‘El Camino’: ‘A Breaking Bad’ movie review
By Tyran Batten, Contributor
Breaking Bad was the pinnacle of television at the time of its airing. Its creator, Vince Gilligan, set out to tell a story that chronicled Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a character who tore apart every life he came into contact wit—including his own. The show fantastically displayed that anyone who finds renewed purpose in the self-pleasure of egotism will be consumed by those emotions.
Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) was the inverse of Walter—he acted as a moral compass, consistently reminding us of Walter’s despicable nature. Jesse was a physical manifestation of the dangers in attempting a loving relationship with a man built on greed. If the finale of Breaking Bad was the conclusion of Walter’s story, El Camino, is the conclusion of Jesse’s. In the hopeless world of Breaking Bad, El Camino gives us a fitting epilogue for the most hopeful character of the series and allows a revisit to this world with a fleeting sense of nostalgia.
Disclaimer: For the rest of the review I will be discussing some of the plots of both Breaking Bad and El Camino, so be warned if you want to avoid spoilers.
El Camino takes place in the aftermath of Breaking Bad and resumes precisely where the finale of the show left us. Walter has freed Jesse from his life of slavery, and Jesse is left to fend for himself in his escape from the world of drug lords and meth labs.
This movie spends a long time exploring the world that Jesse is running from. The film uses flashbacks to detail his experiences as a slave to a meth lab and what damage it did to him. We become increasingly sympathetic for Jesse as we witness the horrors of what was done to him and what he was forced to do. Todd (Jesse Plemons) was Jesse’s primary caretaker when he was essentially a caged monkey. His caretaker shows us the psychopathic behaviour that Jesse was forced to tolerate for fear of drug lords murdering the people he cares about.
This film also gives us a chance to revisit the positive elements of Jesse’s world. Downtrodden and broken, his first stop after escaping the meth lab is a visit with his old friends Badger (Matt Jones) and Skinny Pete (Charles Baker). Being among the few positive influences in Jesse’s life, it was heartwarming seeing him revisit these two immediately offer to get anything their friend needed. Destroyed by the world that used him, Jesse is now offered a bed to sleep on, money, a shower, and even an escape plan devised by Skinny Pete. When Jesse asks Pete why he’s even doing this, all Pete can say to Jesse is “you’re like my hero and shit.”
The flashbacks allow us to revisit other influences in Jesse’s life, such as Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), a former cop who showed Jesse that even in this world of criminals and crooks, there are still good guys. There is also a scene set early in the timeline of Breaking Bad that allows us to see the duo, Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, one final time. In a surprisingly comedic scene of the two enjoying a diner breakfast, Walter tells Jesse how lucky he is to be young and not have to wait his whole life to do something special. For the final flashback of the film, we see Jane (Krysten Ritter), one of the only women that Jesse ever loved. She encapsulates the theme of Jesse’s journey by saying, “I’ve gone where the universe takes me my whole life. It’s better to make those decisions for yourself.”
Ultimately, El Camino is not a completely necessary film for Jesse’s story. Personally, I was content with the ambiguousness of Jesse’s future during the finale of Breaking Bad. We did not know what was next for him—when left to the imagination, we believed it to be something better. El Camino is that “something better.” The film is an addendum on an already perfect ending.
While I did not feel that I needed the movie, I am happy it exists as Jesse’s final goodbye and I was absolutely delighted to once again experience this world of fascinating characters. The film still leaves a sense of ambiguousness—
albeit a more positive one—as to the next step for Jesse and I was glad to finish a Breaking Bad film that left me with hope for the central character’s future. If any character is deserving of that in Breaking Bad’s unforgiving, destructive, and cruel world, it is Jesse Pinkman.