Warning: Major SPOILERS for El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie ahead.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie features a number of returning characters from Breaking Bad, and not just the ones who've been advertised. El Camino marks the second time Vince Gilligan has delved back into the world of Breaking Bad but, unlike spin-off series Better Call Saul, this one picks up in the immediate aftermath of the series finale.
The last time we saw Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), which was six years ago for viewers, but only moments ago in-universe, he was fleeing the location where a mass murder had just taken place, and where he'd long been held captive. El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is all about following Jesse on his journey from that point onwards, how he deals with the scars and begins to move forward with his life.
Written and directed by Gilligan, the Breaking Bad movie serves as a poignant capper on Jesse's journey, a true ending to his story rather than the one given in "Felina", which was left more open to interpretation. However, El Camino also spends a lot of time dealing with the past, going heavy on flashbacks, and that's what leads to so many Breaking Bad characters appearing in the Netflix movie.
Breaking Bad was more Walt's story than Jesse's, but he's able to step fully into the spotlight in El Camino, which is the culmination of his incredible journey across the series and now movie. When Breaking Bad first started, Jesse was just a skinny punk of a kid who was a bit of a drug-dealer, but across five seasons we witnessed how he grew, not only alongside Walt with the meth business, but into a much better person than his mentor. Where Walt's story was an empirical rise to power, Jesse's was more of a tragedy; a good kid with a heart of gold, who just got the wrong breaks and met the wrong people. His ending involved him being taken captive by Jack, Todd, and the rest of the Nazi gang, where he was locked up and tortured until Walter finally allowed him to make his escape.
The last shot of Jesse in Breaking Bad was as he manically drove away in the El Camino, and the Breaking Bad movie spends a lot of time both in this present timeline, but also Jesse's past. Much of it is about how he is haunted by the past, bearing scars both physical and psychological, and the struggle to move forward with his life. It's of a man held in captivity, bound first by the Nazis, and now by his links to the crimes Walt committed, desperately searching for his freedom. That in many ways is how Jesse's story has long been: because of Walt, he always struggled to have full control over his actions, repeatedly being dragged back into the meth business and losing those closest to him. In the end of the Breaking Bad movie, Jesse gets to find if not complete happiness, then a real shot at it with no one left to get in the way.
Breaking Bad was Walter White's story, charting his rise and fall (and rise and fall) over the course of five epic seasons, living up to the premise of "Mr Chips becomes Scarface" but also being so much more. With regards to Jesse, it's hard to argue that anyone was a bigger influence on his life, for better or worse. He was a teacher, a business partner, and even, at times, a friend, at least on the surface. But he was also controlling, vindictive, and the one responsible for some of the worst things to ever happen in Jesse's life.
Of course, he had to appear in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, but it needed to be done delicately. Or, as he might put it, Gilligan had to "tread lightly." Walter White appears in El Camino near the end of the movie, appearing in a flashback with Jesse that most likely comes from some point in season 2 (the shaved head, Walt's money worries, and Jesse talking to a girl all suggest that period).
Walt and Jesse's conversation in the diner slots nicely into Breaking Bad, but at the same time also feels like a real commentary on Jesse's journey as a whole. It underscores some of the sadness in Walt's life, as he tells Jesse: "You're lucky, you know, that you didn't have to wait your whole life to do something special." But it's also in the way he talks to Jesse about going to college, and the things he could achieve. Jesse rebuffs him - "I graduated high school" - but watching what happens in El Camino, it's cements that Jesse's story isn't at an end, but in a way just beginning, and he can finally unlock his full potential.
Jane Margolis came into Jesse's life in Breaking Bad season 2, and though she was only around for a handful of episodes, she made a huge impact on Jesse's life. A drug addict, the two fell in love and wanted to make a genuine effort to get clean and have a fresh start together, in New Zealand or otherwise. Jane was killed by Walter White in the episode "Phoenix", which for many is the incident they point to as the moment Walt became truly evil or irredeemable. But it was also the moment that Jesse's biggest chance at happiness and a proper future was taken away from him.
