‘El Camino’: What to Remember 6 Years After ‘Breaking Bad’
Six years ago, AMC’s award-season juggernaut “Breaking Bad” came to a bloody and satisfying end, and with it the story of Walter White (Bryan Cranston), the high school science teacher who became an Albuquerque drug kingpin. AMC quickly spun off a prequel series, “Better Call Saul,” giving fans more time with characters like Saul Goodman, Mike Ehrmantraut and Gus Fring. But given that shift in focus — and all the carnage of the final “Breaking Bad” season — it was reasonable to think that the finale was the last word otherwise.
Then in late 2018, the series’s creator, Vince Gilligan, secretly gathered his collaborators in New Mexico and directed his own screenplay for “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie,” which comes to Netflix Friday. Judging by the trailer, the movie introduces a bunch of new characters and brings back a few familiar ones, the most important being Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), whom we last saw looking broken but alive, speeding off through the desert in … an El Camino.
But what about the rest? Remember Skinny Pete? And what about poor Flynn? It’s been a while, so here’s a refresher on where we left the characters who may still have some bearing on the sequel — alive, dead or somewhere in between.
In Season 5, Walter’s right-hand man, Jesse, went through the wringer. First he came to realize just how much Walter had betrayed him. Then he was made a literal slave to meth-dealing white supremacists. We don’t know a lot about what happened to Jesse after the desert shootout that killed the D.E.A. agent (and Walt’s brother-in-law) Hank Schrader (Dean Norris). But by the time Walter came to save him, his existence looked tortured: imprisoned in the meth lab, cooking for monsters, rarely seeing the light of day.
Walter saved him, relying on his usual mix of brazenness and ingenuity (and the help of a remote-controlled machine gun). Jesse sped off into the night, hysterical and screaming. The movie looks to pick up immediately thereafter, so remember the trauma inflicted by Jesse’s captivity. It will surely play a role.
Badger and Skinny Pete
The first teaser trailer for “El Camino” offered a glimpse of Jesse Pinkman’s regular collaborator Skinny Pete (Charles Baker). He appears again in the official trailer, alongside his usual partner, Badger (Matthew Lee Jones). They were two of the last people to do business with Walt. In the series finale, they were paid by Walter to pose as assassins outside of the home of Walter’s former business partners the Schwartzes (Jessica Hecht and Adam Godley), a ruse to ensure that the couple would do as they were told. Pete and Badger also revealed to Walter that blue meth was still on the scene. Jesse has turned to them in times of need before. Judging by the trailer, he looks to need their help again.
The last we saw Saul (Bob Odenkirk), he was headed to a new life — which “Better Call Saul” has since confirmed involved an illustrious career as a Cinnabon employee. Could he resurface somewhere on the timeline between his last “Breaking Bad” appearance and those ominous “Saul” flash-forwards? Certainly. And an appearance by Odenkirk could really tie all three “Breaking Bad”-related projects together.
Saul’s lovable bodyguard, Huell (Lavell Crawford), has been the subject of much internet concern as he was last seen being told never to leave a safe house by Agents Schrader and Gomez — who were then killed by Nazis. Is he still there? If Saul comes back into the picture in “El Camino,” he could also bring back one of the few people he thinks he can still trust.
Andrea and Brock Cantillo
There’s a shot of a photo of Jesse’s former girlfriend, Andrea, and her son, Brock (Ian Posada and Emily Rios), in the “El Camino” trailer, reminding viewers how important they were to Jesse — and to the plot: The end of “Breaking Bad” would have been very different if not for Jesse’s realization that Walter had poisoned Brock. In the second-to-last episode, Jesse watched as Todd (Jesse Plemons) murdered Andrea on her porch; maybe Jesse will try to be a father to an orphaned Brock in “El Camino.”
And although most of the Nazis are dead and Jesse already strangled Todd to death in the finale, it stands to reason that some of Todd’s more distant associates are probably still alive. Will Jesse be seeking more revenge?
The owner of Rocker Salvage (Larry Hankin) was a part of Jesse’s schemes in Season 5. He supplied the giant magnet used to wipe clean Gus Fring’s laptop in police custody. And he helped Jesse and Walt build their and their mobile meth lab operation. He has been spotted in the trailer for “El Camino.”
Skyler White and Walter White Jr.
Skyler and Walter Jr., a.k.a. Flynn (Anna Gunn and R.J. Mitte), again moved with baby Holly out of the family home in which so much of “Breaking Bad” took place. But Walter still found them in the finale. In a phone call the episode before, Walt Jr. had angrily asked his father to hurry up and die, so it’s just as well he wasn’t home.
Almost unfazed by Walter’s appearance, Skyler listened to what Walt Sr. had to say, arguably got some closure, learned where Hank’s body was buried and then allowed him to say a final goodbye to his daughter. After leaving, Walter watched from afar as his son come home from school, unaware his father was seeing him for the final time.
Left to reassemble the pieces of Gus Fring’s broken empire, Lydia (Laura Fraser) was a key part of how the series reached its conclusion. Her expanded role was short-lived. After Jesse killed Todd, she called Todd’s phone, expecting confirmation that Walter was dead. Instead Walter picked up: Turned out not only was he alive, he had also replaced the “stevia crap” she used in her tea with ricin the last time they met. Presumably she won’t be back.
Gretchen and Elliott Schwartz
Walter was just about to turn himself in when he saw Gretchen and Elliott on Charlie Rose, talking about how little the now-infamous drug kingpin had to do with their success. He tracked them down, dropping millions of dollars on them with instructions to form a trust fund for his family. Perhaps “El Camino” will provide an update on whether they actually go along with Walt’s plan.
In the series finale, Hank’s widow, Marie (Betsy Brandt), called her sister, Skyler, with news about Walt’s return. Will Marie figure into Jesse’s story? Probably not. But Gilligan has a sneaky way of bringing characters back, so we can’t rule it out, especially if Jesse re-enters Skyler’s life for some reason.
Gilligan has confirmed it: Yes, Walter is dead. But the way Gilligan has played with time on both of his shows means we can probably expect a flashback or two on “El Camino.” Those could open the door to many characters who were dead when the series ended, including Jesse’s speedball-shooting ex, Jane (Krysten Ritter); Gus (Giancarlo Esposito); Gus’s right-hand, Mike (Jonathan Banks); and even Hank.
The big question, however, is whether Walter will be among those familiar faces. Would it truly feel like “Breaking Bad” if he weren’t?
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