El Camino: A Necessary Story or Forced Narrative?

Breaking Bad, touted as one of the greatest TV shows ever made, ended over five years ago. Its finale is celebrated for wrapping up all of the answers and polishing off the arcs of the characters it followed for over 5 seasons. However – seemingly out of nowhere – the shows creator, Vince Gilligan, announces one final chapter of the Breaking Bad saga. So does the film live up to the show’s legacy or does it derail one of the most beloved series ever created?

El Camino, follows Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), arguably the shows second protagonist, minutes after the events of the finale. After months of being enslaved and  forced to cook the shows famous blue meth, Jessie has finally escaped his prison. However due to his involvement and relationship with the now infamous Heisenberg, he must avoid police, tie all the loose knots he left, and most importantly, find a way to escape Albuquerque to start a new life.

Aaron Paul slips right back into Jessie’s role as if no time had passed and, once again, gives an amazing performance. His portrayal especially shines during flashback scenes to his entrapment or his struggle to overcome the trauma of it. 

However, the main issue with the film is its basic story. Considering the events of the TV show mostly wrapped up Jessie’s character, there was nothing interesting he could do other than try to run away; there is no character development arc that Jessie experiences. To put it simply, there is more action than substance. The tacked-on revenge plot introduced halfway into the movie gives enough motivation to keep the story going, but it becomes too straightforward to become something better. However while it does drag the movie down a bit, the journey Jessie goes through is entertaining enough, with some genuinely good moments and a satisfying conclusion to his story..

El Camino also relies a little too much on flashback scenes which features many familiar faces. It is initially exciting to see returning characters of the show, but the scenes are mostly there as exposition to further the plot in the present or to foreshadow events. Despite this, some of the flashbacks brilliantly enhance the story, for example when Todd takes Jesse into the desert to dispose of the corpse of someone who found his stolen money. 

Where the movie struggles at a narrative level, it succeeds in other areas. Right off the bat the most noticeable thing for any returning viewer is how smoothly the movie reinserts the audience into the world of Breaking Bad. While the upgraded cinematic flair of the movie makes it look visually distinct from the show, the gritty, tension filled atmosphere of the show still permeates throughout the movie. The show’s unique montage sequences also make a pleasing return. All this is no surprise considering Vince Gilligan came back to direct and write the film.

Despite the perfect ending of the TV series, El Camino serves as a satisfactory epilogue to the show. This movie will not make sense to anyone who hasn’t watched Breaking Bad, but for those who have it is a must watch to see where Jessie headed after he drove off in the finale. While perhaps not reaching the excellent standards set by the show, it offers a good enough story, with excitement and thrills, which justifies its existence as an epilogue to the show.

Simon Ordonez ’22

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