Following the release of the teaser trailer for El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, star Aaron Paul recommended that fans rewatch a particular scene from Season 3 of the acclaimed drama to get ready for the film’s premiere on Netflix. So what, exactly, can the clip tell us about El Camino?
The actor, who portrayed lovable drug dealer Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad, tweeted: “Cats out of the bag...and the bag is in the river. Here’s a moment from Breaking Bad to slowly prepare you all for what’s to come.” A tense clip from Season 3’s “One Minute” followed.
The almost two-and-a-half-minute clip begins with Walter White (Bryan Cranston) in Jesse’s hospital room, there to recruit him into making meth again, this time under the employ of kingpin Gus Fring. Walt explains that, if Jesse agrees, there’s $1.5 million on the table for him.
The heart of the scene, however, is a powerhouse performance by Paul, as Jesse turns down Walt, explaining it’s not about the money -- Jesse is rejecting Walt. Everything good in Jesse’s life (likely referencing his late girlfriend, Jane, played by Krysten Ritter) is gone because of Walter White, because of “the great Heisenberg.”
“I want nothing to do with you!” Jesse screams.
On the surface, Paul’s singling out of this scene would seem to indicate that El Camino will, as long speculated, be about Jesse’s attempts to further remove himself from his blue meth-making past. As the clip reminds us, Jesse never wanted the notoriety and money on the same level as Walter. Jesse’s struggles with his involvement in Heisenberg’s operation was a constant throughout Breaking Bad.
In that regard, a final redemption for Jesse Pinkman would be a fitting epilogue to the show.
However, here’s the thing: “One Minute” isn’t a Jesse episode; it’s a Hank episode.
“One Minute” opens with DEA Agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) finally snapping and beating Jesse to within an inch of his life, and ends with Hank’s shootout with the Salamanca Cousins in a parking lot. The episode mostly follows Hank -- his battle with PTSD, the loss of his job, his reconciliation with his wife, his ambush by the Cousins.
Jesse’s part in “One Minute” is relegated to only a few scenes -- the one referenced by Paul, and another shared with lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk). In that scene, Jesse tells Saul he wants to go after Hank for everything he’s worth, including his house. Saul ultimately talks Jesse down, explaining the DEA “won’t want anything to do with you after this.” Jesse’s vicious beating at the hands of Hank, he’s suggesting, has all but given him immunity.
As the teaser for El Camino reveals, however, that immunity might only extend so far. The framed portraits on the DEA office wall of Hank and his partner Gomez show the two agents are not forgotten, and the mystery of their disappearance clearly, at least so far as the DEA is concerned, involves Jesse.
But, then again, it’s also possible the DEA only wants Jesse as a witness, as someone to offer information and help them convict the real killers. As Skinny Pete explains in the teaser, the public has been made aware of Jesse’s deplorable imprisonment by Neo Nazis. Jesse is a victim, as much as anyone. And, as “One Minute” makes clear, the DEA of Breaking Bad is well aware of their image -- and going after a man held captive by Nazis isn’t exactly a great look.
That could, in fact, be a crucial misdirect in the movie: The DEA is set up to look like the bad guys, like they’re hunting down Jesse, when they might only want his help.
Of course, even with that all said, it’s worth noting that “One Minute” ultimately ends with Jesse accepting Walt’s offer to cook meth with him again. And, as bad as Jesse’s life had been up until the clip, it only gets worse over the remaining two-and-a-half seasons of Breaking Bad. Jesse will, in short order, be forced to kill a man against his will, get imprisoned by the aforementioned Nazis and have to watch his next girlfriend get murdered before his very eyes.
In that regard, Aaron Paul’s choice of clip might be a subtle way of reminding fans that things can only ever get worse for Jesse Pinkman. Despite his protestations, despite his pushing back against Walter White, Jesse still ended up working beside him, still ended up with a life he didn’t want. Bad things always happen to Jesse, he could be saying, and it was foolish for us to think everyone’s favorite meth cook might get a happy ending.
We’ll know for sure soon enough.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie will premiere Oct. 11 on Netflix.