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Following months and months in captivity within the Breaking Bad universe, years and years after the last curtain call on the AMC drama in our universe, Aaron Paul’s Pinkman finally escaped his dark fate via writer-director Vince Gilligan’s El Camino, on Netflix and in limited theatrical release now. When it ended, Breaking Bad didn’t leave too much up in the air. Walter White (Bryan Cranston) took care of Uncle Jack (Michael Bowen) and his Nazi gang, Jesse choked the living daylights out of Todd (Jesse Plemons), and the two former crystal meth partners parted ways — one with a bullet in his side, one with his hands on a fast, new ride.
If there were lingering questions, they surrounded the man who truly escaped: Jesse, screaming with tears streaming down his face, bursting out into the pitch-black night. Where was he off to? Would he survive whatever was coming his way next? If he survived, would he be free, or would he find himself right back in a different cage? El Camino delivers those answers in a tense but tidy package — and it brings up some new questions in the process. Here are seven of them, and first, let’s clear the elephant from the room …
1. Did we really need any of this?
Other versions of the same question include: “Does El Camino need to exist?” “Why couldn’t I just imagine Jesse’s ending for myself?” “Seriously, the dog run dude? That’s the bad guy?” There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, even though Gilligan himself has provided his own take on the matter. But as with the thrust of Breaking Bad itself, need doesn’t have much to do with anything; at the end of the day, it’s about want. Did you want more from the Breaking Bad universe? Then congratulations! You got it. If you didn’t want it, good news! You don’t have to watch it. El Camino doesn’t much impact the ending of Breaking Bad. No harm, no foul — unless you’re the dog run dude, in which case, lots of harm.
2. Have we seen the last of Jesse Pinkman?
Depends on what we mean by “last.” Is it possible Jesse turns up on Better Call Saul someday, as the tale of Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) veers closer to the Heisenberg of it all? Absolutely — though it’s also possible Saul will yada-yada through that business since it’s already played out so thoroughly on Breaking Bad. But will we see what’s next for Jesse after he lands in Alaska? Let’s hope not, because it likely plays out one of two ways: a very boring story because Jesse’s life is full of hot chocolate and warm sweaters and books and other forms of Alaskan pleasantness (that’s what happens in Alaska, right?), or he’s somehow roped back into some high-octane trouble — and that defeats the purpose of the happy ending he earned over the course of El Camino. Always up to see what ideas Gilligan has in mind for the character, of course, but for now, it feels like Mr. Driscoll has earned his retirement.
3. How about the Kandy men?
El Camino leans on existential dread and threats from the past for much of its runtime, but Jesse’s fight to survive in the present largely involves squaring off against two crooks: Neil Kandy (Scott MacArthur) and his buddy Casey (Scott Shepherd), metal-workers who teamed up with Todd during Jesse’s days in captivity. They are both very dead by the end of El Camino, but as full-on newbies in the Breaking Bad universe, there’s no reason why they can’t turn up on Better Call Saul in some capacity — especially since these are the last two men Jesse ever killed (hopefully!), which makes them fairly important in the greater Breaking Bad mythology. Consider this a vote for Jimmy and the Kandy gang to cross paths at some point down the line.
4. What happened to Skinny Pete?
The first teaser for El Camino centered on Charles Barker’s Pete, sitting in an interrogation room and basically telling police to take a hike. “I don’t know where he is,” he swears, which we felt then and now know for sure is a lie. The scene, however, does not exist in the film. What happens when the police roll up to Pete’s house, canonically? Do we assume he outlasts them in the interrogation room? When nobody finds Pinkman because he’s ditched town for Alaska, does Pete earn a free pass? And what does Pete do after that? Badger (Matt Jones) is a reluctant participant in Jesse’s escape, but for Pete, setting Pinkman free is a no-brainer. As Skinny tells Jesse: “You’re my hero and shit.” Does that mean Pete models his life after Jesse moving forward — and if so, for better or for worse? Sign me up for El Skinnymo now, in which Pete goes on a high-speed vision quest to find Jesse in Alaska. Maybe find a better name for it.
5. What about the Whites?
So many familiar faces from Breaking Bad show up in El Camino, but there are key absences. Among the most important characters who sit out of the film: Skyler (Anna Gunn), Flynn (RJ Mitte) and baby Holly, not to mention Marie (Betsy Brandt), the family Walter left behind. Big forces within Breaking Bad, yes, but forces in Jesse’s life? Not as much — and as Gilligan has rightly pointed out, their inclusion in El Camino would only spell trouble for Jesse, and renewed trauma for themselves. Have they not been through enough? Breaking Bad allowed Walt’s family to live, albeit under the shadow of his actions. That may be about as happy an ending as we can ever hope for them, at least cinematically.
6. How else can Breaking Bad expand?
Walter is dead. Jesse is gone. Saul Goodman’s in the past. Where else can the Breaking Bad universe extend? There aren’t too many main players screaming for their own prequel series a la Saul, but it’s worth pointing out that sometimes — once a season, right at the top of the premiere, to be precise — Saul vaults into the future. After El Camino, could we similarly rush forward and follow a grown-up Brock living with the ramifications of what’s happened to his life because of Jesse? Does Brock seeking out Pinkman become the Breaking Bad equivalent of the much-discussed-but-probably-never-happening Kill Bill Vol. 3, in which Nikki Green seeks out the Bride for vengeance? Frankly, here’s hoping not — but if Vince Gilligan and his team have other ideas for ways in which to explore out new corners in the same world that contains the Heisenberg mythos, there will certainly be plenty of folks along for the ride.
And with that said, one final, critical question…
7. Did Jesse get the pizza?
If so, let’s hope it was more fully enjoyed than the other, more infamous pizza in the Breaking Bad canon:
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