What response essays are has been been discussed in great length in a previous post. However, to best consolidate the knowledge of how to write a response essay, it’s necessary to look at a good response essay example. To summarize, writing a response essay requires a careful and precise observation and analysis of the primary material, followed by a deliberation on the organization and style with which the essay will be written, and finally concluding with the very write-up of the essay itself, with all the significant factors considered. The most vital element of the response essay is the output of the writer. Simply stating what is clear in the material is not enough. A true response essay entails a personal aspect that distinguishes this particular essay from another, even if both write about the same material. The best way to illustrate this is through an example of response essay.
In the example of response essay that follows, the source material being analyzed is a film entitled El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. Certainly, it is a different medium than a short story or novel, which are textual. Nevertheless, the horizon of response is still vast, limited only by the writer itself. Hopefully, with patience and meticulousness, the following piece may serve as a great response essay example for future similar write-ups.
Redemption and Rebirth: A Response Essay on Vince Gilligan’s El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
As of this writing, it has been 6 years since Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad came to a close with the airing of its series finale. Seeing the atonement and apparent demise of the methamphetamine drug lord Walter White, the episode gave way to roaring applause from people around the world who consider the show as among the greatest of all time. Satisfactory as it is, however, it spawned many questions about what happened. Did Walter White really die? And what happened to his partner, Jesse Pinkman? Fans were left in the dark until this year with the release of “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.” The film as a whole serves as a sequel to Breaking Bad and the answer to the many questions raised since the show’s end. Without even watching it first, however, the film itself already poses a challenge. Incredible as Vince Gilligan is as the creator of Breaking Bad, however, it is difficult to give a definitive end to a great show, let alone one of the greatest. There is also the matter of anticipation: will it live up to the long wait and the hype of all who enjoyed the show? The answer is a resounding yes: El Camino is an extremely satisfactory movie that exceeded expectations while remaining faithful to the essence of Breaking Bad.
El Camino revolves around Jesse Pinkman, a former student of Walter White with whom he partnered in the methamphetamine drug trade. In the show, he was enslaved and forced by a gang to produce meth for years until he was saved by Walter White. The film follows Jesse as he escapes the compound while driving the Chevrolet El Camino of one of his captors, breaking open the gate of the chain link fence enclosing the compound as he screams in celebration of his newfound freedom. However, it is one that he has to fight for, as the entire country goes into a manhunt to bring him in for his involvement in the drug trade. Jesse manages to go to the house of his old friends, Badger and Skinny Pete, who helped him unconditionally. He remembers a very secretive service that allows criminals to start a new life by assuming a meticulously fabricated identity - it was one that he tried before but cancelled. Because it requires a large payment, Jesse sets out to the house of Todd Alquist, one of his former captors, to look for the secret stash of money that Jesse remembers he keeps. With perseverance and luck, Jesse finds it, but gets into a falling out with two people, Neil and Casey, who are also looking for the stash. With some negotiation, Jesse was able to keep a sizable portion of the stash and proceeds to Ed Galbraith, the one who renders the aforementioned services. Unfortunately, Jesse’s past sudden cancellation of his service costs him double the usual price of his current transaction, leaving him $1,800 short. Desperate, Jesse goes to Neil, asking him nicely for the said amount. The latter responds with a gun duel challenge: if Jesse wins, he takes all of Neil’s money. Jesse reigns victorious, and with the money given to him, he managed to have Ed smuggle him to Alaska where he gets to start life anew.
For El Camino to be considered a deserving sequel to Breaking Bad, it should first be demonstrated that bears its essence very well - and El Camino succeeds completely in multiple departments. It demonstrates brilliant cinematography, slow yet steady pacing that entices the audience to observe a keen attention to detail, exceptional sound design and unparalleled performance on the part of the actors. All in all, the movie feels like an episode of Breaking Bad, in a great way. What makes El Camino fit perfectly into the Breaking Bad universe, however, is that it taps into the very core of what the show is about: vagueness and uncertainty. Breaking Bad has characters act in ways that are deeply psychologically rooted and unpredictable. Moreover, events play out as if the main characters are never in full control of the situation. The result is a constantly suspenseful and shocking continuity that is very well thought about and put together. In this regard, too, El Camino follows the steps of Breaking Bad without fail.
The film deviates from the show, however, in relation to their main protagonists. Breaking Bad revolves around the actions of Walter. Jesse, though he is Walter’s partner, is a recipient - and, often, a victim - of his actions and of circumstance, an individual of passivity. El Camino gives Jesse the agency that he has long warranted to have. Unfortunately, it is one that he has to earn. Jesse shares a similarity with Walter in one regard: they both desire to redeem themselves after a past life of sin and crime. Walter fulfilled his desire through the massacre of the gang that betrayed him which ended and his death and Jesse’s freedom. Jesse, however, with a long life still ahead of him, wants to redeem himself through freedom to start anew.
