Six years after Jesse Pinkman drove off into the New Mexico night, Aaron Paul makes his triumphant embattled return to the Breaking Bad universe in Netflix’s El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. We last saw Pinkman driving away from the Neo-Nazi compound where he was held prisoner for the sole purpose of creating Heisenberg’s signature meth. That was, of course, until Walter White (Bryan Cranston) mowed the clan down with an ingenious mechanism that operated a semi-automatic weapon out of the trunk of his car.
El Camino brings fans back to Albuquerque for a gritty ride that has its fair share of Gilligan’s signature story quirks along the way. And throughout its two-hour runtime, a collection of familiar faces reappear to help tie everything together. We already knew Skinny Pete (Charles Baker), Badger (Matthew Lee Jones), and Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) would all show up, but in what capacity? And better yet, how bad will their situations be once Pinkman’s journey comes to its conclusion?
After all, the story of Jesse Pinkman has always been the story of one man’s fall from a bad situation to a worse one. (And then somehow, something even worse.) So why would we expect anything different from a Breaking Bad movie devoted entirely to Aaron Paul’s character?
In an effort to keep track of things, here are the important beats to the El Camino story, as told through the cameos of each Breaking Bad character who appears. On a scale of 1 to 11 (with 11 being the worst), just how bad do they break? Let’s find out.
Warning: We’re about to spoil some of El Camino’s biggest surprises. If you haven’t watched the movie yet, go ahead and stream it on Netflix first. We’ll wait.
What happens to Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks)?
El Camino opens with a flashback, focusing on a quieter serene moment between Jesse and Mike. They’re standing, facing out towards a lake viewers may recognize as the locale where Gus Fring’s (Giancarlo Esposito) right-hand-man dies. It’s here, probably mere minutes after this interchange between Pinkman and Ehrmantraut, where the conflict between Mike and Mr. White — err, Heisenberg — transpires.
With Mike’s impending death hanging in the air, the conversation between Ehrmantraut and Pinkman holds extra weight. Their conversation centers around money, and their future plans. Mike’s perspective is simple: Jesse has his whole life ahead of him. The age differential between the two is pretty glaring in this moment. They stare out at the placid expanse wishing for better things. But the knowledge of the events, as they ended up happening in the series, gives the audience a poetic bit of foreshadowing … at least for one of the men on-screen.
On a scale of 1 to 11, how bad does Mike break: 8
Well, obviously, we know Mike’s fate. That said, his role in El Camino acts more as a moral signpost on Jesse’s journey. It’s almost as if, even in this moment, Mike knew the tragic end his life would take which makes it all-the-more unfortunate.
What happens to Skinny Pete (Charles Baker)?
It was pretty obvious, even before the casting announcement that Baker would be returning as Skinny Pete, that Jesse would turn to his old friend for help. And that’s exactly what he does, driving Todd’s El Camino directly to the house Skinny shares with Badger. After all this time living in a cage, following the demands of a group of murderous Nazis, a familiar friendly face is exactly what Pinkman needed. Well that, and food, a good night’s sleep, a shower, a shave, and a change of clothes.
And those are everything he gets during his short sleepover at his old friends’ place. It’s here that Jesse learns exactly the scope of the trouble he’s in. It takes no time at all for details of the massacre at Uncle Jack’s (Michael Bowen) place to hit the news.
Suddenly, Jesse realizes he needs to get rid of Todd’s sweet ride. In an endearing move of solidarity and support, Skinny concocts a plan: Badger takes Pete’s car and drives it to the Mexico border, Jesse gets Badger’s clunker, and Skinny takes the El Camino off his hands. If the cops were to ask, Skinny will just tell them he traded vehicles with Pinkman, and with Pete’s car ditched three hours down the highway, no one will be on the lookout for Badger’s ride.
The duo gives Jesse two huge wads of spending cash, new car keys, and well wishes. And Skinny Pete, who’s always coveted a set of wheels like Todd’s, parks the El Camino right in front of his house for everyone to see.
On a scale of 1 to 11, how bad does Skinny Pete break: 1
Skinny Pete lucks out on all accounts here. Not only does he get to reunite with his old friend, who he admits is his hero, but he’s also able to do a few good deeds in the process. And in the end, after giving Pinkman food, shelter, clothes from his closet, and the money from his pocket, he gets the ride he’s always dreamt of having. Not too shabby.
