It’s hard to believe that we’re only less than a month away from El Camino: A Breaking Bad movie. We’ve gone from wondering if this film was even needed to the possibility that this could be the greatest thing to ever happen to Netflix… and perhaps me. On a television/story lover scale. I can not downplay the importance of Breaking Bad to my own personal television pantheon and passion for elite storytelling. This show sits comfortably on my Mount Rushmore. Nothing better than Breaking Bad has ever graced my television screen. Ever. It’s a masterpiece, and now we’re being given this gift to revisit this world again, in a post-Walter White timeline. Sure, we have a little bit of that with the “Gene” flashforwards in Better Call Saul but El Camino is going to be picking up directly from the finale and that’s where the focus will be. No origin story here just the idea of possible closure. Possible closure that we didn’t know we needed.
I was content with knowing Jesse Pinkman was freed from his neo-Nazi captivity. One honest gesture performed by Walter White before his death. After seasons worth of manipulation, Walter finally cuts the cord and Jesse theoretically rides off into the sunset. It was enough for me. Jesse was safe in my mind and that’s all that I wanted. I used to theorize of what life for Jesse Pinkman could have been after this moment. A life where he picks up Brock and leaves New Mexico altogether. Perhaps even stopping at a mall Cinnabon and bumping into a store manager named Gene where the two would share a look that would end with Jesse traveling further down the road while Gene slips further and further into panic and paranoia. I’ve watched that scene countless times in my head, I’ve seen the gritty textures of the black and white camera, the fear in Gene’s eyes, the recognition in Jesse’s face… and now we’re on the cusp of seeing if this encounter is even possible.
There are other possible questions at hand besides if this will just be closure for Jesse Pinkman. Perhaps Vince Gilligan finds a way to weave in other characters from the Breaking Bad universe. Do we get to see Skylar and Walt Jr. after the loss of the man who ruined their family? Will Jesse find a way to get Mike’s granddaughter the money he so desperately tried to leave her? And for god’s sake, is Huell still in that stash away house?! These are all questions that only seemed destined to exist in Reddit message boards and impassioned drunk conversations with friends. El Camino will be a story centered around Jesse Pinkman but Jesse Pinkman has always been the heart and soul of the Breaking Bad universe and it’s hard to believe that we won’t encounter other characters along the way. Following the exhaust fumes of the Camino like some tainted Yellow Brick Road.
Before El Camino arrives on October 11th there are some things that need to be revisited first. Memory joggers. It’s been six years since Breaking Bad left our television sets, no one can be blamed for needing a refresher course. With the help of Netflix, I started my massive re-watch last night. I’m a little bit behind according to the calendar provided but I’m ready to put in the work. I’ve put a re-watch at bay for so long. I think part of my fear of revisiting things I love so passionately is that maybe they won’t hold up but four episodes in and that’s not the case. To the surprise of no one, Breaking Bad holds up. I’m invested. And like a hit of Blue Sky, I want it all in my veins. Right now.
Aaron Paul has even gotten into refreshing our memories as a couple of weeks ago he dropped this little nugget on Twitter. Not everyone can watch over sixty episodes of Breaking Bad before the movie arrives, where’s the dedication people (?!), so Paul gracefully gave us the one scene you must watch before El Camino drops.
This has always been one of my all-time favorite Breaking Bad scenes. I think it was around this episode when I became fully self-aware with how much I loved the show. How I hadn’t seen anything like it before. I know this is the scene where I understood the power of Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman. I used to complain that John Noble never got nominated for his work in Fringe, and I still view his lack of nominations as criminal, but after seeing this… there was no way anyone was beating Aaron Paul for an Emmy. None what so ever. This scene is brilliantly acted holding the weight of the series in its hands. No wonder that Paul selected this as the one thing to watch before El Camino arries.
What is it about this scene that’s so important. I think it works on a couple of fronts. El Camino will focus on the fallout of Jesse Pinkman’s life under the manipulation of the great Heisenberg. We watched for five seasons as Walter White used Jesse as a pawn. As a child who desperately needed a father figure only to have that used against him time and time again. Walter preyed on Jesse’s need and because of it, Jesse bore the brunt end of all things Walter White. Killing Gill because Walter couldn’t. The guilt that followed. Being kidnapped by Nazis because Walter gave him up. Learning the woman he loved could have been saved if Walter gave a damn. Time after time Walter uses this need for a bond to his own gain and time after time Jesse fell for it and it turned his world to ash.
This scene is Jesse Pinkman understanding, quite early on I might add, that Walter White is a cancer. That nothing good can come from cooking meth with this man because this man doesn’t care about him. It’s the moment I come back to often when thinking of the bond between Walter and Jesse. If Jesse had only listened to himself here. If he had truly moved on, I wonder how the rest of this story would have played out. Does Walter ever go to war with Gus? Does Gill live? Does everything disintegrate in the end? But it’s Walter White craftily dropping that time bomb at the end here. Praising Jesse’s work as an equal, as an adult, as he walks out the door. The one hook that was sure to get Jesse to bite. To be viewed as an equal and not just some junkie. To receive praise from a father figure. From a man who he so desperately wants to admire. Walter White is devious and it’s his ability to convince Jesse to continue cooking that leads us all the way down the road that ends with the Camino bursting through a fence as the open road of freedom waits for Jesse Pinkman.
There’s no doubt that this is a powerful scene, even watching it out of context. It’s heart wrenching and brutal, a representation of everything that Breaking Bad did so well with its characters. This was a turning point for Jesse Pinkman, a fork in the road. Much like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, he chose poorly. And now he has to pick up the pieces of a life that could have been. In the wake of the great Heisenberg, Jesse Pinkman enters a life where he’ll be hunted by the FBI. Where he has nothing to his name. No friends. No family. Just himself and a car. Maybe that’s enough. Jesse Pinkman is the true tragic figure of Breaking Bad and I hope that El Camino can leave him in a good place. If anyone deserves it’s him.
In the coming weeks, we’ll pop in here and there with more columns of On the Road With El Camino touching on other important moments in Jesse Pinkman’s life and how they could have an impact on the film. I hope you’ll ride along with us. There’s a bunch to cover and I’m excited to start our travels. If you have any suggestions or topics you’d like to see me cover let us know in the comments or throw me a line over on Twitter @iamgeek32. Let the Breaking Bad discussion fly. Until then, I’ll see you on the road.