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El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie review: Was Jesse Pinkman’s story worth the wait?

Aaron Paul in El Camino
Aaron Paul in El Camino. Pic credit: Netflix

Well, it’s here. We finally know how Jesse Pinkman’s story played out after he sped away from his imprisonment of neo-nazis. After six long years of having his ending get countless rewrites in our minds, does the truth satisfy?

El Camino picks up right after the series finale, where Pinkman is making his emotional getaway. The film immediately shows where he went once he fled, which ends up being the house of Skinny Pete. In the sequence, the movie reintroduces us to Badger, and both men assist in helping start his road to redemption.

Right away, the film conveys aspects of Pinkman’s mindset never covered at the end of Breaking Bad. It’s clear Pinkman has some severe PTSD from being caged like an animal for so long. Aaron Paul’s performance is just as heartbreaking as it ever has been.

Once he gets himself refreshed and pieced together thanks to Badger and Pete, the writing takes a clever turn, making El Camino a low-key heist film.

From here, El Camino reintroduces fans to Jesse Plemmons as Todd and reveals a backstory he told Pinkman about how he prefers to keep money hidden in his home. Pinkman embarks on a journey trying to find all the cash in Todd’s place without getting caught. In doing so, maybe he can start over.

Aaron Paul absolutely carries this film and will have fans rooting for the poor guy as always. But the MVP of El Camino is Jesse Plemmons as the sociopathic friendly creep Todd.

Plemmons does not get enough love as an actor, and this film proves it. The way he portrays Todd in this story is like a humorously uncomfortable blend of Ramsay Bolton and Mr. Rogers.

And he performs every scene writer/director Vince Gilligan gives him beautifully. Let’s just say, most viewers will probably not be able to drive by a semi without laughing from now on.

Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman laying on Skinny Pete's bed in El Camino
Aaron Paul, as Jesse Pinkman lying on Skinny Pete’s bed in El Camino. Pic credit: Netflix

Adding to the comparison of Plemmons to Ramsay Bolton, the character of Jesse Pinkman also has significant parallels to Theon Greyjoy from Game of Thrones. Breaking Bad skipped over a lot of Pinkman’s tragic story because it was aiming to focus on Walter White’s downfall.

But El Camino shows how badly broken Pinkman became under the imprisonment of neo-nazis. And there’s one moment where the viewer can empathize with how hopeless and powerless he feels, treated like a pet.

Most of this occurs through flashbacks. This revelation makes his journey to survive in the present all the more compelling.

However, there is a chance that some might find El Camino frustrating. The reason being, the story is predictable for various reasons. It’s not offering anything fans did not already assume. But if it’s predictable, is El Camino still worth the ride?

Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman talking to mystery person off-screen in El Camino
Aaron Paul, as Jesse Pinkman, talking to a mystery person off-screen in El Camino. Pic credit: Netflix

To put it simply, El Camino does not aim to subvert everyone’s expectations. We know Vince Gilligan loves the character Jesse Pinkman, and Gilligan is not cruel to his characters. But we ultimately know their fates. Walter White turns evil, Jimmy McGill loses his moral compass, and so on.

The audience knows Jesse has earned redemption. But it’s how we get there that satisfies. And Gilligan knew his audience needed to see it for themselves, and apparently, so did he.

El Camino is like getting a phone call that a relative has made it home safe. Did we need a phone call? Probably not, but having it brings a weight off our chests that we did not realize we needed. Just like any road trip, the destination is predictable, but taking a ride in Vince Gilligan’s El Camino is the reward.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is now streaming on Netflix.

John Dotson is a film and television reviewer and commentator from Texas. His favorite part of what he does is getting to discuss film and... read more
John Dotson

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