Socialist Worker

Jesse Pinkman makes his welcome return in El Camino

This film follow-up to Breaking Bad brings back one of its best characters—along with much of what made the series so good, writes?Sadie Robinson

Issue No. 2677

Jesse Pinkman returns dirty, dishevelled and traumatised

Jesse Pinkman returns dirty, dishevelled and traumatised

Breaking Bad fans can get another fix of their favourite series with a new Netflix film, El Camino.

The show followed science teacher Walter White and one of his ­ex-students, Jesse Pinkman, as they produced crystal meth drugs to pay for White’s cancer treatment.

Their business led to chaos and horror—especially for Jesse, played by Aaron Paul. The final episode of the series brought some closure on Walt’s story. El Camino focuses on Jesse.

It picks up where the series ended. Jesse is in a mess—dirty, dishevelled and traumatised. But a number of characters show him real affection.

Junkyard owner Old Joe will crush Jesse’s car for him for free because he’s a “good kid”. His friend skinny Pete will do anything to help Jesse because, “Dude, you’re my hero and shit.”

I liked revisiting the cinematography—the lighting, the familiar ­backdrop of rundown stores, highways and acres of breath-taking wilderness.

And as usual, Jesse’s friends offer light relief and some comedy.

A ­straightforward, happy ending would have grated

A strength of Breaking Bad is that it refused to create characters that are wholly “good” or “bad”. El Camino continues this with Jesse. But he is also a victim of much more ruthless people.

Flashbacks show Jesse in captivity, living in a cage. One captor, Todd, makes banal small talk and seems concerned about him—while keeping him trapped. It is terrifying to watch.

Another bittersweet flashback shows Jesse and Walt in a diner earlier in their drug dealing career. Walt suggests Jesse could go to college. We know these happy dreams will go nowhere, at least not for a while.

Meanwhile Walt thinks Jesse is “really lucky” because he didn’t wait his whole life “to do something special”. The idea that anyone could see such a damaged person as “really lucky” is staggering.

It might seem that the Breaking Bad franchise is being squeezed for all it’s worth. There has already been a spin-off series, Better Call Saul.

Some have questioned the need for a film. But while El Camino doesn’t include any dramatic twists, it’s enjoyable enough to see more of where Jesse went next.

The film isn’t conclusive about his future, and that’s good. A ­straightforward, happy ending would have grated.

You do get a sense that Jesse might “start fresh”. But as he was told in the opening scenes, he will never be able to “put things right”. Whether that will be enough is left unclear.

El Camino is available now on Netflix

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Tue 22 Oct 2019, 12:54 BST
Issue No. 2677
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