'El Camino' trailer shows why it's not just another sequel cash grab

The 'Breaking Bad' sequel seems unnecessary - but it might not be.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more universally praised series finale than Breaking Bad. The show’s final episodes built to a perfect ending for the characters, which seemed to satisfy audiences and critics in almost every conceivable way. Walter White’s misdeeds finally caught up to him, leaving Jesse Pinkman in the driver’s seat (literally and figuratively) for the first time in his life. It’s an ending that leaves no important questions unanswered or character arcs unfinished. So why do we need El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie?

From the start, it’s seemed like a strange endeavor. Sure, revisiting characters we know and love can fun be sometimes. But did we need this? Do we really need to know what happens to Jesse after his last shot in the finale? 99 percent of the time, the answer would be no.

Perfect finales are rare, but in an entertainment landscape that thrives on reboots, sequels, and revivals, they have a limited lifespan. Even the best endings can be negated by a revival, and the results are rarely good.

Here’s the thing, though, this is Vince Gilligan we’re talking about. And because of that, it feels safe to say El Camino will not only be good but an essential part of the larger Breaking Bad story.

When Toy Story 4 hit theaters earlier this summer, it immediately seemed irrelevant. The third film had already provided a perfect ending for the cast of much-loved characters and seemed to rule out any future adventures. Then the movie came out and proved everyone wrong. Toy Story 4 is not only good but vital, a fully necessary postscript on the Toy Story series. In retrospect, why did we have our doubts at all?

Similarly, when Breaking Bad ended and Gilligan announced plans for a prequel series chronicling the origins of sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman, that too seemed like an odd choice. Yet, against the odds, Better Call Saul has become one of the best shows of the decade. That’s not even taking into account Gilligan’s track record outside of the Breaking Bad world. He wrote some of the best episodes of The X-Files, including “Pusher” and “Bad Blood.” He’s justifiably recognized as a master storyteller at this point.

Bob Odenkirk in 'Better Call Saul.'

YouTube / AMC

It’s also worth pointing out Gilligan has previously avoided cashing in on easy paychecks. He was notably absent from the recent X-Files revival, despite being so vital to the show’s past success. If he wanted to capitalize on Breaking Bad fever, he could have kept the show going longer or fast-tracked the movie back in 2013 or 2014. Instead, he’s waited six years after the finale of Breaking Bad to give us a sequel. There’s a bigger motivation here than just a quick buck.

Some showrunners give us what we want, when we want it. Fan service, revival seasons, and cute cameos can be enough to prompt some fleeting grins, but little else. Gilligan has long been the kind of storyteller more committed to crafting a memorable and resonant story than feeding the appetites of the audience. It’s understandable to greet the trailers for El Camino with skepticism, and wonder why we need to see the next step of Jesse Pinkman’s journey. What more could we learn from his reunions with his burnout friends or the manhunt for the lone survivor of the Breaking Bad series finale’s massacre? At this point, it’s only fair to trust that if Gilligan is giving it to us in service of telling a richer, more complete story — even if we don’t realize it yet.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Story releases on Netflix on October 11, 2019.

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