Here at Burbs, we find it important to come together to discuss our opinions and ideas about recent events in popular culture in order to develop a better overall understanding. This past weekend presented us with the conclusion of what is considered to be one of the greatest television shows of all-time, Breaking Bad, delivered to us right at home: El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.
Following Breaking Bad's final season in 2013, ideas for a feature film had been floated by fans and cast members alike. Series creator and El Camino director Vince Gilligan wrote multiple drafts of Jesse's end, and when the time came, it was filmed in secret. Aaron Paul has won Emmys for his portrayal of Jesse Pinkman, but were he and Vince Gilligan able to recapture the magic of the original series? Spoiler alert: Yes.
We asked our resident film junkies and Heisenberg fanatics what they thought of the final chapter of Breaking Bad.
To start, here’s the obligatory “on a scale of 1-10” question: on a scale of 1-10, what would you rank the movie (1=hot garb, 10=Martin’s three-point shot)?
Evan: As a Breaking Bad fan I thought the movie was at an 8.8. I don’t know if a non Breaking Bad stan would feel the same way but I also don’t think that’s who the movie was for. Vince Gilligan and Aaron Paul set out to give Breaking Bad fans an ending to Jesse Pinkman’s character, and they achieved that goal with beauty and style.
Ralph: Jack must still be caught up in his hallucinogenic detachment from reality after seeing Joker if he really thinks his three-ball is a ten-out-of-ten, but I’m somewhere between an 8 and a 9 here for El Camino. As much as I enjoyed the conclusion of this incredibly impactful story, there was just something more I wanted out of it (Walter White, I wanted way more Walter White because I fucking adore Walter White and I kind of understand why they didn’t want to include too much of him, but still: I want more Walter White). So I’ll scale it right around where Jack is at and put it at an 8.5.
Jack: I’m sitting at an 8.3. I was entertained the entire movie and loved being put back into the Albuquerque underworld after being away for six years. Aaron Paul was as good as ever portraying Jesse Pinkman and the amount of fan service drew me into every scene. El Camino was just about all I could’ve wanted from a Breaking Bad movie.
Hunter: I’m sitting at around a 7.5. The movie itself was shot beautifully and looked absolutely amazing. The writing and acting, like all episodes of Breaking Bad, was phenomenal. Maybe because it’s been so long since I actually watched the show and dove into it, but it just really lost that IT factor for me.
Which supporting, or main, character’s appearance was your favorite?
Hunter: Cop-out answer but I have to go with Jesse. Not to say the supporting cast wasn’t good, but I can say for a fact that I was invested in the character of Jesse. A man on the run who has lost absolutely everything. His struggles and journey through out the whole Breaking Bad series has always kept me IN on the show. It was almost freeing to see Jesse finally being able to catch a break by moving to Alaska.
P.S. Robert Forster’s character also was amazing. His acting was truly incredible. RIP.
Evan: I’d have to say Jesse as well, but in general I was really impressed by how every actor and actress jumped back into portraying these characters with such ease and precision. For example, Krysten Ritter hasn’t portrayed Jane since 2010, yet her scene in El Camino could’ve been a deleted scene from Breaking Bad. It was Jane exactly as I remembered her and I felt the same way about the cameos from Mike, Todd, Walt, Badger and Skinny Pete.
Ralph: Scott MacArthur’s performance as Neil, a man who pretends to be a police officer with his goofy redheaded second in command (Casey), was absolutely electrifying. Our dear friend Hotto described his acting performance really accurately, he defined him as a guy who just chews up the screen. I’m only familiar with him for his role as the “Devil” in HBO’s Righteous Gemstones, so seeing him in a sort of familiar role is this film was really impactful for me even though I didn’t even make the connection between his two characters until Hotto pointed it out.
Jack: Skinny Pete and Badger had some of my favorite scenes. They were two of my favorite characters during the show’s run and their willingness to help Jesse despite him being wanted by multiple law enforcement agencies gave me a sense of hope for Jesse’s future, especially with his true ending still uncertain when he meets up with his original distributors.
Walter White popping up was a pleasant if expected surprise. I got to a point in watching in which I (kind of) accepted Walt not making an appearance, but when he rounded the corner in the hotel hallway I got extremely excited. Him and Jesse’s back-and-forth in the diner brought back the magic of their early adventures; Walt’s cameo was perfect.
