Warning: Spoilers for El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie follow
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie was released on Netflix this past Friday, continuing the story of the widely acclaimed series. The film serves as a satisfying send-off for Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), one of the central characters of the series whose fate was unclear following the dramatic series finale.
El Camino takes place soon after Jesse’s escape from the neo-Nazi compound where he was tortured and forced to cook meth. With the death of his captors and Walter White (Bryan Cranston), his former drug-dealing associate, Jesse now finally has the chance to get the life he always wanted. However, with no money and the police hot on his trail, Jesse is forced to call on old friends and acquaintances from his dark past to escape. In comparison to his (usually) goodhearted nature, Jesse is emotionally disturbed throughout the film, as he suffers from survivor’s guilt and is haunted by the PTSD brought on by his brutal imprisonment. As he desperately searches for money to pay for a new identity, he is constantly outmanned and outgunned. Much like Breaking Bad, this film is a slow burn. It builds up to its conclusion slowly but surely, with many tense moments in between. All of this leads to an intense standoff between Jesse and one of the people who helped keep him captive for a large sum of money. Despite his track record for handling stressful situations poorly, Jesse is able to get the jump on those who stand in the way of his path to freedom, much like his mentor, Walter, who was always one step ahead of his foes. Once Jesse gets the money he needs, he is finally able to get some sense of closure in his past life and relocates to Alaska, where he drives off in the sunset as a new man.
El Camino had been in the works ever since the finale of Breaking Bad, as creator Vince Gilligan had been thinking about a proper epilogue for Jesse for quite some time. Then, in 2017, the tenth anniversary of the show, Gilligan pitched the idea of a movie centering around Jesse to Paul, who was immediately on board. The movie was filmed in complete secrecy in late 2018, with some extreme measures being taken to ensure that nothing about the film would leak. Gilligan spoke about Jesse’s importance to the Breaking Bad story, explaining, “The thing about Jesse in this movie — that makes me very happy about it — is he’s not the Jesse who we met in 2008. He has grown up a lot. On a plot level, this movie’s about him escaping, but on some other level, it’s about him growing up. At least, that’s the intention. He was always, it snuck up on us, in a very stealthy fashion, the moral center of Breaking Bad. Once we realized that in the writers room, that became very important to us. I think on some fundamental level, you just want to see this poor kid get away.”
There are many Breaking Bad cameos sprinkled throughout El Camino, with familiar faces appearing frequently to advance Jesse’s story arc. What was likely the most important cameo was the reuniting of Walter and Jesse in a flashback to when they were stranded in the desert. As they eat lunch in a hotel diner, Walter laments about waiting too long to do anything special with his life and advises Jesse not to wait as he did. As Jesse moves on to his new life, he now has a chance to do just that.