Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan says a flashback sequence between Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is “very likely” the last we’ve seen of these two characters together. The scene, set in the vicinity of Season 2 episode “4 Days Out,” sees Walt and Jesse in the Owl Cafe after a multi-day desert meth cook in the RV that doubled as their lab. Conspiring to sell their freshly cooked batch of Blue Sky for $672,000 a piece, a distant Walt looks out at their bullet riddled mobile meth lab. Walt tells Jesse, “You’re really lucky, you know that? You didn’t have to wait your whole life to do something special.” It’s the last we see of Walt and Jesse before returning to the present, where the wanted Jesse starts life anew in Alaska.
“It was very melancholy. It was wonderful, it was happy, but there was also this element of bittersweetness,” Gilligan told Rolling Stone of directing Cranston and Paul together for the first time since the Breaking Bad series finale in 2013. “That scene with them at the Owl Cafe, it felt more like a valedictory this time than I remember it feeling at the end of Breaking Bad. We knew then that something very special and dear to us was coming to an end. But I was also utterly wrung out at the end of Breaking Bad, and part of it was just wanting to make it to the finish line of the marathon. You’re sad when the marathon’s over, but also feel lucky you survived. I had more energy and more time to contemplate here.”
“That scene at the Owl Cafe had more of a feeling of finality to it,” added Gilligan. “I just had this knowledge that this was very likely the last time we would ever see those actors playing those two characters together.”
Present action on spinoff series Better Call Saul, heading into its fifth season, is starting to encroach on Breaking Bad. While it’s possible Cranston or Paul reprise their roles when Saul gets to the in-between-ness of Breaking Bad — the spinoff already heavily involves Mike (Jonathan Banks) and the far-reaching drug operation of Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) — Gilligan describes bringing El Camino to an end as a proper closing of the door.
“In a weird way, I was more at peace with it this time. That might have been a result of being physically exhausted back then,” Gilligan said when asked about his on-set behavior during the last day of Breaking Bad, where Gilligan was described as withdrawn when acting as personal photographer.
“And realizing — this is probably not something I should be saying to you, but to say it again, this movie, strictly speaking, does not need to exist. I stand by the fact that Breaking Bad stands on its own. And I’m proud as hell of that,” Gilligan said. “This started off as a bit of a trifle. Having said that, it morphed into this somewhat big-budget, event-type movie that I couldn’t be more proud of. Netflix was wonderful, Sony was wonderful in allowing us to make this thing.”
The passion project, meant to scratch an itch resolving the lingering question of Jesse’s fate after Breaking Bad, is one Gilligan only wanted to do if it were “perfect.”
“But ultimately, are you required to watch this as a fan of Breaking Bad to have a complete experience? No, you’re really not,” Gilligan admitted. “But I’m hoping people will take it for what it is: something that’s meant to be a gift to the fans, and a gift to Aaron Paul, who I truly believe deserves many more movies where he’s the star. It was something done for the love of it, something that I hope people will enjoy and get some sort of deeper satisfaction from.”
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie and all episodes of Breaking Bad are available to stream on Netflix. Better Call Saul, co-created by Gilligan, is expected to return to AMC with its fifth season in 2020.