Redemption, yo!

Breaking Bad returns with feature-length follow-up

Starring Aaron Paul and Jesse Plemons. Directed by Vince Gilligan. Netflix.

Breaking Bad, one of the greatest TV series of all time, ended six years ago. Since then, creator Vince Gilligan has served up a nice extension of the show via Better Call Saul, which just finished filming its fifth season. Saul is a prequel (an origin story of the resourceful lawyer played by Bob Odenkirk), so the Breaking Bad timeline came to a stop with the show.

(Note: If you haven’t watched the series, stay away from the movie—and this review—until you have, lest you risk spoiling most of the good stuff from the original.)

So, what happened to Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) after Walter White (Bryan Cranston) liberated him from captivity at that Aryan Brotherhood compound? When last we saw Jesse, he looked like John the Baptist as he sped off into the night, laugh-crying hysterically. El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie dropped last Friday on Netflix (and on a few big screens), and the film picks up where the series left off, with Jesse as “a person of interest” in the aftermath of Walter’s machine-gun assault on the compound, and still very much in need of a shave and shower.

It’s great to see Paul back in his wheelhouse as Jesse, even if the character has become a bit dour after the hell of being held prisoner in a hole in the ground. The character’s screen time during his captivity on the TV show was limited as the story, logically, focused primarily on Walter’s last days.

El Camino gives Gilligan and Paul a chance to explore some previously unseen, strange adventures Jesse had with his captor, the quietly evil Todd (Jesse Plemons). Plemons actually plays a big part in this movie, and thankfully so because he’s just a creepy badass as Todd, a seemingly sensitive, low-key man with a psycho streak that poses all kinds of threats to Jesse’s well-being.

Other recurring characters include Mike (Jonathan Banks), who makes an appearance in flashback (his character having been dispensed by Walter in the original show). Meanwhile, Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) and Badger (Matt Jones), Jesse’s pals/cohorts in meth dealing, show up early to provide comic and other relief. And perhaps most notably, the late Robert Forster, who died the same day El Camino was released, returns as Ed the vacuum salesman, who—for a premium price—offers other helpful services on the side.

El Camino fits right in with the Breaking Bad universe, like two episodes that were hidden in a secret vault for six years. It offers a redemptive conclusion for Jesse, a more poetic sendoff, if you will, than him screaming into the darkness. While I think this might be the last we see of “future Jesse,” chances are high that “past Jesse” might appear again, maybe somewhere within the Better Call Saul timeline. I’m sure Gilligan has a few more stories for the character up his sleeve.