When we last saw Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), he was driving away in an El Camino car, having just been freed from six months or so of captivity and slavery. It was the final moments of what is arguably one of the greatest TV shows of all time – Walter White (Bryan Cranston) had come to the aid of his long time friend, and collaborator in the meth business, freeing him from the clutches of a gang of Nazis in what turned out to be a bloodbath. Jesse, clearly a broken man, drove away from it all, into the night, fighting back tears as he let out a scream of pain and relief.
As with all great stories, whether in a book, a movie or a TV show, you do naturally wonder what might have happened next to the characters who have taken you on a journey with them. If the finale is good enough, you can feel satisfied simply by drawing your own conclusions. In the case of Breaking Bad, did Jesse turn a corner, only to be met by a bunch of cops who then lock him up for the rest of his life? Or did he manage to find well deserved peace and solace, a chance to finally live out his days with some kind of normality? Series creator and writer Vince Gilligan clearly had some ideas of his own, and the result is this 2 hour Netflix movie, titled El Camino.
We’ve not been without our fix of the Breaking Bad world since the show ended in 2013 though. Better Call Saul, about to start its fifth season, has acted as a prequel, telling the story of the rise of Saul Goodman, the seedy lawyer who helped Walter and Jesse throughout much of Breaking Bad. It shares much of the same style and tone as Breaking Bad, magnificently scripted and proving to be compulsive viewing. It has also gradually begun weaving other familiar characters from Breaking Bad into the story too, helping us to understand what brought these characters to the point they were at in Breaking Bad, but never (so far) featuring lead characters Walter and Jesse.
El Camino picks up pretty much where Breaking Bad left off. Jesse is clearly a person of interest with the law – not only for his drug crime days, but also because they know that someone fled the scene where a machine gun massacre took place, resulting in nine dead bodies. It’s neither an immediate capture, or an escape to a happy ending though. Instead, we’re treated to something that’s a little in between, and El Camino closely follows Jesse to show us just how that all plays out for him.
There was some big news recently when it was revealed that a large number of Breaking Bad characters would be appearing in El Camino and speculation was rife as to who those characters would be. They appear either in flashback form, or in present day situations, and all justifiably serve to drive the story forward, whether it be as a moment of reflection and poignancy, an aid to understanding Jesse’s current actions, or just as a cool little Easter egg for fans of the show. I must admit though, I had to resort to Google to try and remember how some of the characters fitted into the Breaking Bad show, but that could just be down to my lousy memory!
El Camino is packed full of the steady, confident, detailed pacing that we know and love from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. Action, drama, emotion, it’s all there as a determined Jesse tries to acquire enough money to be able to start over. There’s a constant feeling throughout though that this is a story we didn’t really need, but it is certainly a welcome one, and a real joy to be back in this world and in the company of these great characters once again, if only for a short while.