Aaron Paul as Jesse (left) is outstanding in an often confused cast of characterstwitter/vee eksin

Jesse Pinkman was the moral compass of Breaking Bad. The Jesse of El Camino is a man on the run – as much from his past as from the law. The film follows Jesse’s last 48 hours in New Mexico as he ricochets between familiar faces and new threats, scrambling to tie up loose ends.

The events of the plot are interspersed between a good deal of nostalgic reminiscing and traumatic hallucinations of Jesse’s time as a captive – at least one of which will greatly appeal to long-time fans of the series.

The flashbacks are episodic, offering vignettes into Jesse’s formative relationships and his time spent as a captive. However, while the flashbacks provide a welcome opportunity for cameos of deceased characters, they occur so frequently and in conjunction with Jesse’s traumatic hallucinations that the storyline of the film risks feeling stilted.

While the constant to-ing and fro-ing between the present and several points in the past is at times disorienting, the film – marketed largely on nostalgia for the original series – relies heavily, yet not undeservedly, upon fans' love for Breaking Bad.

Krysten Ritter reprises her role as Jesse's late girlfriend, Janetwitter/vee eskin

Several fan favourites make appearances throughout the film, both in flashbacks - as is the case for Bryan Cranston as Walter White - or within the actual events of the plot. Amongst the many cameos, there are some genuinely heart-warming send-offs; as is the case for Badger and Skinny Pete, two of Jesse’s innocuous, stoner friends. One of the best, yet briefest, is that of Krysten Ritter, reprising her role as Jane, Jesse’s late girlfriend.

However, for every welcome appearance of a fan favourite, there is another lesser-known character, such as Ed Galbraith (portrayed by the late Robert Forster), a character who appeared once – very briefly – in the penultimate episode of the series. This would not be such an issue if it weren’t for the plot’s reliance upon the viewer having both seen the original series and remembering it with such clarity as to recognise a character who appeared only once, way back in 2013.

The film relies heavily on fans' love for Breaking Bad

The confusion is made worse by the introduction of new characters, such as Neil, who, despite never appearing in the original series, hints that he has been encountered before
(this is because it was Jesse who met him – not the audience – during his off-screen time as a captive, but has since forgotten him.) This, coupled with the recurring minor characters who viewers may or may not remember, leaves you scrambling, wondering how on earth you could have forgotten the all-important Neil, only to find out, much later, that he was never introduced to us in the first place.

Aaron Paul, reprising his role as Jesse Pinkman, delivers a stellar and nuanced performance. Although the titular ‘El Camino 1978’ is abandoned early on, Jesse continues to shoulder its figurative weight for the remainder of the film. As a result, El Camino is an in-depth and layered character study of an older Jesse Pinkman – more weary than mature, having experienced trauma and loss. The good-hearted Jesse of Breaking Bad is not completely lost, however. Fans can still catch the odd glimpse of Jesse’s good nature in a handful of quietly intimate scenes, scattered throughout the film.


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For fans of the series, El Camino is a deserved eulogy for a beloved friend. For those who have never seen Breaking Bad (or even for those who haven’t seen the series in a while),
the film is an invitation to the funeral of a distant relative, who you never met and who died under mysterious circumstances. That is to say, it is unsolicited and leaves you puzzled, trying to piece together their bewildering life from disjointed and episodic story-telling.

El Camino offers fans of the series satisfying – albeit belated – closure, but it is best watched as it follows in the timeline of Breaking Bad: directly after the series.

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