In the recap for ‘El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie’, Jesse Pinkman remembers the past while forging ahead to create a new future after escaping captivity…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
When ‘Breaking Bad’ ended in 2013, most viewers agreed that it was one of the best series finales in television history.
Creator Vince Gilligan meticulously crafted the entire ‘Breaking Bad’ universe and he brought the story to a satisfying conclusion with Walter White atoning for at least some of his past sins by freeing Jesse Pinkman from captivity while giving his own life in the process.
The final shot of Walt bleeding out on the ground in the middle of a meth lab was a fitting end for a character who went from a science teacher with cancer to one of the most notorious drug dealers in American history, all in the span of two years.
While Walter White met his demise in the ‘Breaking Bad’ finale titled ‘Felina’, his former partner was set free after he was chained and kept prisoner for months, forced to cook meth under the threat that the Nazis keeping him captive who already killed his ex-girlfriend Andrea would then turn their attention to her son Brock if he didn’t cooperate.
Jesse’s final scene was one of pure elation as he cried tears of joy while tearing out of the Nazi compound in a stolen El Camino, bound for parts unknown, far away from the torture he had just suffered for so long.
As satisfying as that ending was for ‘Breaking Bad’ fans around the globe, Gilligan had another idea in mind that would continue the story while giving Jesse a conclusion more befitting his character after he was a central part of the show for five seasons.
Now it’s always risky business when an artist decides to alter an already perfect painting by picking up his or her brushes again and putting a few more finishing touches on the canvas. It’s especially dangerous when it comes to a critical and commercial hit like ‘Breaking Bad’, which ended with just about everybody across the globe giving it a standing ovation.
Still, Gilligan wasn’t satisfied without putting together one more story to sequelize what happened to Jesse Pinkman after he escaped that Nazi compound.
The result is the new film ‘El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie’ — in theaters this weekend for a special engagement and available on Netflix — which follows Jesse after he went roaring down the road in that stolen car after he was set free by Walter White.
We’ll get to the full recap in a moment but let’s get to the important part about this ‘Breaking Bad’ sequel — did it enhance or ruin an already great ending to the series?
The good news is Gilligan not only got to play with his old toys by returning to the ‘Breaking Bad’ universe one more time, but he managed to create a sequel worthy of the original that absolutely fits as the perfect ending to this series. Because Jesse spent much of the final three episodes of ‘Breaking Bad’ in captivity, this movie gives him a chance to move on beyond Walter White and the torture he suffered at the hands of those Nazis during season 5.
Jesse’s journey in this film is everything you could hope for with a ‘Breaking Bad’ sequel and Gilligan deserves a mountain of credit for not only taking the chance to go back to this series but ultimately create a film that could rival any of the best movies of 2019. It’s just that damn good.
With that said, let’s get to our recap of ‘El Camino: A Breaking Bad’ movie — and needless to say if you go beyond this point, spoilers will be revealed…
The One Thing You Can Never Do
As ‘El Camino’ opens, we’re taken back to ‘Breaking Bad’ season 5 in a flashback scene between Jesse and Mike Ehrmantruat at what appears the be the same place where Mike met his fate not long after this when he was shot dead by Walter White. Jesse and Mike are discussing how they are getting out of the drug business partnership with Walt and the reaction he’s going to have when they tell him.
Jesse then asks Mike if he were a young man, where would he go to start all over again and the answer is Alaska. If you’ll remember back in ‘Breaking Bad’ season 5, Jesse mentions wanting to go to Alaska, which has now been explained by this conversation.
Jesse is looking forward to a fresh start, far away from Walt and the meth business, and he’s looking to make things right. Mike stops him and says “sorry kid, that’s the one thing you can never do.”
Fast forward moments after Jesse was freed from Uncle Jack’s Nazi compound as he tears through Albuquerque back alleys to escape the oncoming squad of cop cars on road. Jesse eventually makes his way to Badger and Skinny Pete’s house, who barely recognize their old friend wearing shaggy hair, a beard and enough dirt to make it look like he hasn’t seen a shower in months.
After getting the El Camino off the street, Jesse tears through a Cup-O-Noodles and then falls asleep. The next morning, Badger and Skinny Pete watch news reports about Walter White’s final act where he gunned down eight men including Uncle Jack while unbeknownst to the cops, Jesse strangled Todd Alquist to death.
