If you think of Netflix’s “El Camino” as a new, two-hour episode of “Breaking Bad,” you’ll be disappointed.
“El Camino,” which premiered Friday, takes place immediately after the series finale of the AMC show about high school science teacher turned meth kingpin Walter White. But it doesn’t move the story forward one inch.
Instead, writer-director and show creator Vince Gilligan has taken the one big, dangling loose end from the TV show — the fate of Walter White’s protégé, Jesse Pinkman — and crafted a taut, self-contained movie out of it.
For those who don’t remember, the last season of “Breaking Bad” ended in a hail of bullets, as White (Bryan Cranston) wiped out the white supremacists who had hijacked his business and taken Jesse (Aaron Paul) hostage. White died in the onslaught, but the last we saw of Jesse, he was driving away, traumatized by the experience, but free.
“El Camino” details what happened next. The subject of a manhunt by police (he was a meth dealer, after all), Jesse is hiding out in Albuquerque, trying to stay one step ahead of the police while figuring out how to restart his life. One of the real pleasures of “El Camino” is seeing cameos from some of the supporting characters that gave “Breaking Bad” such flavor and texture.
Fans will savor seeing the return of Jesse’s delightfully scuzzy buddies Badger and Skinny Pete and the dyspeptic junkyard owner Old Joe. But it is especially poignant seeing Robert Forster, who died this past weekend, take one more turn as the mysterious fixer who serves as a one-man witness protection program for criminals on the lam. Forster brings such dignity and wry humor to the role, a guy who consorts with bad guys but who has a rigid moral code.
Gilligan layers on even more fan service in flashback scenes (newly created for “El Camino”) in which Jesse recalls conversations with some of the central characters from “Breaking Bad.” I won’t spoil who pops up, although it’s particularly fun to see Paul get to play the younger, dumber Jesse again in those flashbacks.
In the present, Jesse is an older, more haunted figure, and “El Camino” gives him one desperate situation after another to figure his way out of. The movie ratchets up the tension without losing the black comedy that made “Breaking Bad” such a compulsively watchable show.
Is “El Camino” essential viewing? Not at all. But for those who loved the show, it puts a satisfying exclamation point on the end of the series.
Also on streaming: The “Modern Love” column in the New York Times has inspired a new anthology romcom show of the same name, premiering Friday on Amazon Prime. Anne Hathaway, Tina Fey and Andrew Scott are part of a ridiculously strong cast in the show that looks at love in all of its forms.
Remember the “Disney Vault”? Back when DVDs and VHS tapes were popular, Disney would release movies for a little while, telling consumers that they’d return to “the Vault” after a limited time. Want to watch “Cinderella” in a year? Better buy it before it goes back into “the Vault”!
Well, the new Disney+ streaming service feels like getting the combination to the Vault. Disney released the movie titles that will be available on the service, and it’s a cornucopia of family films from Disney classics like the original “Lion King” to recent favorites like Pixar’s “Inside Out.” For me, what’s most attractive is all the mediocre, live-action Disney movies that I devoured as a kid in the 1970s. “Apple Dumpling Gang”? Sign me up!
How much Paul Rudd is too much Paul Rudd? In the Netflix sci-fi comedy series “Living with Yourself,” premiering Friday, Rudd plays both a schlubby middle-aged man and the handsomer, smarter clone who is trying to take over his life.