The wait is over. Jesse Pinkman, welcome back to our lives. After six long years, Jesse Pinkman has returned to our television screens in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. After taking the weekend to process my thoughts, I’m ready to talk. Here’s what worked and what didn’t work in El Camino.
This post will contain major spoilers for El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. If you have not watched the film yet, stop reading now.
Seriously, spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned.
What Worked: Jesse’s Ending
Out of all the major characters in Breaking Bad, Jesse was the biggest name to have an open-ended future. In the series finale, Jesse escaped in Todd’s El Camino and his future was up to the audience to decide. Part of me believes that Gilligan created El Camino because of his unsatisfaction and guilt with how Jesse’s story ended and felt like he needed to properly close his saga. In 2013, Gilligan stated that he hoped Jesse moved to “Alaska to live a peaceful life.” Then, in the first scene, Mike mentioned that he would go to Alaska if he were Jesse. Right then and there, I knew Jesse was making it to Alaska. Did that ruin the film for me knowing that Jesse would stay alive the entire time? No, it did not. After being tortured for the last season and a half of Breaking Bad, Jesse deserved a peaceful resolution.
What Didn’t Work: The Entire Film Being Set In Albuquerque
I have no problem with Jesse getting to Alaska successfully. However, I wish the film spent more time in Alaska and less time in Albuquerque. Between Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, we spend so much time in Albuquerque. It would’ve been awesome to see a Breaking Bad movie in Alaska. Imagine if we saw Jesse adjusting to life in his Alaskan cabin and had to interact with the townspeople. If El Camino spent the first half of the film in Albuquerque and the second half in Alaska, then I’d sign up for that film in a heartbeat. Setting the film in Alaska would have been a risk, but these Gilligan could have pulled it off.
What Worked: Todd
TODD! My biggest takeaway from the film revolves around Todd and how amazing he was as a villain. Breaking Bad highlighted on a few of Todd’s evil tendencies (most notably, shooting Drew in “Dead Freight” and Andrea in “Granite State“), but the show never fully displayed how Todd broke Jesse, both physically and mentally. The scene where Todd convinced Jesse to give him the gun in the desert while persuading him with a pepperoni pizza and some beer is equally horrifying as it is impressive. This scene is why Jesse exacting his revenge on Todd in “Felina” is so satisfying. Jesse Plemons is a fantastic villain as evidenced in Breaking Bad, Fargo, and Black Mirror. If Breaking Bad ever wanted to do a spinoff on Todd’s life and how he got mixed up with Uncle Jack and the drug universe, I’m all in for “Breaking Todd.”
What Didn’t Work: Walt
It truly pains me to type this, but Walt’s flashback scene did nothing for me. In El Camino, the flashback takes place during a season two episode titled, “4 Days Out,” where Walt and Jesse go on a meth-cooking bender in order to try and secure enough money for Walt’s family. The scene takes place sometime between leaving the desert and dropping off Walt at the airport. The significance is that it takes place a few episodes before meeting Gus Fring and Jane’s death. In other words, it’s a few episodes before Walt breaks bad. The scene at the cafe is purely fan service, which is both good and bad. If Walt was not featured in some capacity, fans would have rioted. It was a light, semi-fun scene that highlighted the initial friendship between Walt and Jesse. But that friendship was so long ago that it’s hard to remember Walt as a “good guy.” I preferred Heisenberg Walt in a flashback over “I’m selling drugs for my family” Walt.
What Worked: Aaron Paul
Jesse might have been Walt’s sidekick, but Aaron Paul was equally as good as Bryan Cranston. Just like his character, it took some time for Paul to find his own as Jesse, but when he got it right, it was magic. Walt might have been the brains behind the show, but Jesse was the heart. Walt may have broken bad, but Jesse tried to hold onto his morality throughout the entire show. El Camino gave Paul a chance to shine as the true lead, and he made the most of this opportunity. Paul’s Jesse is the perfect mix of a criminal trying to make up for previous mistakes. Paul’s performance is full of heartbreak, compassion, and finally, satisfaction as the book of Jesse Pinkman came to an end.
What Didn’t Work: It Felt Like A Long Episode of Breaking Bad, Not A Film
To some, this is a positive. A long episode of Breaking Bad is better than no Breaking Bad at all. El Camino was a fan service at its finest. The montage in Todd’s apartment, the return of memorable characters, and the aerial camera shots were all familiar elements from the series. However, I wouldn’t consider El Camino a film. El Camino felt like an episode during the middle of a season. Spending time at Skinny Pete’s house and searching for money at Todd’s dragged out and could have been shorter. I expected the film to be more action-packed and to the point. The film didn’t really “get going” until Jesse interacted with the Kandy Welding Company at Todd’s apartment. As I said earlier, a long episode of Breaking Bad is better than no Breaking Bad at all, but that doesn’t necessarily work for something billed as a film.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie was a satisfying film that provided a lot of fan service thanks to cameos from memorable characters. Will it be ranked towards the top of the Breaking Bad universe? No. Will it be ranked towards the bottom? No. It will stand on its own as a tribute to a phenomenal show, which is where it should be.
Did you enjoy El Camino? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.