When Jesse finally wakes up, he’s suffering from post traumatic stress, still stuck in the nightmare that he lived for several months while locked in a cage as a prisoner. Jesse finally makes his way into the shower where he’s still haunted by memories of the times Jack and his Nazi friends tortured him by spraying him with hoses. Eventually, Jesse cleans up and shaves before getting a burner phone from Skinny Pete along with tearing a page out of the local phone book for all of the vacuum repair shops in town.
He then calls Old Joe to come help him dispose of his El Camino — and when he arrives he offers to dispatch the car at no expense while remembering all the capers Walt and Jesse pulled over the years including those crazy magnets! Unfortunately for Jesse, Old Joe discovers that the El Camino has been lowjacked and it has just been activated, which means the cops are on the way.
Old Joe drives away in great haste while Jesse is left trying to figure out what he can do next to make his escape. That’s when Skinny offers him an alternative idea.
They will leave the El Camino parked at the house, Badger will take Skinny’s car and drive it close to the Mexico border where he will leave it while Jesse takes Badger’s car. When the cops arrive, Skinny can tell them Jesse showed up at their place late last night, they smoked a fatty and then he borrowed the car in the morning. That way when the cops go looking for Jesse, they’ll search for Skinny’s car that is being left near the Mexican border while Jesse is actually making his getaway in Badger’s tricked out Fiero.
As Jesse prepares to leave he asks Skinny why he’s doing all of this for him and Skinny responds ‘dude, you’re my hero and shit’.
Jesse takes off — once again avoiding the cops tearing down the road — before making his way to Todd’s old apartment. Jesse arrives in hopes of finding money that Todd stashed away there from his time working with Walt, not to mention the $80 or so million that was taken from the former meth kingpin after the Nazi’s assassinated Hank and his partner Steve Gomez.
Throughout the film, Jesse catches news from several different sources that begin to put together the puzzle pieces of what Walt had done prior to rescuing him. One report mentions a woman suffering from poisoning in critical condition who is not expected to survive — and that’s obviously Lydia Rodarte-Quayle, who was dosed with ricin in her Stevia during the “Breaking Bad” finale. We also get a glimpse of the strip mall where Saul Goodman once had his law offices but it’s no longer there and a new business has been installed instead. And finally, Los Pollos Hermanos is no longer in business following the death of Gus Fring and the restaurant is now called Twisters (a real joint in Albuquerque).
We also hear the official confirmation that Walter White is dead.
As Jesse drives away, he flashes back to another moment from his past when he was caged and held captive by Todd and his uncle.
On that particular weekend, Jesse was given a pass to get out of his cell and go along with Todd to help him with something — under the threat that any escape attempt would result in Brock being murdered.
First, Jesse helps Todd put a cap on the back of his El Camino and then they arrive at his pastel-painted apartment where the real mission is revealed. Jesse is stunned when he finds a dead body laying in the middle of Todd’s kitchen.
It seems this was his housekeeper, who accidentally discovered the money he had been hiding inside a set of encyclopedias in his bedroom. She didn’t steal from him but rather just told Todd because she thought perhaps he didn’t know it was there. Her reward for being so honest was Todd wrapping his belt around her throat and choking her to death.
Now Todd needs help disposing of the body and that’s why Jesse is getting time outside of his cell.
After wrapping the housekeeper in a rug, Todd and Jesse have to wait until his nosey neighbor goes off to bowling so they can take the body out for disposal, which leads to a rather uncomfortable conversation between captor and prisoner. Todd insists on making soup while Jesse is creeped out even further by the apartment where he’s standing — complete with a snow globe collection that includes one that appears to be handmade featuring Todd and his ultimate crush, Lydia, not to mention a pet tarantula — the same one Drew Sharp captured before Todd shot the boy dead back in ‘Breaking Bad’ season 5.
Finally it’s time to carry the body out — which involves Jesse literally dumping the housekeeper over a second story railing — before they drive out into the desert to dispose of it. Out there, Jesse digs the hole and they dump the body but before leaving, Todd requests another cigarette and sends his prisoner to fetch more from the glove compartment.
