REVIEW: ‘El Camino: A Breaking Bad Story’: The Ballad of Jesse Pinkman

A satisfying encore to one of the best shows of the decade


Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) during filming of ‘Breaking Bad.’ Paul reprises his role in ‘El Camino: A Breaking Bad Story,’ which continues Pinkman’s story arc. Photo courtesy of AMC

Jonah Salazar

The following review – and “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Story” – contain spoilers for “Breaking Bad.”

For six years I have been dying to find out what happened to Aaron Paul’s Jesse Pinkman after his narrow escape from the compound where he was being held captive and forced to cook meth. My craving has been satisfied with “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Story” and I, along with Jesse, have finally found peace.

Fans of “Breaking Bad” who may be a little rusty on their knowledge of the final season will definitely want to rewatch at least the last eight or so episodes before beginning “El Camino.” Vince Gilligan, the creator and director of both “Breaking Bad” and “El Camino,” wastes no time with throwing us back into the story, and he does not hold any hands with the reintroduction of characters and plot lines. 

Story continues below trailer. 

 Jesse’s story picks up exactly where it left off –– with him flying down the road, scared, crying and relieved to finally be out from beneath the control of his captors and free from the manipulation of Bryan Cranston’s Walter White. 

But before he can be completely free from his past, and hopefully move on to live a peaceful life, he first has to evade a nationwide manhunt for his involvement in the largest methamphetamine operation in the United States.

As Gilligan uses flashbacks to further explain the hardships that Jesse faced while being held prisoner by Nazi meth dealers, we get to see deeper dives into characters who weren’t always in the spotlight throughout the series.

For instance, we get to see how much of a psychotic, immature, idiot Jesse Plemons’s Todd really was. I don’t think there’s ever been a character that I have despised so much, yet also felt so bad for at the same time. 

Plemons portrays this absolute doofus who somehow stumbles his way through life by murdering innocent people and cooking meth, and the most frustrating part is that he does it all with a smile on his face. It genuinely seems like not only does he not realize what he’s doing is wrong, but that he actually thinks he’s a good person. 

It really is a testament to Plemons’s acting that I might actually hate him a little bit as a person just because of how much I hated Todd. Phenomenal job all around by him.

And while we don’t necessarily get the intense and passionate performance we’ve seen from Paul in the past, we instead get to see a more subdued production from him while still maintaining the level of bravado we’ve come to expect from a character as grizzled and developed as Jesse Pinkman.

With a silent and stouthearted, aura, Paul carries the weight of the series in every scene he’s in — which is practically every scene in the film — as we follow his journey across Albuquerque, New Mexico while he searches for a way to disappear.

There’s also hardly any dialogue wasted in this film; almost every sentence and action serves to carry the plot forward, and little things that happen in the beginning swing back around in one way or another toward the end.

And while I was originally upset that a movie hadn’t come out closer to the end of the series, I actually am really glad that they decided to take their time with it. 

It would have been so easy for Gilligan and his crew to do a simple cash grab and shoehorn a bunch of unnecessary cameos into the story, but instead, we get what really feels like a passion project by a man with more story to tell. 

Everyone involved with the production deserves a big pat on the back for recapturing the cinematography and feel that made “Breaking Bad” such a beast of a show to begin with; “El Camino” really feels like an extended episode added on to conclude the story.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be watching “Better Call Saul” and pretending that the stories in this universe will go on forever.