El Camino Ending: How Jesse Pinkman's Breaking Bad Story Came Full Circle

jesse pinkman dirty el camino
(Image credit: netflix press)

SPOILER WARNING!!! Do not read on unless you have watched the entirety of El Camino: A Breaking Bad Story, or you have no problem knowing all the details without watching.

Breaking Bad capped off its fifth season with the death of Bryan Cranston's Walter White, and the liberation (as it were) of Aaron Paul's previously imprisoned and enslaved Jesse Pinkman. For a few years, that served as the proper ending to the expanding franchise, but with the release of El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, creator Vince Gilligan has returned to his magnum opus to wrap up a lot of loose ends for Jesse's narrative.

While some of those loose ends could have feasibly knotted up and become a noose around Jesse's throat, Vince Gilligan allowed the character's story to come full circle in a much more optimistic way that delivers Justice for Jesse. Let's go over exactly how El Camino followed up on and ended Jesse's Breaking Bad horrors, complete with some star-studded flashbacks.

Jesse Got Cleaned Up And Traded The El Camino

The movie opens on a flashback in which Jonathan Banks' Mike tips everyone off about a future in Alaska, cluing audiences in on just how cyclical the storytelling would be here. Right after, El Camino cuts back to Jesse's final moments in Breaking Bad, with his hysterical relief in full force before he paid a visit to his homeboys Skinny Pete and Badger.

At their house, Jesse's PTSD came out like a storm, but he was able to eat, sleep and shower without things getting too catastrophic. Against Skinny Pete's wishes, Jesse re-shaved his head to get rid of all the hair that grew while he was being imprisoned by Uncle Jack, returning to his signature Jesse Pinkman look. Jesse's attempt to get the El Camino destroyed by Old Joe at Rocker Salvage was thwarted thanks to its security system, but Skinny Pete stepped up with a clever car-swap plan to throw the authorities off.

Skinny Pete kept the El Camino, since the cops already knew it was at the house, while Jesse took Badger's car. Meanwhile, Badger drove Skinny Pete's car down to near the border, to make it look like Jesse had skipped out to Mexico. We didn't get to see Skinny Pete get interrogated like that first teaser trailer showed, but we bet he got away without taking a big fall like the hero that he is.

jesse pulling gun on Todd el camino a breaking bad movie

Jesse Had Todd Flashbacks Never Seen In Breaking Bad

Now set with a vehicle that didn't have a target on it, Jesse set his sights on finding cash stacks, which led to a particular set of flashbacks involving Jesse Plemons' impish white supremacist Todd. In El Camino, Todd brought Jesse out of his cage one afternoon, taking advantage of an empty house, and asked a favor, which of course involved getting rid of a dead body.

After Todd's housekeeper discovered the cored-out encyclopedias where he kept his money, Todd killed her, and then had Jesse ride along and bury the body. It was obvious that this particular death hit Jesse in a weird place. He didn't even want to eat any soup! But it seems that he must have taken note of Todd's belt being around the woman's neck, as he eventually went on to kill Todd by strangling him with this handcuff chains. (Things came full circle in reverse-order there, but both around necks)

Todd was his usual Todd self – base-level polite and empathetic, even while never blinking at treating Jesse like a pack mule – but he under-thought the situation when he called on Jesse to grab cigarettes from the same glove compartment where he kept a gun. But while the opportunity was there for Jesse to take Todd out with one shot, the implications of what would might happen to Brock after that (among other things) weighed on Jesse's brain, and he ended up turning the gun over to Todd. In the same way quite a few of his prior standoffs ended with him being the one to back down.

jesse grabbing money at gunpoint el camino

Jesse Found Todd's Money, But With Complications

Beyond showing audiences how unable to commit to impulsive revenger Jesse was while under the command of Uncle Jack's crew, these El Camino flashbacks also served to remind Jesse that there was a hefty chunk of change somewhere in Todd's apartment. After tearing the place apart, Jesse finally discovered everything stuffed inside a refrigerator door.

