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Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad, Ep. 5.10: “Buried” Puts the Female Cast in the Spotlight



Breaking Bad Buried

Let’s talk about Anna Gunn and Betsy Brandt.

Since the very beginning of Breaking Bad, these actresses have been tasked with the most thankless roles on one of the most celebrated dramas in TV history. In the case of Gunn, it’s a repeat performance in a sense: she had a similarly unglamorous gig as Sheriff Bullock’s beleagured-but-upstanding wife Martha. TV historians and prognosticators will be quick to extol the virtues of Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, along with Dean Norris and Bob Odenkirk (and rightfully so) but in a very real sense, Brandt and Gunn have long provided Breaking Bad with a moral dimension that would otherwise be absent.

Buried” addresses the monumental developments of “Blood Money” in a straightforward fashion – picking up after the cold open only moments after Hank and Walt’s climactic showdown – but it does so in a way that honors its more underappreciated players, which in turn acknowledges the human wreckage that lies in the wake of Walter White’s devious actions.


Television, much like film (though not to quite as egregious a degree) under-employs female writers and directors, so as long as we’re on the subject, it’s more than worth acknowledging that Michelle MacLaren is one of the very best directors working in the medium right now. In “Buried,” she leans heavily on Breaking Bad‘s most beloved visual hooks, especially the fixed-camera shot (most memorably employed while Walt buries), as well as a brief bit of time-lapse photography, but she also manages to liven up a rather drab cold open: an old man discovering Jesse’s discarded bundles of cash. The overhead shot of Jesse half-heartedly driving a merry-go-round, with the shifting shadows clockworking the frame, ensures that a rather banal event registers as a potent visual. Let’s not forget that she also helmed key episodes of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.

Back to Gunn and Brandt. With the proverbial cat out of the bag, Hank shrewdly calls Skyler immediately, resulting in one of the episode’s best sequences. Hank and Skyler’s diner meeting is typically unsexy material for Skyler – she doesn’t get a big speech or a tearful confession – but it’s entirely in keeping with her character. Character memory and recall is a huge part of what makes “Buried” work. Many other series, even great ones, have let this factor slide somewhat in order to allow for key plot developments to flourish. Not so with Breaking Bad, where the writers’ room has clearly pulled overtime in order to make sure that every character move is solidly in continuity. That’s why Skyler takes her sweet time to consider her options before bailing on Hank in the diner, and that’s also why Marie’s first consideration upon learning of Walt’s true profession is to inquire about the timeline, in conjunction with Hank’s shooting. It seems obvious when you’re watching those scenes transpire, but these are the details other series frequently get wrong. In every one of their scenes, together and apart, Gunn and Brandt carry with them that series and character memory without missing a beat.

The Big Questions surrounding the end of Breaking Bad are clear – what becomes of Walt and Jesse? Does Hank get his man? Does the world learn of Walt’s “accomplishments”? Those considerations are all well and good, but it’s the well-being of the people in Walt, Jesse, and Hank’s immediate circles that has me the most curious, and “Buried” does well to hone in on them before whatever carnage is to come rises to the fore. In particular, Skyler’s complicity with respect to Walt’s crimes makes her a particularly interesting case. Vince Gilligan has expressed horror and disbelief at the fact that viewers associate with and even root for Walter White, so in a strange way – despite the fact that she’s easily the most widely reviled character in the series’ history – Skyler is actually a kind of audience surrogate, initially horrified by Walt’s actions but eventually seduced by their rewards. Walt even gives her an out this week – though she, and we, would be foolish to take it as an earnest one – and she chooses to walk the line. “Never the DEA,” she said, a couple of seasons back. It’s to Breaking Bad‘s credit that Skyler White remains so elaborately loathsome.

Simon Howell

Simon is a roving writer and editor who has been crawling slowly Westward across Canada for the last decade. (He currently resides in Toronto.) He obtained a BFA in Film Studies from Concordia University in the spring of 2012 and a Graduate Certificate in Technical Writing from Algonquin College in 2015. He is a former co-host of the Televerse podcast. His favorite films include F for Fake, Brazil, Stroszek, The Fog of War, Grave of the Fireflies and In a Lonely Place. He can be found on Twitter (mostly yelling about far-left politics, ye been warned) at @hollowmines.

