El Camino: The Final Arc of Jesse Pinkman


Mario Bishop , Author

El Camino is a cathartic film. At this point in the Breaking Bad timeline, Jesse Pinkman has been through so much pain, suffering, and loss and all he wants to do is get away from it all and start a new life in Alaska. Part of his pain is because of his own actions and the laziness of his teenage years, but a lot of it is because of the sins of his former chemistry teacher turned partner, Walter White.

The film shows an Albuquerque after Walt’s death, where the consequences of what he did still affect the people there. Although Heisenberg is dead, the police are now looking for Jesse Pinkman, thus making El Camino a story of a man who was locked in a cage and is trying to escape being locked in another cage. Not only that, but his ultimate goal of going to Alaska makes it a story about a man attempting to break good.

Jesse was always destined to become a better person even though it didn’t always seem that way. When we first met Jesse Pinkman he was a druggy with no foreseeable future. His parents turned their back on him and he was homeless for a period of time during season one, but then everything changed when Walt came back into his life. Although they made a lot of money together, Jesse lost a lot during this time and saw things that he’ll never unsee. His lowest point was when he was enslaved by Uncle Jack’s gang of Neo Nazis and forced to make crystal meth all while being at the mercy of the quiet and seemingly inoffensive psychopath, Todd Alquist.

Like all good sequels, El Camino expands and improves upon the original and nowhere is this more apparent than with Todd. Todd is an endearing but despicable character, what makes him endearing is that he seems like a perfectly normal person and yet he kills without flinching and shrugs it off like it’s part of his daily routine. What makes him dispicable is that he’s an accomplice in Jesse’s imprisonment but he also really wants to be his friend. It’s like reverse Stockholm syndrome, but in this case the captor wants to play video games and eat pizza with the hostage and sometimes make them hide a body.

It’s for this reason that, although Skyler from Breaking Bad and Chuck from Better Call Saul tend to garner a lot of hate, Todd is easily the most unlikable character in the entire series. Watching him torture Jesse is sickening and almost violating because the viewer has followed Jesse for so long now that it feels like Todd is doing this to a close friend.

Jesse’s date with Todd is undeniably one of the single worst days of Jesse’s life and knowing this background information we end up with a protagonist with nothing to lose but everything to gain. He deals with a lot in the film. Along with smaller factors, the police are after him and he’s also confronted by former constituents of the men who held him captive. That being said, I think he’s most scared of the police because if they catch him, they’ll put him back in a cage, but if the criminals catch him he’s dead, so in his mind being locked in a cage is a fate worse than death.

What allows him to achieve his goal is undying hope that things can get better if he works for it, something that wasn’t a part of his personality way back in season one. He had to develop it, since he was swept into the brutal world that Walter White made worse. It’s this hope that carries Jesse through the film and allows him to finally gain freedom. For long time fans it is so satisfying to watch him set foot in the peaceful snow-covered landscape of Alaska as he realizes that he’s finally free of the demons that plagued him in Albuquerque, making it the perfect send off for a great character.

In memory of Robert Forster who died of cancer the day the film was released. This was the last movie he was in before he died and he gave an amazing performance.

He will be missed.