A TALE OF TWO JESSES
Today we are going to do a two-for-one with a quick synopsis of Netflix’s El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie and HBO’S The Righteous Gemstones.
*SPOILERS ARE EVERYWHERE
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
This two hour Netflix production, written and directed by Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul creator Vince Gilligan, picks up where Breaking Bad left off – with Jesse Pinkman in an El Camino speeding away from a dead Walter White, the meth factory compound, and his Nazi captors. Meh.
As the movie progresses towards Jesse’s eventual escape to Alaska, the viewer is treated to a reunion of characters from Gilligan’s Albuquerque universe. The reunions (through both flashback and narrative) are more like a series of well done vignettes that tie the story together. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed El Camino and getting reacquainted with Mike, Badger, Skinny Pete, and Walter, but did we need these reunions? Was this movie needed?
We didn’t and it wasn’t.
If you read this blog, I hope you have noticed that I try to have measured and tempered reviews of the albums, television shows, and movies I review. I try to keep emotion out of the fold and to stay away from hot takes. Today, I am throwing that all out the window.
To be heard in your loudest Stephen A. Smith voice: JESSE PINKMAN IS A BAD PERSON, DESERVES THE BAD THINGS THAT HAPPENED TO HIM, AND DOESN’T DESERVE REDEMPTION.
There, I said it.
Listen, I understand the beauty of Gilligan’s writing is that we are shown how good people break bad and turn heel. I get it. Whether it is Jimmy McGill blaming himself for his brother’s death and turning into Saul Goodman, Walter White receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis and becoming a drug king, or Mike Ehrmantraut avenging his son’s death and becoming part of Los Pollos Hermanos, the viewer can see how heroes become villains.
This crew of drug dealing and murderous narcissists deserve their fates.
Even though Jesse was raised by crappy, absentee parents who were trapped in a loveless marriage, this was no excuse to grow up and sell meth and murder people. Jesse was always Jesse and I would argue that meeting Walt allowed Jesse to become the all-encompassing shitty person that he had been all along. Don’t believe me? Let’s review Jesse’s list of misdeeds:
- SOLD. METH.
- Responsible for Andrea’s death. Sure, he didn’t physically pull the trigger but his body of work put Andrea in this position. Brock now has no parents, is headed to foster care and his life is ruined. Jesse’s shitty letter can’t change that.
- Took part in the great dessert train heist that lead to the death of the kid with the dirt bike.
- Shot Gale in the face.
That is a thorough enough list for me to write off Jesse Pinkman.
I mostly enjoyed El Camino and found it to be very well done, but couldn’t get away from the fact that Jesse didn’t deserve salvation. Sure, it was cool to see Jesse outsmarting every character he encountered. That doesn’t warrant redemption.
It was simultaneously heartbreaking to see the torture Jesse endured at the hands of Uncle Jack and the rest of the Nazis. I just don’t believe that torture made amends for the large amount of victims left in Jesse Pinkman’s murderous, drug fueled wake.
If you in the belief that Jesse was indeed redeemable, please get at me in the comments.
The Righteous Gemstones
The Righteous Gemstones is latest collaboration between creators Danny McBride and Jody Hill, and what a collaboration it is. Following the heels of McBride and Hill’s previous work together (Eastbound & Down, Vice Principals), The Righteous Gemstones is a series about a famous, wealthy, and highly dysfunctional family of televangelists struggling to come to terms with the recent loss of matriarch Aimee-Leigh (Jennifer Nettles).
The Righteous Gemstones doesn’t take on the churchgoing evangelical community, but does take aim at the hypocrisy of mega rich, mega church leaders. The Gemstone family is well deserving of the scorn as it’s member are narcissists who live in a family compound, fly their private jet around the world, and lose focus on their original intention of saving souls.
Staring an ensemble cast (John Goodman Adam DeVine, Dermot Mulroney), the program mainly focuses on eldest Gemstone child Jesse (Dammy McBride) and a blackmail plot that threatens to derail the family legacy. Jesse realizes the harm his debauchery has caused and unlike Jesse Pinkman, Jesse Gemstone is penitent, works hard to right the wrongs he has committed, and makes amends by helping the poor. Contemplation and restitution is the true road to redemption, not fleeing to Alaska.
Complicating matters for the Gemstone family is the fact that estranged evangelical preacher and bother of Aimee-Leigh, ‘Baby’ Billy Freeman (Walton Goggins) is manipulating his way back into the family business. A thinly veiled con artists, ‘Baby’ Billy works his charm and works Gemstone daughter Judy (Eli Patterson) into his pervue, fracturing the Gemstone family dynamic further.
Patterson is the breakout star of TRG and steals EVERY scene she is in, even those shared with television royalty Goggins. Her character Judy is spoiled, narcissistic, dark, damaged, and unhinged and yet Patterson finds a way to make the audience root for her. In a particularly dark moment, Judy tells the story of a sexual assault that she engineered and to say Patterson sells it is an understatement.
The blackmail and Uncle Baby Billy plots fuel the majority of the laughs and eventually become intertwined in a moment that showcases TRG‘s trademark raunchy and dark hilarity. However, TRG shows a surprising amount of soul and depth in its character development and is a big step forward for McBride and Hill. On the surface, the Gemstones clan seem to be without redemption, but the character development and depth make them redeemable.
Unlike Jesse Pinkman.
METH LABS & MEGA CHURCHES
- Scott MacArthur plays villains both El Camino and TRG. He is believable and terrifying in both roles and I hope we see more of him soon.
- No Jimmy/Saul? That is a drag, but I guess we do have a whole entire series revolving around Bob Odenkirk’s unbelievably likable CRIMINAL Lawyer.
- You may notice Skyler Gisondo from Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet, where he also plays a neglected son. The kid’s got chops.
- El Camino was a great farewell for Robert Forster and I believe his scene with Aaron Paul in the vacuum repair store was the highlight of the movie. Happy Trails.
- ‘Guess what? I wore my cloggin’ shoes!’ Misbehavin‘ is the jam of the fall.