Did you get closure on Jesse’s story following the events of Breaking Bad or did you want something else from his swan song?
Evan: Honestly, I didn’t feel much more closure than I did at the end of Breaking Bad, but I liked it that way. Jesse still has to deal with all the terrible things he’s done and seen, so a happy ending would’ve rang false for me. I like knowing that Jesse has the opportunity to have a better life, but that happiness isn’t a certainty. Like Mike says in the opening scene, he will never be able to put things right.
Ralph: I was relatively satisfied with the path that Jesse ended up taking in the end because, above all else, I just want the man to be at peace once and for all. I mean, if you don’t sympathize with him after all of the detrimental amount of shit he’s been through in his life, then maybe you should just rewatch this series as a whole, or you should see a therapist because you’re probably incapable of feeling human emotions at this point.
Hunter: I’m content with how it ended, I really wish they would’ve showed a little bit of what his life looked life in Alaska, but I believe they did that on purpose to kind of leave it to your imagination.
Jack: I’m satisfied with how Jesse’s story wrapped up. The initial ending of the series led us to believe that Jesse drove off into (hopefully) freedom in an undisclosed place, but I like that the movie showed us exactly where he ended up (Alaska). I also liked how flashbacks pieced different aspects of Jesse’s story together, mainly his time in captivity at the hands of the white supremacists and his “relationship” with Todd.
If you had to go to Ed for an identity change, where would you go? Would you pull a Saul Goodman and hit Omaha to manage a Cinnabon or head to Alaska like Jesse?
Evan: I’m definitely trying to go somewhere empty and flat, maybe Wyoming or
Montana. Living on a ranch and working with horses sounds like a good retirement to me.
Ralph: Is there something wrong with me? Because honestly, I have no idea where I would want to go. Maybe I should figure that out on my road to realizing my true self… But on second thought, I’d be chill with posting up just about anywhere that doesn’t put my life in danger. So fuck it, throw me into any location that can speak English in a somewhat coherent fashion and I’m game.
Hunter: Send me somewhere remote in Georgia, so I can get lit in the ATL every once in a while. ATL HOE!
Jack: If I had any say I sure as hell wouldn’t go to Nebraska or Alaska. Bars. I’m trying to get out of the country; maybe Barbados? Perhaps a small wine village in southern France?
Were you surprised by Walter White’s cameo or did you find it inevitable? Would you sacrifice Hunter McNeeley in order to (somehow) watch Bryan Cranston portray Walt for twelve more seasons?
Evan: I think most of us knew it would happen, which made me pretty skeptical that they would be able to pull it off in a way that wasn’t forced or cliche. So when we got hit with a 10/10, absolutely perfect Walter White cameo, I wasn’t surprised that it happened, I was surprised at how well they managed to do it. Their chemistry was perfect (LOL, corny drug puns) and it fit because the scene was still focused on Jesse. I mean we can still sacrifice Hunter if you guys want, but the Heisenberg we got in El Camino was everything my heart desired.
Ralph: I just had a feeling that we were going to see Walter at some point in time, and that’s primarily because I was following the making of this film so closely on Instagram that I couldn’t stay away from images of Cranston and Paul posted up looking like full blown badasses in black and white photos. As far as the second question goes, I’d sacrifice all of us here at Burbs to get some more Heisenberg monologues. Those things fucking FUELED me and my pessimistic (or is it hedonistic?) attitude for a good six months of my life.
Hunter: Alright. I don’t like this question.
Jack: I’d sacrifice Hunter to obtain a lot of things, more Walter White appearances included. As I mentioned a bit earlier, my hope for a Walt appearance started to wane as the movie reached its end, but I shot right up when I saw him pop up on screen. And that was after a large two cheeseburger meal from Don’s.
Were there any characters that didn’t make a return who you would’ve liked to see re-appear?
Evan: Hell no. These cameos were perfect. I mean, opening scene with Mike and final flashback with Jane? Come on. They included all the characters that had a big influence on Jesse’s life and no one else. As much as I love Flynn and Skylar (and yes I actually love them @Ralph) they were never part of Jesse’s story and they didn’t belong in El Camino.