What happens to Badger (Matthew Lee Jones)?
Skinny Pete’s roommate is also there to welcome Jesse back into their friend circle, even if it is temporary. But unlike Pete, Badger faces some sacrifice to help Pinkman. He’s tasked with driving Pete’s old jalopy to the Mexico border, where he’s to stash it and give the police the idea that Jesse crossed the border for salvation. He also gives Pinkman all his cash. These are giving actions, but it feels as if Pete needs to nudge Badger towards such kindness.
On a scale of 1 to 11, how bad does Badger break: 3
Badger’s situation isn’t completely awful, but can you imagine driving your roommate’s car all the way to Mexico, hiding it off the road, and then hitchhiking back home — all without the bundle of cash you were previously carrying around with you? And once you do get home, seeing the sweet ride your roommate got for a similar sort of kindness? That’s a whole bunch of inconvenience, right there.
What happens to Old Joe (Larry Hankin)?
The appearance of Old Joe in El Camino is a fun one that gives a nod to a few iconic moments in Breaking Bad, including Jesse’s infamous “Magnets, bitch” scene. The owner of the junkyard both Pinkman and Mr. White visited throughout the series is called to Skinny Pete’s house. As we mentioned earlier, Jesse needed to get rid of this car. And Joe almost took it off their hands, until his sensor went off, indicating the Lo’Jack on the car was triggered.
What does this mean? Well, a whole buttload of cops were certainly on their way. And given that the car was marred by the massacre from the night before, that was too much heat for Joe to handle. He booked it back to his salvage yard, leaving Jesse, Skinny Pete, and Badger to figure out a Plan B.
On a scale of 1 to 11, how bad does Old Joe break: 2
Honestly, getting Old Joe out of his office probably is a big deal unto itself. But it’s clear he had a fondness for Jesse. So, aside from this little inconvenience, we’re thinking it’s a case of no harm, no foul.
What happens to Todd Alquist (Jesse Plemons)?
Fans of Breaking Bad were left filling in a lot of the blanks regarding Jesse’s time at Uncle Jack’s compound. We watched as he narrowly escaped death after Hank was gunned down by the Nazi gang. We viewed as Jesse became a shell of his former self, held captive in that cage, only to do Jack’s bidding. And while we know how that all ended (they all died), we never truly got the gist of Todd Alquist’s relationship with Pinkman.
Do we even want to call it a relationship? As sociopathic as Jack’s nephew was, it really felt as if, through all the horrible stuff they put Jesse through, that Todd viewed Pinkman as a peer … and crazier yet, a friend.
In El Camino, we get a deeper look at Todd’s connection to Jesse. In one of the movie’s longer flashback sequences, we see Todd taking Jesse on a road trip of sorts. But the trip to Alquist’s pastel-colored apartment wasn’t simply a social call. It turns out Todd murdered his housekeeper because she discovered where the man was hiding all his cash: in a series of leather-bound books.
If it’s one thing the movie really nails home, it’s just how nutso Todd was. In the midst of rolling the woman’s body up in a rug, he stops Jesse in order to retrieve his belt — which was the murder weapon, wrapped around the woman’s neck — in order to re-tread through his jeans’ belt loops. This whole interlude found Jesse hiding in the back of Todd’s El Camino right next to the body, and then digging the poor woman’s grave.
And even as Jesse learned of the gun in the glovebox, and retrieved it to take down Todd, any glimmer of hope that he’d be able to escape this mess quickly dissipated due to Alquist’s offer to buy Pinkman pizza. That’s how beaten down his spirit was.
On a scale of 1 to 11, how bad does Todd break: 9
The death of Todd’s housekeeper could be looked at as a grim bit of foreshadowing — she was strangled to death by Alquist’s belt, Todd was strangled to death by Jesse’s chains. If we’re just looking at the flashback as the only means to grade Todd’s situation in the movie, then it’d be difficult to rate this at all.
But considering how he dies, and the fact that Jesse returns to Alquist’s home, tearing the apartment apart in search of the Nazi thug’s money, one could easily deduce that Todd went out with no real legacy to uphold. How’s that for poetic justice?
What happens to Ed, aka ‘the Disappearer’ (Robert Forster)?
