El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

As most of the people reading this will be aware, on Friday Netflix released El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. The movie, released 6 years after the end of the main TV series, follows Jesse Pinkman after his escape from Jack’s compound at the very end of the final episode.

Thats not where things start exactly, we’re first treated to a flashback (a commonly used tool in El Camino) of a conversation between Mike and Jesse in which Jesse informs the former that he intends to leave the drugs business, they discuss Jesse’s possible future, which is a theme that crops up time and time again in El Camino.

When we return to the present, Jesse is literally driving away from the slaughter that Walter White had committed, screaming, turning down a side road to avoid the Police he see’s on the horizon and ultimately ending up at the house old friends and accomplices Badger and Skinny Pete are living in. The pair take him in, help him get cleaned up etc and aid him in evading the Police using a plan that feels far too clever for the pair. It was great to see these three back together, Badger in particular was one of my favourite characters during the shows original run. It’s a pity we didnt get a little longer with them, and it was really endearing seeing Skinny Pete taking on a homely and caring role in order to get Jesse back on his feet.

Mike, Pete and Badger aren’t the only returning characters, in fact there’s a few of them which both make and break the movie for me, the vast majority are in flashbacks however. The major positive was the return of creepily friendly and (as we already know) completely unhinged Todd (or as I call him “Not-Matt Damon”). We, through Jesse, spend alot of time with him prior to the moments in the show where Jesse kills Todd. This time is there to show how broken Jesse became, which was portrayed better over the running time of the shows seasons rather than the limited time afforded to it in these flashbacks even though the Todd ones take up a meaty section of the film. It also gives us the information to understand alot of Jesse’s actions in the present day, with Todd telling Jesse about the money he keeps in his apartment and Jesse’s need to get to it in order to carve out a new life for himself. During his search for the cash we’re treated to an excellent bit of film-making (in my opinion) when we’re given an above camera shot of the entire floor plan of the apartment with Jesse ripping the place apart (literally, I don’t just mean throwing furniture around, he literally pulls the plaster off the walls) to find it. The whole sequence kind of reminds me of playing Hotline Miami, and the music would almost fit that games soundtrack too.

It’s Jesse’s plan to create his new life that cause the most problems for me. Choosing to visit “the Disappearer”/Ed who aided Saul and Walter both abandoning their lives and going into hiding (with the latter returning for the events of season 5 and the former going off to work at a Cinnabon as we find out in Better Call Saul). We know Jesse had the opportunity to use Ed’s services back on the show, which he ultimately rejected, but it feels a little too much like the writers are leaning too heavily on those events, both to cause more tension and keep the plot ticking over (Ed wants Jesse to pay for the services he declined and for his services this time, Jesse is a little short on the cash needed so has to resort to getting that before Ed can move him on). Ed gives him the opportunity to go it alone, basically saying that with $248,200 he could get very far away very easily provided he’s careful, but for whatever reason Jesse decides to enter into a very dangerous situation in order to get the rest which feels entirely unnecessary.

Thats not to say that this harms El Camino entirely, its an entertaining couple of hours and it kind of feels good to be back in that world again, especially with Jesse who always seemed to be the heart of the show. However, it does feel like the writers couldn’t help themselves, especially when they shove a flashback featuring Walter White in there (with Bryan Cranston wearing a skull cap that makes his head look huge). Early on we’re told that White did in fact die at the end of Breaking Bad and I personally felt thats all we needed, it felt like Vince Gilligan was pandering to the fans too much at this point.

It’s a nice enough send off to the show, but if thats what Gilligan intended this to be then it feels really weird for it to have been made six years after Breaking Bad ended, particularly whilst Better Call Saul is getting so much praise in certain quarters (though it has reminded me I need to get back to that show as I dropped off it in Season 2 I think). I think it mostly feels that way because the present day stuff takes place so close to the end of the TV show and the cast are showing 6 years of aging, especially Jesse Plemons (“Not Matt-Damon”/Todd), and overall I think I preferred how Breaking Bad ended prior to the release of El Camino.

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