Among the strongest points of El Camino - and another point of deviation from Breaking Bad - is its progression. Breaking Bad is marked by a downward spiral: everyone slowly deteriorates morally and psychologically, and everything just seems to get worse over time. El Camino, on the other hand, sees a slow ascent. This is seen through Jesse’s character development, accompanied by the conception of freedom, throughout the course of the film. The first scene of the escape shows Jesse in a quite animalistic state: highly unkempt and dirty, with hair grown uncontrollably, and very frantic. Imprisoned for years, Jesse felt alone. His initial encounter with Badger and Skinny Pete was that of silence on his part, like prey tired from a long chase by his predators. His solitudinous temperance, however, soon opened up as his old friends persevered in talking to him; he no longer lingered in silence, but spoke to them like fellow human beings. The change is marked by him taking a shower and shaving his hair to signify the start of his coping from his long abuse. Jesse is slowly regaining humanity; again, however, it is one that he has to fight for.
Jesse’s struggle for his ultimate freedom is characterized by flashbacks. El Camino returns to many points of the Breaking Bad continuity, but in perspectives never seen before. The very first scene of the film is a flashback, with Jesse talking to Mike, another partner, about the lives that they will lead when they each receive their share of the fortune. It is Mike, in fact, who suggested to Jesse about moving to Alaska as a place for the latter to fulfill his desire of leading a quiet, peaceful life. At the same time, however, Mike told Jesse that he cannot escape what he did in the past, bearing more weight to Jesse’s struggle for freedom in the film. Other flashbacks show Jesse’s time under the abusive hands of the gang. El Camino showed Jesse being kept in a literal cage like an animal, which strengthens the notion that the film started with Jesse’s animalistic state. Simultaneously, it is also one of Jesse’s strongest motivators to prevent imprisonment under the country’s own jail: he does not want to be imprisoned like an animal again.
Throughout the film, the tone of the flashbacks progressed from dark and traumatic to nostalgic and youthful. The most endearing of the flashbacks are at near the end of the film, starting at the point before Jesse engages Neil in a duel. While hiding, Jesse picks up a beetle with his hand, a callback to the memorable scene in Breaking Bad where Jesse does the same thing, both indicating Jesse’s youthful innocence. That time Skinny Pete crushes the beetle when Jesse puts it down. This time, it is unknown what happened to the beetle, signifying a suspenseful yet subtle omen of Jesse’s moral integrity: does it die too like Walter’s morality did in Breaking Bad? Will Jesse’s youthful innocence cease with what he is about to do? The situation seems to point to the direction where it is the case that Jesse is on the same downward spiral in Breaking Bad. However, there is a stronger case for the contrary, proven ultimately with the last flashbacks of the film. The first of such flashbacks shows Walter and Jesse conversing in the cafe. Walter in this flashback, however, is still with his naive, squeamish temperance, while Jesse is immature and rowdy. They are unsure of the future to come. Their only concern was to earn the money from their meth production. As a whole, however, this flashback runs contrary to the first one in the beginning of the film, as Walter expresses to Jesse how lucky he is that “[he] didn’t have to wait [his] whole life to do something special,” owing to Jesse’s youth in contrast to Walter’s old age. This ties in to the last flashbacks of El Camino with Jesse and his former girlfriend Jane Margolis, who tells Jesse that she once was swayed by the hands of the universe, but now she realizes that it is much better to take control of her own life.
Both flashbacks are an antithesis to the very first one in the film, all of which consolidates the greatest point of El Camino: it is a story of rebirth through progression by regression. Jesse’s pursuit of freedom is also a pursuit to return to a life where everything had not gotten horrible, where he is free to live a life that he has always wanted. The final scene exemplifies this point. In juxtaposition, once more, with the beginning, where Jesse is shown dirty, unkempt, and screaming in celebration for something uncertain in the dark of the night, Jesse in the last scene is shown clean, calm, and smiling wholesomely, surrounded by the bright, white snow around him, confident about the future to come. El Camino, as a whole, is a juxtaposition to Walter’s story. Whereas Walter’s story ends in death, Jesse’s story ends in rebirth. Admittedly, Jesse’s life is still faced with uncertainty. It is unknown if, at some point, Jesse’s fake identity will soon be discovered and whether he will return to a life of crime. What is for sure, however, is that he is finally able to take control of his own life. El Camino, ultimately, provides the perfect conclusion to the main Breaking Bad storyline, with an incredibly rich execution of storytelling, character development, and faithfulness to the core of Breaking Bad - a love letter and concluding remark to one of the greatest shows of all time.
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