Break on through
Breaking Bad, one of the greatest TV series of all time, ended six years ago. Since then, series creator Vince Gilligan has been serving up a nice extension of the Breaking Bad universe with Better Call Saul, soon to air its fifth season.
If you’ve never seen Breaking Bad, and still plan to watch the show, do not read further into this review. There are spoilers.
Since Saul is a prequel, the Breaking Bad timeline came to a stop six years ago, and the universe has been playing around in the past. So, what happened to Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) after Walter White (Bryan Cranston) liberated him from captivity at that American Nazi compound? When last we saw Jesse, he was looking like John the Baptist and speeding off into the night, laugh-crying hysterically.
Knowing full well that the fanbase is itching for more Jesse, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie has made its way to Netflix (and a select few big screens). The film picks up where the Breaking Bad series left off, with Jesse in a pinch as “a person of interest” after the White assault, and still very much in need of a shave and a shower.
It’s a great thing to see Paul back in his wheelhouse as Pinkman, even if the character has become a bit dour after the hell of being held prisoner in a hole in the ground. Jesse’s screen time during his captivity on the TV show was limited as the story, logically, focused primarily on Walter White’s last days. We only really saw Jesse eating ice cream and failing in an escape attempt. He became a background character.
El Camino gives Gilligan and Paul a chance to flashback and explore some 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 badass in the Todd role. A seemingly sensitive, low-volume man, alas, with a psycho streak that poses all kinds of threats to Jesse’s well-being.
Other characters we see again include Mike (Jonathan Banks), who makes an appearance in flashback (his character having been dispensed by White in the original show). Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) and Badger (Matt Jones) show up early and haven’t lost a step providing comic relief. Most notably, the late Robert Forster, whose passing was announced the very day El Camino was released, returns as Ed the vacuum salesman, who does something a little extra on the side.
For those who loved the show, El Camino is a must. It just sort of fits right in, like two episodes that were hidden in a secret vault for six years. I’m not revealing some of the other special cameos that occur but, trust me, Breaking Bad fans, you won’t be disappointed.
If you haven’t seen the show, stay away from the movie until you have seen it. This is a movie that reveals virtually everything that happened in the show that preceded it. If you’ve been harboring plans to see Breaking Bad, then watch something else on Netflix until you have absorbed all of the seasons into your face.
The movie comes to a satisfying conclusion for Jesse Pinkman, a more poetic sendoff, if you will, than him screaming like a banshee. While I think this might be the end for future Jesse, chances are high that past Jesse will appear again somewhere within the Better Call Saul timeline, which takes place before the events of Breaking Bad. I’m sure Gilligan has a few more Jesse stories up his sleeve.