It took some work, but Jesse was able to hunt down Ed, the vacuum repairman. Also known as “The Disappearer,” Ed here provides an under-the-radar service to help relocate criminals. Consider it like an off-the-books type of Witness Protection where the criminal in question gets a completely new identity and is relocated. It’s how Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) became Cinnabon manager, Gene Takovic.
Jesse goes through quite a hunt to track down Ed, and once in his store, it takes some work to get the man to acknowledge Pinkman. Of course, this reveals Jesse’s debt to the man — since he never stayed at the pick-up spot once Ed’s services were originally called on. The bag of cash Jesse acquired from Todd’s apartment wasn’t enough to cover expenses, leading Pinkman to get creative in his mission to leave town for good.
On a scale of 1 to 11, how bad does he break: 4
Like Old Joe before him, Ed views Jesse’s call for assistance as an inconvenience. But a little finagling on Pinkman’s part gets the vacuum repairman to acquiesce and help him start a new life in Alaska. That’s not to say that Jesse’s appearance in his shop didn’t compromise the man’s cover identity.
In the end, Ed was paid in full and drove Pinkman on an epic journey from New Mexico through Canada and into Alaska. Inconvenient? Sure, but the man walked away with a bag of cash he wasn’t expecting.
What happens to Mr. (Michael Bofshever) and Mrs. Pinkman (Tess Harper)?
While Jesse is tearing Todd’s apartment apart, he hears two familiar voices coming from an apartment across the way. Peering through the blinds, he sees his parents on the news. It’s been a while since audiences have seen Mr. and Mrs. Pinkman and, given the trouble Jesse has found himself in, it makes perfect sense that they’d resurface in El Camino.
Seeing their faces prompts Pinkman to turn on Todd’s television set to watch the news report first-hand. You can see the anguish in their faces as they plead for their son to turn himself in. It’s a moment that weighs on Jesse. After all, he is the product of his upbringing and, no matter how far he strayed from home, some of the responsibility of how he turned out will always lie on the parents’ shoulders.
Later, as he dives head-first into his mission to escape Albuquerque altogether, he heads back to his childhood home. A brief phone conversation with his mom and dad sends them — and the multiple police officers keeping watch on the house — on a wild goose chase to find Pinkman. During the call, he does his best to console his parents that none of the trouble he is in should reflect their efforts to raise him right. And once they leave, he heads in to raid the safe, leaving with two tiny guns.
On a scale of 1 to 11, how bad do Jesse’s parents break: 5
The sorrow Jesse’s parents will carry with them will surely be a suffocating weight on their hearts. This one final interaction between Pinkman and his mom and dad will probably lead to even more resentment as his call played out as a seemingly cold-hearted trick. Will they ever communicate with their son again? Probably not and the feeling of failure and sadness connected with Jesse’s dark journey is enough to add a fair amount of conflict to their marriage.
What happens to Walter White (Bryan Cranston)?
One of the biggest questions regarding the movie sequel to Breaking Bad was: Will Walter White appear? Obviously, he’s dead. So the only way we’d get more Mr. White would either be in flashbacks or, god forbid, if Pinkman began seeing him as hallucinations. Well, as awesome as it would be to see Mr. White appear to Jesse as a Tyler Durden-style imaginary friend, that didn’t happen. So, flashback it is!
Bryan Cranston returns as Heisenberg for a brief flashback scene that finds Jesse and his former chemistry teacher enjoying breakfast at a roadside diner. Walt’s shaved head and mustache, along with his aching cough, alludes to this scene transpiring early in the Breaking Bad story. The reunion of these two iconic characters is fan service at its finest. But the context of the scene shows us a Walter White facing down his own mortality, and a bright-eyed Jesse Pinkman who, at least in this moment, has his whole life ahead of him.
It’s here that we learn of Jesse’s interest in Sports Medicine. Not that he’d ever go to college, but the conversation between the mentor and the student gives us a glimpse at a hopeful Pinkman whose spirit had yet to be broken. From the flashback between Jesse and Mike to this interlude with him and Walt, it’s clear that Pinkman’s journey in El Camino was wrought with resentment regarding what was and dreams of what could be.
