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Breaking Bad's El Camino: Ending Explained – Jesse's Getaway


“And whatever happened with me, it’s on me” The Breaking Bad finale tied up many loose ends yet it left viewers with one big question

What would happen to Jesse Pinkman? Sure, he lived and drove away, but would he really be okay? [Laughing] In El Camino, Netflix’s Breaking Bad movie, we get a feature-length answer Back in 2013, when the final episode aired, show creator Vince Gilligan said that while it was up to viewers to interpret the character’s fate, personally he hoped Jesse would manage to evade the police and end up alright “I think he rated a happy ending” He said, “The romantic in me wants to believe that he gets away with it and moves to Alaska and has a peaceful life communing with nature

” In this cinematic epilogue to the show, Gilligan delivers on his own hopes This is the journey of how Jesse gets to Alaska And it’s a journey that takes place primarily within, as Mr Pinkman grapples with the ghosts of his past “All that you’ve done – it’s a part of you

” The movie’s title, El Camino, has a double meaning It’s both the literal getaway car Jesse drives off in, and Spanish for “the road” or “the way” What we’re watching here is Jesse’s road to freedom, his escape route from a toxic past that’s been dragging him down and controlling him for as long as we’ve known him, which is to say, for as long as he’s been in partnership with Walter White “Can you just, uh, stop working me for, like, ten seconds straight? Stop jerking me around?” El Camino ends with Jesse driving, just as the finale left him, but the man at the wheel is transformed The frenzied, hysterical, hunted animal has become the determined, clear-eyed man in control of his destiny, headed towards peace, even if there’s still a long road ahead of him

Here’s our Take on the deeper meaning of El Camino and how the ever-underestimated Jesse Pinkman sets himself free This video is brought to you by MUBI A curated streaming service showing exceptional films from around the globe It’s like your own personal film festival streaming anytime, anywhere “The past is the past

” The only way toward a fresh, new future is through the dirty, painful past Just as Gilligan and the cast are re-entering a story that’s a part of our collective history, El Camino is an exercise in looking back It’s a study of PTSD and whether a person who’s suffered intense trauma can truly begin again “You're safe it's us” The film begins in a flashback, and the person Jesse’s thinking of here, is of course, Walter “You know he's not gonna be happy

” “No, I suspect he won't” Jesse is telling Mike of his decision to walk away from the business “I'm out” which he tries to do in Season 5 Episode 6, “Buyout” “I'm out too” “You're what?” In this scene, he fears, correctly, that Walt won’t let him “I’m done

” “No you’re not, you’re not done” And we know how that turned out As Jesse revisits this memory of a time when his resolve wasn’t strong enough to escape Walt’s orbit, he’s, for the first time, truly out He’s leaving the scene of Walter’s death having at last refused to do what Walter wanted him to do, [Shouting] “Say you want this!” [Whispering] “I want this” “Then do it yourself

” and received his blessing to leave But as the title emphasizes, he has a long road ahead, and to go the distance, he must make peace with a series of phantoms who are haunting him First is Mike Ehrmantraut, the kind, civilized criminal who had a soft spot for the kid and wanted the best for him The scene takes place in a spot that looks very similar to where Walt killed Mike, so the eerie-feeling location is reminding us of the tragic fate Mike met while trying to get away This conversation plants in Jesse the idea of where to go

“If I were your age, starting fresh – Alaska” We’ve heard him talk about Alaska before, “What aboutAlaska?” but now we know this idea was a gift to Jesse from Mike

The flashback helps Jesse set a destination for himself, which is both the literal place of Alaska and the emotional goal of “starting fresh” “Start over, start fresh” “One could” The next ghost is Jesse’s captor and abuser, Todd Alquist As we’ve talked about, Todd is a dark mirror figure of Jesse

Both are young blond guys who worked for Walter Both even fall for a brunette woman Walter kills or lets die “Texas authorities investigating the poisoning of a Houston woman are looking into her possible connection to Walter White's criminal organization” But while Jesse is sweet-hearted, deeply feeling, and always tries to protect the vulnerable, especially kids, “A threat? The kid was waving at us” Todd is vacant, unfeeling, and rushes to kill the innocent, including kids, as a precaution

“What did she do to you?” “What? Oh, she didn't do anything to me” Todd feels no remorse, “Shit happens, huh?” Jesse feels constant remorse “So, no matter what I do, hooray for me because I'm a great guy? No matter how many dogs I kill, I just what, do an inventory and accept?” Todd’s prominence in the film underlines that Jesse must escape his dark alter ego And this means both that 1) he’s not defeated by Todd’s evil and 2) he doesn’t become it When the action begins, Jesse has just killed his tormentor but that doesn’t mean he’s mentally free of the sociopath

