Fans of Breaking Bad were given a treat yesterday when El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie was released on Netflix… and I am one of those fans.
Breaking Bad was the first television show I ever binge-watched and it is arguably one of the best shows ever made (it’s rated 9,5/10 on IMDb and it has a 96% and 98% score on Rotten Tomatoes).
It is ridiculously good. The perfect action drama with just the right amount of comedy. The writing is brilliant. The acting is superb. Everything about it is fantastic.
So now, six years after Breaking Bad ended, we are presented with the film El Camino.
A little recap/summary of the show before we delve into this film: chemistry teacher Walter White found out he had cancer and started producing and selling crystal meth with his former student Jesse Pinkman in order to earn enough money to take care of his family. During the course of the show, Walter transformed from innocent teacher into dangerous criminal Heisenberg. To put it lightly, the situation escalated (way too much happens to summarise concisely) and the show ended with Walter’s death and Jesse’s escape from his captors.
*spoilers ahead for El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie*
El Camino picks up where the show left off: moments after Walt’s death, when Jesse has just driven off in his car (a Chevrolet… El Camino) leaving behind the place he was held captive and tortured at.
The film is entirely about Jesse on the run, trying to find a way to finally be free. Yet we aren’t only reunited with Jesse, but also with Skinny Pete, Badger, Jesse’s parents, Joe, and Ed (RIP Robert Forster), and (through flashbacks) with Mike, Todd, Jane, Kenny, and… Walt.
All of the flashbacks add to the story and make it more nostalgic and emotional.
The film is even bookended in a way by a flashback at the start in which Mike tells Jesse that if everything is over, he would go to Alaska if he were him and at the end by Jesse actually arriving in Alaska and starting over.
Walt appears only briefly, in one flashback towards the end of the film, but it is the most delightful moment. Jesse’s knock on the hotelroom door, Walt walking out, and them silently walking down the corridor next to each other. Magical.
The chemistry between Walt and Jesse is immediately palpable and what follows is both a sweet and funny conversation between the two about Jesse’s future. (“I got my diploma. Yo, you were standing right on stage when they handed it to me. I totally graduated high school, dick. Which is no thanks to you, all right?”) This flashback warmed my cockles.
And I can’t even express how glad I am that Vince Gilligan chose not to mess with the original show.
Character deaths are almost never fun, but sometimes they are just and Walt’s death was just. It was a fitting ending to the show and reviving him for the sake of this film would have been a terrible choice.
The ending of the show itself was conclusive and satisfying enough in the sense that we saw Jesse escape and Walt die. What else happened and what happened next was for the viewer to decide.
I’ve had stories and fan fiction in my head for as long as I can remember, so I was more than okay with Gilligan (and everyone else involved) presenting us viewers with Jesse racing away and basically going ‘here you go, now it’s up to you to decide his fate’. Choose your own story.
A lot of things could have happened. He could have gotten arrested or killed minutes later. He could have been forced to live as a fugitive forever, always having to look over his shoulder. Or he could have found a way to be completely free.
In my headcanon Jesse had always had a happy ending, so (even though this film showing the end of Jesse’s story wasn’t strictly necessary) it is incredibly rewarding to see that happy ending become canon now.
In the end, El Camino probably wouldn’t hold up as a standalone film, but it is still a wonderful epilogue to one of the most brilliant shows ever created with a great and well-deserved conclusion to the arc of one of the most beloved characters.
May Jesse live happily ever after.
4 out of 5 stars.