El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is now streaming on Netflix, and it gives a better ending to the story of Jesse Pinkman than Breaking Bad itself was able to. Picking up straight after the events of the finale, El Camino follows Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) as he speeds away from the compound in the car that gives this movie its title, showing us what happens when he gets to the end of the road and the police come screaming after him.
It was a bold move from Paul and Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan (who wrote and directed El Camino) to revisit Jesse's story so many years later, since "Felina" is one of the all-time great TV show finales. It was perhaps even questionable, because some things are better left unsaid. That's fed over in a lot of responses to the movie itself, which has been mostly praised, but with a lot of caveats that it's "unnecessary."
However, the Breaking Bad movie doesn't do anything that ruins the end of the show; not even close. Instead, it goes further into Jesse's story and his psyche, developing the character in an exciting new way that link to the past but sets up a much brighter future, and ultimately gives him the happy ending he not only deserves, but the one Breaking Bad didn't and/or couldn't.
Breaking Bad's Ending Was Perfect For Walt, But Not Jesse
Heading into Breaking Bad's series finale, there weren't just a lot of questions as to what was going to happen, but a lot of pressure riding on it. What had started slow in terms of ratings had become one of the buzziest TV shows of the century, and the ending was a true TV event. It was a hugely difficult task to pull off a satisfying end, but Vince Gilligan & Co more or less did it. It was an explosive conclusion that wrapped-up the majority of plot points and character arcs, but above all it was about Walter White.
That's understandable, of course; the show was his more than anyone else's. "Felina" is a brilliant ending to the rise and fall of Walt/Heisenberg, allowing for quiet moments of contemplation, ensuring his family could live securely, him finding a sense of redemption for what he did to Jesse, and finally, being killed off, as he had to be. There's no argument that it's about as fitting an ending for that story as possible, but that isn't the case for Jesse Pinkman.
Jesse was as important to Breaking Bad as Walt - if White was the show's black heart, then Jesse was its bright soul - but his final couple of episodes were contained to captivity. Although there was something great about seeing him kill Todd, the final moments of Jesse fleeing in the El Camino didn't quite offer enough: it was possible to imagine a better future, but it also seemed likely he'd be arrested. It also never got to fully explore or reckon with the ramification of his captivity, again because it focused on Walt. And that was fine for Breaking Bad, but it's what makes El Camino such a worthy addition to the universe.
El Camino Gives Jesse A Better Ending
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie picks up straight after the events of the finale, fully realizing that which had been left to the imagination. It's not always easy, because after so long in captivity, this is a Jesse Pinkman who has been beaten, battered, bruised, and broken. He's scarred and fragile, but has to quickly but the pieces of himself back together in order to survive. It does this with some classic Breaking Bad thrills, but also moments of real poignancy and reflection about what he's been through.
Breaking Bad's finale offered up a good ending to the story of Jesse being locked up by Jack and the neo-Nazi gang, but this goes much deeper into the psychological damage inflicted upon him. But even more than that, it's a summation of his entire Breaking Bad journey, paying off all of his relationships and even strengthening them despite the likes of Walt, Jane, and Mike being dead. His getting to Alaska is the kind of ending we always wanted for Jesse, and he always wanted for himself: it ties back to season 5, where Alaska was first mentioned; it connects his fate to Mike, who gave him the location; it loops all the way back to him and Jane dreaming of moving somewhere for a fresh start in season 2 (then New Zealand, but the idea remains the same).
There's oft something to be said for an ambiguous ending that allows things to play out how you think in your mind or feel in your heart, but for completing Jesse's five-season journey to its fullest extent and giving him an ending that's happy but tinged with the sadness of how he got there, and still open-ended enough about what comes next while knowing he'll be ok, is a beautiful finale to the character who always deserved a much brighter future than the one suggested by "Felina".
El Camino Is A Perfect Epilogue To Breaking Bad
El Camino feels a lot like a special double-episode of Breaking Bad, which is entirely by design (because Gilligan never does anything that isn't); moments of it feel like they could slot straight into the timeline of Breaking Bad without skipping a beat (give or take certain characters looking very different), but at the same time this is the kind of story that works best coming after all that's gone before. It's very much an epilogue to Breaking Bad, and it's a perfect one.
A big part of that is how it so completes Jesse's journey, giving him a more satisfying (and true) ending than the one conjured up at the end of Breaking Bad. Not just in him moving to Alaska and being able to have a real shot at happiness (although definitely that), but also in being able to showcase the breadth of his story and character arc in a way Breaking Bad's focus on Walter White didn't quite allow for. "Felina" was Walt's story; El Camino is Jesse's, and he's more than earned the right to have that. Aaron Paul is as good as he's ever been - maybe even better - as he gets to play a whole range of emotions, and Gilligan tempers the fan-service by having Jesse so broken (like the gut-wrenching scene where he hands the gun back to Todd).
On top of that, though, is that this adds to and improves Breaking Bad as a whole. So many of the core connections and relationships are made even better in El Camino. Jane and Jesse get one last, moving goodbye that beautifully sums up their time together and the impact she had on him, working that into his future in a way we didn't get at Breaking Bad's ending. The same goes for Mike and Walt, whose influences on Jesse's life are so greatly felt here, but presented in a new context that sheds more light on them. Todd is even more unlikeable here, but that makes his ultimate fate sweeter. And Skinny Pete & Badger too, long comic-relief characters, become the heart of Jesse's story as he was the heart of Walt's; there are few moments in the entire Breaking Bad universe more moving than Skinny telling Jesse that he's his hero. El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is the epilogue we didn't know we needed, but it's now hard to think of the show without it.