Spoilers might need to lay low for a while.
Now that all has been said and done, I can say that I enjoyed this movie as a standalone. I know for some, it would draw comparisons to the show it’s based on. I think that’s more than fair, and you can sense it shares its universe, but it doesn’t require you to re-watch the whole thing again. I’ve seen the show. I never had marathons in which I watched an entire season or re-watched it from the start again. I think a vague recollection perhaps will help, but you don’t need all the story elements crisp nor clear.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is not a sequel. It is, however, an epilogue directed by Vince Gilligan. If the finale of the original Breaking Bad show had Walter White wrapping up any loose threads, El Camino is that same closure for the character of Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). So yes, some knowledge of the show is required to get you started but you don’t have to be 100% familiar. I wanted the movie to shine for itself. This is not a movie in which Breaking Bad Jesse rides again. It’s a movie in which post-Breaking Bad Jesse rides into the sunset.
Mike (Jonathan Banks) sets the tone in the opening scene (a flashback, of course) where Jesse thinks about leaving it all behind and talks about “setting things right”. Mike corrects him right away – that’s something he can never do. And he’s right. A life of crime is not resolved by being fair at the end. And strangely enough it’s those odd friendships he made that give him shelter to begin with. The encounter with Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) and Badger (Matt Jones) is heartwarming with a sense of urgency. This is not the time for sentimentalism, and yet it is the only time we get.
Instead, almost unfairly so, we get this long flashback time with Todd (Jesse Plemons) a character so self-absorbed that has no issues recruiting Jesse during his time as a prisoner to some house chores… and get rid of a dead body. This sequence is pure Breaking Bad… An unredeemable character going about his day while his suffering victim must comply to his whims. Irrevocably, there’s one particular scene in which Jesse will have the chance to have the upper hand. It’s here that we learn that Jesse was broken beyond repair and unable to free himself.
Recommended for fans of the show, but also for casual viewers. I think it was fair for this to exist as an extra epilogue to Jesse Pinkman since Walter White got his closure and Saul got a spinoff. And yes, you do get to see Walter in a flashback but this finale was already written, so don’t expect him to come back. This is a story about Jesse, or to be precise a finale for Jesse. It does not attempt to redeem him, but to close his chapter and to do that he has to literally walk away while he can, if he can.
That will do for now.