It's fitting, then, that Jane re-appears to him here. Like in season 3's flashback, it's the two of them driving in a car, before stopping over for a chat as Jane tells him that she no longer believes in letting the universe take you places, but instead you've got to make your own choices and forge your own path. That, really, is what Jesse is doing now for perhaps the first time in his life. He's made the choice to go to Alaska, and is going to have a real fresh start. Jane only appears briefly in the Breaking Bad movie, but her scene with Jesse represents the film's emotional core and all of its themes within.
Todd (Jesse Plemons) became a major part of Breaking Bad - and Jesse's life - in the show's fifth and final season. In "Dead Freight" and "Buyout" (S5E5/6), we see the clear lines between the two characters when Todd fatally shoots a little boy, much to Jesse's horror. They'd continue to butt heads, before the Nazis took Jesse captive, with Todd above all becoming his tormentor-in-chief. That came to a head in the Breaking Bad finale, when Jesse killed him, but Todd is still a huge presence in Jesse's life.
Quite surprisingly, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie leans very heavily on Todd and Jesse's time together, with a lot of flashbacks to the period where Jesse was effectively his prisoner. It further shows just how awful and psychotic Todd really was, from the murder of his cleaner to the way he controls Jesse, but more importantly, it highlights how broken Jesse became. He becomes subservient, scared, and even when he has a chance at escaping, he doesn't take it. That becomes crucial to understanding his journey in the Breaking Bad movie, because we see how much Todd completely destroyed him, and how hard it is to pick himself up and put those pieces back together.
Skinny Pete & Badger
Skinny Pete & Badger (Charles Baker and Matt Jones) were Jesse's two closest buds when Breaking Bad started, and remained loyal to him throughout. When they weren't dealing drugs they were dreaming up Star Trek scripts, but what really mattered most was their connection to Jesse: they were his link to his past life, but they also helped highlight the goodness within him.
That goodness is repaid by their appearance in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, as Jesse turns up on their doorstep looking for help, which they give without hesitation. As they did in Breaking Bad, Skinny Pete & Badger provide a lot of El Camino's humor, but also a whole lot of its heart too. Without them, Jesse wouldn't have been able to make it out, and Skinny's final farewell, calling Jesse his "hero", is one of the movie's most touching moments, and another reminder of just how far in life Jesse has come, what he's done, and how much he's survived.
Serving as Gus Fring's fixer in Breaking Bad, Jonathan Banks' Mike has the distinction of being the only character to play a key role in all three stories set within the universe. In Breaking Bad, Mike turned from being the no-nonsense clean-up guy to someone who developed a great bond with Jesse. Around halfway through season 4, he started to become as much of an influence on him as Walt was, and we got to see how Jesse responded to a different kind of approach and saw perhaps another way.
In El Camino's opening scene, which takes place at the location of Mike's death, we get a flashback to the pair talking about Jesse's future, with Mike saying that "only you can decide what's best for you." Jesse seeks his advice, asking where he'd go in his position, to which Mike responds: "Alaska. It's the last frontier, out there you can be anything you want." It's a bold choice to open the movie given where Jesse ends up, and means that while his fate was up to him, we can also see how much faith and trust he put in Mike by following that advice and going to Alaska, which is another emotional capstone on another of Breaking Bad's best relationships.
Ed Galbraith a.k.a. The Disappearer
Robert Forster's Ed, a.k.a. The Disappearer, was first mentioned in Breaking Bad season 4, before appearing in the fifth season. He's a man who, for a tidy sum, can make people disappear, which is what he did for Saul Goodman at the end of Breaking Bad (leading to the life he's living in the Gene sequences of Better Call Saul), and what he almost did for Jesse. It was all setup for Jesse to get out, but he cancelled at the last minute. That's what Ed refers to in their first meeting here, making Jesse pay for the cancelled disappearing, before eventually agreeing to get him out this time - again, for a price. Forster plays his part well, keeping that air of mystique around Ed, but being responsible for getting Jesse to Alaska, which is what matters most.
