(It was with some considerable shock and sadness that I awoke this morning to the sad news of actor Robert Forster’s passing, having watched this film only last night. Forster’s performance in El Camino is one of the highlights of the film, and I can’t believe that Twin Peaks needs another Sheriff already. )
Returning to a well-regarded series years after it has ended is fraught with dangers, especially when its a series as revered as Breaking Bad, a show that often tops many best-ever lists. Well, I can state from the start that El Camino is great. Was it needed? Of course not. Breaking Bad ended just fine, with sufficient closure and just enough of a tease to leave viewers wanting more. Always leave them wanting more (not something one could possibly say regards how Game of Thrones left its fans, but hey ho, maybe HBO should bring that show back with a tv movie for a better send-off on the evidence of how this film manages things).
What El Camino does do is offer a lovely coda to the series, an unnecessary-but-I’ll-take-it two hours of nostalgia and closure. I’m certain it will leave some fans frustrated- billing it as a ‘Breaking Bad movie’ possibly suggests something bigger, louder, bolder, which this really isn’t. Its really like two more episodes added to the final series… which is possibly a little unfair, because frankly, this film is more beautiful and vivid than any episode of the original show, so clearly there is a difference of some magnitude of scale here. It may not be Breaking Bad: The Motion Picture, but if the last few years have taught us anything in the Netflix/Amazon era, ‘TV Movie’ doesn’t mean what it used to anymore.
So anyway, El Camino tells us, literally, what happened next, picking up events immediately after the last episode of the series ended. It follows the tortured soul that Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) had become on a road to find some measure of peace and salvation, and does so by allowing a series of flashbacks informing him of the path to take. Of course, those flashbacks are really just there to deliver fans some fan-service through cameos of Breaking Bad characters who, er, mostly were dead in the wake of that last season. Its the only way we can ever get any of them back, but I think its really justified in how the film follows Jesse and shows how the flashbacks inform his actions and reactions to everything around him- it doesn’t really come across as something cynically corporate. It also helps that Aaron Paul delivers a standout performance, but really the whole cast if pretty excellent. They are all clearly having a ball re-entering the world of Breaking Bad and can recognise the opportunity is a special rare treat for themselves and the fans.
So yeah, I really enjoyed this, had a blast with it. As I stated at the start of this post, its a tricky thing returning to old shows. I’m pleased to say that it has gone as well here as it did in the recent Twin Peaks revival, and yes, this shares with that show the warmth of nostalgia that is unique to projects like this. I’m just glad it wasn’t a disaster that blighted the memory of the originals series by some revisionary rewriting of the original mythology of something cherished by fans. Yeah, Disney/JJ Abrams etc take note: you don’t have to break something to fix it, and thank goodness nobody broke Breaking Bad.