There, Jesse finds a loaded gun and he pulls it out, points it at Todd as if he’s finally going to get his revenge and escape. Todd’s icy response is even creepier when he doesn’t blink at the gun being pointed at him but instead insists that Jesse put it down so they can go get some pizza and beers before heading back to the compound. At this point, Jesse is already a shell of himself and so he hands over the gun and Todd embraces him before they head back into town.
Three Way Split
Back in Todd’s apartment in the present day, Jesse ransacks the place looking for the money that was hidden there. The encyclopedias were gutted after Todd realized his housekeeper found his stash but Jesse knows that he always kept his money close per instructions from his Uncle Jack.
Finally after tearing nearly everything apart, a dumbfounded Jesse bangs his head on the refrigerator and he hears something tumble loose inside. That’s when he finally discovers Todd’s hiding spot — he hid his money behind the refrigerator door.
Just as Jesse starts to pry it loose and gather the cash, he’s interrupted by a pair of police officers who have returned to the scene to continue a search. Jesse quickly hides while the police officers dig through what’s left of Todd’s apartment until one of them happens upon him hiding behind a mattress.
Jesse points his gun at the cop and insists he’s not there to kill anyone — he just wants his money so he can leave. The cops obviously disagree and after hearing that there are eight more officers waiting downstairs, Jesse knows there’s no escape so he gives up his weapon and lays down, waiting to be arrested.
But the cops don’t put handcuffs on him, instead opting to tie his hands with a random cord from Todd’s room. That’s when Jesse realizes these two men aren’t cops but rather a pair of looters wearing police outfits in hopes of finding Todd’s hidden money, the same as him.
That gives Jesse bank an edge as Todd’s nosey neighbor shows up offering help to the “police officers”, which means any gun shots would alert him and the real cops would be on their way in seconds. Jesse makes a deal with the other guy — he will show him where they money is hidden in exchange for taking his part and leaving. He agrees and Jesse takes his third of the money and all three of the looters leave the apartment building.
Before driving away, Jesse takes one more look at the guy stealing the money as he gets into his work truck marked ‘Kandy Welding’ — and that’s when it starts to click together for him. Neil — the head of Kandy Welding — was the same guy who built the mechanism in the Nazi compound that kept him chained while still being able to walk back and forth while cooking the meth.
In a separate flashback scene we see Neil finishing the job while Kenny can’t believe that it will actually keep Jesse from escaping. That’s when Kenny bets him $50 that Jesse can break free and Neil accepts. Jesse is then forced to run back and forth as fast and hard as he can until reaching the end of the line when the metal rope holding onto jerks him back in a violent motion. Jesse is forced to do this again and again to prove he can’t escape while Neil and Kenny laugh at his misery.
Back in present day, Jesse takes his Hefty bag filled with cash before using that phone book page from Skinny Pete’s place as he begins driving around Albuquerque looking for one in particular. Jesse is seeking out the vacuum repair shop where the owner is also the person responsible for helping to disappear both Walter White and Saul Goodman once upon a time. Jesse was also supposed to disappear but he opted to stay behind, which in hindsight was a pretty poor idea as it turns out.
That’s where we meet Ed again (played by the great Robert Forster in one of his final roles as it turns out) — and after some back and forth, he finally agrees to help Jesse so long as he’s paid his full fee from the last pick up that wasn’t made as well as the current offer of help. That means Jesse will need $250,000 to create a new identity and receive the help he needs to get out of town.
Sadly, Jesse comes up $1800 short and Ed would be doing bad business if he took anything less than his asking rate. They also manage to insert a hilarious exchange when Ed calls the cops and Jesse refuses to believe him because he would never want police anywhere near the shop where he helps criminals escape capture.
But sure enough, the police arrive and Jesse is forced to scramble out of there while promising to get the additional money to help fund his escape.
He eventually makes his way to his parents’ house after watching them on TV earlier that same day where they begged him to turn himself into the authorities. Jesse makes his way to their house and calls the phone, which receives an expectedly shocked response from his mother and father to hear from him.
Jesse asks them to meet him at a park where he will agree to turn himself in but before hanging up he absolves his parents of any wrongdoing when it came to his upbringing. Jesse tells them they did the best they could for him and he hangs up.
