Archita Kashyap - 14 weeks ago
Five seasons, not so well known actors and an incredible premise. Put together, these delivered Breaking Bad, perhaps the best drama-thriller on television for over a decade.
(Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul in a still from El Camino - A Breaking Bad Movie)
Breaking Bad is about a chemistry teacher with a brilliant academic record and average income deciding to become a crystal meth manufacturer to make money because he has cancer. As far as one line pitches go, there aren’t many that can beat this. Which is why, five seasons on, the El Camino movie on Netflix, a spin off, surprised. It was a fairly well kept secret by Netflix, particularly in a year when most of the original content from the streaming giant has faced criticism. While knowing viewership figures of their originals is impossible as the company doesn’t share this information publicly, social media chatter was not positive. So this film, starring Aaron Paul, the much loved Jesse Pinkman in the lead presumably opened to massive audiences.
With its quiet pace, its centering on long conversations over stretched out time periods between characters, and it’s fragile tone, El Camino is a tribute to Breaking Bad by writer/ director Vince Gilligan. At times it feels like an awestruck salute by it’s maker to his own creation, and a worthy pause to recall it’s brilliance. Giving him apt company as second lead is Jesse Simmons, who played his friend Todd Alquist in series. Both carry its desperate somewhat melancholic narrative forward efficiently. Yet when one wraps up watching the film, one can’t help but be underwhelmed by it. Did one need a Breaking Bad movie after all? Or would anything that followed up on this masterpiece feel inadequate no matter how it turns out, just like making a third Godfather movie was always doomed.
(Jonathan Banks and Aaron Paul in a still from El Camino - A Breaking Bad Movie)
The strongest take back from this is the charm of Breaking Bad. This show is so popular, powerful and massive in its reach that it naturally commands spin offs. First there is Better Call Saul, a spin off about two years later on the smooth criminal lawyer Saul and his evolution from regular American guy to the polyester suited crook. Patient, sparse and written artfully around ground realities of American small towns, Better Call Saul is an underrated, under celebrated shows on television. It’s well made and entertaining, gripping despite being absolutely low on drama. Both Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad are very popular shows on streaming.
If anything, these shows and spin offs testify to the game changing role of streaming content in shaping the way entertainment is consumed today. Repeat viewing, regular watching and easy availability have ensured that both shows stay on the audience’s radar much after telecast time. Their legend has grown, and may still throw up more spin offs in future.
Sign up to get access to the stories behind films and conversations on cinema worldwide.