Warning: This post contains spoilers for El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.
The last time we saw Breaking Bad‘s Jesse Pinkman, he was simultaneously high on life and severely screwed. But what happens to Walter White’s protégé after he escapes the meth compound in the series finale?
The story is rich in detail for diehard fans, and I’ve tried to relay as much as possible here. But if you want the bare bones Breaking Bad basics, here you go: Jesse goes through various capers to try to get the money he needs to start a new life as someone else. Eventually, he succeeds, and starts over again in Alaska. Along the way, flashbacks (composed of new footage) give us glimpses of some of the series’ most beloved characters.
But the details are the fun part, no? Read on for the major action of Netflix’s El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.
MIKE’S ALIVE! OH, WAIT — NEVERMIND | In case you’ve forgotten, Jesse’s final scene in the show’s swan song showed him beaten and out of his mind, cackling with laughter and crying as he sped away from the compound where he’d been held captive and forced to cook meth for Uncle Jack’s gang of Nazis. But the first shot of the movie is of Jesse, clean and sporting a leather jacket, serenely standing by a river. “You know he’s not going to be happy,” a man’s voice says off screen, and… it’s Mike! The meeting takes place in Season 5; they discuss what they’ll do with the money coming their way. Mike tells the younger man he’d go to Alaska if he were him. Jesse nods. “Start fresh,” he says. “Put things right.” Mike’s face is grave. “No, sorry kid,” he replies. “That’s the one thing you can never do.”
Cut to Jesse in the car right after the events of the finale: He’s filthy, scarred and slightly out of his mind as he yells and cries as he speeds away from the site of his torture. Upon seeing police lights in the distance, he pulls over and grabs a gun, but the cop cars pass him without incident. He’s so emaciated and shaken that when he arrives at Badger and Skinny Pete’s place, Pete doesn’t recognize his old friend. But the guys quickly snap into action: They get his car off the street and some food in his belly, then he collapses into bed. While he sleeps like the dead, a televised press conference recaps the end of Walt’s empire and mentions that there’s a person of interest (aka Jesse), but it’s unclear if that POI was involved in the carnage or “liberated” from the property.
The next morning, Jesse has a few violent flashbacks to being kept in a cage and hosed down like a Cadillac; he’s so on edge, he even brings his gun into the shower with him. Once he’s cleaned up, shaved and dressed, though, he seems a little more like the old Jesse we knew. On TV, the news shows a photo of Jesse — no more anonymous POI — and says that sources speculate he and Walt “had a falling out.” Uh, yes ma’am. Pinkman calls Old Joe (!) to come see about the car. As the junkyard boss scans Jesse’s El Camino, he reminisces about the time Walt and Jesse came up with one of their more ludicrous schemes. “Magnets! Yeah, that was a good one,” he says, laughing as he recalls thinking the plan wouldn’t work. But the levity ends when Joe’s scanner starts beeping: LoJack has just activated the tracer on Jesse’s car, most likely as an aid to the police, and they’ve all gotta get out of there.
Let’s take a moment here to appreciate how calm and kind Skinny Pete is throughout Jesse’s impromptu visit. He lends him clothes. He gives him a burner phone. And he comes up with the idea that Jesse leave the targeted vehicle there and flee with Badger’s instead; meanwhile, Badger will ditch Skinny Pete’s car somewhere near Mexico to give the impression that Jesse made a run for the border. Then Pete and Badger hand their pal all the cash in their wallets — and SP’s signature knit cap, because “Dude, you’re my hero and s–t” — and Jesse is gone.
It’s a good thing, too: The number of police cars that head toward Pete and Badger’s place as Jesse drives away is HUGE.
TODD IS TRULY TERRIBLE | Our next flashback takes place while Jesse was a prisoner on the compound; someone pulls back the tarp off his hole in the ground, and it’s Todd! The sadistic-yet-sweet weirdo makes some small talk about the weather, then says they’re alone on the property for the weekend, and he needs Jesse’s help with something. “If you try to escape, I’ll have to visit the little boy,” he reminds him, referring to Brock. “Good behavior, right?” By this point, Jesse is so beaten into submission that he’ll agree to just about anything. So soon, they’re driving to Todd’s apartment.
Turns out, Todd needs help adding a rooftop to the back of the car… oh, and disposing the body of the cleaning lady he killed when she accidentally discovered his stash of cash. Jesse is horrified both by the corpse on the kitchen floor and by Todd’s nonchalance about it; after they roll her in a carpet, Todd calmly heats up some soup for lunch. Later, Jesse shoves the carpet roll off the balcony — the thud with which it lands in the parking lot below is sickening — then they head out to the desert, where Todd makes his prisoner dig the woman’s grave.
But when Jesse discovers a gun in the car’s glove compartment, he shakily aims it at Todd. Todd never seems to actually fear that Jesse will shoot him; instead, he natters on about how he was going to pick up pizza and beer for them on the way home. He asks Jesse what his favorite kind of pie is, and good LORD Aaron Paul makes me ache as he sobs and quietly says, “Pepperoni.” He hands over the gun and can’t stop crying, so Todd puts his arm around him and offers this wisdom: “My Uncle Jack says, life’s what you make it.”
