for and sympathize with.
This is exactly what I feel the series needed.
Despite Nacho’s plea for instructions, Gus tells him to figure it out on his own, fully handing agency over to Nacho.
Nacho finds his chance when the cops bust the drug house. There are several aspects of this scene that make it great.
First, Nacho has to make a choice. Choices make for great storytelling because not only do we get to see who our characters are, but we get to play alongside the story and consider what we would do, which puts us in the shoes of our characters.
Second, Nacho has a deep motivation to make this choice. I don’t believe Nacho would have run in to secure the drugs had his father’s life not been on his mind.
Lalo, though, thinks that Nacho is just that big of a badass.
Nacho looks like he’s willing to risk himself to protect the crew, both physically and with the law, and Lalo sees Nacho with new eyes after this event.
Third, there is a time-limit to the scene which raises the tension. Nacho has to make it out of the building before the cops bust in.
Between the time-limit, the motivation, and the dangerous choice Nacho has to make, this scene is rife with tension, with most of it created through character instead of an external device.
After Nacho successfully obtains the drugs, he has a short meeting with Lalo about their arrested friend Krazy-8.
Nacho initially harkens back to his old ways, just stating that Krazy-8 is cool and won’t talk. He even refers to Krazy-8 as Domingo, suggesting that Nacho isn’t truly all-in on the drug world.
He quickly realizes that that’s not enough for Lalo, though, and offers to handle the situation.
Compared to jumping across rooftops, that line is easy. Nacho is adapting — this is how Lalo and Gus affect him. Lovely.
At the end of the episode, Nacho finally brings our two main storylines back together by finding his old pal Jimmy McGill (now known as Saul Goodman).
Will Jimmy be able to get Krazy-8 out of trouble?
Based on what we’ve seen with Saul so far, I’m not sure. The current form of Saul seems much too eager to cut deals, resulting in quicker turnover for more clients.
Saul Goodman, speedy justice for you.Saul
Saul’s motivation seems to be run by Jimmy at the moment, as Jimmy spends his morning taking Kim to his dream home.
The dream home sequence is another heartbreaking scene and does a great job of reflecting all aspects of Kim and Jimmy’s relationship thus far in a nutshell.
Kim is clearly not as comfortable fantasizing about their future home as Jimmy is, at least not at first. She seems to mostly be humoring Jimmy by checking out the house.
As they walk through, Jimmy basically runs through a “greatest hits” list of their relationship — movie nights, brushing their teeth, and sharing closet space.
It’s sad to see how well Jimmy knows this relationship because we know that it’s going to end in the near future. He pays attention to Kim, but it’s made clear here that he doesn’t necessarily “see” her.
Jimmy tells Kim that the house has her dream closet, to which she corrects him to “your” dream closet.
Kim has never been one to fantasize about grandeur. She’s been content with Jimmy in a smaller living space, and perhaps she doesn’t need more.
Jimmy is projecting his desires as universal ones and therefore projecting them onto Kim. What hurts Jimmy’s perspective is that his desires are starting to become increasingly material — a bigger house with a walk-in closet and jets in the bathtub.
Is this a result of wanting to outdo his brother? Because he sees this house as respectable? Because he wants to impress Kim?
Probably a combination of all of the above, and maybe even partly just from an innate desire for nicer things.
There is nothing wrong with material desire, but projecting those desires onto a clearly less than thrilled Kim isn’t beneficial to anyone.
Kim, on the other hand, has the most fun at the house when she’s sharing a moment with Jimmy rather than fantasizing about their future.
She turns the water in the shower onto a fully clothed Jimmy and squeals like a kid when he tries to splash her back.
It’s a tender moment and reminds us why these two enjoy being around each other, but it’s also a reminder that Kim doesn’t need much more than just plain old Jimmy.
Unfortunately, plain old Jimmy is slipping away. Jimmy admits to Kim that he used the 50% off discount for non-violent felonies to obtain more clients, and she receives this information unsurprised.
She knows Jimmy is slipping down a bad path, and while she seems to take this information in stride, she makes it very clear that she doesn’t approve of Jimmy’s suggestion to her to lie to her client.
Jimmy claims to understand, just as he claims he understands his discount was wrong and that it just slipped out, but Kim is becoming increasingly numb to Jimmy’s poor decision making.
Hopefully, she bows out before it’s too late, because Saul is definitely coming.
The subtle explanations in this show for how Saul’s personality comes to be are amazing. Saul Goodman is a fast-talker, both literally and figuratively.
On Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 2, “50% Off,” we see the start of this trait.
Jimmy has taken on so many clients that he is constantly shifting from one client to the next moment to moment.
This requires him, literally, to speak quickly, and by the end of the episode Saul Goodman is walking down the street eating an ice cream cone while doing business, and it’s the closest to the Breaking Bad Saul Goodman we’ve seen so far.
Then Nacho picks him up, and Jimmy may be about to lose control.
Mr. Varga, long time no see.Saul
As I stated earlier, Saul’s motivations seem to currently be run by Jimmy.
He’s driving through deals to increase turnover to rack up more clients, and therefore earn more cash so he can hopefully buy his dream home with Kim.
He uses Saul Goodman to trap the assistant district attorney Suzanne in an elevator, striking a deal with an electrician to secure his 20 minutes with her so he can slam through his cases.
Shady? Absolutely. But so far, Jimmy is using Saul to increase his client base and not necessarily to get his clients out of trouble.
Suzanne: One year probation.
Suzanne: Just like that?
Lalo probably isn’t going to let that happen if Saul is going to represent Krazy-8. Jimmy is probably going to have to go full Saul to keep Krazy-8 out of prison, and once he gets a taste of that thrill, I’m not sure he’s going to come back.
In other news, Mike was a jerk to his granddaughter.
Her innocent questions proved too scathing for Mike to handle, and Mike may now see himself as far too corrupted to be able to handle such regular suburban life.
There really isn’t much more to comment on with Mike, but that doesn’t mean this wasn’t an important step in the character’s journey — it was.
In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this affects him even more than killing Werner did.
Also, Mike and Kaylee are Eagles fans. Go Eagles.
Each storyline tonight focuses in on its characters and gives them agency. Characters are afforded time to emote, whether subtly like Kim or overtly like Mike, and Nacho proves to be the link between each story in Better Call Saul.
I can’t forget to mention the opening scene’s final shot mirroring the final shot of the episode with the broken gnome at the start and the melting ice cream cone at the end.
Foreshadowing of bad things to come?
Who else loved Nacho’s return to the spotlight?
Let us know below and watch Better Call Saul online if you missed any of the season so far.
Tommy Czerpak is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.