The prospect of Breaking Bad returning for a movie sequel, was something I wasn’t too pleased about. It seemed like an unnecessary gamble. Why would one of the most critically acclaimed shows of all time, which managed the insurmountable feat of concluding in a manner that most saw satisfying, decide to push it that bit further. To me, it seemed to be something that could jeopardize Breaking Bad’s legacy. Then as trailers were released, including the first teaser, featuring a Skinny Pete under interrogation, my perception of this film altered. The tone felt right, and it teased the state of Albuquerque after the momentous event that was the death of drug kingpin Heisenberg. As I sat down to find out what happened to Jessie Pinkman, I was in a state of both pessimism and excitement.
The immediate sense you get from El Camino is nostalgia. We are revisiting places and character’s that we haven’t seen in six years. Characters that we maybe didn’t even realized we loved so much. It plays up to that with several “fan service” styled moments. Of course, as a fan, I reveled in these scenes, but more on those later.
The film’s biggest takeaway is the evolution of Jessie Pinkman. The show was a slow arc, but this an emphasis and stark contrast between the Jessie we use to know, and the man he is today. Aaron Paul is as great as ever, perfectly balancing the hints of likeability Jessie use to have, and his exposed nerve nature, as he constantly teeters on the edge of becoming maniacal – a man pushed to the absolute limit.
Where I had concerns on how the film would satisfyingly continue the story, one of my biggest issues was with the structure. Without getting too into spoilers, the film flits between present day (or the show’s present day) and events during the final season of the show. While these are interesting and full of these aforementioned “fan service” moments, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I would rather be moving forwards. Instead, a big bulk of the film is filling in the blanks of what has already happened – hoping to keep you hooked with returning characters and reminiscing on old times. These segments are interesting, but I did find myself yearning to be back in the present-day storyline. Whether it being my altered and conflicted expectation of this film or not, I came to see the fallout post-Heisenberg. The big premise of this film was “What happened to Jessie Pinkman once he escaped?”, and whilst it did deliver to some extent, it didn’t spend enough time there for me.
What we did get of that time however is tense, unpredictable and full of that indescribable Breaking Bad charm. Vince Gilligan was able to write Jessie into grounded situations, that he barely manages to get through – not having all the moving chess pieces to manipulate that Walter took advantage of.
El Camino is an entertaining, suspenseful, and often emotional journey with one of the most beloved characters in television. Whilst, personally I felt the focus was off, it can’t be argued that what we got is another example of excellent writing and acting. I also find myself eager to revisit the show (it may be too soon for a third watch through). However, as the credits rolled, I felt a sort of passiveness that questioned the point of it all. If considered as an epilogue, which it effectively is, it is a nice bit of extra entertainment. However, if the story lines of this film were to be worked into the final season of the show, I suspect that many would argue Walter White’s death (and the ending we got) was where the show should have truly ended.