“El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” is a sequel to a show that didn’t need a sequel. The five original seasons were more than enough, and stand as one of the greatest TV dramas ever.
But then, creator Vince Gilligan and his colleagues conceived of “Better Call Saul,” a parallel prequel that re-established how good they are at making compelling television. As with “Breaking Bad,” I was hooked and watched every bit of “Better Call Saul,” sitting through the dreaded weeklong hiatus between episodes because I couldn’t wait for the whole thing to become binge-able. I’m still looking forward to Saul’s return, whenever that is.
When Gilligan announced this new project, I was hopeful but skeptical. Could he and his team pull off another victory, and where might they take the story? Yes they can, by taking us on the road with Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), beginning with the moment he escapes from the Nazis’ compound after Walter White killed them all. To those who say they only want to see Jesse with Walter, think back to the last season of “Breaking Bad,” when there were about eight episodes that had plenty of the latter but very little of the former because their paths had diverged.
Aside from common characters, “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” had one other thing in common: patience. There’s no rush to tell the stories. In fact, there may even be a purposeful attempt to lay out each saga as slowly as possible. That gives us a chance to see the details, particularly of the criminal process. How do you dispose of this large thing? How do you avoid being picked up by the cops who are searching for you? How do you convince people to help you out of a untenable situation?
“El Camino” is paced similarly slowly, while both advancing Jesse’s story and flashing back to previous episodes in his life — some of which we knew about, others we didn’t. The movie is riddled with appearances from former “Breaking Bad” characters, and it’s good to see all of them again, though I won’t spoil anything by telling you who you’ll see.
It all centers on Aaron Paul, who brings his usual intensity to Jesse, but adds a maturity that wasn’t present when we last saw him six years ago. He’s seen and experienced so much that changed his life, and learned enough from all of it to exploit that knowledge in his attempt to avoid ever being captured again.
I’m happy to say Gilligan et al have captured my attention brilliantly yet again. I give “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” an 8.5 out of 10. It’s streaming now on Netflix.