Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan is making a movie that takes place in the same fictional universe as his beloved AMC crime series, Deadline reported yesterday (Nov. 6). It marks the second extension of the Breaking Bad story after the critically-acclaimed prequel series, Better Call Saul, which Gilligan also co-created and produces.
Details are scarce, except that the film, which has been filming under the code name Greenbrier, will be in some way connected to Breaking Bad. Gilligan will reportedly write, executive produce, and direct. It’s unclear where viewers will be able to see the film—on TV, in theaters, or streaming online. A brief synopsis for the film says it “tracks the escape of a kidnapped man and his quest for freedom,” the Albuquerque Journal reported, citing the film office of New Mexico, where Breaking Bad filmed.
As plenty of Breaking Bad fans have already speculated, that synopsis sounds conspicuously like a continuation of Jesse Pinkman’s (Aaron Paul’s) story. Gilligan’s original Emmy-winning series followed the transformation of Walter White (Bryan Cranston) from a high school chemistry teacher into a notorious drug kingpin known as “Heisenberg.” Along the way, he recruits Pinkman—one of his former students—to cook methamphetamine. The last we saw Pinkman, he was driving hysterically off into the night, finally free from the clutches of a gang that had been forcing him to cook meth.
Slashfilm is reporting that the film will indeed be about Pinkman (with Paul reprising the role) and his journey following the Breaking Bad finale, which aired in 2013 (Neither Gilligan nor anyone involved with the project has confirmed this). Pinkman’s hopeful, somewhat ambiguous ending was pitch-perfect—a lot like the series as a whole. But just because Gilligan has rightfully earned viewers’ trust doesn’t mean another film in this franchise is a good idea.
There are ways creators can make new chapters of beloved series actually work. Better Call Saul, a spin-off series about lawyer Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) before we know him as the supporting character Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad, works so well precisely because it’s a self-contained story. It has very little to do with the primary story in Breaking Bad, other than the two sharing a few characters. They are thematically and stylistically connected but remain two separate entities that one can appreciate entirely independent of each other.
Maybe the new film will find some way to do that, too. Maybe it won’t. Maybe Gilligan is better off not tempting fate.
For the most part, movies that continue the story of a long-running TV series aren’t very good. Just ask fans of Sex and the City, Entourage, or The X-Files how they feel about those shows’ movie sequels. Of course, none of them had master storyteller Gilligan involved. And all were mostly created because fans (or their networks) were clamoring for them. This Breaking Bad film, however, seems at least partly driven by genuine artistic impulse—Gilligan wants to tell more of this story. It’s not just a cynical cash grab to exploit intellectual property while it’s still popular.
Even with these things in Gilligan’s favor, it’s hard not to consider the many drawbacks. The question after these TV brand extensions are made is usually, “Why? Why did we need that again?” Those who thought they wanted more of a story quickly realize that perhaps it should have been left alone. The last thing any Breaking Bad fan wants is for a sequel to damage the show’s spotless legacy. That doesn’t mean creators should value a show’s legacy over taking risks and being ambitious storytellers, but Gilligan’s series is a special case, isn’t it? It’s a nearly perfect story as is. What more needs to be explored?
It’d be a mistake to add onto Pinkman’s ending. We might not know exactly what’s next for the character, but we have a pretty good idea. His final Breaking Bad moments were delightful and deeply cathartic. That should be enough.
Breaking Bad was a great show, with an unusually great ending, and now it’s over. Even (and perhaps especially) the best shows should be allowed to rest peacefully in the television graveyard.