‘El Camino:’ a well-crafted but unnecessary epilogue

This review can’t really function without spoiling the ending of “Breaking Bad,” so if you’re one of the three people in the world who still hasn’t seen the show and wants to, stop reading.

When we last saw Jesse Pinkman, he had just been freed from his neo-Nazi captors, ecstatically screaming and crying as he sped off into the night.

While his notorious partner in crime, Walter White’s, fate was sealed, Jesse’s was left ambiguous. What would become of him? Would he make a better life for himself? It’s a question that has long been stuck in the minds of “Breaking Bad” fans.

Six years after the show’s finale, we now have answers in the form of the Netflix movie “El Camino.” Taking place directly after the show, we follow Jesse as he desperately tries to escape the carnage that his life has become.

To give credit where credit is due, it’s an impeccably made movie; all the beautiful photography and slick style from its father series is here in full effect. Despite being made over half a decade later, it feels and looks exactly like it should.

The acting is also top notch. Aaron Paul steals the show, sliding effortlessly back into character. The Jesse Pinkman we see in “El Camino” is a far cry from the one in “Breaking Bad.” His soul is old now, having lost everything.

What Paul conveys with his constant, dead eyes and blank stares makes the heart ache genuinely.

“El Camino” is full of cameos from other “Breaking Bad” characters, but they never come off as lazy fan service. They all have a legitimate role to play in Jesse’s emancipation. Some are genuinely surprising and emotional. But the surprises stop there.

For all it’s good intentions, “El Camino” just isn’t necessary.

The ambiguity of Jesse’s fate in the original ending was perfect. He’s a character who’s been a screw up his whole life. When he’s finally given a chance at something better, we don’t see it. We can only hope. It’s a subtly beautiful way to end his story.

And while “El Camino” certainly ends Jesse’s story, it doesn’t tell us anything worth telling. Things ultimately end for Jesse the way most fans assume it would have.

Very little happens in the film. It’s light on plot and action, which on the one hand is respectable. Writer/director Vince Gilligan deserves a pat on the back for resisting the urge to make this a big, bad finale.

It’s not trying to reinvigorate “Breaking Bad”s relevance. It’s not trying to go out on one final, explosive hurrah. It’s only intent is to tie off a single-dangling thread and give closure to a beloved character.

But did we really need a two-hour movie for that?

mason.robert.dredge@mail.umkc.edu

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