Sing, O Gilligan, of Pinkman’s Murderous Rage…
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, fills in the gaps in the story of Jesse Pinkman, Walter White’s protégé and business associate, following his escape from Jack Welker’s Aryan Brotherhood gang after the events in “Felina”, the series finale to Breaking Bad.
It turns out that Pinkman was busy immediately afterward, recollecting on advice Mike gave him about starting over out of the meth game, long before meeting the Welker gang.
It turns out that it is dizzyingly hard to escape Albuquerque if the DEA, the local police, the other bad guys, and failing friends are out there looking for you.
It turns out that getting money to get the hell out of town involves killing a few people and negotiating with an old man with nothing to lose, very patiently.
This means that the focus of this particular turn from the creator and writer of Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan, is actually the rage and the neuroses of Pinkman, played out over a two-day period as he goes about the process of leaving one desert and entering another.
On Psychopaths and Their Refrigerator Money
The whole sequence of Pinkman breaking into and searching Todd Alquist’s apartment for his hidden millions following Alquist’s death is the linchpin upon which El Camino turns.
The flashback scenes between Pinkman and Alquist keep a good third of the plot momentum of El Camino going under the frantic apartment tossing.
The flashbacks take us deeper into the psychology of both a committed, remorseless psychopath (Alquist) and a committed, traumatized beta male (Pinkman) and answer the puzzling question of how exactly Pinkman was able to strangle Alquist, seemingly out of the blue, in the Breaking Bad finale all these years ago now.
Clearly, Gilligan has been influenced by the directing work and visual plotting style of Quentin Tarantino and uses the quirk of layering one set of acts — such as ransacking an apartment all the way down to the wall studs — on top of another set of acts—such as remembering the past and freaking out about it.
And through all of this, Pinkman’s impotent rage is explored as he goes through a similar process of change that White did throughout the five seasons of Breaking Bad, except here, White, the Aryan Brotherhood, Alquist, and even Skinny Pete is the catalyst and there is nary a hint of blue meth to be seen.
Didn’t Saul Goodman Pull This Move Already?
El Camino was Robert Forster’s last turn in a film, as he passed away due to complications from brain cancer when the film premiered, and boy was it a good one.
After “disappearing” Saul Goodman—later to be seen working at a mall Cinnabon in Omaha, Nebraska in the opening sequences of the first three seasons of Better Call Saul — it appears as though Ed has continued with the discipline of his vacuum cleaner sales.
It turns out that, when dealing with a guy like Ed the Vacuum Cleaner Salesman, Pinkman has to consider that some people — even ones who might appear greedy on the surface — might be driven by bedrock operating principles.
In the sequences with Pinkman and Ed, we see a glimpse of the boy who would end nearly every “gotcha” moment in the original series with “bitch,” and for a fleeting instant, Pinkman nearly waffles on the edge of reverting back to the person he once was.
Gilligan is often quoted as saying the following about White’s character in Breaking Bad:
“Television is historically good at keeping its characters in a self-imposed stasis so that shows can go on for years or even decades. When I realized this, the logical next step was to think, how can I do a show in which the fundamental drive is toward change?”
White, Goodman, and Pinkman.
All three men transformed themselves away from what they were — weak, cucked, venal, disoriented, purposeless men, existing in a society that didn’t care too much about what was going on in their interior lives — into something resembling an honorable form of masculinity.
They operate by their own “code” of rights and wrongs, similar to Omar in another great television show, The Wire.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie lives up to its name and its progenitor, and I think, finally, that Gilligan is done with all these characters.
The final scene of El Camino gives the viewer and the fan hope that Pinkman gets peace.
But I doubt it.
Go ahead, stream it on Netflix this week and let me know what you think, below.