THE SCENE OF THE CRIME(S) | In the present, the police already have searched Todd’s apartment in connection with the events of the finale. But Jesse’s pretty sure they haven’t found the cash Todd bragged about hiding in a secret place in his home. So Jesse tosses the place — which features a highly creepy snowglobe collection — and eventually finds the money hidden in the refrigerator door. But before he can retrieve much, two detectives enter, and Jesse has to hide quickly.
One of the men eventually stumbles upon him, and Jesse makes it clear that he’s not a cop killer but he needs to walk out of there. But the men aren’t sympathetic, and eventually the threat of being taken down by a squad waiting downstairs has Jesse handing over his weapon, crying and lying down on the floor. The detectives seem surprised by this turn of events, and when they don’t have any handcuffs to restrain him, Jesse wises up: They’re not really cops. “I know where the money is!” he yells, and that gets their attention real quick.
Long story short: There’s maybe a million dollars lodged in a false front on the fridge door, and they grouchily agree to a three-way split. On the way out, Jesse sees that the guys are actually from Kandy Welding Co., which seems to spark a memory. “I was wondering when you were gonna remember me,” one says. And that’s how we learn that the man welded the apparatus to which Jesse was chained during his forced cook.
I ASKED NICELY | Through trial and error, Jesse eventually locates Ed, the vacuum-shop owner who dabbles in relocating people in trouble, as you’ll recall from his involvement with Walt toward the end of the series. He wants $125,000 to help Jesse disappear… on top of the $125,000 he’s owed from when Jesse decided not to go through with the process during the run of the original series. Even with all of the cash in his possession at the moment, Jesse is $1,800 short — and Ed won’t budge. There’s a whole thing with Ed calling the cops and Jesse hilariously thinking he’s faking (he’s not), but they eventually come to an agreement. “I’ll get you your money,” Jesse vows.
So he lures his worried parents out of the house by asking them to come get him (he’s not at the location he gives them), then gets inside and steals two old guns from the family safe. He brings the weapons to Kandy Welding Co. headquarters, which is out in the middle of nowhere, but must wait while the two guys from earlier spend some of their new cash on strippers and cocaine for themselves and their friends. While he’s killing time, what about another flashback?
This time we see the welder making the frame to which Jesse is leashed, and Todd and Kenny ask that it have a few more gussets and such. The welder, Neil, says it’s fine as-is. So they bet on whether Jesse can break the apparatus, which means they force him to run from one end to the other, with the cables jerking him back violently each time he reaches the end. When Neil inquires exactly why they have a dude roped up in their lab, Kenny doesn’t go into particulars. “He’s a rat,” he says. “That’s all you need to know.” As the camera moves away, we see a photo of Brock and Andrea pinned to the wall. (Sniff!)
In the present, once the ladies leave, Jesse enters the room and asks a favor: Can he please take $1,800 and leave without incident? But Neil is coked up and ready to go. He mocks Jesse’s gun and challenges him to a quick-draw contest. As the other men scatter, Pinkman and Neil face off: The moment Neil reaches for his gun, Jesse shoots him dead using a gun that’s hidden in his jacket pocket. Neil’s friend, Casey, grabs another gun, but Jesse kills him, too. Then he takes the other guys’ driver’s licenses, threatens to come get them in their homes if they say anything to the police, and lets them go. “Dude, you’re on fire!” one of them says as he skedaddles. (Ha!)
Then Jesse takes Neil’s money, rigs the headquarters to explode, and drives away as the flames climb into the night.
ONWARD AND UPWARD | If you’re missing ol’ Heisenberg himself, you’re going to like this part. Another flashback takes us to a hotel and attached restaurant: The RV is parked outside, and Jesse is going to town on the salad bar. Walt, however, is coughing a lot and doesn’t feel like eating much. There’s some very typical (and funny) back and forth between the men, but then Walt blanches when Jesse says it’ll take about six months to sell the batch they’ve got on their hands. “Your family is going to get every dime coming to them, Mr. White,” the younger man assures him. “No matter how long it takes.” There’s another funny bit about how Walt completely forgot that Jesse graduated from high school, but then The Bald One turns melancholy. “You’re really lucky, you know that?” he says. “You didn’t have to wait your whole life to do something special.” (Side note: This sequence also gives us the film’s only Pinkman-uttered, “Yeah, bitch!”)
In the present, somewhere very snowy, Ed pulls over and lets Jesse out of a secret compartment in his moving van. Pinkman is wearing a cable-knit sweater and looking far more adult than he ever has before. “It’s quiet,” he remarks, taking in all the trees and white-capped hills around him. He gives Ed a note to send (we later learn it’s addressed to Brock), and the fixer agrees to send it from Mexico City when he’s there in a month. Ed also quizzes Jesse on the details about his new identity, then bids him farewell: “Good luck, Mr. Driscoll.”
Jesse is in Alaska, just like Mike suggested. As he gets in a car that’s waiting for him and drives away, he has a vision of Jane in the passenger seat. The movie’s final flashback is of the two of them talking about “going where the universe takes you,” which Jesse think is poetic but she thinks is silly — even if she did espouse it once herself. She says it’s far better to decide your own fate.
And then we see Jesse, smiling slightly as he heads to the fate he’s now decided for himself.
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