Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers for the show Breaking Bad and minor spoilers for El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.
The wait is over! El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie has been released for the world to witness on Netflix — undoubtedly, one of the most exciting events for Breaking Bad fans this year. Despite mixed emotions about the film being unnecessary or perhaps, apprehension of the continuation of one of the greatest TV shows of all time, it was still a long-awaited event. The wait, however, did not pay off with some of the fans.
El Camino picks up immediately where Breaking Bad left off: Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is dead and Jesse escapes captivity in a Chevrolet El Camino. Tears of joy and relief stream down his face, as he drives towards a new life. The movie follows Jesse (Aaron Paul), seeking to escape from his traumatic experiences and his past — it allows greater insight into what he really has gone through while being held hostage through numerous flashbacks and memories. Jesse now has to not only fight for his future but also fight his past.
To many members of the audience, the final episode Felina has been the perfect ending; the episode is amongst the highest-rated TV show episodes of all time. However, ambitiously, the film seeks to continue the legacy of the tv-show by allowing the story to live on — six years later. Perhaps, masterpieces should be left untouched and El Camino acts as proof of this. Although well-executed, it acts as a catharsis for the character of Jesse rather than a continuation of the show.
There are a number of aspects about El Camino which can be praised, such as the stunning cinematography and the fantastic acting. Aaron Paul’s performance is stellar — even six years later, he proves to be the perfect embodiment of Jesse Pinkman. The two aspects combined are usually a recipe for success in a movie, but considering the high stakes area Gilligan was entering, they were not enough to produce a continuation of the iconic TV show that would have been perfect.
There is no doubt about the fact that Jesse is a character who is able to carry a whole movie on his back with the horrifying events he had to live through and now to live with, as well as multiple flashbacks to several detrimental characters of the show, who have influenced his life. One of them is a breakfast scene with Walter, in which they discuss Jesse’s future possibilities and perhaps, going to college. The flashback is from towards the end of the second season when the spiral downwards for Walter and Jesse had only begun. It can also be said how it is one of the very few of their happiest moments together.
El Camino features several moments like this and although some less-observant viewers may say they are pure fan-service, they all are significant in the world of the film. Gilligan once again shows his mastery in developing characters, as the viewer is sent on an emotional rollercoaster with Jesse. He manages to justify any pain or emotion that Jesse is feeling by showing, not telling — just like he was able to do so in Breaking Bad with other characters.
Perhaps, it was the medium that was not able to make El Camino perfect. Nowadays, films are usually two hours or over, which requires the writers to add a lot more substance into the film, than they would have added into a TV show episode. This makes the film more drawn out than needed; although writer and producer Vince Gilligan is known for his slow storytelling, a two-hour film had the risk of either not being long enough to completely fulfill a storyline or being too much time to tie up any loose ends leftover from Breaking Bad. Unfortunately, the latter is what happened with El Camino.
It could be said how the film is drawn out: certain moments, such as Jesse’s time at Todd’s apartment could have been shortened without doing harm to the film. Although all events in the film have their own purpose, some of these events feel longer than they have to be — one could say that they are in the longer and slower style of Gilligan’s storytelling. However, a two-hour film does require a bit more substance to make it feel like a proper film, rather than a drawn-out TV show episode.
Perhaps, El Camino would have been perfect if it was released as a separate episode rather than a separate film since it does require a lot of background knowledge about the Breaking Bad universe to be able to understand it. A lot of the events, such as the flashbacks of Jesse’s captivity or his interactions with characters like Walter, require the viewer to have watched the five seasons of Breaking Bad. The film cannot be viewed as a stand-alone picture and hence, acts more like an epilogue to the story of the iconic TV show.
El Camino is not a bad film, but it does not equate to the quality of the TV show, making it seem slightly more detached. Of course, it would have been difficult to surpass the perfection of Breaking Bad, but the ambition of Vince Gilligan allowed him to produce not exactly a continuation of the TV show, but rather a perfect epilogue to it — and a chance for the viewers to reunite with their favorite TV show after six years.
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