Enter two thugs who were also trying to find all the money, only while first posing as cops. One of the two, the Kandy Welding lunk named Neil, was played by The Mick and Righteous Gemstones standout Scott MacArthur. El Camino posited that he was responsible for putting together some of the equipment used to keep Jesse shackled, though he never appeared on Breaking Bad. This obviously gave Jesse more of a clear motive to hate this bastard, but he kept things cordial enough to work a three-way split with Todd's money.

I find it discouraging that even though Todd's spider got ample screentime inside his tank, viewers never got to see it free and clear and living outside the home of a racist murderer. (One who admittedly gives amusing eulogies.) Also, Jesse didn't get a chance to smash Neil in the head with any of those snowglobes. In these two ways, El Camino did not use Jesse to go full circle with things.

el camino ed at the vacuum shop

Jesse Tried Hiring Ed The Disappearer

Many Breaking Bad fans were hoping to see a return from Robert Forster's Ed Galbraith, who holds the occupation of vacuum salesman and repairer, and also holds the under-the-table job of giving criminals new lives, while disappearing their in-trouble identities. But just as Jesse had previously walked away from Ed without getting his identity changed, it happened again here. At least at first.

Ed wanted back-pay from the efforts he'd put into fixing up Jesse's new persona whenever Walt and Saul (or Jimmy) has skipped town, and Jesse was just short of the goal. Robert Forster was hilarious throughout this scene, re-earning a top spot for the Breaking Bad spinoff that needs to happen next.

In order to get the money, Jesse went back to Neil and the Kandy Welding dipshits, though not before first stealing two guns out of his parents' safe. (After he conned them out of the house, which is probably the act Jesse felt least guilty about in this two-hour runtime.) In one of El Camino's most baffling moves, Neil challenges Jesse to a duel, all to make fun of .22-caliber pistol. Here, Jesse finally broke out of part of his cycle and shot Neil, along with his mustachioed friend, with the other gun hidden in his pocket. At this point so close to Jesse's escape, he wasn't about to let hesitation drag him down, and he got his money.

jesse final scene of el camino

Jesse Disappeared, Once Again Behind The Wheel

The final few minutes of El Camino are really where Jesse's story spins around completely. After he's able to pay Ed all of the money required to turn "Jesse Pinkman" into dust, viewers got transported back to another point during Breaking Bad's run. The flashback would have taken place during Season 2's timeline, during which point Jesse and Krysten Ritter's Jane were dating. It appeared that Jesse spoke with her on a hotel room phone before he exited the room and met up with none other than Bryan Cranston's Walter White. I wonder if that's why Paul said fans would be happy with the wrap-up film.

Despite it being made very clear that Walter White was dead within the Breaking Bad continuity, fans knew that El Camino would have to deliver on Bryan Cranston, and the scene we got was a nice and subdued scene in which Jesse was able to feel superior to Walt. Both physically, with Walt weak and coughing, and mentally, with Walt wistfully remarking to Jesse that he didn't have to grow old before he did something great. If anyone had any lingering doubts about Walt caring more about his legacy than his family and friends, that line summed it all up.

El Camino then closed out in the a mirror image of Breaking Bad's series finale. Instead of Jesse driving frantically away from a horrifying situation, he was peacefully driving forward into a promising future which was a long way from Albuquerque. But even as he was driving through the snowy tree-filled terrain, Jesse still reflected back on the one love of his life up until that point, with Krysten Ritter appearing for a last-minute cameo as Jane. It wasn't a pulse-pounding moment, as she dropped a bit of wisdom meant to keep Jesse down his new independent-thinking path, but it was still magical for the movie to end on them together again, as opposed to Jesse and Walt together again.

With any luck, El Camino should give Aaron Paul renewed interest in Hollywood, since he was pretty excellent throughout. And if it's a success for Netflix and AMC, it's possible that other TV shows will follow suit in crafting high-profile follow-ups to prior series finales. Now about those other Breaking Bad spinoffs we want to see...

2019 Netflix Premiere Schedule: Dates For New And Returning Shows

With a simultaneous limited release in theaters, El Camino: A Breaking Bad story is currently available to stream on Netflix, along with all five seasons of Breaking Bad, and three seasons of Better Call Saul.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.