When it comes to sequels, there are few that ever please everyone.
On one hand, you have the studio, who is looking to double down on everything that the original did well, first and foremost, money.
Then there’s the audience — while they’re thankful for the opportunity to spend more time characters they’ve come to love, they are also silently crossing their fingers as they enter the theater just praying that the second installment doesn’t undo all of the leg work that the original did to create something we care for.
And in the case of El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, the expectation to deliver a sequel worthy of the already iconic drama series could not have been higher, as Breaking Bad is widely considered among the top three television shows of all time (for what it’s worth, I consider it #1).
It’s not that audiences weren’t excited about the chance at continuing the tragic saga of Jesse Pinkman — they were — but there was a natural doubt that any two-hour film would be able to prove to be a credible addition to Breaking Bad lore. Sure, Better Call Saul has pulled it off, but that’s a prequel, and therefore does not inherently tamper with the legacy of the canon.
El Camino, on the other hand, picks up minutes after Breaking Bad‘s series finale came to a close, therefore intrinsically tying the sequel to the story’s overall remembrance.
And luckily for fans of legendary desert-trotting, meth-cooking, bitch-screaming series, El Camino is more than a worthy addition into the Breaking Bad mythology.
As series creator Vince Gilligan has long stated, the only reason that he decided to delve back into the Breaking Bad universe is that he felt there was more Jesse Pinkman story to tell and El Camino justifies exactly that.
While “Felina” presented audiences with an ambiguous, imagine-his-future-for-yourself ending, that sort of conclusion was antithetical to what Breaking Bad stood for, as it was long revered for its meticulous attention to plotting and detail.
The open-ended nature of Pinkman’s ending obviously kept knawing at Gilligan — who said he began to imagine what a Breaking Bad sequel would look like before the series even concluded — as the acclaimed writer and director came back to the table with a justifiably important epilogue.
And that’s exactly what El Camino feels like: an epilogue. Its purpose is not to cliffhang audiences into a cycle of money-grabbing sequels — Gilligan had a story he felt was worth telling and he executed in typical Breaking Bad fashion.
Similar to the famed series on which El Camino follows, the two-hour film is full of moments of dark comedy, expert cinematography, tight plotting, creative soundtrack choices, intelligent structure (the way familiar Breaking Bad characters are weaved into the story is brilliant) and white-knuckle intensity.
From essentially the moment El Camino begins to the moment it ends, the film is ripe with the trademark edge-of-your-seat suspense that made Breaking Bad one of the finest series to ever grace the medium of television.
Perhaps not as grand, or as vital, as some critics and fans might have hoped, El Camino remains a remarkably acted and beautifully shot farewell to characters and a story that audiences have come to belove. If El Camino truly serves as the final chapter in the Breaking Bad saga, Gilligan’s decision to conclude with an earnest goodbye to Jesse Pinkman — who has long been the beating heart of this epic tale — has proved to be a wise one.
We may not have *needed* more Breaking Bad, but we’re certainly glad we got it, because while El Camino may not have been necessary, it was definitely worth it.
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You can find our SPOILER-FILLED El Camino review here.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is now streaming on Netflix.
Eric is a New York City-based writer who still isn’t quite sure how he’s allowed to have this much fun for a living and will tell anyone who listens that Gotham City is canonically in New Jersey. Contact him on Twitter @eric_ital or via email firstname.lastname@example.org