Netflix Movie 'El Camino' Is Carefully Constructed Epilogue For 'Breaking Bad'

Oct 14, 2019
Originally published on October 14, 2019 9:36 pm
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NOEL KING, HOST:

If you loved "Breaking Bad" as I did, one question haunted you after the show ended - what happened to Walter White's partner, Jesse Pinkman? He was last seen fleeing a massacre. Now, a new movie on Netflix tells us what happened. NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans has it with some spoilers.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: "El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie" begins with a flashback to a moment when Aaron Paul's Jesse Pinkman is thinking about getting out of the meth-making business. He's talking to another character beloved by fans, Jonathan Banks' grizzled enforcer Mike Ehrmantraut. Jesse wonders where he might go with all the money he's earned.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "EL CAMINO: A BREAKING BAD MOVIE")

AARON PAUL: (As Jesse Pinkman) Where would you go if you were me?

JONATHAN BANKS: (As Mike Ehrmantraut) It doesn't matter. I'm not you.

PAUL: (As Jesse Pinkman) Seriously. Come on - like, if you were my age...

BANKS: (As Mike Ehrmantraut) If I were your age starting fresh - Alaska.

PAUL: (As Jesse Pinkman) Start fresh.

BANKS: (As Mike Ehrmantraut) One could.

PAUL: (As Jesse Pinkman) Put things right.

BANKS: (As Mike Ehrmantraut) No. Sorry, kid. That's the one thing you could never do.

DEGGANS: It's an oddly quiet, yet ominous beginning for a movie that's a blockbuster project. Six years after creator Vince Gilligan provided the perfect conclusion to the epic saga of meth-making, ex-high school teacher Walter White, "El Camino" returns to complete the story of his former student and partner in the drug trade, Jesse Pinkman.

But this film is a smaller movie. It's not a grand return to the former glory of "Breaking Bad." It's a deftly directed tale about a desperate man fighting for his freedom. It picks up seconds after the finale of "Breaking Bad" as Jesse is speeding away from a compound where he was held captive by a gang of murderous neo-Nazis.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "EL CAMINO: A BREAKING BAD MOVIE")

PAUL: (As Jesse Pinkman) (Yelling).

DEGGANS: Jesse is yelling, hysterical, driving away at breakneck speed in a stolen El Camino - hence the title - and deeply traumatized. Another flashback shows how the owner of that El Camino, an even-tempered psychopath named Todd Alquist, kept Jesse in check by threatening the son of his girlfriend.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "EL CAMINO: A BREAKING BAD MOVIE")

JESSE PLEMONS: (As Todd Alquist) So I hate to be all, like - but we got to talk ground rules. If you try to, you know, escape, I'm going to have to visit the little boy. It'll basically be out of my hands at that point. So good behavior, right? I appreciate it, Jesse.

DEGGANS: Vince Gilligan, who wrote and directed "El Camino," often centers his stories on the banality of evil - lunkheaded men who will eat a bowl of soup and make small talk after committing a murder. Gilligan is also a master storyteller who delivers information in small details. The impact of "Breaking Bad" storytelling builds as you gather more of those details, which is why it's so hard to just jump into a story like "El Camino." I highly recommend first watching "Breaking Bad's" excellent last episode, "Felina," also on Netflix.

I can't describe some of the movie's most powerful moments because they involve surprise appearances from favorite "Breaking Bad" characters. But much of "El Camino" centers on Jesse trying to escape a city where every police officer is looking for him. So he eventually calls his parents for help and to make a heartfelt admission.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "EL CAMINO: A BREAKING BAD MOVIE")

PAUL: (As Jesse Pinkman) It's probably too late to say this. I don't know if it'll mean much to you, but you did your best. And whatever happens to me, it's on me - OK? - nobody else.

DEGGANS: This is the story of how Jesse Pinkman's partnership with Walter White brought great pain and trauma but also turned him into something resembling a man. For fans of the show who know these characters, that's a welcome conclusion for a story we didn't even know we missed until Vince Gilligan showed it to us. I'm Eric Deggans.

(SOUNDBITE OF DAVE PORTER'S "BREAKING BAD MAIN TITLE THEME (EXTENDED)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.