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Things we want to see in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

By any reasonable measure, Breaking Bad is one of the greatest television series of all time. The central idea behind its premise is one that may never be revisited — let alone perfectly executed — again: what if a series' protagonist became its antagonist over the course of its run? What if the change were so gradual, and every questionable decision so inherently logical, that you couldn't even pinpoint exactly when the change took place? Could you make your audience wholeheartedly root for a vile, amoral villain?

Breaking Bad could, and did. Bryan Cranston's masterful performance as chemistry teacher-turned-drug kingpin Walter White was pegged as the greatest piece of acting in existence by no less an authority than Sir Anthony Hopkins, and it was only one facet of what made the show so special. Its supporting cast, cinematography, writing, editing, and even soundtrack selection were never anything less than top-notch. 

The series concluded its five-season run in 2013 with a characteristically brilliant finale which saw White go out his way, on his own terms, and rescue his long-suffering partner in crime Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) from the clutches of a Nazi gang in the process. Improbably, after being rumored for years, we'll soon be getting a coda to that ending. El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie will debut on Netflix on October 11th — and we have a few ideas as to what we'd like to see when it does.

Breaking Bad callbacks

First things first: if El Camino is going to truly satisfy fans of Breaking Bad, it has to feel like an extension of the series. The easiest way to do this would be through the use of callbacks, and not just because we have a need to constantly be reminded of the world in which the flick will take place. Breaking Bad laid on the callbacks to previous episodes early and often, and the spin-off series Better Call Saul — which stars Bob Odenkirk, reprising the role of morally flexible attorney Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman — sports the same aesthetic, and often in even more ingenious fashion than its predecessor.

The callbacks in Breaking Bad were wildly varied, from dialogue to clothing choices to music, and were employed for more than just mere fan service. They were used to evoke memories of powerful, emotional moments; to draw parallels between characters; to illustrate the ways in which someone had changed; to call attention to a forgotten threat or a broken promise. In short, they served to bolster the thematic richness for which Breaking Bad was so respected and admired. El Camino will only have a couple of hours to tell its story, and we don't expect it to spend its entire run time reminding us that, holy cow, we're watching more Breaking Bad — but deploying clever, subtle callbacks to the series is one way in which El Camino can honor its legacy.

Meaningful musical selections

Music was always an incredibly important component of Breaking Bad's atmosphere, and the creative team's choice of tunes was not only wildly eclectic, but served a variety of purposes depending upon the content and tone of the episode. Take, for example, the montage chronicling a day in the life of the meth-addled prostitute Wendy (in the season 3 episode "Half Measures"), which hilariously juxtaposes her activities with the bouncy strains of the Association's hit song "Windy." Or, on the other end of the spectrum, the use of Marty Robbins' ballad "El Paso" in the series finale, the lyrics of which foreshadow Walter White's fate (and which also gives the episode its title, "Felina," the name of the narrator's love interest in the song).

We already have a pretty solid indication that El Camino will continue in this tradition, thanks to a short video montage that was recently posted to Netflix's YouTube channel, depicting all of the horrible, tragic things to have happened to Jesse Pinkman. The clip is scored with a cover of the classic Platters tune "Enchanted" by R&B sister act Chloe x Halle. Sharp-eared fans of Breaking Bad will remember that the original version happened to be playing on the stereo the first time Pinkman used heroin with his doomed girlfriend, Jane Margolis (Krysten Ritter). This suggests not only that Jane's death will loom large over the events of El Camino, but that the flick will be just as inspired in its use of music as the series was.

Saul Goodman

We already get the feeling that El Camino won't feature a heck of a lot of returning characters from Breaking Bad, for the simple fact that the majority of the more significant supporting players are, well, dead. But thanks to Better Call Saul, we know that "criminal lawyer" (emphasis on criminal) Saul Goodman got safely out of town in the aftermath of White's downfall, and ended up exactly where he predicted he would: managing a Cinnabon in some nondescript mall in Omaha, Nebraska.

Each season of Better Call Saul opens with a flash-forward to Goodman's Cinnabon days, and while it's safe to say he won't be getting sucked into the criminal underworld of Nebraska anytime soon, that doesn't mean that El Camino couldn't see Jesse Pinkman pay him a little visit. After all, Goodman could always be depended upon to bail Pinkman and White out of seemingly impossible situations, and just because he's laying low slinging cinnamon rolls doesn't mean he's severed all of his ties to his former criminal associates. 

Goodman is a man who always has a backup plan, and Pinkman is well aware of this. If the former ace meth cook finds himself pulled backed into a particularly tricky corner, he may make an attempt to track Goodman down for a little assistance — and since he knows all about his former counsel's ties to White, a.k.a. the notorious meth kingpin Heisenberg, he wouldn't necessarily be compelled to ask nicely.

The fallout from Walt's unmasking

Walter White's criminal identity was obviously his most fiercely guarded secret, known only by a small handful of his criminal associates (and his wife Skyler, who soon came to fit that descriptor, whether she liked it or not). But El Camino will show us something we've never seen before: a world in which it's been made public that the mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher was indeed the infamous Heisenberg, whose very name could make the most hardened gangster tremble with fear. Yes, El Camino will primarily be focused on Pinkman, which is as it should be — but it would be nice to get a little bit of an idea of the fallout from that revelation, especially as it pertains to those in White's orbit.

