I hadn’t realized how much I missed Breaking Bad until I saw El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie movie over the weekend. The film that explains what happened to Jesse Pinkman after his escape in the Breaking Bad finale does feel a lot like a long Breaking Bad episode, which is quite a treat for fans of the series, but may not be as entertaining to anyone who hasn’t seen how the five-season AMC drama concluded.
Going into El Camino, I had no expectations for the film or for Jesse’s fate. The character deserved some redemption after what he went through, but it’s not like he wasn’t responsible for the way things turned out. That said, El Camino delivered a compelling and heartbreaking story, with Aaron Paul shining, once again, as Jesse, with a fitting end for the troubled young man we’ve come to know since he partnered up with Walter White. But it turns out the ending could have been a lot darker than what we saw in the final cut. Also, a variation of the ending the team chose contained another exciting scene I wish I could see. In case you haven’t seen the movie, spoilers will follow below.
Vince Gilligan, the mind behind Breaking Bad and the writer and director of El Camino, shared with Entertainment Weekly his original plan for the film’s end.
In that early version, Pinkman would have almost made it to Alaska, as he had initially planned, but he would have eventually been caught in Canada and brought back to the United States to pay for his crimes:
I didn’t get super far down the road, but it was probably going to be a young woman who needed some help. He was hiding out by the Canadian border, and this woman was working at a motel as a housekeeper or something. [He] goes into the process of saving her, knowing full well that he’s going to suffer for it, he’s going to get caught for it, but he does it anyway. And the last scene would be maybe him in a jail cell but at peace for the first time since the movie began. I think there was going to be this component where he couldn’t sleep. He wouldn’t get a single night’s sleep for a week or so upon escaping. The police are looking for him and he’s too haunted and he’s too adrenaline-charged. And at the end of the thing, he’s in a jail cell, and ironically he can fall asleep like a baby. And I thought, ‘Ah, that’d be kind of cool.’
Gilligan, however, pitched the idea to his closest confidants, including his girlfriend, Holly, and Breaking Bad producer and Better Call Saul co-creator Peter Gould. The reaction he got ultimately made him change his mind:
I pitched some version of that to my girlfriend Holly, and I also separately pitched that to [Breaking Bad executive producer/Better Call Saul co-creator Peter Gould] and the writers and everybody looked at me like I was absolutely insane: ‘You can’t have Jesse back in a cell at the end of the movie! People will tar and feather you!’ I’m glad I listened to them. I think there is a version of that movie that if perfectly executed would work, but I don’t know that I was the guy to pull it off. I’m glad I wound up doing it the way I did it.
Aaron Paul, meanwhile, told EW that the El Camino ending was initially slightly different. As Jesse drives away, the contents of the letter he handed to Ed would have been revealed to the audience:
That letter to Brock was the very first thing that Vince wrote when writing this script. Once he completed that letter, he started the script. Originally the voiceover of that letter was how the movie ended — just driving through Alaska and you could hear what was inside of that letter…. It’s heartbreaking, it’s beautiful, just honest. But Vince just thought, ‘You know what? Maybe it’s best left unknown.’ And we don’t need it. He was right. But I love knowing what was in the letter.
Paul promised Gilligan not to share what was in the letter, so we’ll never know, unless El Camino somehow gets a sequel. Who knows what might happen next for Mr. Driscoll.