Breaking Bad

Jimmy and Kim Break Bad in ‘Better Call Saul’s Incredible 5th Season

Better Call Saul has cemented itself as one of the best shows on TV with its most incredible season yet and dark turns from its protagonists.



Better Call Saul

Season 4 of Better Call Saul ended with the daunting reveal that Jimmy was willing to play anyone in order to get what he wants. Unfortunately for Kim, who had often been in on his many scams over the years, this now included her. Visibly moved by Jimmy’s speech about his dead brother, Kim is shocked and disturbed to find out that the speech was just a cloying ploy to get himself reinstated as a lawyer.

Of course, the natural path this storyline would take in season 5 would be to have Kim and Jimmy slowly grow apart as Kim’s misgivings continue to grow. But this is one of the central strengths of Better Call Saul as a show. Much like Breaking Bad before it, it lets you think you know what’s happening, only to pull the rug out at the last second.

Better Call Saul

Truly Kim’s journey over the course of Better Call Saul‘s 5th season is as interesting and intricate as Jimmy’s. While Jimmy slides further and further into scheming and trickery in order to get ahead, Kim struggles to follow the rules, only to grow increasingly frustrated by how constraining they are.

Further, as someone who got into law to help people in need, Kim feels like selling her soul to her corporate overlords is, at last, a bridge too far. Take a scene where she pours her heart out to a man who she’s trying remove from his home, only to be called directly on her manipulative tactics. The scene directly following this centers the camera on the Audi symbol of her expensive car as she pulls into her assigned spot at Mesa Verde. A visibly shaken Kim is already in motion for her dark turn in the final scenes of season 5 here.

Essentially this is to be expected. When Kim decided to double down and marry Jimmy instead of leaving him, she was shaking hands with the devil she knows, who is also the man she loves. For his part, Jimmy, in all of his attempts to keep Kim out of his dangerous business of being a “friend to the cartel”, needs Kim to save him from himself. And again, when he suggests they pull back from doing anything too illegal, it is Kim who Lady Macbeth’s him into going the opposite route.

It’s truly a shocking turn for Kim. While we’ve watched Jimmy McGill slowly turn into Saul Goodman over the course of the show, with the betrayal and death of his brother central to his darker turns, Kim has nearly always followed the letter of the law. Finally, like Walter White before her, it is Kim’s pride that pushes her to break bad. When Howard suggests that Jimmy has somehow manipulated her into her career change, that insult becomes what will almost certainly be the first nail in his coffin.

Despite the humming and hawing about the scheme, Jimmy and Kim will absolutely be taking down Howard Hamlin in the final season of Better Call Saul. How they’re going to do it remains a mystery, but the fact that they will do it is basically a bygone conclusion before the season even airs. This final scheme will no doubt cement their corrupt futures together, and bring us back into the current timeline that occasionally peeks its head into the show, giving us the ultimate conclusion for one of the only characters wily enough to survive the brutal world of Breaking Bad. 

Of course, with the threat of Lalo Salamanca still to be dealt with, there’s no telling what kind of collateral damage might be blowing up around them as they pull off their scheme. One of the tensest scenes in the entirety of Better Call Saul arrived when Lalo showed up at Jimmy and Kim’s apartment to question, and threaten, them in equal measures. Since Mike and Jimmy’s connection is also central to both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, the Lalo conflict will naturally cement that relationship as well, showing how Jimmy gets in so deep with criminals that he becomes known for it, while allowing room for him to walk in other worlds of society as well.

Better Call Saul

With the final arc of Better Call Saula super-sized 13 episode season, set to premiere in fall 2021, it’s going to be a bit of a wait for the solution to these various hanging fruits that Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould have set about arranging over the years, but there’s little doubt that the solutions, and the conclusions, will naturally be of a compelling and satisfying manner.

