(Warning: This story contains MAJOR spoilers for “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie,” so stop reading NOW if you don’t want to find out what happens in the film.)
“El Camino” is primarily concerned with what happened to Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) after he escaped his months-long captivity under Todd Alquist (Jesse Plemons) and his Uncle Jack’s (Michael Bowen) gang of Nazis. But the “Breaking Bad” sequel film, which debuted on Netflix (and in a small number of theaters) Friday, also featured many callbacks to characters that didn’t make it out of Vince Gilligan’s meth drama alive.
The biggest of them, of course, comes towards the end of the film during a flashback scene that reunited Paul with his “Breaking Bad” co-star Bryan Cranston, who played high school chemistry teacher-turned-drug kingpin Walter White.
“I assumed, maybe, Walt would show up in some sort of flashback at a certain point,” Paul told TheWrap, who added it was “incredibly strange” to get to act across Cranston’s White one more time. “It was easy for me to keep everything a secret. We had to make sure that we weren’t seen in public together.”
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The scene in question takes place at a diner, and in-universe it is set towards the end of the second season episode “Four Days Out,” which sees Cranston and Pinkman stranded in the middle of the New Mexico desert while the two are cooking a giant batch of methamphetamines. The scene features Walt and Jesse talking about the early days of their meth business, and what might Jesse do with his future when they’ve completed Walt’s mission of ensuring his family’s financial stability.
Paul appreciated the symmetry of going back to the early days of the White-Pinkman partnership. “This is how ‘Breaking Bad’ was sort of introduced to the world: As these characters in a much happier time in their lives.”
Unlike the other flashback scenes with deceased “Breaking Bad” alums like Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) or Todd, the scene with Cranston was shot with numerous extras. He added that Cranston’s return, as far as he knew, was always in the script. “That was in the first draft that I read.”
And he explained just how they were able to make sure nobody spilled this particular surprise.
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“All of those background players in that scene were crewmembers or family members of crewmembers,” Paul said. “All of these people already knew that the film was happening, and they were excited about being a part of the most secretive scene of this super-secretive film. I was actually not surprised that we kept it all so under wraps.”
“El Camino” was shrouded in secrecy from the start. Gilligan (making his directorial debut) wanted the film to be under lock and key, so much so that it was shot in secret under the fake title “Greenbriar.” After word started to leak out about the film last fall, Paul had to feign ignorance over the next year to keep the film under wraps.
“Any time people would ask me, ‘So what’s this I hear about a ‘Breaking Bad’ movie?’ I would go, ‘Hey man, that would be amazing. If they want to do that, I would be on board. And this was far after I had shot it. I just would deny it,” he said. “Towards the end, people started going off the rails a little bit. I kept my mouth shut, but people started confirming that the movie was happening and people started confirming that ‘Oh, not only is it happening, but it’s already done. It’s already shot and it will be coming out soon.’ And so Netflix was sort of pushed into a corner to make an announcement.”
The two-hour film ends with Jesse making it to Alaska to start a new life (with the help of Robert Forster’s “vacuum shop” owner Ed), an ending that Paul had always envisioned for Pinkman following his tearful drive away from Uncle Jack’s compound.
“In my own sort of idea of where he ended up, it was always in Alaska,” Paul said. “I just always saw him running off to Alaska and living in the mountains, hopefully falling in love and just working with his hands and building things out of wood, keeping his nose clean.”
“El Camino” is available to stream now on Netflix and will be in theaters for a limited run from Oct. 11-13.