In 2013, AMC’s “Breaking Bad” gave us what many, including myself, consider to be the greatest ending of any television drama. So when the show’s creator, Vince Gilligan, announced that he would be releasing a sequel to the show in the form of a Netflix original movie, there was a certain degree of skepticism. Could he possibly top the ending of the series?
After watching “El Camino,” I would describe it as less of an updated ending and more of an epilogue to the story. Its presence is not essential to the story, but it provides a thoughtful examination into one of the series’ most beloved characters, giving his arc a greater sense of closure than what we had originally received.
[The following contains spoilers for “Breaking Bad.”]
The film picks up immediately after the events of the series finale, with Jesse driving away from Jack’s compound at full speed. We are immediately thrown into the action, with Jesse desperately trying to evade the Albuquerque Police, FBI and DEA agents hot on his trail. From there, we follow Jesse’s attempts to leave New Mexico behind in order to get a fresh start in life.
Audiences will be happy to see the return of many fan-favorite characters. Through the frequent use of flashbacks, we are even treated to the appearances of a few characters you may not expect. Each returning cast member slips back into their respective roles seamlessly, recapturing the magic that made them so memorable in the show. Characters like Skinny Pete and Badger are given heartfelt send-offs that feel perfectly in line with what fans know and love about them.
One of the standout performances comes from Robert Forster as Ed Galbraith, the vacuum cleaner salesman from season five who provided Walter White and Saul Goodman with new identities. Forster had very little screen time in the series, but left a strong impression with his humorless, no-nonsense attitude. Sadly, Forster passed away on Friday, the same day this film was released. That would make this his final performance, and it is one that he and his family should be very proud of.
Of all the returning characters, it should come as no surprise that Aaron Paul’s reprisal of his role as Jesse Pinkman is what truly anchors the film. Paul is able to expertly balance the classic, snarky Pinkman persona with the darker, more damaged Jesse we see after his torture and imprisonment at the hands of Jack and the Neo-Nazis.
The only issue that arises with the return of certain actors is one that they have little control over. The show ended six years ago, but the film picks up right where the show ends, meaning that no time has passed in the world of the show. For some actors, like Paul or Forster, this is not a problem at all and they easily blend in. Others are more noticeably older. As many people have already pointed out, the most obvious is Jesse Plemons as Todd Alquist (in flashback), Jack’s nephew and Jesse’s “caretaker.” Plemons’ performance remains fantastic, getting more of a chance to shine than he was often given in the series. In fact, one particular moment he shares with Paul is one of the best in the film. Still, it is difficult not to notice his age and weight gain, making some of his scenes very distracting. Of course, this is not necessarily a problem with the actors, but is merely the result of attempting this sort of film. It is unavoidable that there are going to be some physical differences with the actors, and the important thing is to consider the performance, first and foremost.
The other drawback to the film is its pacing. Considering that the main arcs of the show were all wrapped up in the season five finale, the film is running on very little steam. This means that most of the drama has to be invented from new material. Instead of recalling certain familiar events from the show, the flashbacks are given the added purpose of introducing story threads that we are meant to assume were occuring off camera during the events of the series. While this works fairly well for the film on its own, it feels jarring when watching the film in the broader context of the series.
Overall, despite what I found to be its issues, it is still enjoyable to see the old characters return and to get a less ambiguous ending for the show’s greatest character, Jesse Pinkman. If you are unfamiliar with “Breaking Bad,” this probably shouldn’t be your entry point into the story. If you are a fan of the show and would like to see more, this is definitely worth your time.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Thumbnail photo courtesy of @officialelcamino Instagram.
Evan Burns is campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.