This Episode Of Better Call Saul Was Inspired By Lawrence Of Arabia

AMC's "Breaking Bad" prequel series, "Better Call Saul," has been a feat of filmmaking for five seasons and counting. Along with being filmmakers themselves, co-creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould have long-since been on the record as film-lovers. In fact, one of the best "Better Call Saul" episodes to date, season 5's "Bagman," even takes direct inspiration from one of the most acclaimed films of all time: David Lean's 1962 epic "Lawrence of Arabia."

"Bagman" is perhaps the most action-packed "Better Call Saul" episode to date, yet it's also a survival saga, capturing Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Mike's (Jonathan Banks) voyage through a harsh desert. Lawyer Jimmy is still mid-transformation into Saul Goodman at this point, and when he agrees to do a bail money pick-up for a cartel client, it's a decision he won't be able to take back. He heads into the desert alone, but after the pickup, he's ambushed and drawn into the middle of a shootout. Mercenary Mike saves Jimmy, and they spend the rest of the episode trying to get the money back to civilization without succumbing to heat stroke or dehydration.

Gilligan Almost Used The Lawrence Lens

Gilligan says his crew used a long lens for these desert sequences, and that Gould even considered trying to track down the exact lenses that were used to shoot "Lawrence of Arabia." The Super Panavision 70 lens used in that production is apparently still in circulation, according to a conversation Gilligan had with IndieWire, but ultimately the director was "too afraid we'd break it."

Even without the "Lawrence of Arabia" lens at their disposal, it's clear that the episode draws strong inspiration from Lean's film. Over on Reddit, one user named Detzeb has even pointed out several direct image matches between the desert-set film and "Bagman." In one of the most striking shots of the episode, Jimmy stands on a hilltop, holding his phone up to search for cell service. He has a piece of cloth wrapped around his head to keep cool, and carries the two bags of cash around his waist. This is a richly composed shot, with layers of desert landscape and multi-colored sky in the background. Jimmy's pose looks just like one Lawrence makes in Lean's film, as he's enrobed in white in the desert.

Bagman Is Great Homage And More

This is just one of several shots in "Bagman" that recall "Lawrence of Arabia." Gilligan creates clear parallels by capturing everything from a mirage-like movement in the distance to a miraculous, shelter-providing tree in a way that calls Lean's epic to mind, as the Reddit user points out.

Gilligan seamlessly turns the orange New Mexico landscape into a stand-in for the Nefud Desert of Lawrence's journey, but his work shouldn't simply be seen as homage. "Bagman" is a series high in a series that's almost always batting at 1000. The episode is harrowing and exhilarating, full of constant turns of fortune, and at times too excruciatingly realistic to watch. It's nothing short of a small-screen masterpiece, worthy of homage itself.