El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie writer-director Vince Gilligan details plans for a discarded alternate ending that would have seen fugitive Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) escape to Alaska only to be captured by police after performing a selfless act, an ending Gilligan admits would have upset Breaking Bad fans. When considering a conclusion for his Breaking Bad sequel movie, Gilligan once sketched out a version of events that would have ended with Jesse in jail — but at peace — before his inner circle convinced him to reconsider, resulting in a third act that ends with professional disappearer Ed (Robert Forster) helping Jesse reach Alaska, where he’s able to start a new life under the name “Mr. Driscoll.”
“I didn’t get super far down the road, but it was probably going to be a young woman who needed some help,” Gilligan told EW. “He was hiding out by the Canadian border, and this woman was working at a motel as a housekeeper or something. [He] goes into the process of saving her, knowing full well that he’s going to suffer for it, he’s going to get caught for it, but he does it anyway.”
Instead of a final shot showing a peaceful and reflective Jesse driving off into the Alaskan wilderness, this alternate version would have ended with Jesse “in a jail cell but at peace for the first time since the movie began.”
“I think there was going to be this component where he couldn’t sleep. He wouldn’t get a single night sleep for a week or so upon escaping,” Gilligan noted. “The police are looking for him and he’s too haunted and he’s too adrenaline-charged. And at the end of the thing, he’s in a jail cell, and ironically he can fall asleep like a baby. And I thought, ‘Ah, that’d be kind of cool.’”
But girlfriend Holly Rice and Breaking Bad executive producer Peter Gould, as well as the Better Call Saul writers’ room, encouraged Gilligan to move away from a darker ending knowing it would be the last time audiences see Jesse Pinkman.
“I pitched some version of that to my girlfriend Holly, and I also separately pitched that to Peter Gould and the writers and everybody looked at me like I was absolutely insane: ‘You can’t have Jesse back in a cell at the end of the movie! People will tar and feather you!’” Gilligan recalled. “I’m glad I listened to them. I think there is a version of that movie that if perfectly executed would work, but I don’t know that I was the guy to pull it off. I’m glad I wound up doing it the way I did it.”
Other ideas discarded by Gilligan included having Jesse haunted by the memory of neo-Nazi Jack Welker (Michael Bowen) and another ending that would have incorporated a reveal of the letter Jesse penned to Brock (Ian Posada) as his sole goodbye.