Although he only appeared in two episodes of Breaking Bad, Old Joe (Larry Hankin) managed to make an impression on fans, as the kind of great recurring character that made the world feel so live-in. Running a salvage yard, he destroyed the RV in season 3, and later helped Walt and Jesse out again in season 5. He tries to perform a similar role in El Camino, initially coming to Jesse's aid to destroy the El Camino, but quickly leaves when he realizes there's a tracker on it. As previously established, Joe has a good legal knowledge, so knows he'd be in a lot of trouble if he helped Jesse out here.
Adam & Diane Pinkman (Jesse's Parents)
Jesse's parents first appear in Breaking Bad season 1's "Cancer Man", where he's shown to have a difficult relationship with them. A well-to-do couple, they show great disappointment in what's become of their son, and later disgust when he secretly buys a house from them. That antagonistic relationship plays out in El Camino, as they tell Jesse to turn himself in, and he lies to them about meeting in order to obtain cash, showing that this is one relationship he'll never be able to fix.
Kenny was one of the more prominent members of Jack's gang in Breaking Bad's final season, and is often seen alongside Jack and Todd in torturing Jesse, including being present when Andrea is killed. He has a similar role in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, appearing alongside Todd as they torment Jesse and make him try out some new chains to guarantee he won't escape.
SAC Ramey & ADA Ericsen
Two members of the Alburquerque law enforcemen, SAC Ramey was the highest-ranking DEA Agent who worked above Hank Schrader in Breaking Bad, while Suzanne Ericsen is the Assistant District Attorney as seen in Better Call Saul. Both are shown on the news in El Camino, at a press conference about Walter White's actions at the compound.
Played by David Mattey, the person only referred to as Man Mountain appears in Better Call Saul season 1 working alongside Pryce and Sobchak. He plays Clarence here, the driver of the girls who visit the guys Jesse takes money from, but it's unclear if they're supposed to be one and the same (it's very possible, though).
The ABQ Police Officer
Credited in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie as simply Senior Officer, who goes to Ed's vacuum shop after he calls the police on Jesse, this is the second in-universe appearance from Simon Drobnik. A real Albuquerque police officer, Drobnik first appeared in Better Call Saul season 3 episode "Sunk Costs".
Mentioned Breaking Bad Characters
Alongside appearances, there are brief mentions of a few other Breaking Bad characters. Jesse's former girlfriend, Andrea, and her son Todd are both seen in a photograph in the compound, and Brock is who Jesse was sending a letter to at the very end. He and Jesse developed a close bond, and he went to live with his grandmother, so it makes sense that he'd want to see a goodbye to him, while Brock couldn't appear in the Breaking Bad movie because the actor would be too old. There's also a mention of Lydia Rodarte-Quayle, with a news report discussing an investigation into "the poisoning of a Houston woman" and the possible connections to Walter White, who did, of course poison her with the ricin cigarette in season 5. Alongside Todd and Kenny, there are also other allusions to Jack's gang as he talks about his captivity and we see scenes of him being kept captive.
There's also an indirect, but telling, mention of Saul Goodman, as Ed tells Jesse: "From where I sit, you made your own luck, as did your partner, as did your former lawyer." Ed already helped Saul escape to start a new life in Omaha as Gene, which this is obviously a reference to, but is there more to it than that? Tying it into making your own luck and Walt's fate does at least hint that he knows something more about what's become of Saul, although it's unclear how far along the timeline that is compared to this. Those future-set sequences are likely to become a bigger part of Better Call Saul as it nears its endgame, and things already don't look good for Gene from what we've seen, and this could be further setup for that in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.