El Camino: 5 Surprise Breaking Bad Cameos (& 5 We Wish Had Happened)
WARNING: This article contains spoilers.
Six years after the Breaking Bad finale first aired, we finally get to see what became of Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. The new Netflix-produced film picks up right where Breaking Bad left off, with Jesse on the run after escaping captivity at the hands of a group of Neo-Nazis. What follows is a tense two-hour film that dives deep into Breaking Bad’s well of excellent supporting players.
While some of these appearances are predictable (don’t act like you didn’t know Badger and Skinny Pete were going to be the first people Jesse goes to for help), others come out of the left field. Here are the 5 most surprising Breaking Bad cameos in El Camino, as well 5 we’re shocked didn’t happen.
10 Surprise: Jane Margolis
Truth be told, Jane Margolis’ brief appearance in El Camino doesn’t fit as well tonally as we would have liked. We see Jesse hand Lou a letter addressed to Brock as he sets off down an Alaskan highway and the scene transitions to a flashback with… Jesse’s other deceased girlfriend who isn’t Brock’s mom?
Truth be told, it felt like things were being set up for an Andrea flashback here, but it’s a small gripe given that the scene we do get is both sweet and thematically resonant. Besides, it’s hard to begrudge Gilligan and co. pairing Krysten Ritter and Aaron Paul up one last time, as the two have undeniable chemistry.
9 Wish Had Happened: Andrea Cantillo
As mentioned already, it really feels like El Camino is setting up an Andrea (Emily Rios) flashback sequence in its final moments, but uses Jane instead. It’s not a bad decision by any means, just a surprising one, as Andrea’s death was arguably just as traumatic for Jesse as Jane’s was.
Jesse spends so much time with Andrea’s killer, Todd, in the film, you’d think Andrea would have made an appearance just to reinforce how much Todd took from him. At the end of the day, Andrea’s omission is one we can live with, as El Camino is already pretty jam-packed with cameos, but it still feels like a missed opportunity.
8 Surprise: Todd Alquist
Todd’s appearance in El Camino by itself isn’t surprising, but how much he’s in it certainly is. Jesse’s deceased arch-nemesis may only appear in flashbacks but he gets a ton of screen time, to the point where he’s one of the film’s main characters. The decision to give Todd such a big part in El Camino is an interesting one.
On the one hand, it’s a real treat to see Jesse Plemons back in this role, as he’s just so good at conveying understated menace. Somehow, the film unearths new depths to Todd’s depravity, to the point where it’s even more understandable why Jesse doesn’t hesitate to kill him in the Breaking Bad finale. On the other hand, Plemons’s physical transformation over the last six years is more pronounced than his co-stars, which unfortunately calls more attention to just how much time has passed since Breaking Bad wrapped than it should. However, it’s a small price to pay to see Plemons return to one of his most iconic roles and El Camino is all the better for it.
7 Wish Had Happened: Uncle Jack
Did we really need to see the murderer and white supremacist Uncle Jack again? Probably not. But in a movie that brings back not just Jesse but Kenny (Kevin Rankin) too, it’s a little surprising that El Camino leaves Uncle Jack out altogether. It’s very easy to see a situation where Uncle Jack is also present in the flashback scene where Neil (Scott MacArthur) installs a harness to secure Jesse at the compound.
Most likely, there just wasn’t enough reason to bring Michael Bowen back, which is a shame because his Uncle Jack was one of Breaking Bad’s most detestable villains and it would have been great to see him chew through a scene again.
6 Surprise: Old Joe
One of the difficulties with releasing El Camino six years after the final episode of Breaking Bad aired is that it’s all too easy to forget about some of the minor supporting characters. In case you forgot, Old Joe is the owner of Rocker Salvage and helped get Walt and Jesse out of several jams over the course of the series.
Considering how much of El Camino’s first act drama revolves around its titular car, it makes total sense that Old Joe would be the first person Jesse calls upon to try and ditch his hot ride. The fact that he appears at all reinforces how deep the world Vince Gilligan created is, as we never would have guessed a character like Old Joe would pop up in an extremely busy two-hour Breaking Bad movie.
5 Wish Had Happened: Jake Pinkman
Jesse’s younger brother Jake was never a significant Breaking Bad character, but El Camino sets up such a perfect opportunity for him to show up that it’s honestly a bit shocking that he doesn’t. Be honest: when Jesse breaks into his parents’ house to grab his grandfather’s guns, were you not expecting him to run into Jake?
It could have been an emotional farewell moment for the estranged brothers. Then again, the actor who plays Jake, Ben Petry, is 24-years-old now, so we can kind of understand why Gilligan decided to just leave him out altogether.
4 Surprise: Ed Galbraith
Vacuum salesman/people extractor Ed Galbraith plays such a vital role in Walter White’s final act that it’s easy to forget Jesse nearly used his services in Season 5 before backing out at the last minute. It’s a welcome surprise then to see the late Robert Forster reprise his role in El Camino, especially since his initial encounter with Jesse is arguably the film’s funniest scene.
Juxtaposing Ed’s no-nonsense demeanor against Jesse’s ineptitude (he’s come a long way but he can still be an idiot sometimes) offers a rare break in the film's tension, even if the scene ends with Ed calling the cops. Sadly, Forster passed away the day El Camino was released, making it the late character actor’s final project.
3 Wish Had Happened: Brock Cantillo
This is another one of those “ideal world” cameos, as the actor who played Brock, Ian Posada, is now a teenager and wouldn’t have been able to accurately portray his character anymore. If we remove real-world considerations from the equation though, it’s hard not to think that a flashback to a time when Jesse was playing father figure to young Brock could have been a useful storytelling device in El Camino.
However, this is one situation where a letter will suffice, as we see that Jesse has addressed a note to Brock (and Brock only) before going completely off-grid at the film’s conclusion. Too bad we never get to see what it says!
2 Surprise: Walter White
Alright, let’s be real: there was no way Vince Gilligan was going to pass up bringing Bryan Cranston back for El Camino. In that sense, it’s hardly surprising that Walter White shows up. However, Walt’s appearance happens quite late in the film, so you’d be forgiven for thinking he wasn’t going to appear at all. What’s interesting about this sequence is when it’s set, as it takes place quite early on in Walt and Jesse’s partnership, when the pair are still struggling to get their meth business off the ground.
The scene effectively reframes Walt and Jesse’s relationship. At the end of Breaking Bad, the pair’s last encounter concludes with Jesse refusing to kill Walt. Contrast that with the diner scene here, which ends with Walt telling Jesse, “You’re lucky you didn’t have to wait your whole life to do something special.” Walt’s words are tinged with irony of course, given the hardships that Jesse will encounter but they also act as something of a guiding principle as Jesse begins his life anew in Alaska, free of the meth business at last.
1 Wish Had Happened: Saul Goodman
It truly feels like a missed opportunity to not have Bob Odenkirk turn up in El Camino. While the story works without him, it’s honestly surprising that Jesse encounters crooked lawyer Saul Goodman at any point during his epilogue. Yes, Saul has gone off-grid by this point and having Jesse track him down really wouldn’t have made much sense.
However, given how many other iconic Breaking Bad characters turn up in El Camino, could we not have gotten at least one flashback featuring Jesse and Saul? Then again, it’s not like Saul doesn’t have his own show, so maybe we can forgive Gilligan for not putting the character in every Breaking Bad property.