The ‘El Camino’ Entrance Survey – The Ringer
The wait is nearly over. On Friday, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Story will hit Netflix, and we’ll finally know what happened to Jesse Pinkman after he escaped Walter White and the neo-Nazi compound. But for now, with so much mystery still in the air, here’s the Ringer staff on their anticipation, their worries, and whether we’ll see Huell.
1. What are you most hyped for heading into El Camino?
Alison Herman: I just want to hang out with my friends* again!
*Albuquerque-area meth dealers
Miles Surrey: How Vince Gilligan approaches this thing. Breaking Bad was, especially at the end of its run, the kind of fast-paced thriller with moments so explosive (sometimes literally, ask Gus) the headlines wrote themselves. The El Camino trailers make it seem moodier and more ruminative than its predecessor, a slow burn that gives Jesse Pinkman a cinematic grace note. If that impression is closer to what El Camino’s actually like, I’m curious to see how fans respond to it. Personally, I think it’ll be dope.
Alan Siegel: The adrenalized atmosphere of a classic Breaking Bad episode. When I binged on the first four seasons of the show in a two-week stretch in January 2012, it was as addictive as Heisenberg’s blue sky. Hopefully the movie recaptures that feeling.
John Gonzalez: When I moved to Los Angeles from Philadelphia, I drove with our two dogs and had to pick a cross-country route. I specifically plotted a course that took me down through the Southwest, into Albuquerque, and out into the New Mexico desert, where I was thrilled to note the To’Hajiilee off-ramp on the highway—exit 131 on I-40 and the name of the 13th episode of the final season of the series.
So what I’m saying is: all of it. I. Am. Excited. For. All. Of. It.
Justin Sayles: Look, I don’t actually expect this movie to be good—at least not in the way Breaking Bad was good. But I’m certainly excited to spend a few hours in this world again, with all my methy friends, both alive and dead.
Sean Yoo: I’m most excited to see what Vince Gilligan can do in a medium that isn’t a 50-minute television show. Gilligan is best known for his writing and directing abilities on TV shows like Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, and The X-Files, with his only real film credit coming from cowriting Hancock. Now he has a chance to expand his horizons and open up the Breaking Bad world even more. Let Vince cook!
Ben Lindbergh: I’m excited to see Jesse live his best life, whether that’s being a bush pilot in New Zealand or a carpenter in Alaska.
2. If one thing about El Camino worries you, what is it?
Sayles: That they play the hits without getting the notes right.
Herman: [Gestures vaguely at IP-saturated cultural landscape littered with spinoffs and sequels diluting their inspirations’ original appeal.]
Siegel: That it won’t feel as terrifyingly intense as the show that inspired it did.
Surrey: That the movie is really bad? Breaking Bad’s finale was so beloved, Gilligan risks tarnishing the show’s legacy with a self-inflicted wound. Then again, we’re also getting a Sopranos movie next year, so maybe this is just the start of a trend?
Lindbergh: That it will be such a big hit that people will pay Gilligan more than Walt made cooking meth to write nothing but Breaking Bad prequels, sequels, and spinoffs for the rest of his life.
Yoo: Jesse’s bleak future. With this being the final hurrah for our troubled protagonist, I’m extremely worried that this might truly be the end for him. Not only does he have the authorities on his trail, he has the Aryan Brotherhood seeking revenge, and maybe even the Mexican drug cartel looking for him. He has seen and heard way too much to be a loose end out in the wild. It’s tough to be optimistic for Jesse.
Gonzalez: Jesse has obviously had a rough life, what with the constant beatings, watching not one but two women he loved die in front of him, and the whole Nazi enslavement thing. The open-to-interpretation ending of the series where he escapes and heads off into the night left us with a slight flicker of hope that maybe, just maybe, Jesse might go off and live his life and not, you know, get beaten to within an inch of his life again, or watch another loved one die, or get thrown into a deeper, darker hole in the service of still more murderous white supremacists. But now we’re about to actually find out what happened to him, and I fear that flicker of hope will be extinguished. As Jesse once famously said about his former partner in crime, “Whatever you think is supposed to happen, I’m telling you, the exact reverse opposite of that is gonna happen, OK?”
3. Not including the ones already confirmed, which random side character do you think will show up in the movie?
Sayles: Wendy? His annoying little shit brother? A flashback with Jane? I’m not sure it matters. I’m just here to see how old everyone looks.
Lindbergh: Ed the Disappearer. Jesse may still have need of his services.
Gonzalez: Ed, played by Robert Forster, the mysterious Disappearer who will give you a new identity and relocate you to parts unknown if you call and speak the following specific code words: “I need a dust filter for a Hoover Max Extract® 60 Pressure Pro™.” You see, Best Quality Vacuum Repair is not actually what it seems. It’s a front!
Herman: I have no idea how or why this would happen, but I’m pulling for a lightly aged-up version of Kim Wexler from Better Call Saul, Nora Durst–style.
Siegel: Louis, who, along with Walt Jr., will finally be able to buy beer because without digital deaging, they now look like they’re in their 20s.
Yoo: All I’m asking for is a scene with Huell Babineaux (Lavell Crawford) and Patrick Kuby (Bill Burr). This movie doesn’t look like it’ll have much comedy, and there’s no better duo to deliver that than Huell and Patrick.