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Breaking Bad

Yeah, Bitch! ‘El Camino’ Gives Jesse the Ending He Deserves



El Camino Breaking Bad Movie

**Spoilers Ahead**

El Camino began as a simple short film that Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan wanted to make for the series’ 10th anniversary. Plans changed, and over time that simple concept expanded into a feature-length film designed for viewers who wondered what happened to Jessie Pinkman (Aaron Paul) after he escaped the Nazi compound driving Todd’s titular vehicle.

The question I had before watching El Camino was if any closure was needed, and whether El Camino would have anything to add to one of the greatest shows ever made. The answer lies somewhere between yes and no. El Camino might not be essential viewing for the phenomenally popular AMC show, but it does provide a proper ending for arguably the fans’ favourite character. And thanks to Aaron Paul’s raw and committed performance, as well as Vince Gilligan’s talent behind the camera, the Netflix original film is one of the best things the streaming giant has produced thus far.

Breaking Bad‘s final episode is regarded as one of the greatest series finales of all time, and so many fans were naturally worried that El Camino could in some way damage the finale’s conclusion. The last time we saw Jesse Pinkman, he had escaped an underground prison where he was held prisoner and forced to cook industrial-grade crystal meth. His final moments at the end of Breaking Bad were powerful indeed, as we watched him speed into the distance, seemingly leaving all of his problems behind. It was just ambiguous enough to imagine a happy ending for Jesse, but it also didn’t seem like the ending the character deserved. Even as he escapes the worst experience of his life, it was hard not to think that Jesse’s problems were far from over. And knowing how things unfold in Breaking Bad, chances are that any plans Jesse may have would soon be derailed by a series of unfortunate events.

El Camino Has No Major Plot Twists

Picking up immediately where the hit drama left off, Netflix’s follow-up film tells the story of what happens to Jesse after he is freed with the help of his mentor–turned–nemesis, Walter White (Bryan Cranston). Taking place over the course of a few days, Jessie now attempts to evade the police manhunt and escape New Mexico with the help of some old friends. Complicating matters are Neil (Scott MacArthur) and Casey (Scott Shepherd), two small-time criminals who are after the same missing cash that Jesse is tracking. Apart from that, there are no major twists or new story developments, and there’s really no need to give a full plot synopsis (since I assume anyone reading this has already seen El Camino). Nevertheless, it is worth commenting on the structure of the film, since it pretty much plays like an extended episode of Breaking Bad, and in no way reflects badly on the series as a whole. El Camino exhibits a respectable level of restraint; there are no story beats that undo any of the revelations from the series, there are no scenes that try to shoehorn some ridiculous plot twist, and there are no characters coming back from the dead. Instead, El Camino is a mostly quiet character study, and a strong companion piece to one of the most beloved shows ever made.

El Camino’s Flashbacks and Cameos

There was much speculation on which characters from the original series would return, and thankfully the answer is several — including a few who died (they appear in a number of flashbacks that put a clever spin on the proceedings). In the present timeline, we get a touching sequence with Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) and Badger (Matt Jones), who provide some much-needed levity. Later, there is also a wonderfully written scene featuring Robert Forster as Ed, the proprietor of a vacuum-repair shop, and his sweet customer played by Marla Gibbs. Todd (Jesse Plemons) also returns as Pinkman’s affable white-supremacist imprisoner, and fans are treated to a poignant scene between Jesse and Mike (Jonathan Banks), which unfolds roughly around “Buyout” (season five’s sixth episode), where Mike and Jesse decide to break away from Walt’s business, and Mike recommends Jesse relocate to Alaska. Fans will remember that Jesse originally said that he wanted to move to Alaska in season five, episode 11’s “Confessions,” and now we know why. Putting aside those clever connections to previous episodes, it is scenes like this that remind us that the show’s biggest strength is in the quality performances of every player, no matter how big or small their role — and more importantly, they demonstrate why Jesse became the fan favourite.

