It's been six years since Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) escaped from the cage he was kept in by Todd (Jesse Plemons) and Jack (Michael Bowen) on Breaking Bad, but Netflix's sequel film, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, picks up mere seconds after the show's iconic finale. While the majority of the movie was about Jesse's post-Walter White (Bryan Cranston) journey, there is also a significant chunk of El Camino that explores what Jesse went through at Todd's hands.
The Neo-Nazis didn't just hold Jesse at the compound to cook meth for them, and his torture wasn't just in the form of threats and water hoses. El Camino revealed a deeper look at what he went through in captivity, which included a harrowing adventure with Todd in which he was forced to help his captor dispose of the body of a housekeeper Todd killed after she found his money while cleaning his apartment. That money stash became an important plot point in the film, as Jesse would later use it to escape Albuquerque for good, but the flashbacks also established how Todd and Jack had broken Jesse before he finally found the strength to break free.
But why was it essential for El Camino writer and director Vince Gilligan to spend so much time in that period of Jesse's life when he had the entire Breaking Bad timeline to choose from? Well, he wanted to remind the audience of exactly what kind of headspace Jesse was in when we last saw him six years ago.
"It's hard to watch because you love Jesse so much, but it felt like something we couldn't avoid. It felt like something we needed to see to remind the audience just how terrible of an ordeal he went through," Gilligan recently told TV Guide and a small group of reporters at the El Camino premiere.
Viewers weren't the only ones enlightened by the new scenes, though. Paul was also eager to dig into that period of Jesse's life, which he had only imagined in his head before Gilligan presented him with the El Camino script.
"I kind of created my own backstory, ideas, of what he went through. I could only imagine," Paul said at the premiere. "This gives you a glimpse, a small sliver, of what he went through. This is just the tip of the iceberg, unfortunately. It's sad. Very, very sad."
Luckily, Gilligan rewarded brokenhearted fans with a happy-ish ending for Jesse; he escaped New Mexico and started a new life in Alaska... after getting some revenge on the dude who helped Todd and Jack keep him captive. Our beloved Jesse was able to start a new life and stay safe. Let's just hope he stays that way.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is now streaming on Netflix.