A moment later, Jesse’s parents leave and two of the police cars watching the house follow after them. There’s still one more police cruiser on the street so Jesse has the be quiet getting into the house before making his way to his father’s closet where he unlocks a safe and retrieves two old guns.
He then arrives at Kandy Towing where Neil, his buddy Casey and three other men have ordered a gaggle of strippers to help them spend some of that money they just stole. After a coke-fueled night of excitement, the strippers leave and Jesse finally makes his way inside where he requests an additional $1800 from the money stolen so he can get out of town, once and for all.
Rather than hand over the money, Neil decides on a different solution.
Neil tells Jesse they will engage in a quick draw contest just like the Old West — whoever can pull their gun the fastest and kill the other one gets to keep all the money. Jesse agrees but before Neil can even pull his gun out of the holster, he’s shot multiple times before falling dead. Jesse kept one gun hidden in his jacket pocket and that’s the one he uses to kill Neil.
Casey attempts to fire back with his own weapon but Jesse kills him, too, before tending to the three friends who were just there to party. Jesse takes their drivers’ licenses and tells them to keep their mouths shut or he will come find each and every one of them and make them pay.
As they leave, Jesse goes into the office, retrieves the second bag of money and makes his way out of Kandy Welding. Before leaving, Jesse turns on one of the torches and points it towards the storage tanks of argon gas. Jesse makes his way to the car just as Kandy Welding explodes with fireballs shooting up into the New Mexico sky.
Just as he’s about to take off, Jesse remembers another moment from his past — and this is when we are reunited with Walter White.
This flashback takes to ‘Breaking Bad’ season 2 when Walt and Jesse went on a marathon cooking session for four days out in the desert only to find out that the battery to the RV was dead when they attempted to leave. When they finally got it jump started, the pair made their way back to Albuquerque but the flashback shows that they ended up staying in a motel overnight before going to breakfast the next morning.
While at breakfast, Walt vexes about how long it will take to sell this batch with Jesse reassuring him that his family will get every penny coming to them. Walt then asks Jesse about what he’ll do when this situation is finished and why he doesn’t explore college as an option?
On the surface it seems like Walt cares for Jesse but when he tells his fellow meth cook to star this college pursuit by getting his GED, it’s clear he never really paid much attention to this kid. Jesse reminds him that he got his high school diploma and Walt was standing right next to him on stage when he received it. This is just a small reminder of the narcissistic way that Walt ran his life, even before he was a meth kingpin.
It was a heartbreaking moment in many ways because even then, Walt didn’t seem to care much about Jesse but rather his only pursuits of financial freedom in order to provide for his family. Walt then tells Jesse how lucky he is that he didn’t have to wait his whole life for the chance to truly do something special — obviously hinting at Walt suffering through failure after failure until finally becoming a drug dealer is what made him stand out amongst the crowd.
Good Luck, Mr. Driscoll
When we return to present day, Ed is driving a moving truck through the cold roads of Alaska. He arrives at a stop where a car is waiting as Ed goes into the back of the truck to reveal Jesse hiding in a storage compartment.
Ed got his payment and Jesse gets his freedom.
Ed quizzes Jesse on his new identity to ensure he’s got everything straight. Before leaving, Jesse hands Ed a letter for him to mail — he opens it and reads it along with a photo inside. The letter is addressed to Brock Cantillo — the little boy whose mother was murdered as punishment to Jesse while he was held captive by the Nazis.
Ed agrees to mail the letter a month later while he’s in Mexico and with that the two bid each other a fond farewell. Jesse climbs into the car as he begins driving towards his new life as Mr. Driscoll — the false identity provided to him so he can truly start fresh.
As he drives away, Jesse is reminded of another moment from his life — this time with Jane as they drove back from Santa Fe during season 2 when she wanted to check out the Georgia O’Keefe art museum.
The once happy couple talks on the way home when he’s reminded of something she told him about going where the universe takes him but Jane confesses that it was a terrible philosophy. She went where the universe took her and it resulted in nothing but misery. Instead, Jane suggests it’s always better to make those decisions for yourself.
Jesse reflects on those wise words from the woman he loved most in the world as he drives off with a small smile creeping across his face as he finally takes fate into his own hands for the first time in forever.
Jesse Pinkman is truly free and ready to start again.