El Camino A Breaking Bad Movie Review

Jesse is the Beating Heart of Breaking Bad

It’s worth remembering that Aaron Paul was initially cast to play a small part, with the initial plan to kill his character at the end of season one. Instead, Paul proved so utterly compelling in the role that Jesse not only survived, but in time was seen as Walt’s narrative equal. If Walter White is the brains of the show, Jesse is the beating heart, and his relationships with everyone he meets not only strengthens his character, but also the performances of those who surround him. Late in the third act, El Camino flashes back to a time before Walter White was known by his clandestine alias, Heisenberg. The scene takes place within the space of season two’s “4 Days Out,” in which both men formed a close bond. It was a simpler time when Walt was trying to make some fast cash to leave for his family before cancer got the best of him. And it was a time when Jesse was a simple naïve high school graduate trying to figure out what to do with his life. Through the beauty of the flashback, Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston share one final scene, and thanks to their onscreen chemistry, we are reminded that the best moments in Breaking Bad revolved around the interplay between Walter and Jesse — and despite everything that has happened to Jesse, he’s still the same guy, deep down inside. It is with this scene that El Camino successfully makes the case for its existence, and reminds us of why we all fell in love with Jesse, to begin with.

When creator Vince Gilligan first pitched Breaking Bad, he described it as “a story about a man who transforms himself from Mr. Chips into Scarface.” The show began as a story about Walter White — a chemistry teacher–turned–drug kingpin who, after discovering he has terminal lung cancer, decides to cook meth to provide money for his family after he’s gone. Even though Walt had the brains, he didn’t know squat about the drug business, and so he recruited former student Jesse Pinkman to help him sell his first batch. From that moment on, Jesse became a victim of Walt’s bad decisions, and when Walter let Jesse’s drugged and unconscious girlfriend, Jane (Krysten Ritter), die from choking on her vomit, the series narrative truly shifted to have Jesse serve as the series’ moral center and comic relief. Walter White may have been the driving force for the biggest scenes, but it’s Jesse who keeps viewers caring. Walter White gets his conclusion, but Jesse is left with the short end of the stick.


Vince Gilligan’s Direction

As a director, Vince Gilligan does some of his best work here. In fact, his work here is so good that you’d be forgiven for forgetting that the man only directed a handful of Breaking Bad‘s episodes (not to mention this is his first feature film). Working alongside series editor Skip Macdonald and cinematographer Marshall Adams, Gilligan composes some truly unforgettable images, such as a stunning bird’s eye view of Jesse tearing apart a home crime scene in time-lapse photography. Much like the show, El Camino evokes the iconic imagery seen in classic Westerns, and even features a good old’ fashioned Western standoff as Jesse arms himself with his granddad’s antique semi-automatic pistol — a .22 caliber. Every shot in El Camino is meticulously crafted, whether it’s an ordinary setup, a long tracking shot, or a devastating phone conversation, Vince Gilligan ensures that Jesse is as front and center as he should be, since this is his story and he appears in every scene.

The Ending of El Camino

As good as the cinematography, score, art direction, and supporting cast are, what makes El Camino great is Jesse Pinkman/Aaron Paul. Paul hasn’t missed a beat in his portrayal of Jesse, and here he carries every scene (nearly every frame) of the movie on the weight of his shoulders. His work in El Camino is impressive considering that he has to play so many variations of his character, as Jesse goes through a roller coaster of emotions. That means the good, the bad, and everything in between.


El Camino (Spanish for “road”) gives Jesse his road to recovery. In the end, Jesse takes Jane’s advice and chooses Alaska as the “last frontier” — the place he would escape to. Before he leaves, Jesse provides Ed with a letter for Brock (Ian Posada), the contents of which are kept hidden from the viewer, but which we can only assume informs Brock that Jesse has left a large pile of money behind for the young boy. The film’s final image is clearly similar to Jesse’s final Breaking Bad appearance, only this time he’s driving away peacefully. We can always wonder what happens next to Jesse, but chances are that he’ll be okay, and Jesse finally gets the closure he deserves.