Surrey: Give us Huell, or we riot.
4. Will Walter White be in El Camino? In what way?
Siegel: Both in news coverage of his death and in a flashback, possibly to when Jane died.
Sayles: Probably in flashback doing what he loved most: making Jesse feel like absolute garbage.
Surrey: Jonathan Banks already said that Mike Ehrmantraut—who, lest we forget, died—is showing up in the film, which paves the way for some type of hallucinatory Heisenberg. It would be wildly unnecessary, though: El Camino’s existence is massive fan service in and of itself. Bringing Walt back is probably overkill.
Yoo: We can most likely guarantee that we will see Walter White in a flashback or two, but there’s also a possibility that Jesse could risk his safety by showing up at Walter’s funeral. It would be a nice form of closure for the viewers—and even Jesse himself—if he honors the man who rescued him (and also ruined his life).
Lindbergh: It’s kind of incredible that we still don’t know whether Walt will be in the movie. It’s also kind of incredible that the production itself stayed secret until after it was finished. Can we get Gilligan to protect our national secrets or something? Maybe he already does! Clearly we wouldn’t know.
I’ll say Walt will make a cameo. From most likely to least:
3. Reused footage from Breaking Bad
4. Surprise, he’s still alive! (He’s not alive.)
Herman: If Bryan Cranston and Jesse Pinkman can reunite for a vanity mezcal brand, they can get back together for a couple of flashback scenes.
5. Can Jesse Pinkman’s story have a happy ending?
Gonzalez: I very much want this to happen. But …
Sayles: “Ever since I met you,” Jesse barks at Walt in the classic Breaking Bad episode “One Minute,” “everything I ever cared about is gone! Ruined, turned to shit, dead, ever since I hooked up with the great Heisenberg!” It was true—arguably no one’s life was worse off for meeting Walt than Jesse’s. “Felina” gave us a relatively hopeful ending for Jesse. And while it didn’t make up for the emotional abuse he took from Walt (and the many, many beatings he took from everyone else), you had to be happy for him. To bring back this character just to undo those feelings would be beyond cruel.
Herman: Certainly happier than Walter’s! I think there’s something of a Peggy-Don dynamic to Breaking Bad’s ultimate arc—the downfall of a mentor paired with the ascendance, or at least not-death, of a protégé.
Siegel: In that he might evade capture and adopt his murdered girlfriend’s son, sure. But he’s deeply, deeply traumatized, so happy is a relative term.
Lindbergh: Given Gilligan and Paul’s affection for Jesse, I’d be surprised if it didn’t.
Surrey: As long as he can change his identity with the help of Robert Forster, possibly! And I want that for Jesse, having been reminded how much he suffered throughout Breaking Bad. It’s enough to make even Kendall Roy wince.
6. Do you think there will be other “Breaking Bad stories?” If so, what should the next one be about?
Herman: There will be if El Camino is a success—which, because it’s on Netflix, we’ll find out only if they order a follow-up. I’m hoping Gilligan and company go in a Jeanne Dielman–style direction for a portrait of Skyler’s blissfully mundane new domestic life.
Gonzalez: The Vacuum Cleaner: A Breaking Bad Movie, in which we learn about Ed, played by Robert Foster, the mysterious Disappearer who will give you a new identity and relocate you to parts unknown if you call and speak the following specific code words: “I need a dust filter for a Hoover Max Extract® 60 Pressure Pro™.” (Have I mentioned that I’m a wee bit obsessed with Ed?) Interestingly, according to the Breaking Bad Wiki, the Hoover Max Extract® 60 Pressure Pro™ exists—BUT, and herein lies the rub, it does not have a filter. That little fact feels like it could potentially expose and unravel Ed’s exfiltration operation when Vacuum Cleaner Reddit inevitably cracks the case wide open.
Surrey: As I’ve shouted over the years ad nauseam: If you want more excellent Breaking Bad content in your life, Better Call Saul already exists!
Lindbergh: The option is open, but I wouldn’t expect another spinoff soon. As Gilligan said at the El Camino premiere, “I’ve probably got to figure out a whole new story that’s not in the Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul universe next. I don’t want to overstay my welcome, so we’ll see how this one goes. Never say never, but it’s probably about time I do something new.”
I’d be happy to watch more Breaking Bad, but I’d rather see Gilligan get to start something from scratch. If there is another Breaking Bad story, though, call RJ Mitte and order Breakfast for Flynn.
Yoo: Luckily, thanks to Better Call Saul we have seen glimpses into the backstories of some of our favorite Breaking Bad characters. But something I’ve always been interested in is the history of the Salamancas. In BCS we see how Gus Fring is getting into the cartel world, but from the iconic BB flashback of Gus, Hector Salamanca, and Don Eladio, we’ve seen an already established world. Digging into that would be incredible; basically, I just want Gilligan’s version of Narcos.
Siegel: I’d love to see the full story of Gustavo Fring’s rise. The show revealed tantalizing and brutal details about his background and personal relationships, but it never totally showcased Gus. Now’s the time.
Sayles: Give us the Gus and Max prequel we deserve!
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