El Camino

It wasn’t great, but at least you find out what happens to Jesse Pinkman.

This is what happens when you give someone too much money. Not Jesse, but Vince Gilligan. What was notable about “Breaking Bad” was how fast and flat it was shot, demonstrating the capital constraints of basic cable.

And “Breaking Bad” did not really flourish until it was on Netflix, deep into the show’s run. Yes, it did look a bit better thereafter, but still…

“El Camino” is gorgeous. And the camera angles can be startling. With all that cash, Gilligan could deliver what he could not before, a great look, the only thing being the story, the execution of the plot, was not up to the visuals.

Now one thing that was great is there was no catching up and no explaining. No trailer before illustrating what happened previously and no amplification of references. You were supposed to know everything, who the people were, how they figured in, the plot…

This is so different from movies. Most movies are only seen once, it’s all got to be explained. But when something can be repeated and analyzed on the tube which is no longer that, but a flat screen of LED or OLED or…you’re immersed in the medium, in the story.

You’re shocked when Badger and Skinny Pete reappear. You haven’t thought of them for a long time and they look older. But they’re still the same doofuses. And Skinny Pete’s reverence of Jesse is notable, we’ve all got our heroes, yet most people don’t know they serve that role for others.

Pinkman/Aaron Paul also looks older, he now looks mature as opposed to immature, but you adjust.

Which leaves us with the plot.

People were looking forward to “El Camino.” But the reviews were not spectacular, at least not in the mainstream media, and for those of us whose time is as valuable as our money, we still pay attention to these things. I watch nothing without checking Rotten Tomatoes first.

But Rotten Tomatoes gives “El Camino” pretty good ratings.

You see the first hour is slow. And you can’t figure out exactly where it’s going.

But when you do, after Pinkman visits Robert Forster, which is so weird, since he just died, the movie picks up, you’re engaged, how is it going to play out?

Now I’ve got a free subscription to Apple TV+ because I got an iPhone 11 Pro Max (isn’t Promax an energy bar?) You don’t have to buy one, unless you’re still stuck in buttonland, as in an iPhone 7 or 8, sure, the processor is faster than on last year’s phone, and sure the camera is superior, but it’s hard to sense the speed and I haven’t taken a photo since I got it. But I signed up for the new phone every year program, now that the discounts are done. I mean what device do I use more than my iPhone? It’s worth it to have a new one, at least to me! And, I bought the Apple coverage for breakage and loss, so I’ve got peace of mind. I know, I know, it’s a bad deal economically, but I don’t want to have to worry about my phone.

So, Apple TV+ is gonna have a large number of subscribers because everybody who gets a new Apple product will get a year’s free subscription.

As for HBO and Disney’s offerings…

The truth is Nickelodeon has faded, there are so many options for children’s entertainment these days. So, parents don’t have to rush to sign up for Disney Plus, even though it’s so damn cheap. The problem is getting people to sign up to begin with…keeping them engaged, as in paying monthly, is much less difficult.

As for HBO Max… $14.99 is actually more than Netflix, at least for most subscribers. So the channel will be hit dependent. As for decades of previous HBO product…that’s been available for years, it’s not such a draw.

My point is there’s a first mover advantage. It’s kind of like Spotify and Apple Music. People know and trust Apple, but Spotify broke ground first, and although Apple Music’s subscriber number is about the same as Spotify’s in the U.S., it lags greatly in the rest of the world, and will probably never catch up.

Although Spotify and Apple Music feature essentially the same product, which is not the case with these streaming television services.

So, I expect Disney Plus and HBO Max to have millions of subscribers instantly, but it will be a long hard slog to reach Netflix’s numbers, which I don’t think they’ll ever reach, only Disney Plus has a chance, not only because of the price but those damn Marvel movies, which the brain dead watch over and over again.

But streaming television is not about high concept popcorn flicks. Streaming television is about story, it’s about depth.

The world is hooked on story. He or she who can tell a tale well is the winner.

So you’ve got to give Vince Gilligan credit. He’s a great storyteller. But “El Camino” had too much weighing on it, if it were shot quickly on the cheap with less aforethought it would have been better.

Then again, the best part is when Pinkman has breakfast with Heisenberg, proving that “Breaking Bad”‘s success was based on Bryan Cranston and his interaction with Aaron Paul.

So I’ll watch the next “Breaking Bad” movie, if there is one, I know these characters, I’m invested in them.

And what I like most about Vince Gilligan is he respects his viewers. You don’t find this in studio movies, nor on network TV, not even on the channels like HBO and Showtime which dribble their series out, making you wait. Talk about getting blue balls…

We live in an on demand culture, we want it all and we want it now. If you try to artificially prevent this, the joke is on you. People are not gonna buy CDs after they’ve encountered streaming. Of course some will, but most people are addicted to the new paradigm.

And the great thing is if you touch someone, all they want is more. This is what purveyors don’t understand, they’re all caught up in marketing, second-guessing the viewer. Deliver something spectacular, especially on streaming television, and people will find it and spread the word about it, because almost everybody has a subscription, everybody’s searching for stuff to watch and when they have a EUREKA! viewing experience they want to tell everyone about it.

Now a great show does not let your mind wander. And mine did a bit during the first hour or so of “El Camino,” but the concepts are there to ingest and contemplate. I haven’t thrown my popcorn in the trash and forgotten about it. Actually, now that I know what happens, I almost want to watch “El Camino” again, to soak up the other elements.

As for the card to Brock Cantillo…

Gilligan knew viewers would freeze the frame, this is not a movie theatre where you miss something, where the story has to be up front and center. “El Camino” is deep. There’s tons of explanation online, like “Esquire”‘s article delineating all the “Easter Eggs”:

A Comprehensive Guide To Every Breaking Bad Easter Egg in El Camino

It doesn’t really matter what I have to say about “El Camino,” if you watched “Breaking Bad” you must see it, and will.

But to tell you the truth, I’d be more interested in a movie about “The Americans.”

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