El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie REVIEW

Aractus 13, October, 2019

1.5 stars

This review is spoiler-free, but contains spoilers for Breaking Bad.


This movie is terrible.


The film picks up immediately after the finale of Breaking Bad and follows Jessie as he is on the run. The plot is boring. It was not well thought-out, the story told is bland. It would have been more interesting to start the film with Walt and Jessie in prison and start with the logical consequences of their decisions.


This is where the film really suffers. The film brings back way too many characters from Breaking Bad, mostly through flashback scenes, and in many incidences betrays those characters. By far the two worst affected are Jessie, and Todd. I saw very little of Jessie in this film. This isn’t the Jessie we know, and his PTSD that he suffers from (following his captivity in the Neo Nazi’s compound) seems to have been an afterthought and was barely explored. His character in this film doesn’t grow or develop, and frankly Aaron Paul has done a poor job of reviving Jessie.

Before we get to Todd I should also discuss Badger and Skinny Pete played by Matt L Jones and Charles Baker. They both appear very early in the film following Jessie’s escape. In the Breaking Bad series the actors both played men in their 20’s. Baker’s age has caught up to him, he no longer looks like a man in his late 20’s, he looks his age – late 40’s. This isn’t completely terrible as he is a meth addict and meth does age you, in fact one of my favourite episodes early on in the series is Peekaboo which is one of the only episodes that accurately portrays meth addicts, both in appearance, and in their living conditions. Skinny Pete however has not suffered this kind of fate from his addiction, and he’s not disfigured he’s just aged about 20 years without explanation. Jarringly he doesn’t seem like the character we know from Breaking Bad, and neither does Badger. Quite alarmingly, for reasons unknown, in a perverted twist of irony Vince Gilligan has Skinny Pete body-shame Badger in front of Jessie. He then proceeds to unleash morbidly obese Todd on the audience…


Todd in Breaking Bad
Todd in El Camino

Jesse Plemons looks a good 15 years older – he looks 40 – and is a lot heavier than he was in Breaking Bad. Plemons could get a part playing a 45 year old accountant in a film. Heck he could have played Todd’s father and no one would bat an eye. The man may only be 31 but he looks a lot older. Vince Gilligan has gravely misunderstood the character. Todd in Breaking Bad looks adolescent – like a pretty boy man-child. This connects to his child-like personality. He has a child-like devotion and loyalty to his employer (whether Walt or his uncle). He doesn’t act out of self-interest, he barely if ever acts on his own agency except by instinct, he’s not vindictive, he has a child-like curiosity, he’s softly-spoken with a deep respect for authority. He’s not ambitious, he’s content to be a lackey in his uncle’s gang. He’s also a true sociopath. He completely lacks the ability to emphasise with others. He’s not evil insomuch as he is mislead and is in a criminal Neo Nazi gang. He’s capable of unimaginable cruelty, of remorseless murder and torture. Most importantly of all is that Jessie loathes Todd with every fibre of his being. Todd didn’t even expect that, in Buyout he approaches a traumatised Jessie and despite Jessie being too traumatised to help with the clean-up; Jessie’s reaction catches him by surprise. This speaks to his character – child-like, curious, with an adolescent innocence, longing to be accepted, and unable to emphasise try as he might. In Breaking Bad in the confession video Jessie makes with Hank, Jessie tells Hank that “Todd, that mopey dead eyed piece of shit pulls out a gun and shoots the kid”. His youthful appearance was absolutely essential to his part in Breaking Bad.

It wouldn’t matter if Plemons was still skinny, he still would be unable to play Todd from Breaking Bad because he has aged. It’s not just due to weight gain. Once that adolescence is gone it’s gone forever, it’d be like getting back Macaulay Culkin to play 12 year old Kevin McCallister again (he could certainly play him later in life, and by no means has Culkin aged “badly”). The only way to have Todd appear in any acceptable capacity would be to re-cast the role with an actor who understands the character. It was a huge mistake to bring back Todd, his part in the film completely betrays Breaking Bad. Frankly Plemons should have declined the role. Vince Gilligan may be the series creator, but he clearly did not understand Todd’s character or his relationship with Jessie. In Breaking Bad, immediately after Jessie is captured, he is tortured by Todd and gives up all his information leading to them finding the “confession video” I previously referred to. After this, while completely traumatised, Todd calmly takes him to the lab to make him “cook”. The dead-eyed piece of shit played an absolutely memorable and fantastic part in series 5 of Breaking Bad, and it was a terrible shame to see that part tarnished by his appearance in El Camino.

I should just note it’s not my intention to body-shame the man. He actually gained weight for a previous film (although that did film 5 years ago now). I don’t condone the fat-shaming, although as I pointed out above Vince Gilligan literally has Skinny Pete fat-shame Badger in the film!

Overall there were way too many Breaking Bad characters in this film. Mostly through flash-backs, although some in the present. Even as characters in this film, taken in isolation, their roles are not compelling. If it wasn’t for nostalgia many of them surely would have be cut from the film.


Just three minutes into the film we see Badger has a TV that didn’t exist in 2010 or even 2011 when the film is set. This is distracting. TV bezels were getting thinner and thinner, but they were not even close to being as thin as the one in the film. There’s also a complete lack of consequences from Breaking Bad. You know those unintended things that happen because you made bad decisions, like say prison or death, or addiction, or dilapidated living conditions and homelessness? Besides Jessie’s captivity in the Neo Nazi compound the last meaningful consequence I can remember is Hank’s death, and before that Combo’s death. That’s about it. Skylar is an accessory after the fact, as well as guilty of money laundering and receiving the proceeds of crime, she would undoubtedly be in prison in the real world following the events of Breaking Bad. It’s also just not believable that all the Breaking Bad characters avoid gaol.

In the scene I showed with Todd, a flash-back with Jessie in the Neo Nazi’s meth lab, this is a scene that can’t exist in the Breaking Bad timeline. Supposedly it’s after Jessie has tried to escape and Todd has murdered Andrea. However Andrea and Brock’s photo is in-place with the same paper clip on it that Jessie used to pick his handcuffs in the escape attempt. The photo shouldn’t be there, and the paper clip can’t be there.

Todd does have Drew Sharp’s tarantula in his house in the flash-backs, that’s about the only thing that is actually positive continuity-wise.

For a series that was so meticulous it was a shame to see little attention paid to source material.


The cinematography was acceptable, though didn’t feel like it was shot for scope especially given the close-ups. It wasn’t a cinematic masterpiece like some of the Breaking Bad episodes.


Here the film was really let down. Bland.

And that’s it, everything you needed to know was at the start so you didn’t need to read all the way through if you didn’t want to.

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