He’s driving Todd’s car, the very car in the film’s title "First, I gotta get rid of that car" And after getting rid of it, he goes to Todd's apartment So he’s inhabiting his former captor’s spaces In the flashbacks we see how much Jesse has suffered in these spaces He’s forced to lie down in the car, then help dispose of the body of an innocent woman, and even lie next to her corpse on the drive

Todd keeps Jesse docile with the threat of harming his former girlfriend Andrea’s son Brock "If you tried to, you know, escape, I'm gonna have to visit the little boy It’ll basically be out of my hands” And Todd seems to relish the excursion as a way of rubbing in that he knows Jesse won't try anything He’s Todd’s well-trained, obedient pet

“I’m gonna do a better job of keeping you clean from now on” Making Jesse lie next to the dead body is another control tactic, sending the message that Jesse, too, is already dead Back in the present, Jesse fears that he’s been broken by Todd When he sees the scared, animalistic creature he's become in the mirror at Skinny Pete’s, he can’t stand this sight, so he shaves off all his hair despite Skinny’s advice to remain less recognizable The key moment in the flashbacks with Todd comes when Jesse finds a gun, but lets Todd talk him out of his chance at freedom

“On the way home, I was gonna get us some pizza” It’s a moment that underlines Todd’s terrible genius for psychological control “Cause you earned it today You definitely did What kind of pizza do you like, Jesse?” And it's clear his terror and manipulation tactics have damaged Jesse far more than the physical torture

Jesse re-lives this moment of surrender with Neil and Casey, two criminals he believes to be police officers searching Todd’s apartment “You two aren't cops” This plot fleshes out a line of thought we’ve seen before in Jesse’s narrative: the idea that his morality and goodness are liabilities in a Breaking Bad world "He poisoned a little kid An eight-year-old boy

Just because, you know, just as a move!” Jesse really doesn’t want to hurt another innocent person “I’m not cop killer” If you have a gun but it’s clear you don’t want to use it, that weapon doesn’t give you any power “I don't wanna shoot any cops” “Yeah, you don't wanna shoot any cops Great, fantastic

” When Jesse gives up his gun this second time, he feels the trauma and shame that Todd ingrained into him come flooding back, as he despairs that he’s given up another chance to fight for himself But after Jesse realizes the two men aren’t cops, he’s daring and bold “I will shoot you” “Then do it already If I don't get this money, I am dead anyway

” He seizes on an opportunity for a way out “Well I know where it is And I guran-[Bleep]-tee you won’t find It on your own” and stands his ground, calling Neil’s bluff, just as Neil called his “If you pull that trigger, then you are gonna have to kill that loudmouth down the hall and every other witness in the place

Then you will be as f-[Bleep] as I am” So it wasn’t fear or cowardice holding Jesse back from using his gun, but the regard for innocent life that’s always defined him And while this might appear like weakness to the cynical criminals of Walter White's world, this core virtue Jesse has somehow retained means he’s the only one among this group who still has a chance of getting spiritually free Walter takes it for granted that they’ve both sealed their fates in hell “If you believe that there's a hell, we're already pretty much going there, right?” Yet while that’s true of him, he’s wrong to write off Jesse’s soul

El Camino watches Jesse restore his sense of self by finding a way to get free without compromising his core morals As a dark alter ego, Todd is a manifestation of that worst possible self Jesse fears he is He must reckon with his past as a person who has killed, and hurt people, and contributed to a drug trade that fuels people’s misery “You run from things or you face them, Mr White

I accept who I am” “And who are you? “I’m the bad guy” At this point, Jesse appears to the world to be indistinguishable from a Todd He’s a wanted man with his face all over the news, being blamed for unspeakable acts When Jesse tears apart Todd’s apartment trying to figure out where his money’s hidden, it’s like he’s trying to get in the head of his evil twin

But Jesse proves that he’s not a Todd in any way The difference in their natures is illustrated in two separate uses of bugs in the film Todd’s pet tarantula is a callback to the pet he stole from the boy he pointlessly killed in “Dead Freight,” and it echoes his creepy, inhuman, dangerous nature Meanwhile, we get a moment of Jesse not hurting a defenseless beetle, which calls back to the scene in “Peekaboo” when Jesse is fascinated by a beetle, before it’s crushed by Skinny Pete The moments underline his gentle treatment of creatures others just discard, and if you compare Jesse to that vulnerable little creature, this beetle he’s now lifted up could represent that he’s now going to make it out okay

Todd’s apartment has a couple other Easter Eggs, as Todd’s own line tells us “I was thinking of Easter eggs” We see a Vamonos Pest shirt, and a snow globe with little figures of Todd and his crush Lydia We also might notice that Jesse’s way of killing Todd, strangling him, is a just retribution for Todd’s killing of an innocent here "Gonna need this

