Six years may have passed since the Breaking Bad finale, but El Camino picks up the second that Season 5 left off. Jesse has just escaped from enslavement by Jack’s gang and minutes later, his cat and mouse chase with the police commences.
The timeline of the film follows Jesse in the days following his escape. Aaron Paul gives his greatest performance yet as he portrays the paranoia and PTSD his character is experiencing. To begin with, it’s not clear what Jesse’s endgame is but eventually, we learn that his plan is to gather enough money to buy the disappearing service to Alaska.
As a standalone film, El Camino is not particularly action-packed and the storytelling falls short of a masterpiece. Scenes often jump from one to the next and Jesse seems to use up his nine lives by the end of the feature. Aside from random flashbacks, the Breaking Bad story is not really built on. Insignificant characters are brought back and the loose ends that are tied up are loose ends that El Camino created.
Of course, most of the significant characters from the series were killed off in the final season and so Vince Gilligan did not have much to play with. Bringing the characters back in the form of flashbacks may have been what fans wanted but these flashbacks are often contrived. The character whose story is built on the most is Todd, who is brought back to be made even more dislikable. This adds little to the Breaking Bad canon other than his death being made more satisfying in retrospect.
Visually, El Camino cannot be flawed. The cinematography falls in the same class as Gilligan’s signature direction in both Breaking Bad and the spin-off, Better Call Saul. There are also a couple of scenes that nod to moments in the series. For example, Jesse picks up a bug and examines it, referencing his gentle nature via a nod to an insignificant Breaking Bad moment.
As a whole, it is not yet clear whether El Camino has added anything of significance to the Breaking Bad canon. Perhaps Better Call Saul will revisit Jesse’s storyline and the contents of his letter to Brock may be revealed. Other than that though, there were no mic drop moments and ultimately, El Camino is Jesse’s humble opportunity to get his own swan song. We just wish we knew what happens to Jesse next.