El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

Everyone needs closure, Jesse Pinkman no less.

Breaking Bad ended one of if not the best series of the past ten years with one of the best series finales (or Felinas) in recent memory. Purists may argue that Breaking Bad should have ended with season four, yet the characters’ full arcs were far from realised and who’s going to argue with another does of most excellent television?

The same thinking went into El Camino as did the effort epitomized by five seasons of hallmark storytelling. From a narrative standpoint we didn’t necessarily need this even if we learn that much more about these characters. In any respect absent these additions we really would have missed out.

El Camino isn’t just one of the best things Netflix has done, it’s one of the best films of the year full stop. Picking up right where the series ended, while newcomers will be able to follow along just well enough given the series of flashbacks there’s very little to no point in watching this if you haven’t seen a lot of Breaking Bad.

In Vince Gilligan’s hands, the hark backs to an earlier time tell us that much more about those we have come to know, love and hate, foremost among them Jesse Plemons’ placid psychopath. The nonchalance with which we see Todd dispose of a body aboundingly chilling given even all we’ve come to know about him, this sequence too imparts greater significance to the series’ final confrontation between Todd and one of Breaking Bad’s central figures.

That this was several years in the making, or that Gilligan beared the creativity to invest that past with so much more resonance, is emblematic of the quality Breaking Bad has never let up. That we get to spend a little more time with these so uncommonly well-drawn personalities, for the most ardent fans of the show no less, is a rare and unexpected pleasure.

There isn’t a weak performer in sight, with one of Jesse’s closest confidantes returning early in this chapter (as publicised) for, as regards his characterisation, a novel, heart-warming turn. A western-style duel stands as a highlight as does the re-emergence of Robert Foster’s Ed; the performer tragically passing away the same day his final film was released.

Aerial cinematography depicting several rooms of an apartment being torn apart by one character at once, no doubt soon to be widely emulated, is a contender for most creative shot of the year; it too being rivalled by the placement of key characters in a desert ala a model set (yet another strong allusion to the original run) which takes pride of place earlier in the film. It is these moments for which Breaking Bad was known, refreshingly depicting the procedural steps an elusive criminal might undertake rather than the grand sweeping set pieces which typically characterise dramas. That being resplendent here, alongside the sorely-missed low-scale high-stakes sequences bearing elongated suspense (among them characters here at risk of being detected by an aging horticulturalist), made this addendum resonate all the more.

Thankfully, El Camino also confirms the series death of one central character; the speculation that they would still be alive (the involving third act flashback notwithstanding) ranking high among the most useless fan theories.

This instalment gives us and, cathartically, one key series figure (as we too see them grow in their self-reliance and resolve) that bit more closure that we didn’t necessarily need, but for the quality with which it is evinced, are very grateful. Significantly, El Camino does not retcon anything about Breaking Bad as might have been tempting to do; with the creators choosing instead to broaden our knowledge of this world and add that much more here so vibrant colour. 

However big a Breaking Bad fan you are you’ve really got something to look forward to. If you’re not, you do too; you’ve just got a lot unparalleled catching up to do first.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is now streaming on Netflix