” Finally, almost an hour and 45 minutes into the film, Jesse is visited by the ghost we’ve all been waiting for The flashback with Walter takes place after the pair’s mega-cook in the Season Two episode “4 Days Out,” which actor Aaron Paul has called his favorite episode We hear Jesse on the phone, presumably to Jane “Do you miss me?” This scene resurrects that old Jesse of early days, “Yeah science!" “Gatorade me bitch!” as clearly signaled by the one “bitch” he drops in the whole film, “Yeah bitch!” Reverting to this original Walt-and-Jesse rapport is enjoyable, familiar, indulging a nostalgia for viewers “Pineapple's good for you

It's got bromine” “Bromelain But, close Actually, it's not close at all” Yet it feels remote, separated from this story by an impenetrable layer of time

And this former Jesse, “This is my own private domicile and I will not be harrassed Bitch!” is dead This is highlighted early in the film when we cut from Jesse’s tense scene evading the cops, to a similar visual of the video game his friends Skinny Pete and Badger are playing “You couldn't drive a two button elevator” “You couldn't drive Miss Daisy You couldn't drive Thelma and Louise off of that cliff

” Jesse shows up into this light-hearted vignette of the kind of night he used to be right at home in, but he’s unrecognizable “Dude you lost?” “Jesse?” When Walt says his most significant line in the film: “You’re really lucky you know that That you didn't have to wait your whole life to do something special” the visual here subtly evokes the opening shot when Jesse was thinking of Walt And the line tells us everything about Walter’s distorted view of what matters in life

He took Jesse’s future from him, before the kid had even really grown up, and left him scarred and traumatized Yet he really believes that he gave his protegee something — greatness Specialness When he asks: “After this what then? “Mmm” “What about college?” given all that’s happened since, Jesse going to college really is impossible, and that’s thanks to Walt

At the Owl Cafe, Walter believes he’s going to die soon “Your family is gonna get every dime they got coming to them, Mr White No matter how long it takes” It’s only at the end Of “4 Days Out” that he finds out his cancer’s in remission

“Just when I try to get out, they pump him back in” The scene between these two raises the spectre of what might have been if Walter’s sickness had taken him at this point, Jesse would have retained his innocence, maybe even gone to college and had a future with Jane “What would you study, you think, eh? What interests you?” “Sports Medicine?” So this film isn’t just about Jesse’s PTSD from Todd’s abuse, because really, his period of trauma began with Walter, his original captor “Just tell me you don't give a shit about me, and it's either this– it's either this or you'll kill me the same way you killed Mike” When Walter utters this final line, “You’re really lucky, You know that?” it seems to represent Jesse at last fully understanding what Walt took from him and making his peace with who Walter really was

After this he disappears from the story, so we might say Jesse is free of his ghost The running theme about Jesse in Breaking Bad is that he’s constantly underestimated “Go to Mexico and screw up like l know you will” Old Joe reminds us of this when he calls back to a memorable time Jesse came through with a clever idea "Magnets!" “Yeah That was a good one

” “Yeah, bitch! Magnets!” [Shouting] “Orr what about a magnet?” “What magnet? What about it?” after being ignored and discounted In El Camino, again we see Walter unthinkingly disparaging the kid “First step, get your GED that’s not a problem” “What do I need a GED for? I got my diploma” “I totally graduated high school dick

” But people are wrong to write Jesse off “And then we’re gonna clean up every possible source of contamination And only then, we cook” By El Camino, the character finally gets that others’ tendency to overlook his value can be a gift “Where'd you get that thing?” “I think it was my grandfather's

” “Oh, well, it's adorable” Here he uses it to his advantage “Your 22 against my 45?” After Jesse leaves Todd’s apartment with a third of the money, he sees Neil’s truck and realizes they have history “I was wondering when you were gonna remember me” He shows up at Kandy Welding Company with a plan in place that’s downright Heisenbergian in its strategy

The set-up might remind us of Walt’s massacre of Jax He walks in alone, unphased by being outrageously outnumbered He plays on his target’s hubris while hiding something up his sleeve, or in Jesse’s case, in his pocket But the fine line that El Camino walks is showing Jesse take concrete, logical steps to assure his future, without turning him into a by-any-means-necessary Heisenberg He sets clear above-board terms with Neil, “Winner takes all

” and he shoots Casey when Casey goes for him These are bad guys who chose their fate The plot centers on Jesse’s quest to buy his freedom In contrast to Walt’s insatiable greed for more money, and an empire and legacy to leave behind, Jesse doesn’t actually want any more money than it takes to purchase his travel from his past to a new start “Why not an even two grand? You know, nice round number

