El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie writer-director Vince Gilligan once considered having PTSD-ridden Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), a fugitive on the run after the events of the Breaking Bad series finale, haunted by an imagined and tormenting figure during his attempt to flee New Mexico. In the series finale, neo-Nazi gang leader Jack Welker (Michael Bowen) is killed by Walter White (Bryan Cranston), who freed Jesse from a six-month stint as a slave forced to produce high-quality meth for Jack’s thugs. Through flashback, El Camino brings back Jack’s nephew and Jesse’s keeper, the psychopathic Todd (Jesse Plemons), but Gilligan nixed an idea that would have seen Jack’s “ghost” haunt a mentally frail Jesse amid a police manhunt.
“Like always, I go through a lot of permutations. It’s the Edison thing: one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. For a long time I was thinking of bringing back Uncle Jack,” Gilligan told Rolling Stone. “I had the thought that Jesse was going to be riding along with the ghost of Uncle Jack riding shotgun with him, this figment of Jesse’s imagination. Jesse doesn’t believe he’s there, but it’s Uncle Jack going, ‘You’re gonna get caught, you’re stupid, you’re not smart enough to get away with this.’”
But for the same reasons Gilligan backed off an alternate ending considerably more darker than the film’s conclusion, Gilligan felt Jesse suffered enough.
“I thought for the longest time, ‘I’ll make it a really interior story, this demon haunting him through the persona of Uncle Jack.’ At a certain point, I finally thought, ‘Ah, that sounds kinda ponderous. Kinda dreary. I don’t want to see this poor kid suffer anymore,’” Gilligan said. “So that was a thought early on, and then I wondered if it was believable that Ed the disappearer would actually help him. Well, if he does, Jesse’s gonna really have to convince the guy. Probably at a certain point, Jesse was going to make it on his own with whatever money he could abscond with, but it felt like he would need some professional help.”
Jesse encounters a hangup when professional disappearer Ed (Robert Forster), who once made high-profile clients Walt and criminal lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) vanish, refuses to lift a finger until Jesse — short just $1,800 — is able to pay the disappearance fee in full. When Jesse manages it, he escapes to Alaska.
Ultimately, Ed is just one of more than a dozen returning Breaking Bad characters included in El Camino. Gilligan recently admitted he “just couldn’t figure out” how to incorporate Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), Marie Schrader (Betsy Brandt), and Skyler White (Anna Gunn) and son Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte).