Alright Bitches! Jesse is out from his cage and heading for a whole lot of trouble in an eagerly anticipated follow up to Breaking Bad. Is Walter White really dead? Vince Gilligan answers all the questions in a film that will no doubt divide opinion
Will contain spoilers for Breaking Bad!
Breaking Bad was not a massive hit when first released. UK in particular did not take to a school teacher who would one day become Heisenberg as the show failed to get the hype and praise it so deservedly needed.
You could say that Netflix and Walter White was meant for each other, with the streaming service offering a new way to watch a TV Programme and there is a decent argument to suggest that Breaking Bad was one of the very first shows that invented the phase “Binge-watch!”.
Word of mouth and a chance to watch every episode not only helped Netflix to become the giant its become, but it made the show all of a sudden be the story that everyone needed to watch.
Now in many people’s top 10 shows of all time, the show ended in a near perfect fashion, with nearly every fan in agreement that they were satisfied with the outcome-which that itself is a rarity these days.
With most plot threads answered (apart from Huell -is he still waiting?) when Walter White was left to die on the floor, having killed those who done wrong and also saving his once old time friend, there was nothing really left of the story to tell. Jesse escaping from his cage was an ambiguous end to a beloved character as it was left to us the viewer to decide what fate was to become him?
Did he escape and have the life he always dreamt of? Or did he get sucked back into the only way of living he knew? El Camino gives us all those answers, even though I admit that its a follow up we never really needed.
Us the viewer may have had to wait six years to see what happened next, but for poor Jesse, the film carries on straight from the last time we were in this world.
With the police swooping in after Walter’s machine gun killing invention, Jesse, battered, bruised and traumatised is a far cry to the man we once knew. Aaron Paul is once again fantastic in the role and there is a wonderful nostalgic feel to see him in these shoes again, more so when he goes knocking for his old friends Badger (Matt Jones) and Skinny Pete (Charles Baker).
Its moments like that which carry the film through its slow burning storytelling. Breaking Bad was infamous for its refusal to up the pace and while it worked wonderfully over five seasons, its a lot harder when writer and creator Vince Gilligan only has two hours to tell us this story.
Some may frown and want a lot more bangs in the running time, but nearly 99% of BB fans will expect the pace to be exactly like this and if you loved the style before, then you’ll love the way its paced out now .
The problem with El Camino is that surprisingly it offers no major surprises to throw us off guard. While BB has never quite left our lives thanks to the wonderful prequel Better Call Saul, even the back-story of our favourite lawyer is laced with new turns that surprises us. Here, once Jesse left the compound and raced away in the car, we can all sort of hoped and guessed what we wanted him to do, so its no shocker to see it played out.
Criticism? Maybe! But how can you improve on perfection? Once Jesse comes back from the brink of trauma and starts to plan what to do next, we are not only back on his side but also of the film. We never really needed to see this played out, but now its here and we care for the character of Jesse and our love for everything that had happened before makes us forget our doubts of “Why was this made?” .
Its our love for Breaking Bad and memories of five wonderful seasons that make us in awe as we hope that Jesse can finally escape the shadow of Heisenberg and his actions.
The film is of two halves. the cameos and flashbacks, apart from one which is purely for the fans, do add to where Jesse ends up, especially the wonderful bad guy Todd ( Jesse Plemons) call backs that not only remind us just how quietly evil and psychotic Todd was, but also paves the way for the “Now” timeline in Jesse’s plans to escape from the nightmare he is in.
Plemons himself may have aged since the last time we saw his character, which is oddly distracting and there is no real threat or tension as we all now what the outcome is between the pair, but the housekeeper scenes are quite brilliant and reminds us once more of how dark this Show can be!
The Now timeline is the strength of the film and Gilligan perfectly sets up a kind of Western vibe with Jesse right bang in the middle of it! You be a liar to say if you not gripped by the duel shootouts and if Jesse will make it out, with the FBI agents arriving at the house being a wonderful set-piece that you can only marvel at.
The absence of Walter White is duly noted but Breaking Bad was about the end of his story and El Camino is that of Jesse. We can say we may have expected a tiny bit more, but unless a ridiculous twist of Walter surviving a bullet and cancer and then escaping from Jail which would have ruined everything that came before, how can we argue and moan at what is in front of us? Especially as we get a 2hr return to the very world we totally love.
Basically an epilogue for the final shot of the original run, one scene in particular sums up the whole BB, Better Call Saul and El Camino journey!
You’re lucky,” a certain character tells Jesse between coughs! . “You didn’t have to wait your whole life to do something special.”
That could be directed to Vince Gilligan himself, who has created a franchise that could only be described as a Masterpiece of modern times.