” “$1,800 is all I need” His interactions with Ed Galbraith, the guy who disappears people, involve Ed being a stickler when Jesse is just shy of the amount he needs “What are you doing?” “I’m gathering your Belongings" “ No, no, no/” “You are going to jack me up over a measly 1800?” This part of the film underlines that becoming a true adult — and the new person Jesse wants to be — requires firm rules and sticking to them “A deal's a deal Your word is your bond

” “It is” The Breaking Bad finale emphasized the show’s Western elements, “I gave it to the two of the best hitmen West of the Mississippi” even echoing The Searchers in the plot of Walt impulsively deciding to save Jesse “Let’s go home, Debbie” In El Camino, the Western nature of Breaking Bad is even more apparent

We get a literal Wild West-style shoot-out, “Like the Wild West?” “Yeah, like the Wild West” complete with the close-ups on the eyes straight out of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly… And we get the plot of the outlaw trying to outrun the law and escape town, “But you're still nothing but two-bit outlaws on the dodge” while hoping to redeem himself for past sins Like in the rest of the show, the Western spirit ties into Breaking Bad’s emphasis on living large, evading the law, and the individual’s responsibility for himself “The trouble with Walt…” and this is a fatal flaw on his part, he’s a guy who doesn’t take responsibility for his actions

” But unlike the rest of Breaking Bad, this isn’t a story about going bad For once it’s about character turning things around and making good Also like in a classic Western, we see the drive to move farther away from civilization, to chase that final frontier “It's the last frontier” where a person can escape a messy past and the confines of society to get a second chance “Up there, you could be anything you want

” As he drives off to Alaska, Jesse imagines his love, Jane, next to him “Going where the universe takes you Right on I think it's a cool philosophy” “I was being metaphorically it's a terrible philosophy

” We saw this scene of the couple going to the Georgia O’Keefe museum in season 3, Episode 11, when it was already a flashback “That O'Keeffe lady kept trying over and over until that stupid door was perfect” “No That door was her home, and she loved it” “To me, that's about making that feeling last

” And this final ghost, the symbol of the true love that was destroyed by the bad life that pulled him under, clarifies the biggest lesson he’s learned “I’ve gone where the universe takes me my whole life It's better to make those decisions for yourself” Todd also understood this, “You know what Uncle Jack says, ‘Life is what you make it’” And Mike told him this, too: “Only you can decide what's best for you, Jesse

” So throughout these flashbacks, Jesse has been subtly processing this advice he’s received from many places, “From where I sit, you made your own luck As did your former partner As did your lawyer” to finally internalize it by the end of the film For all of Breaking Bad, Jesse has been pulled along, messed around, a victim of circumstance, and of Walter White

Now at last he’s making decisions for himself — he picks a destination, he works to purchase his ticket there; he turns down distractions and shortcuts; and he follows through As Mike tells Jesse, he can’t right his past wrongs “Put things right” “No Sorry, kid, that's the one thing you can never do

” And as he crosses over, the one letter he sends is to Brock, presumably explaining some of the context of his mother’s death and how sorry Jesse is The tragedy he unwillingly brought to that family will never leave him "Anyone else you want to say goodbye to?" Still, he’s taking control and responsibility for himself, becoming master of his fate And that’s why, when we leave him, he has the hint of a calm smile on his face You might ask why Gilligan wanted to make this movie — why of all the stories was this the one worth telling six years after the show ended? Breaking Bad was full of instances of Jesse getting manipulated, abused, deeply hurt by his toxic partnership with Walt

He became a character that many people watching the show both loved and pitied Gilligan spoke about he and the other writers also felt for Jesse, and wanted him to avoid a tragic fate Within the story, too, the people who meet and know Jesse like the kid, “It's on the house Good kid” and want to help him if they can

“Why are you doing all this?” “You’re my hero and shit” “The car guy near the beginning” Jesse is the one character who seemed like he didn’t deserve the doomed, hellish consequences of choosing this life, because he didn’t really choose it When the show begins, Jesse is a very small-time criminal – he may not be contributing much to society, but he’s not causing widespread death and destruction His former teacher blackmails him into starting a joint meth cooking operation, "Either that

or I turn you in" and from that point on Walt views Jesse as his Every time the boy attempts to get free, Walt sucks him back into this cycle of darkness

“Ever since I met you everything I cared about is gone, ruined, turned to shit Ever since I hooked up with the great Heisenberg” In our Jesse video we compare this character to a kind of dark Jesus Christ who suffers for the sins of Walt’s Bad God “Mr White, he's the devil

” So it fits that Jesse becomes the one character in Breaking Bad who does the impossible and finds a way out It’s the miracle that gives the rest of us hope “Not many of us get a chance to start fresh Good luck, Mr Driscoll

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