A Return to Albuquerque: El Camino Brings Viewers Back to the World of Breaking Bad


John Sharbaugh

*Minor spoilers for the show and movie follow.

Very few shows have had the cultural impact that Vince Gilligan’s drama Breaking Bad had on worldwide audiences. IMDB ranks it fifth of all time and Rolling Stone has it third on its 100 Greatest TV Shows of All Time list, ranking higher than classic shows like Seinfeld, The Twilight Zone, and Game of Thrones. Unlike most television dramas, Breaking Bad’s series finale was celebrated by critics and viewers alike. Episode 62, titled Felina, ended the show’s five season run on AMC.

Even with the well received ending, it has long been speculated that a movie taking place in the Breaking Bad universe would be in the works. For a while, this seemed like it was only fans desperately hoping to see more from Gilligan and his team. Stars Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston aided in this deception. On both actors’ social media accounts, they teased a collaboration even going as far as to feature the desert imagery commonplace in the New Mexico set show. It was then revealed that the two were working on their Mezcal brand Dos Hombres. 

It was then announced that a Jesse Pinkman, which is Aaron Paul’s character, centered movie was in the works and was set to be released on Netflix. Netflix has helped keep Breaking Bad in the public eye. It has all 62 episodes available to stream with a subscription to the service. With the announcement, fans were quick to establish theories about what they hoped to see and what they thought would happen. Six years after the final episode and it is still a cultural phenomenon. 

The movie itself is titled El Camino, after the car Pinkman uses to escape in Felina and is the last place the audience sees Jesse. They were left to wonder and speculate the fate of the character. Hopeful fans of the character saw this as a fresh start for the hapless Pinkman. This hope was lined with uncertainty, but El Camino clears this up. It does not act as a sequel, prequel, or spinoff. Instead, the movie works as an epilogue for Aaron Paul’s character. It is a perfect ending to his character. There are no questions left to be answered and the final scene is a satisfying send off.

As has been the expectation for Breaking Bad and the spinoff show Better Call Saul, the cinematography is superb. Inanimate point-of-view shots, wide landscapes, and city time lapses are reminiscent of classic Breaking Bad. Acting is also top-notch. Aaron Paul returns seamlessly to the character of Jesse Pinkman. Jesse Plemmons is outstanding in his return as Todd, Pinkman’s captor, and the cameos from series regulars are all warranted and well executed.

The only question is “was El Camino necessary?” Ultimately, the answer is no. But, is El Camino a fantastically written, filmed, and acted movie worthy of a watch? With the same team behind one of the greatest television shows of all time working at the height of their powers, the answer is absolutely yes.