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El Camino

Saul is great, but ‘Breaking Bad’ fans have missed Jesse and Co.

Vince Gilligan has been entertaining audiences for over 10 years now as the creator of “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul.” Whether fans are watching on television or on Netflix, hordes of viewers have become accustomed to Gilligan’s modern New Mexico western style. The opening title sequence of “Breaking Bad” over top of the periodic table has become iconic. Wide sprawling shots of the Southwest’s deserts, a beat up 1968 Fleetwood Bounder RV and Jesse Pinkman screaming, “Yeah B—ch,” have shaped a world of Albuquerque, New Mexico that fans cannot stop watching. Well, “Breaking Bad” fans can return to the 505 on Oct. 11 with “El Camino.”

“Breaking Bad” is widely considered to be one of the greatest TV programs ever. Gilligan and Co. snatched 16 Emmys over the course of their five-season run. The chemistry-informed, Albuquerque-based meth cooks defined pop culture during the show’s final two seasons, earning a record 10.3 million viewers for the finale.

Gilligan is also credited with crafting one of the greatest endings to a series ever. Other great shows, such as “The Sopranos,” “Mad Men” and, most recently, “Game of Thrones,” have produced disappointing conclusions that divided fans. “Breaking Bad” stands out as the one show that continually improved on its own quality all the way until the series finale.

“El Camino” will explore what happens after the ending of “Breaking Bad.” By continuing on after the supposed perfect television ending, Gilligan is taking a risk in possibly defacing such a beloved series.

Gilligan has already taken a risk by continuing to tell stories in the “Breaking Bad” universe with the prequel series, “Better Call Saul.” Prequel series typically, and rightfully so, have a low reputation as stories that add nothing to the narrative or characters. Despite a worrying expectation that a prequel series might just come off as a disappointing cash grab, “Better Call Saul” has become a beloved show, earning an Emmy nomination for best drama series this year. The success of an origin story about the corruption of an Albuquerque lawyer shows how Gilligan’s New Mexico has become a seemingly fool-proof setting where any story can work.

However, Gilligan shocked even executives with his idea to continue telling a story that he himself already ended. Yet Gilligan is soothing fears by working with old partners, like “Better Call Saul” directory of photography, Marshall Adams, while also bringing back 10 familiar characters from “Breaking Bad.” “Breaking Bad” and the prominent streaming service have a long running relationship as the series is considered to be the first show to have gotten the “Netflix effect,” in terms of increase in fans watching on Netflix. According to Gilligan, Netflix is a natural fit to work with in releasing “El Camino.”

If any creator can pull off continuing the most celebrated TV ending off all time, it’s Gilligan.

Gilligan himself was unsure of whether he had any desire to make “El Camino.” The idea began as a five-minute short film that blossomed into a feature length screenplay after Gilligan shopped “El Camino” around with his former co-workers at the “Breaking Bad” 10-year anniversary party.

So how does Gilligan plan to one up “Breaking Bad” with a follow-up worthy of the Emmy winner’s acclaimed ending?

Netflix recently released a very short teaser trailer that features beloved supporting character Skinny Pete being interrogated by police. Despite not being featured in the teaser, “El Camino” almost certainly focuses on the troubled Jesse Pinkman, as the entire clip consists of Skinny Pete refusing to tell the police the whereabouts of the formerly imprisoned meth cook. Netflix’s trailer suggests that the plot of “El Camino” will follow Jesse as he escapes a manhunt from the police.

The upcoming film will follow Jesse, the beloved baggy jean-clad antihero, as he drives away in his own El Camino away from the Aryan Brotherhood and police. Gilligan has released very few details about the plot. Likely, Jesse will attempt to escape to Alaska with Brock, the son of his murdered girlfriend.

Jesse is played by Aaron Paul, who has won three Emmys for his performance of the eccentric, yet sympathetic criminal. Since “El Camino” seems to focus on Jesse, Paul has to step up from being a supporting character alongside Bryan Cranston to properly carrying his own project. Paul was a relatively inexperienced actor when he was casted on “Breaking Bad,” with the character of Jesse set to be killed off in the first season.

Paul’s performance alongside Cranston was so incredible that Gilligan re-wrote the story to keep Jesse in “Breaking Bad.” Cranston mentored Paul to improve as an actor, helping the younger actor lose his bad habits; the duo would go on to win a combined seven Emmys for their work in each role. Paul has grown as an actor thanks to Gilligan and Cranston, and now that Paul is playing the role that made his career, following a mixed amount of success post-Breaking Bad, the actor will certainly deliver an incredible performance.

Judging from other Netflix promotional material, Paul will also be given plenty of useful performance material. Netflix has released a trailer featuring a song by the sister duo Chloe x Halle, which showcases Jesse coping with the overdose of his girlfriend Jane. Paul uses the pain of Jane’s Season 2 death to deliver a powerful performance that resulted in his first Emmy win.

Just as Paul has matured from the making of “Breaking Bad,” so has creator Vince Gilligan. Beginning in feature films with “Wilder Napalm” and “Home Fries,” Gilligan truly found success in the collaborative and rigorous environment of a TV writer’s room, claiming that the new structure improved his work ethic while on staff at “X-Files.”

Gilligan, now with the creation of “Breaking Bad” under his belt, is able to take more creative liberties than ever before. Netflix and Sony have given Gilligan a larger budget than he has ever had to work with on any project. After being rejected during “Breaking Bad,” Gilligan is also now allowed to shoot in the CinemaScope format that Sergio Leone used to film Clint Eastwood’s films in order to give “El Camino” the feeling of a shooter staring down the barrel of a gun. Netflix has also helped Gilligan keep an incredible amount of secrecy, from blocking the set to outsiders with RVs and having a relatively limited marketing campaign.

One day, Gilligan alleges, he will leave New Mexico and tell a story that is not about drug cooking antiheroes. Until then, Gilligan shall subject fans to more likely brilliant content within the world of “Breaking Bad.” Gilligan and Albuquerque have produced some of the best stories this century and “El Camino” will likely continue this tradition.

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