Ralph: I can’t specifically recall, but this film didn’t feature any Walt Jr. in it, did it? Because I probably would’ve turned my attention-span all the way off if he had had a cameo. It’s team “FUCK THAT SNITCH” for life since the penultimate series finale.
Hunter: Bring back Combo strictly for his fits.
Jack: It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense considering the timeline of the movie, but a brief scene of Skylar, Walt Jr., and Holly following Walt’s death would’ve been interesting. A metric ton of shit hit an industrial-sized fan, so I want to know where they’re at. Them watching the news report and hearing “Walter White, former chemistry teacher turned meth ring-leader, was found dead on the scene” would’ve been a cool way to insert them into the film.
Say down the road one of us becomes the largest methamphetamine producer in American history. Whoever it is makes money, has a large clientele, but is on the run from a manhunt. They pull up to the other two and say they need our help: you hiding the car and housing a fugitive?
Evan: Yeah, open crib for sure, but after learning about that GPS car tracking there’s no way you’re parking in the backyard.
Hunter: I’d have to have some roofies on hand or some shit, so if I ever did get caught up I could take them and say I got drugged after they showed up. But yeah, you can’t park the car here.
Ralph: As long as you bang my line on a burner, you’re good with me. Maybe we can get a game of 2K in to relieve some tension.
Jack: If I can pull a “I didn’t know he was on the run, I thought it was an old pal paying a visit” and avoid any jail time, I’m in. Don’t get me wrong, I love you guys, but I’m not built for prison. I’m too handsome.
Did you feel like the movie was necessary? Totally independent from your thoughts on whether it was good; in the end, do you think it was needed to wrap up the story we fell in love with all those years ago?
Evan: Necessary, no. I think Breaking Bad’s finale was a perfect capstone to the show, Jesse’s ambiguous ending included. At the same time, it didn’t feel like they forced this movie. El Camino felt like a natural extension of Breaking Bad, not just an excuse to make money.
Ralph: Well, fuck Jack, you’re pretty good at this whole asking questions thing cause this one’s got my mind brewing. I’d say it wasn’t necessarily “necessary” in the traditional sense of the word, but I’m more than happy to have experienced it because Jesse has always been one of my favorite flawed characters in television history. And to have some clarity about his well-being was really meaningful for me, and in a way it inspired some genuine hope.
Hunter: No, I think it was definitely a nice piece for the saga, but did we need this to round out the story? No.
Jack: Yes and no. For massive fans of Breaking Bad, I’d say it is. We know what Walt’s ending was (RIP) and just about every other character as well, whether they be dead or in hiding. Jesse was one of the few characters whose fate was up to the viewers own imagination, but now we know. I guess if you’re fine not knowing what happened then the movie isn’t going to do much for you, but then again, it’s largely a fan service film, so enjoy it for what it is. Don’t be an asshole.
Is this movie the finale to the Breaking Bad universe? Or do you think Vince and AMC could have some more spin offs on the back burner?
Ralph: I’ve never watched Better Call Saul for whatever reason, but I definitely don’t think that this finale will have some sort of impact on the ending of that show because from what I’ve read they are two totally different shows both tonally and schematically.
Hunter: It would be cool if they did like a GTA V type thing (spin off series) where it's a completely different story, but they still make references to GTA IV (Breaking Bad).
Jack: I think so. Like Ralph, I’ve yet to watch Better Call Saul, but I’m glad that it receives universal praise so I know what I’m getting into should I ever watch it. I’m not sure what other characters need their story to be told in a full-fledged series or film. We’re going on our twelfth year of the Breaking Bad “universe”, so maybe it’s time to hang up the hazmat suit and beakers after Jimmy McGill’s transition to Saul Goodman is complete. That being said, I could be convinced should Vince Gilligan choose to continue the story.
Evan: Here’s my elevator pitch. It's 15 years later. Genius, high school student and the deceased, infamous drug kingpin’s daughter, Holly White, starts making moves in the Albuquerque underworld. We get to see the effects of Walter’s legacy on Skylar and Flynn while also following a completely new character, so it stays fresh. If we’re lucky, Holly might even seek a few crime tips and tricks from her dad’s old friend in Alaska.