‘El Camino’ Composer Cooks Up His Thoughts On Revisiting The ‘Breaking Bad’ Finale

It’s been over half a decade since a dying Walter White (Bryan Cranston) took out a band of Nazis in a blaze of glory, while a sobbing Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) drove to freedom and an uncertain future. Seven years and one prequel series later, fans of AMC’s Breaking Bad finally know what happened right after the events of the show’s final episode, “Felina.”

***WARNING! The following contains spoilers for El Camino!***

That’s because the man behind the crystal blue madness, Vince Gilligan, wrote and directed a feature-length sequel to Breaking Bad. Titled “El Camino,” the film—named after the make of the car in which Jesse makes his escape—explores what the magnet-loving hooligan did following the events of Heisenberg’s death.

The movie (now streaming on Netflix and playing in certain theaters) is an unabashed love letter to the fans and brings back plenty of familiar faces and references in a move that only Tuco Salamanca could describe as “tight!”

However, the real question is how in the world did Gilligan & co. shoot, edit, and score the thing without anyone becoming any the wiser? We knew the project was in the works, sure, but we had no clue that it had been completed until Netflix dropped the first teaser and date announcement in late August.

“Well, I think all of this comes down to our pride and the collective group’s pride in the Breaking Bad universe and the things that Vince has created that we’ve been so lucky to work on,” El Camino’s composer, Dave Porter, told me during an interview.

Porter scored all five seasons of Breaking Bad and is currently the composer for the aforementioned prequel series, Better Call Saul, which explores the origins of Walt and Jesse’s sleazy attorney, Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk). A fifth, and possibly final, season of that show is currently in the works.

“I just think we care so much about the audience’s experience and their ability to enjoy it, that these things are really important to us,” Porter added. “I’m really lucky in this respect because I’m almost last in the process. Adding the music to the film is one of the last things that we do, so I got to be left blissfully in the dark for as long as possible. I’ve had to keep secrets for a relatively much shorter period of time than everyone else.”

Thanks to his work on Saul, Dave hasn’t really been removed from this universe. But since the music has metamorphosed over the course of 10-and-a-half years, it was still a unique challenge to return to the end of Breaking Bad when cyclically, he’s been getting closer to the start of it all.

“A lot of things have changed by Season 4 or Season 5. And the same [goes for] Better Call Saul. And so, I have evolved musically and the way we’re using music to help these stories over the years. It’s been kind of a linear thing. At the end of Breaking Bad, I started over with Saul and [came up] with something very unique for [that show], but as Saul has gotten closer to the Breaking Bad timeline, the music has gotten closer to where the music was when Breaking Bad begins,” he explained. “To revisit the El Camino story ... [I had to] jump back [on] half of that timeline to the end of Breaking Bad again and pick up from there. It was emotional in the sense that I think that was such an event for not only the show, but for everybody who worked with it. I said goodbye to those characters, so I never expected to get to revisit them or continue that story.”

And since Walt is no longer alive, the story becomes all about Jesse and his plans to cash up and get out of town...with some help from Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) and Badger (Matt Jones), of course. In a lot of ways, it feels a lot like a neo-Western about a lone and gunslinging outlaw trying to retain his freedom from the fuzz after a job gone wrong. This shift to Pinkman proved to be a fun exercise for Porter, who had always been placing more emphasis (and rightly so) on Cranston’s character.

“While [Jesse] was a very pivotal player in the series, he was not the most important figure in the series,” continued Dave. “And so, a chance to develop, musically, more in depth, the character of Jesse Pinkman, was exciting to me. Not that we didn’t explore him in great depth over the course of the series, but to be able to do it in a very focused way was unique and different from working on the series where there are more threads to follow and more characters to follow. We were moving back and forth more. To be able to spend that time and dedicate more time to him was intriguing, for sure, and exciting.”

Nonetheless, the memory of Jesse’s former teacher and business partner continues to haunt our main hero, who was too late in deciding he’d had enough of the death and destruction Walt left in his wake. As Porter pointed out:

“I think with or without Walter White, whether he’s present physically or not, his shadow looms large over everybody, especially Jesse. That was true in Breaking Bad and it’s certainly true still in El Camino. I think so much of the central storyline of all of these stories is about the consequences of bad decisions. Jesse’s certainly guilty of his own disastrous decisions, but he’s also greatly impacted by Walter White’s decisions—present, future, and past, so in that sense, I actually don’t think much changes. Jesse is in the predicament that he’s gotten himself into and how he’s able to move on in the story from that still very much relates to everything that has come previously.”

Despite joining the project so late in the process, Dave still had extensive conversations with Gilligan and together, they nearly ended up changing the musical lexicon of Breaking Bad.

“Vince was pretty open to anything and I certainly tried a lot of different things early on, but it became pretty clear pretty quick that there is something unifying about the sound of the series,” he continued. “It connects it all together and without that, I think something would have felt missing ... However, there are some things that we definitely did wanna do and some of that just has to be with the format of making a movie as opposed to making a TV series.”

What made El Camino so different from the shows, is that Porter had a lot more time with the music. Working beside Gilligan in his studio every week, he was able to really get those creative juices flowing and come up with a score that truly connotes the cinematic nature of this two-hour sequel.

“It was important to all of us that this be a really great theatrical experience in addition to a great TV experience,” he said. “And so, when I think you approach that from a score perspective, it’s a little different. The Breaking Bad [score] is, at times, very, very spare and I think the El Camino score remains true to that, but there is complexity and a depth to the music that is fuller and greater in order to fill more sonic space in a theater. That was something we were definitely after.”

Surprisingly, El Camino doesn’t have as many needle drops as the show that inspired it. Reveling in Porter’s pounding soundtrack, the film uses its licensed tracks sparingly, whether to underscore the oblivious insanity of Todd Alquist (a returning Jesse Plemons) or add an exclamation point to the end credits, which leave us on a high and optimistic note.

“I think it’s fair to say that that falls into the same category of things that worked so well in Breaking Bad and we weren’t looking to break the mold there,” Porter said. “The I view it—and I think Aron Paul has said [the same thing]—is that it’s a continuation of a story that we know and love, and it’s not something that I imagined that I needed until I saw it. And now I can’t imagine the Breaking Bad universe without it.”

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I’m a freelance entertainment writer based in Philadelphia. I've been writing since before I can really remember and in addition to my pieces for Forbes, you can catch

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