The Breaking Bad universe is set to expand even further: Tuesday night, The Albuquerque Journal reported that series creator Vince Gilligan is working on a Breaking Bad film with AMC and Sony Pictures Television. Details of what, exactly, the movie will be about are still scarce, though The Hollywood Reporter reports that it “tracks the escape of a kidnapped man and his quest for freedom” and is explicitly set in the Breaking Bad world. (Whether that means the action will be set in Albuquerque or feature characters from the original series, or both, remains to be seen.)
There’s a lot to take stock of here. No sooner had fans started wondering how many seasons may remain of the excellent, Emmy-nominated prequel series Better Call Saul than they were getting a Breaking Bad companion film. The news is wild, for (mostly) good reasons. Let’s dive into the pros and cons of another extension of Gilligan’s crime-infested dust bowl.
Pro: More Breaking Bad
There’s no need to beat around the tumbleweed. Breaking Bad was one of the singular television experiences of this century, a thrilling dive into the odious soul residing in an otherwise nondescript chemistry teacher. The villains—from the frenetic Tuco Salamanca to the cooly pragmatic Gus Fring to Walt at his most Heisenbergian—were compelling. You could go from wanting to punch Aaron Paul’s Jesse Pinkman in the face to wanting to hug him in the span of minutes. The increasingly tense White family meals were basically breakfast propaganda. The show was great.
Capturing those familiar thrills—albeit with some memorable new characters for a fresh story—would undoubtedly be a hit for AMC. Whether the network opts to air it exclusively on the cable channel or through a theatrical distribution remains to be seen.
Con: More Breaking Bad
Oversaturation is something all expanding (and cherished) cinematic worlds need to grapple with. Consider this: The Marvel movies aren’t as prone to oversaturation because they’ve learned how to play with a handful of genres (and also the movies can literally leave the confines of Earth), whereas the Star Wars films are more prone to oversaturation among audiences (see: Solo: A Star Wars Story) because the projects follow very familiar intergalactic beats.
To that end: How much of a Breaking Bad universe can really be changed? The two shows, and, judging by the vague details, this new project are all crime-related sagas that are probably set in New Mexico. I would say there’s a 50-50 chance that the movie will include a member of the Salamanca family, as Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul have before. The biggest criticisms with Better Call Saul are the moments when it feels like a retread of Breaking Bad: As Entertainment Weekly’s Darren Franich wrote after the Season 4 finale, “It feels like Breaking Bad is starting to become a problem for Better Call Saul, an easy lever to pull when it’s been too long since a cool action scene, a little leg to show any Bad fans who aren’t interested in which ski resort Schweikart & Cokely chooses for its annual teambuilding exercise.” A Breaking Bad movie about a guy (probably) escaping from bad people won’t necessarily alleviate those concerns.
Pro: Gilligan Hasn’t Done Wrong Yet
Remember when Vince Gilligan announced that he was working on a Breaking Bad prequel series about … the sleazy lawyer who represented petty criminals? It didn’t sound like the most thrilling premise—how much hidden depth could a snake oil salesman like Saul Goodman really have? But look where we are now. Better Call Saul is among the best shows of the past four years, and despite numerous Breaking Bad callbacks and moments of fan service, the show works on its own terms. Pre-Saul Jimmy McGill forging documents and smarming his way through the intricacies of elder care law has been as thrilling to watch as Walt’s devolution into Heisenberg. The show is also boosted by memorable new characters, including Jimmy’s brother, Chuck (Michael McKean was robbed of an Emmy for this speech), and his on-off love interest, Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn, also great).
In September, Guillermo del Toro of all people tweeted that Better Call Saul has eclipsed Breaking Bad, and [whispers] I think I might agree. But even the fact that “Saul over Breaking Bad” doesn’t seem far-fetched speaks to the prequel’s sustained brilliance. We never should’ve doubted Gilligan and cocreator Peter Gould’s ability to create something just as resonant with a character we thought we’d figured out. And now there’s no reason we shouldn’t give a Breaking Bad movie the benefit of the doubt.
Con: AMC’s in the Movie Business Now?
If you’re feeling a bit of déjà vu over the words “AMC is working on a feature film based on a popular TV series,” well, that’s because it was just three days ago when the network revealed plans for a Rick Grimes–focused Walking Dead movie trilogy. Considering the absolutely ridiculous fact that Rick sustained a vicious rebar-inflicted wound, blew up a bridge that sent him flying into the river, and yet somehow survived—and objective truth that The Walking Dead hasn’t been able to produce a compelling TV show for years and is now trying to make movies—this feels like a bummer for everyone but Andrew Lincoln’s checkbook. Give Rick and his low-key terrible planning a natural end!
Of course, Breaking Bad is no Walking Dead—in that it is great, and ended when it should’ve and never turned into a pile of rotten garbage—but they are two of AMC’s most popular shows, and they’re both getting feature-film extensions. The Walking Dead empire is much more ambitious, as chief content officer (lol) Scott Gimple has plans for other films and TV series set in the zombie apocalypse. But AMC’s general direction—movie adaptations of its finest television IP—seems like a network’s shortsighted solution to the streaming giants’ increase of original programming. I don’t blame Vince Gilligan for wanting to create more Breaking Bad–related programming—he’s frequently stated how much fun he’s had diving into that world—but as for AMC, it seems that it’s just throwing nostalgia darts at the wall and seeing what’ll stick.
Personally, I’d settle for more new original series like Lodge 49 and The Terror, and for AMC to stay in the HBO-FX “we don’t do that much but what we do is pretty good” lane, but, hey, we’ll see if anyone hasn’t clawed out their own eyes by the time a third Rick Grimes movie rolls around.
Pro: This Has to Be About Jesse Pinkman … Right?
I mean, the film is reportedly about a dude who escaped a kidnapping. Breaking Bad ends with Jesse killing Nazi Jesse Plemons and driving off toward an uncertain future—on a “quest for freedom,” one could say.
I am very excited about the possibility of a Jesse Pinkman movie, if only so that I no longer have to pretend that Aaron Paul’s Need for Speed is Breaking Bad canon.