On a scale of 1 to 11, how bad does Walt break: 10
Walt and Jesse’s relationship went through the wringer. That is a fact. But seeing this flashback, and watching these characters interact during something as mundane as breakfast at a diner, the impact of the tragic events that transpire in the timeline really nail home the full-circle trip Jesse has taken.
Walt’s the Jedi Master in this scenario and, if Padawan Pinkman followed directly in his footsteps, the obvious conclusion to his story would be similar, if not worse than Heisenberg’s end. That’s some heavy stuff if you ask us.
What happens to Jane Margolis (Kristen Ritter)?
Towards the end of the film, as Jesse struggled to break from his troubled past, we see a flashback featuring the late Jane Margolis. As you’ll remember, Jesse’s girlfriend died due to a drug overdose in his apartment, all while Mr. White watched. Her loss led Pinkman down a deep, dark, suicidal depression.
But now that Jesse was on the road, the appearance of Jane here alluded to our titular hero making amends with the demons of his past. Does he blame himself for her death still? Probably. But with Walt dead, and the blue meth lifestyle behind him, all he can really do is move on and hope for a better life.
On a scale of 1 to 11, how bad does Jane break: 6
As tragic as Jane’s death was, her purpose on the show always was to show Jesse that there was more out there for him than the criminal lifestyle he was living. His attempt to flee, after discovering Walt witnessed her death and did nothing to stop it, along with the compounding nature of Mr. White’s actions — threatening the life of young Brock (Ian Posada), poisoning Lydia (Laura Fraser) with ricin, blowing up Gus Fring, throwing Jesse to the Nazi wolves — helped Jesse see the error of his ways. And now, as he was on the brink of shedding this skin, the scene with Jane is symbolic of him finally letting go of some heavy emotional baggage.
What happens to Jesse Pinkman?
We’ve pretty much covered the complex journey Pinkman goes on throughout the movie, but this article would just feel a bit incomplete without an entry devoted solely to him. Starting as a mere cog in the criminal underworld, Jesse rose the ranks alongside Walter White as their blue meth empire grew. Along the way, he gained a sense of confidence, knowledge, and skills. He may not have been Mr. White’s favorite when he was a student at J.P. Wynne High School, but their eventual team-up proved legendary. And fatal.
El Camino follows Jesse as he continues clawing at a dream of freedom and happiness away from the poisonous existence he found himself in once Walt came back into his life. Sure, he’s faced his fair share of loss and committed unspeakable acts along the way — R.I.P. Gale Boetticher (David Costabile) — but Jesse revealed his true colors in this Breaking Bad sequel as he persevered and rose from the proverbial ashes to go after what was his: A peaceful life away from all this mess.
This ranking has given a score to each familiar Breaking Bad face who pops up in El Camino. But Pinkman is in a category all by himself. We’ve seen him at his peaks and at his valleys and, as the movie ends with Jesse taking in his new Canadian surroundings, handing Ed a letter addressed to Brock Cantillo — the son of Andrea, an addict he met in N.A., whom he eventually befriended — it’s clear that while this is the end of his story, it truly is the
Honorable Mention: The Kandy Welding technician (Scott MacArthur)
The only character on this list who isn’t a familiar Breaking Bad face is the Kandy Welding technician who Jesse first encounters in Todd’s apartment, pretending to be an FBI agent. The standoff that transpires here finds Pinkman surrendering to a duo he believes to be law enforcement, only to realize they were looking for the same thing he was: Todd’s cash stash.
They come to an agreement and split the money three ways. But once Jesse takes that bag of cash to Ed, he realizes he’s $1,800 short. So, after a quick trip to his parents’ house, where he grabs the guns from the safe — and an unfortunate flashback that reveals this man as the guy who Nazi Kenny (Kevin Rankin) hired to create one of the many mechanisms that kept Jesse captive on Uncle Jack’s compound — Pinkman tracks the man down amid a stripper and cocaine-fueled bender.
The standoff that transpires leads to an Old West-style duel. Jesse guns down the technician and his buddy, grabs the man’s bag of cash and gun, and heads to make things right with Ed.
On a scale of 1 to 11, Kenny gets a 6 and the Kandy Welding technician gets an 11
His selfishness combined with the work he did at Kenny’s command to keep Jesse locked up easily makes him one of the worst characters to appear in the movie. He was the final roadblock in keeping Jesse from freedom. Vigilante justice served.