Breaking Bad ended all the way back in 2013, but at any given time you’d think it wrapped up last week. It’s constantly brought up in casual conversation, it’s currently hosting a highly lauded spinoff, and it never really left our collective minds for the past six years: now, we have a film to keep that train rolling for another decade or so.
Without spoiling anything major, El Camino is both a sequel and a side story laced with flashbacks, the latter of which takes place during the events of the show. These conversations, which run the gamut of classic characters, add context to the events of Jesse’s ongoing story, which deserves to be told. Don’t fret, Vince Gilligan is at the helm in more ways than one steering this ship, which adds a full layer of authenticity to the film and the continuation of this massively popular cultural touchstone.
Picking up right where the show left off from a different cardinal perspective is absolutely brilliant. We’ve seen a few delayed continuations of shows that have done the same thing, and at this point it looks like this is the way to go, especially when you can get most of the core players back after a hiatus. You could literally watch the show and then the film, without being forced to watch a wasted hour of unrelated storylines or esoteric dream sequences because the studio wanted to reanimate the property like a shambling cash zombie.
Matt Jones (Badger) and Charles Baker (Skinny Pete) pick up where they left off without a hitch, as does Aaron Paul as Jesse. Again, Jesse is the star this time, and although we spent ample time with him in the past few seasons, we get a real look into his psyche after the harrowing events of the TV series. Paul has proven time and time again that he’s up to the task when it comes to providing Jesse with emotional nuance, and we get to see his quiet pain without any over-acting to speak of.
That last bit deserves repeating: this is not a high-octane, shootout-heavy nonstop action episode of the show. El Camino uses a lot of the reserved Vince Gilligan style to instead build tension and augment character development arcs. Much of the film is spent talking, but not to the point of exposition dumps. It’s refreshing to see this sort of restraint, and it’s a large reason why Better Call Saul has been so successful thus far. In a manner of sort, El Camino feels like a mixture of everything Gilligan has learned so far.
Breaking Bad is far from just a television show at this point: it’s a universe. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Vince Gilligan we have a main series, a fantastic spinoff (Better Call Saul), and a genuine film. Nearly everything he touches turns to gold, and no matter how pensive audiences get whenever a new project is announced, he’s proven to deliver in an era where so many other revivals or expansions fall flat.