Netflix's 'El Camino' Doesn't Justify Its Existence, but 'Breaking dangerous' fans must Watch It

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I thought it was a very early, or very late, April Fool’s joke when Netflix announced that they were debuting a new Breaking Bad movie this fall, written and directed by Vince Gilligan, starring Aaron Paul, as a way of putting a bookend on a series that ended six years ago.

About Netflix's

Netflix's 'El Camino' Doesn't Justify Its Existence, But 'Breaking Bad' Fans Should Watch It

About 'El

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is essentially a double-sized episode of the series focusing on the immediate aftermath of the series finale, a series finale which most fans were satisfied with at the time that certainly didn’t seem like it needed any more chapters attached to it.

As such, El Camino is an odd project, something that feels like it’s scratching a creative itch for Vince Gilligan and Aaron Paul, and a commercial one for Netflix as they get to attach their name to one of the greatest shows in history (AMC, Breaking Bad’s original home, tells me they’ll run the movie later on).

Netflix's 'El Camino' Doesn't Justify Its Existence, But 'Breaking Bad' Fans Should Watch It

The result is an interesting watch, part action film, part nostalgia tour, but to talk any more about it, we have to get into spoiler territory, so turn back now unless you’ve watched it.

The film picks up in the immediate aftermath of the series finale, literally seconds after Jesse escapes from the Nazi compound, and has to start dodging cops. We learn that both Walt’s meth empire and the ensuing gunfight have hit the news in a big way, and while there are reports about Jesse’s imprisonment by the Nazis so he seems like a victim, it still seems like nothing good will come of it if they capture him. So Jesse needs to figure out a way to disappear.

It’s a curious project because so many of the heroes and villains of the series are dead or gone at this point. To solve this, El Camino features frequent flashbacks to various unseen moments in the Breaking Bad years, complete with a return to “neon oversize hoodie” Jesse, which was fun to see again. In the past, we get flashback moments with Mike, Todd and Jane. In the present, Jesse reunites with Skinny Pete and Badger, but the thrust of the story is him getting enough money together to have the mysterious “new identity creator” guy get him an entirely new life, the same thing that happened to Saul.

As for Walter White? Yes, he’s here too. A flashback near the end has hoodie-era Jesse talking to Walt in a diner with the meth-lab RV parked outside. Walt tries to talk to Jesse about his future to no avail, though it’s there to be relevant to what Jesse is going through in present day. But bad news for conspiracy theorists, as if there’s one thing the movie makes explicit, it’s to confirm that Walter White was found dead at the scene of the gang massacre, in case the original ending didn’t make that perfectly clear.

One interesting thing about El Camino was the problem of a lack of a villain, considering they’re all dead, which the film solves in two ways. First, there are extended flashbacks to Jesse’s time in captivity, and in those sequences, we get extended interactions with our good friend Todd again, which are genuinely some of the best parts of the film.

In present day, they had to create an entire new villain in the form of a former associate of the Nazi group who helped build Jesse’s “latch him to the ceiling” meth-cooking rig. This guy and his partner know that Todd stashed money away, and Jesse has several run-ins with them including a final confrontation that is easily one of the best scenes in the film. The only trouble I had with this was that the main bad guy is played by Scott MacArthur, who I’ve been watching be the villain in HBO’s Righteous Gemstones, which is what I kept thinking of every time he was onscreen.

In the end, I don’t know that this movie needed to exist. It ends similarly to how it started. We all assumed Jesse would be free after Walt helped him escape and we could picture in our mind what his happy ending might look like. Here, he does get that ending, and it’s spelled out this time.

I certainly don’t think El Camino damages the legacy of Breaking Bad in any way, and I think most fans will like it because A) it’s nice seeing the old cast members again, and B) it’s Vince Gilligan, and the guy can’t produce anything bad these days. It’s just an odd project all around.

And of course, Breaking Bad is still not technically over, even after this. Gilligan is still making new episodes of Better Call Saul, which balance storylines that mostly focus on Saul’s life before the events of the show, with a few brief glimpses at what comes after when he’s trying to start over with a new identity. Interestingly, of all the cameos we see in El Camino, Saul isn’t one of them in either the flashbacks or the present day events.

So yeah, if you’re a fan of the series, you might as well watch El Camino. I don’t think Breaking Bad really needed an epilogue, and it does feel strange to return to the series all this time later, particularly since I’ve not done a recent rewatch, but I enjoyed it, and Gilligan and Paul are both at the top of their game here.

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