Six years and one spin-off prequel later, the obvious question was if it was worth continuing a story that already had a satisfying ending? Not only does the El Camino’s 125-minute runtime pay tribute to the show that helped give it birth, but it also finds a reason to exist beyond making the studio a boatload of money. If the Breaking Bad finale was about Walter White getting what he wanted, El Camino is about Jesse reconciling with his past and searching for humanity he’d lost. It succeeds by giving Jesse a fresh start; he’s finally able to move on and decide what he wants to do with his life without anyone else interfering with his plans. Now that he truly is free, the question is whether or not he can create a happy ending for himself.

  • Ricky D
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Breaking Bad

‘El Camino’ is a Mostly Satisfying ‘Breaking Bad’ Sequel



El Camino Breaking Bad Movie Review

**This review contains light spoilers**

Breaking Bad, one of the top prestige series of the Peak TV era, went off the air more than six years ago, in September of 2013, with one of the more satisfying, close-ended conclusions of any great TV show. 

The series’ mythology has continued in the years since, mostly through the spinoff series Better Call Saul, which is set mostly in the events prior to Breaking Bad but occasionally incorporates flash-forwards. There was also Bryan Cranston, reprising the Walter White character in an unfortunate SNL sketch that was based on that show’s current, mistaken ethos that if they stick a recognizable actor or character in a political sketch, the recognition will carry the idea to humor on its own. 

Through Better Call Saul‘s run – which, with its fifth season next year, will equal the length of its parent show- the quality control has mostly been kept up, largely because Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan has developed and run that series himself, rather than farm it out to underlings. 

That’s also the case with El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, a sequel movie which debuted on Netflix (in addition to a small, one-weekend-only theatrical release), and which Gilligan both wrote and directed himself. 

El Camino Breaking Bad Movie Review

Though it isn’t quite up to the very best of the quality of Breaking Bad, either from a plotting or suspense standpoint, El Camino is a worthy follow-up, both thematically and aesthetically in line with the series that spawned it. It’s much closer to the tone and style of Breaking Bad than Better Call Saul is, and also offers fan service, although not a tiresome amount. 

El Camino is debuting on Netflix rather than AMC, which was where Breaking Bad was broadcast for its run, although the move to streaming is somewhat apropos; it was Netflix, early on in its streaming era, where a great many fans first discovered Breaking Bad between seasons and helped make it the phenomenon that it was. 

If you’ve forgotten Breaking Bad’s conclusion, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) died, although not before making piece with his wife, Skyler, confessing that “I did it for me” in plotting revenge against all of his enemies and ensuring a financial future for his children. Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) ended the series by speeding away from the scene of the final shootout, which claimed the lives of the Nazi drug trafficking gang that had kept him captive for much of the final season. 

The El Camino movie shows us the further adventures of Jesse, still wracked with PTSD from his captivity, as he seeks to elude the law following the exposure of his and Walt’s massive drug operation. On top of Jesse’s quest to get back the remaining money he left behind, we’re also treated to multiple flashbacks in order to provide closure to Jesse’s relationships with certain characters who died during the life of the show. 

El Camino Breaking Bad Movie Review

We also see Jesse doing battle with a new group of bad guys, leading to some of the nerve-wracking moments of suspense that we’ve come to expect from Breaking Bad. No, we don’t get any moments or scenes that are up there with the iconic heights of the original series, but El Camino provides a bit of closure for the Pinkman character — more satisfying than we got the first time around. 

At the heart of El Camino is an outstanding performance from Aaron Paul, who has had a mixed record of success as a movie and TV actor in the years since Breaking Bad, although he does do fine work as a voice actor on Bojack Horseman. 

Also, as we saw in the New Hampshire-set penultimate episode of the original series, Breaking Bad is pretty jarring when it moves from Albuquerque to a climate of snow. 

Could we have lived without a conclusion to the Jesse arc on Breaking Bad? Probably. But El Camino is certainly satisfying.

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