At its best, El Camino is a love letter to the loyal fans that Breaking Bad left behind, and in this vein, it provides the once-beloved deuteragonist, Jesse Pinkman, with his much yearned for redemption. Suffice it to say that the original series concluded ambiguously, and left space only for optimists to speculate on Pinkman’s ultimate fate. With his return to the most irrefutably influential television series of the past decade. However, Vince Gilligan (creator, writer, and director) has once again elected to set his sights on the Albuquerque desert; this time, with the aftermath of his previous endeavours in mind. Although it had been advertised as a standalone film, El Camino effectively acts an epilogue for Breaking Bad. An aggressive knee jerk reaction has developed towards the announcement of prequels and sequels in recent years (and rightly so, our cinematic realm is oversaturated with this particular brand of cash grab). This same sentiment followed El Camino until its release on October 11.
The film was received with widespread positivity, and was praised for its development of the established narrative, rather than a reliance upon it. El Camino made the daring decision to provide a finite conclusion to the original series, and it orchestrated this through a careful return to Jesse Pinkman’s psyche. I use the word ‘careful’ because Gilligan appears to be aware of the sentimental value that Pinkman possesses; he is handled delicately throughout the film’s runtime, and not a single aspect of his journey is included for shock value (a narrative tool which has also, unfortunately, been subjected to an overuse in recent years). Despite the fact that Breaking Bad aired its final episode just over six years ago, Gilligan remains faithful to the material that he established a decade prior to El Camino. His final depiction of this world and its characters contains a degree of sincerity that has become increasingly sparse in mainstream cinematic pursuits. Even with the passage of time, Breaking Bad remains a pinnacle of the Golden Age of Television, and not once has it betrayed the loyalty and fervour of the fans who ensured that it attained such a dominant position within popular culture. El Camino, while technically a spin-off, works most effectively when it is considered to be an epilogue, or a further, equally heartfelt conclusion to the main series.
Alex Mulhare – Film & TV Writer