The time has come, finally, just over six years after the finale of Breaking Bad, to find out what happened to Jesse Pinkman. That seems to be the gist of El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, the follow-up full-length film that Vince Gilligan and the show’s creators made in a joint production with Netflix and AMC. Small little morsels of information have dribbled out, and there’s been a trailer and a teaser and some vague quotes in interviews, but there’s not much by way of hard information out there yet. Which is good. I love a mystery.
Is does create a void, though. A gaping, empty void that gets filled with questions. So many questions. Let’s narrow it down to the biggies, for efficiency.
Here are four pressing questions we have about El Camino.
What has Jesse Pinkman been up to?
The last time any of us saw Jesse Pinkman, he was screaming in two ways: one, he was screaming away from the compound where he was kept in a case like a dog by Nazis who forced him to cook meth all day and night, speeding off into the night in a car that didn’t belong to him: two, he was, uh, literally screaming, as one does when one tastes freedom again after spending an extended period of time living in a cage and cooking meth for Nazis. I mean, I imagine. I have very little first-hand experience with any of it. Seems reasonable, though.
All of which brings us back to the question at the top of this section: What has Jesse been up to in the time since the end of Breaking Bad and the beginning of El Camino? Is… is he okay? I really hope he’s okay. Jesse was far from perfect and he did, like, murder some people, so I’ll hear you out if you want him brought to justice, but I’ll also be judging you harshly while you’re making your case. The guy has been through so much. He lost two girlfriends in tragic circumstances (one was left to choke on her own vomit by Walter, another was murdered in front of him), he was psychologically manipulated and abused by Walter White for the entire run of the show, and yes, again, the Nazi dog cage. I really hope he got a break somewhere along the line, even if it was just a small one.
I’m not the only person who feels that way, either. Here’s something Vince Gilligan had to say about it all in the aftermath of the finale: “[T]he way I see it is that he got away and got to Alaska, changed his name, and had a new life. You want that for the kid. He deserves it.”
Personally, I would have voted for a nice, tropical location with hammocks and umbrella drinks and no extradition, but that’s me. I like the sun and I like drinking umbrella drinks in the sun. Alaska is too cold for that. But Alaska is also very empty in places and very removed from the life that got him in all this trouble, so I will take it if I must. We must protect Jesse Pinkman at all costs. Even if it means wearing a parka.
How is everything going to go bad for Jesse Pinkman?
This brings us to the rough part. Things are going to go very bad for Jesse in El Camino. That much was obvious before the trailer even came out. It has to go bad, otherwise, there’s barely a movie. Would I watch two hours of Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman playing volleyball with tourists at a Caribbean resort? Yes, probably. But that would be boring for most people. For there to be any kind of compelling, realistic story, something will have to go sideways very fast. Judging by the clipped action in the trailer and this quote Gilligan gave in the same interview as the Alaska thing…
My personal feeling is that he got away. But the most likely thing, as negative as this sounds, is that they’re going to find this kid’s fingerprints all over this lab and they’re going to find him within a day or a week or a month. And he’s still going to be on the hook for the murder of two federal agents.
… it’s going to involve cops and a manhunt. This checks out. The living accomplice of the deceased meth kingpin and former high school chemistry teacher Walter White is on the run. That’s something that a lot of people — cops, members of the news media, rappers who can figure out a rhyme for “Heisenberg” — would probably take an interest in. Without this movie, it was possible to dream up an unlikely scenario in which Jesse lives happily ever after. With this movie, the reality is slapping us in the face. Or locking us in a Nazi dog cage, if you prefer your analogies all lined up nicely.
What familiar faces are going to show up in El Camino?
Well, we know from the trailer and an earlier teaser that Skinny Pete and Badger are in El Camino, which means the gang is back together, for better or worse. And there was also that report about Jonathan Banks appearing in the movie, which seems to indicate either the use of flashbacks or a very sharp left turn toward a zombie situation. Probably the former. Flashbacks open up a lot of possibilities, too, because so many of the important characters met their demise in the show’s original run. Walter, Mike, Gus, Gale, Hank, etc. If we’re going back in time, everything is on the table.
There’s one other thing, too, and it’s admittedly a long shot. Saul Goodman also got away. We know where he is. The flash-forwards in Better Call Saul told us that he’s now a Cinnabon employee at a mall in Nebraska. He’s the only other main character who made it out. Is there any chance he and Jesse cross paths? I don’t know. Probably not. It would be weird and tricky and would alter the trajectory of Better Call Saul substantially. All of that is true.
Also true, however: I would whoop like a madman if it happens. I’m not that complicated.
What if, like, 45 minutes into the movie, there’s a shot of a television playing a news report about famous fugitive Jesse Pinkman — accomplice of the deceased meth king and former high school teacher Walter White — and the camera slowly zooms out and we see that the television appears to be in a motel room and the camera slowly zooms out some more and then we see a large figure sitting in front of the television and yup, you guessed it, it’s Huell?
Would it be a blatant attempt at fan service? Yes.
Would it be unlikely and improbable that Huell is still in that same room who knows how many months later? According to Vince Gilligan.
It’s likely that Agent Van Oster keeps in touch with DEA headquarters. So when he learns Gomez and Hank have gone missing, he would in short order tell his superiors what they were up to. Within a matter of hours, really not that many in story time, Huell will be taken back to HQ. They’ll question him, find out what he knows—which isn’t much—and he’ll be let out on the street. Right now, he’s doing what Huell does best, whatever that is. He’s out and about as a free man.
Do I now want Jesse’s freedom and long-term safety to be secured through a dramatic pickpocket-maneuver performed by Huell during the climax of El Camino? Very, very much.