The long anticipated “Breaking Bad” sequel movie, “El Camino”, was released on Netflix and in select theaters over the weekend. Starring Aaron Paul in his reprised role as Jesse Pinkman, the movie follows what happens to Pinkman after the conclusion of “Breaking Bad”. With “Breaking Bad” being one of the only television series in which the majority of fans were satisfied with the final episode, it was risky to try and dive back into the story. Writer, director and mastermind behind the series, Vince Gilligan, may have nailed it once again though, bringing “Breaking Bad” back to the spotlight. A little disclaimer for those living under a rock: there will most definitely be spoilers ahead. Granted, you’ve had about six whole years to watch the entire series, so you’ve been warned.
A few months ago, when the hype started accumulating for this film, many fans were both excited and nervous to see how it would play out. As mentioned before, “Breaking Bad” is one of the only series that fans believed ended perfectly. I’ve yet to meet a fan of the show who was unhappy with its conclusion. In a nutshell, Walter White, the protagonist of “Breaking Bad”, frees his old apprentice, Jesse Pinkman, from captivity. With help from an automated machine gun surprise, Walter wipes out the Aryan brotherhood, who held his old friend Jesse as a meth cook slave. In the process, Walter is struck with one of his own bullets from the trap and succumbs to his injuries. Jesse then steals an El Camino and drives off before the police can respond to the carnage. The film picks up immediately at this point. This is where the risk is. As viewers, the whole point of the series finale was that we can assume that Jesse is a newly free man and can hopefully have a fresh start.
In the first moments of “El Camino”, we learn that this couldn’t be farther from the truth. A manhunt is issued for Pinkman, making his path to true liberation that much more difficult. Not only is Jesse trying to escape the police, but he is also struggling with the PTSD that he developed due to the abuse he received from the brotherhood. Personally, I love this whole idea. Jesse had so much confidence and ability throughout the series that it was crazy to see him in such a battered state. With welding scars all across his body, Jesse has to find his identity again. This movie is all about the reconstruction of who Jesse is as an individual, which makes it a riveting watch.
Many flashback scenes were used to show the torture Jesse went through. In one particular flashback, a welder from Kandy Co. Welding is shown creating an apparatus that Jesse must be chained to while he cooks meth. This welder character is someone who didn’t have a significant role in the series, but he becomes Jesse’s antagonist in “El Camino”. I’m not a huge fan of this. Since most of Walt and Jesse’s enemies from the series had been killed off, it seemed like they just created this new villain completely out of nowhere. If this new villain was someone we knew from the series, maybe I’d be more inclined to find him as ruthless as some of the other villains from the show. It was evident that this was just some cash-hungry bum who was responsible for torturing Jesse. Predictably, Jesse is able to kill the welder in a one-on-one shootout and take around $200,000 to make a getaway. Since Jesse is our beloved main character of the movie, I couldn’t really picture him losing at the hand of the welder. This was no surprise for the viewer. My point is, this character was really no match for Jesse, and it made for a predictable climax of the film. With Jesse coming out on top and with the cash he needs to disappear, Jesse has now got it together just enough so that he can actually start fresh like we believed he would at the end of the series.
Instead of completely reconstructing his old identity as Jesse Pinkman, the former meth cook apprentice is able to successfully create an entirely new identity. He uses his cash to pay a man that is able to smuggle him to Alaska and give him a new name and a fabricated backstory. “Good luck, Mr. Driscoll,” the smuggler says to Jesse, as he drops him off in Alaska. At this point, Jesse is a new man and has completed his rebirth. The ending for Jesse that fans hoped for at the end of “Breaking Bad”, was confirmed through “El Camino”.
Through a series of wild events that involved action, blood and money, the plot of “El Camino” left me very satisfied overall. It was great to see Jesse’s story end the way we hoped for and watch him shake the demons that haunted him. “El Camino” should at least resurrect the “Breaking Bad” lore for the next few weeks and it should be exciting to see if any new fans hop on board and start the series from the beginning. When all is said and done, “El Camino” did exactly what it was supposed to do, so for that, I’m thrilled. “Breaking Bad” is back, Jesse is a free man and the risk that this movie held completely paid off.
Brendan Lally is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]