Yes, White absolved Skyler of guilt in that last phone call, the one he pretended not to know was being monitored by the FBI; did the Feds buy it? Will his former business partners Gretchen and Elliot Schwarz follow through on their promise to disburse his money to his family? How on Earth will Skyler's sister Marie ever be in the same room with her again, now knowing full well that White was responsible (if somewhat indirectly) for her DEA agent husband Hank's death? 

El Camino will almost certainly not get around to answering all of these questions; again, it only has a couple hours to work with. But it'd be cool if it could fill in a few details — perhaps by way of a timely TV news report, or a few select lines of dialogue.

The new adventures of Badger and Skinny Pete

If someone's going to fill in Jesse Pinkman on what's been going down in Albuquerque since he split, we'd bet it'll be his old buddies, Badger (Matt L. Jones) and Skinny Pete (Charles Baker). For that matter, we already know that at the very least, Skinny Pete will be involved in El Camino; the only proper trailer to have been released for the flick is simply a scene of the former drug runner being questioned by authorities, stating defiantly that there's "no way I'm helping you people put Jesse Pinkman back inside a cage."

It's not yet clear if Badger will also pop up, but where one goes, the other usually follows — and the pair could serve a purpose beyond merely doling out exposition. They're Pinkman's connection to Albuquerque, where his parents still live — as does Brock, the young son of Pinkman's murdered girlfriend Andrea, and perhaps the one living person he cares about the most. Badger and Skinny Pete might also warn Pinkman of impending danger; White may have wiped out the entirety of the Nazi gang that was holding his former partner captive in Breaking Bad's final episode, but that doesn't mean said gang's associates won't be seeking recourse. 

One final argument for the inclusion of the bumbling, proper English-impaired duo: they're hilarious, and El Camino seems like the kind of flick that's going to need a little levity injected from time to time.

The new criminal element

Another word about White's utter destruction of that Nazi gang by way of automated machine gun: these are the kinds of actions that, not to put too fine a point on it, don't just go unnoticed. Whatever slimy characters that gang was affiliated with are sure to have taken notice of two things: first, there's a void in the meth production game that will need to be filled. Second, the two best meth cooks in New Mexico were present at the scene of that carnage — and one of them is dead, but the other is most certainly not.

Which is to say, it may not just be the long arm of the law that will take an interest in Pinkman in El CaminoBreaking Bad gave us a long, harrowing look at how drug empires operate; respectable businessmen and multinational corporations (such as Madrigal, which is sure to have a few questions in the wake of Lydia Rodarte-Quayle's death by ricin poisoning) cast their fortunes with prison gangs, organized crime, and street-level organizations in pursuit of the endless dollars that can be extracted from addicts. Pinkman has seen it all, has been at the center of drug operations from Tuco Salamanca's mini-empire to Madrigal's international drug clearing house — and as the New Mexico narcotics trade rebuilds itself in the wake of Heisenberg and the Nazis' demise, there are sure to be several parties interested in his whereabouts.

Peace for Jesse

This is to say that whatever road lies ahead for Pinkman, it won't be an easy one. But we have to hope that it brings some kind of closure, some kind of peace, because if anyone on Earth ever needed it, it's him. Sure, he's done terrible things; he may have been forced back into the meth game on more than one occasion, but he initially chose it himself, and took pride in his skill at cooking. He allowed Jane to slip back into heroin use, which ultimately led to her death (although White could've prevented it, but didn't), and he even allowed himself to be manipulated into a cold-blooded murder, that of fellow meth cook Gale Boetticher.

But perhaps none of things would have come to pass if he had never been singled out as the ideal partner by his former teacher "Mr. White," and despite all of the admittedly terrible choices he's made, Paul's incredible, soulful performance had a way of positing Pinkman as someone who always wanted to do the right thing, but for whatever reason, always failed. 

Maybe he'll be given a chance to rectify the transgressions of his past in El Camino; this should at least be easier now that White, who always seemed to be pushing Pinkman to be the worst possible version of himself for his own selfish reasons, is out of the picture. Then again, if you're going to cook up a Breaking Bad movie, it'd be missing a key ingredient if it didn't acknowledge Jesse's departed partner.

Walter White

He is the danger; he is the one who knocks. He's the black, infected heart beating at the center of Breaking Bad, and however it has to happen, it sure seems like failing to include Walter White in some capacity would be doing El Camino a disservice. It could be a flashback, or a drug-induced vision; it could be a recording that White made for Pinkman in the event of his death, or even a home movie that we see Skyler White watching, right before she throws it in the fireplace. There are a hundred different ways it could happen, but the subtitle of El Camino is A Breaking Bad Movie — and if you're going to offer us a continuation of the greatest story ever told on TV screens, you would be remiss not to offer us at least a glimpse of that story's greatest character.

Yes, El Camino is Pinkman's story, but the character's greatest tragedy is that his story will forever, no matter how much he would will it to be otherwise, be intertwined with White's. Make no mistake: there are plenty of fans who would advance the theory that White didn't really die at the conclusion of Breaking Bad, but we're not among them. He is indeed dead, but the dark legacy that he created will linger; as far as Pinkman is concerned, we can only hope that he's able to run far enough, fast enough, to somehow escape it.