Warning: Very Minor and Vague Spoilers for Breaking Bad
In 2008, a gifted screenwriter named Vince Gilligan—a 40-year-old virtuoso from Richmond, Virginia who merely nobody had even heard of unless you were a hardcore X-Files fan—initiated a series that many would consider to be the best in all of television history. This program—which we referred to as Breaking Bad—I still constantly declare, since the day I witnessed that last 62nd episode in the year of 2014—to which most saw it in 2013—as the most flawless piece of drama IN ANY ARTFORM ever made. It was a superhuman phenomenon—in all 62 hours of its runtime—that never seized to run out of ideas, always committed to its audacious, shrewd thriller elements, and not once felt doubtful when it came to its uncommon realism. It truly is #1 in the lore of storytelling if anything, on any account, deserved the spot. Move over Shakespeare.
El Camino, a feature-length follow-up set immediately after the events of Breaking Bad’s final episode, is an incident that was never supposed to commence. However, it did; with fans dying to know what happened to Albuquerque’s iconic, bitch-swearing, meth-cooking but empathetically comprehensible anti-villain Jesse Pinkman, it seemed unavoidable. So here we are, fans crossing their fingers harder than when Jussie Smollett crossed his when he was praying for people to buy his rudimentary assault story, hoping and wishing that El Camino would continue respectfully off an objectively perfect conclusion to the Walter White tale.
But some folks are absolutely right, this is the Jesse Pinkman conclusion, not the already unblemished Heisenberg conclusion, and Vince Gilligan has made this statement so crystal clear by putting our beloved Pinkman as the motion picture’s main star. El Camino is not figuratively Breaking Bad’s next chapter. The film isn’t strictly focused on just how Jesse got out or didn’t get out of such a catastrophic situation, but who and what made Jesse no longer that same Jesse we saw in Breaking Bad’s opening season. It’s a character study on somebody so broke, so tormented by a year-long protocol of physical and mental abuse, that his morality has essentially become completely hijacked. His shoulds and shouldn’ts have transformed into blurrier lines than ever, further polluting his placement in a dire situation like being hunted by hundreds of Albuquerque police officers and CIA agents. His submissive practices of when he was a prisoner are severe and serve no other purpose but to make this next challenge of his an internal conflict in hell. This combination of flashbacks and present anecdotes is what truly made El Camino a double-perspective excursion worth watching–even if its results are charitably made solely for fans rather than for those wanting to see a mind-blowing, stand-alone movie.
It’s hard for me not to say that I tried to let my expectations fool me into swaying or jeopardizing my thoughts on the film in a biased manner. I mean, hell! I waited to see this movie exactly at 12:01 am PST (its official release date) just so I could know what would happen as soon as humanly possible; easing the anxiety of a long-awaited impulse. Immediately before I watched El Camino, though, I rewatched the infamous, final episode of Breaking Bad, Felina. You know that there’s something quite special about a show when its last episode manages to cram in a comedic joke gag in its opening scene before the seriousness of a termination unfolds. The episode even finds a way to shove in one last breakfast scene because the show wasn’t afraid to let its roots always thrive even in the show’s biggest of modifications. Gilligan directed that episode to the very definition of “perfectly” like no other Breaking Bad episode or any other episode of television for the matter. He, furthermore, proved that he was more than capable of becoming a full-time director. Felina still remains to be virtually my favorite ending to ANYTHING ever.
So, I assumed it would be difficult judging El Camino because it might have come off like I’m judging a new extended episode of the show rather than a movie itself. It’s more of an epilogue, if anything, than an episode, but like many epilogues, they don’t automatically ruin the ending beforehand nor do they enhance a whole lot of elements to a brim. They’re just sweeteners for the leading pot.
But, the argument on whether El Camino functions adequately as a standalone or only as a sequel to the show is still, at the moment, debatable. Personally, I think what holds it back is the fact that Breaking Bad context is for a guaranteed fact going to improve your experience and having no schooling of the show’s substantial tales will indisputably drag your feelings down on the overall ordeal gravely.
It was mildly bothersome that everybody in Jesse’s flashbacks looked older than they did originally, as well. It’s like they didn’t even try to make these flashbacks appear like they were shot back during the Breaking Bad days. Marshall Adam’s cinematography, also, tries too hard to be cinematic, overexposing way too many shots and contrasting some shots to death, and while in some scenes it fits optimally, it would’ve been preferable if they stuck with a pallet or reoccurrence that was more “special” or distinguished—this is Breaking Bad after all, Netflix. For a movie that doesn’t seem as if it’s attempting to be too grand and extravagant in its presentation and much more pacified—which Breaking Bad has always been about 75% of the time, so props to Gilligan for sticking by that—a change in visual maturity would’ve been keener for a feature-length continuation like this.
In the end, I just kind of wish Vince Gilligan strived to make another masterpiece and one that perched more on its own terms, but that’s what comes when you have such a god-tiered legacy exuding behind your footsteps. Be that as it may, El Camino is still noteworthy. The film isn’t the most necessary follow-up, so to say, but it’s, to put it unambiguously, nice to know that we have it. They did Jesse Pinkman justice and, frankly, that’ll do just swell for us Breaking Bad meth-heads.
“El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” is now available to stream on Netflix.