From a pop culture emotional standpoint, I’m pretty drained. It’s been a hell of a year and I’m not entirely sure what else I have to give. I’m spent. I’ve shed my tears… a lot of them. I focused so much of my emotions during the first half of the year on Avengers Endgame that I wonder what else I possibly have to give. There have been tears upon tears upon tears. No shoulder heaving, except that one time where I was hungover and watched it and bawled like a baby, but I felt it in my chest. The emotions just tugging on my soul but I had prepared for that. Hell, I would argue there was nothing I prepared harder for than the emotional fallout of Endgame. I loved it three thousand and walked away with a sense of completion. It felt right. My ride home from the theater I was this emotional puddle that couldn’t figure out if it was sad, excited, or just happy to exist. That was a gift and it took a lot out of me.
Then came the finality of Game of Thrones and while it didn’t hit me in the same emotional space as Endgame, the series end left a void. Not just in my television viewing but kind of with this story of A Song of Ice and Fire. We’re kind of sitting in this purgatory now as we wait to see if George RR Martin will ever open the gates and let us in. We are no closer to a release to the Winds of Winter then we were when the show passed A Dance With Dragons and that bums me out. The Kardashians are more likely to win an Emmy then we are to actually see this series completed, so the ending of the HBO series took a lot out of me. And some of you. The backlash to the final season was real and conflicting and draining. I did a lot of defending of this final season and I stand by it. One can’t downplay just how much finality takes its toll on a person. Especially with a television series. No show goes on forever unless you’re The Simpsons, so it’s like going into a relationship knowing you’re going to break up after seven years. Who would date like that?!
Leaving the door open three inches in Stranger Things was an unexpected emotional “gotcha” that I still haven’t quite recovered from. Anytime a character “dies” (come on, there’s no way he is) and they end the season with an emotional voice-over from said dead character it’s a given that I will quietly sob on my couch while my cat stares at me and judges. It’s almost automatic.
And we haven’t even gotten to the final Star Wars movie of the Skywalker Saga. I don’t know what else I could possibly have to give and then Netflix drops this bomb of a Breaking Bad movie on me. Suddenly it feels like everything else in 2019 has been a warmup. Cheeseburgers, melted thrones, and sacrificing parents play as appetizers to the main course. The possible redemption of Jesse Pinkman.
Once the announcement was made, I was compelled to re-watch Breaking Bad almost immediately. It had been a while, I wanted to brush up, and I wasn’t currently watching anything. I was in between shows after some fantastic summer binging. The Breaking Bad re-watch seemed like a no brainer and instantly drew me back into New Mexico as I prepared for the return of Jesse Pinkman. I didn’t need much here as the concept sold itself. We’ve discussed in the past how trailers oftentimes give away too much and I didn’t need that here. All I had to know was Aaron Paul was going to be reprising Jesse Pinkman and that Vince Gilligan would be writing and directing. Sold. That easy.
The trailer that we got on Sunday during the Emmys was just an added bonus. It was enough for me just to get a glimpse of Pinkman. The tension was through the roof. You can feel the paranoia oozing off of Jesse as he looked in the rearview mirror. We got to hear the world come to terms with Walter White’s final actions. We went back and watched the ending and counted how many Nazis were killed. We were left with a “person of interest” and the whispers of the Breaking Bad theme. And that was enough to give me chills and to make me want to invest harder in my re-watch. We’re talking calling out of work “sick” levels of investment.
Waking up today I wasn’t expecting anything else. Honestly, my heart was set on the Last of Us II announcement coming from Sony and Naughty Dog. I had watched the teaser a few times just to soak in the fell of this movie like an RV battery-saving sponge. Just to be in that moment again with Jesse seemingly free and the world hunting him. Then I went on Instagram and everything changed.
Did I need this trailer? No… but also yes. In fact, I didn’t know just how badly I needed this trailer. All my fears of being emotionally spent faded away like the dirt on Jesse’s back down the drain. I knew in an instant that nothing else that happened this year would eclipse the emotional impact of watching El Camino. I know this because this trailer, this trailer broke me in a way that Endgame, Stranger Things, and Game of Thrones hadn’t. I was heartbroken but mostly afraid for Jesse Pinkman. I wanted to throw up and cry.
Breaking Bad ends with the death of Walter White, bleeding out on the floor of another super meth lab. Before he died though Walt rescued Jesse from his Neo-Nazi imprisonment, and some could argue that Walt freed him based on guilt while others could argue that his motivations where typical selfish Walter White. Using Jesse one more time to pull the trigger because Walter was too weak to do it himself. We were meant to feel hopeful watching that El Camino drive through that fence while Jesse Pinkman laughed and cried at his new freedom. The El Camino trailer reminds us that the wake of Walter White now falls on the shoulders of Jesse Pinkman. And it makes me hate Heisenberg even more.
What I love the most about this trailer is that it felt like Breaking Bad. We had beautiful time-lapsed shots of New Mexico that were a staple of the show. You can already see that Vince Gilligan meticulously picked his color schemes. The locations and landscapes felt familiar. In an instant, this didn’t feel like a possible cash grab but rather a genuine extension of the universe centered on the heart and soul of these characters. This trailer was more about atmosphere then information. A flex that sucked you back in before you could even resist.
Of course, we’re smart enough to connect the dots. With Hank’s death, Jesse no longer has a deal with the police and becomes the number one suspect of the Neo-Nazi Meth Lab Massacre. It’s not fair but how much of Jesse’s life has actually been fair? This movie is about the world hunting for Jesse Pinkman with news bulletins and police searches, as Jesse looks to find peace within himself. Whether that’s by giving himself in or getting revenge on the rest of the Nazi gang, is yet to be seen. But Jesse Pinkman died out in the desert when Walter White gave him up and El Camino could be Jesse trying to reclaim a part of his soul. If there’s any of it left at this point.
I wasn’t ready for this. I have shed my pop culture tears this year and I don’t know what else I have to give but I do know that it belongs to Jesse Pinkman, Vince Gilligan, and El Camino. Breaking Bad is one of the greatest stories I’ve ever encountered and El Camino went from being a question mark to a gift. I don’t know how this plays out but I do know that it ends with my tears. And I’m ready to be hurt again.