Redemption not guaranteed: El Camino is a fitting coda to Jesse Pinkman’s story

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Enlarge / Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) must elude capture and get out of town in El Camino. (credit: Netflix)

The series finale of Breaking Bad has been touted as one of the best series finales of all time by critics, as former high school chemistry teacher-turned-meth manufacturer Walter White faced the inevitable reckoning for his many crimes and misdeeds. But it left other narrative threads unresolved, most notably the fate of Walter’s former student and partner in the meth business, Jesse Pinkman. Series creator Vince Gilligan had long wanted to finish Jesse’s story, and the result is El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, which debuted on Netflix last week, six years after the series concluded.

(Major spoilers for the Breaking Bad TV series below. Mild spoilers for El Camino.)

Breaking Bad starred Bryan Cranston as Walter, who is diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer. Assuming his death is imminent, he frets about providing for his wife and kids. So he decides to put his chemistry expertise to use making methamphetamine, with the help of former pupil Jesse (Aaron Paul). This naturally draws the attention of Albuquerque’s criminal underworld. Further complicating matters is Walter’s brother-in-law, Hank (Dean Norris), an officer with the Drug Enforcement Administration intent on tracking down this mysterious new player nicknamed “Heisenberg.” Over the course of five seasons, viewers witnessed Walter’s gradual transformation from an uptight science teacher cooking meth in his tighty-whities to a manipulative, cold-blooded killer.

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