When Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan spun off the show’s charmingly dissolute counsel and infomercial chiseler, Saul Goodman, it was a natural fit. After all, the glib litigator stole every seen he was in, thanks to Bob Odenkirk.
However, with El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, Gilligan had his work cut for him: building an epilogue around perma-scowl ne’er-do-well Jesse Pinkman, a dimwit brought to life as foil for Walter White, who couldn’t have existed without him — all id to White’s superego.
With this sequel and coda to the Breaking Bad series, Pinkman is on the lam playing catch me if you can, having busted loose from the Brotherhood’s razor-wire meth compound, and leading the 6 O’Clock news in Albuquerque with his drug dealer exploits.
He briefly meets up with larrikin buds Badger and Skinny Pete for a new ride, shave and a shower before he’s off trying to track down Ed Galbraith, the fixer/Saul Goodman contact who give cons new identities and helps ferret them out of town.
In El Camino Gilligan plays to Pinkman’s (Aaron Paul) “do now, ask questions later,” impulsivity (call it a strength if you must).
Gilligan crafts a film noir “what to do with all this money?” set up, which careens like Badger’s Pontiac Fiero.
Flashbacks to Pinkman’s captivity, plus tête-à-têtes with Walter White and Mike Ehrmantrout help keep things chugging along, but it’s those characters’ small roles that underscore just how big and vital these were to developing Jesse Pinkman. With the White sit-down particularly, the sparks fly as the ex-mentor presses his charge, Jesse, about what major he’d choose if the unlikely college candidate were to choose that route. It turns out, business with a focus on marketing, and White suggests he could teach these.
In El Camino, these wordy exchanges are lacking, perhaps because of time constraints, in a format that doesn’t lend itself to them, but that’s what made Breaking Bad so charming in the first place.
***1/2 (out of 5)