If we’re to refer to the in-depth analysis of the Top 5 Brass Tacks to Help the Breaking Bad Movie Succeed, this one minute trailer promises to honor those concerns listed. For one, there’s no Walter White imagery or winks being used to hook anyone’s interest here. Yes, his actions throughout the show undoubtedly influence what’s happening here, but this is clearly a film that is solely exploring Jesse Pinkman, who (as Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall criticized in his book Breaking Bad: The Complete Critical Companion) was reduced from co-lead in the series finale to just another one of Walter White’s victims in order to conclude Walt’s story. Regardless if Bryan Cranston pops up in the film, it should primarily be to serve Jesse’s story rather than as an exercise in fan-service, which is something I’m not worried about given how excellently disciplined Better Call Saul has been for four seasons straight. All that said, Walter White will hang over this film the same way Hank and Gomez’s pictures hang over the water cooler (a prime, inevitable subject for discussion).
The trailer seems to trust that you have seen Breaking Bad for you to understand the context of Skinny Pete’s interrogation and yet if you haven’t, it’s played ominously enough to draw you in. I’m not even sure if the scene playing from this trailer will even be included in the movie considering it seems to be shot digitally and Vince Gilligan has gone on record to prefer the 35 MM film that was used on Breaking Bad. Seeing as that process of filming was used in a brief flash-forward scene set during the events of Breaking Bad in Better Call Saul last season (S4E05 “Quite a Ride”) instead of the spin-off’s traditional use of digital, I can imagine Vince finding it a fitting opportunity to use 35 MM for the entirety of El Camino. I also wouldn’t put it passed him to use Jesse’s final getaway scene in Breaking Bad as a refreshing way to kick things off before jumping into the rest of the film. Given that Todd’s El Camino has now become the titular line, it only makes more sense.
The open-ended question of what happened to Jesse still remains a mystery as we’re shown that law enforcement are thrown for a loop while Skinny Pete expresses his supposed cluelessness. They clearly have Jesse in their sights though which is a more definitive answer to many fan’s theories and speculations. Keeping this in mind, the trailer is certainly using the open-endedness of Jesse’s whereabouts as a source of tension. It’s not just because we care about what happens to the character, but inching forward into telling Jesse Pinkman’s story from here on out will be a risky road to venture. How much information given starts to take away from the show’s finale? Or will El Camino become a worthy addition to the Breaking Bad universe proving we ought to have been told this story sooner? Either way it plays out, the trailer and promotional poster (shown below) emits a sense of awareness going forward that the film will need to proceed with appropriately.
I love this poster. The steep, upward battle ahead for a character who has already been put through the ringer. The uncertainty of where he’ll end up or where he even is. Will he drive off into the sunset or is the signature wide-open shot of those South-Western clouds absorbing the light he seeks like some higher power that has already cast its judgement? Can Jesse Pinkman escape or move on from his past now that he’s in the driver’s seat? This is perfectly illustrated by the swirl of green smoke and dust behind him, reminiscent of Breaking Bad’s opening title sequence. Now that Jesse has learned the quality of freedom of peace of mind, can he physically achieve it? And does he deserve to when the odds seem to be appropriately against him?
When Skinny Pete says “No way I’m helping you people put Jesse Pinkman back inside a cage”, notice the phrase “you people”. “You people” is usually a generalization intended to be condescending and when it’s used by Skinny Pete (someone who’s sometimes a drug abuser and sometimes a criminal, but someone no less who we’ve come to love) against law enforcement (who are just seeking justice for their murdered agents and all the people who have died in Walter and Jesse’s wake), we’re left wondering how biased are we to have followed the empathetic Jesse Pinkman up until this point? This is a character who has committed terrible acts but has been struggling to atone to the greatest of lengths throughout the series. At the same time, is our justice system’s goal to lock him up the correct outcome? At a certain point, that steep, dark angle he’s ascending in the poster has to end. Does he reach the light, fall off a dark cliff, or find somewhere in between where he can properly make amends for his sins without being placed in a cage?
These are the questions I’m invested in as I go into this film. Not “Will we see Walter White?” or “Will we see Saul Goodman?”. As the AMC logo used to say back when it exclusively aired Breaking Bad: “Story Matters Here.”
What are your thoughts?