El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie premiered on Netflix recently, and as expected, it has a ton of cameo appearances from Breaking Bad characters. Some were expected, like Badger and Skinny Pete, while others came as a surprise, like Walter White and Jane Margolis. El Camino is undeniably Jesse Pinkman’s movie, and the cameos aren’t used to distract from that, but rather to emphasize it.
The characters’ relationships with Jesse are what make their appearances in flashback scenes so poignant. But naturally, they weren’t all mind-blowingly fantastic. So, here are 5 characters El Camino improved and 5 it made worse.
10 Improved: Jesse Pinkman
This one’s sort of obvious, since he’s the movie’s lead, but putting Jesse Pinkman in the spotlight for the first time really emphasized what makes him such a great character. On the surface, he’s just a drug dealer, but deep down, he’s a hero.
In El Camino, he only hurts people when it’s absolutely necessary. When he walked into the Kandy Welding Company’s compound, shooting his way out was the backup plan. Breaking Bad’s series finale gave Jesse a happy ending, but that happy ending felt incomplete. El Camino was Jesse’s home stretch towards finally achieving a true feeling of happiness.
9 Made worse: Adam and Diane Pinkman
Adam and Diane Pinkman were never particularly likable characters, because as much as Jesse was willing to give them another chance, they never seemed willing to give him one. As soon as their son entered the drug trade, that was it. They disowned him. They decided they’d failed as parents and were disappointed in him.
But there’s much more to Jesse than that. As shown by his surrogate father figure Walter White, he just needed someone to believe in him to do great things. In El Camino, they appear on the news, imploring Jesse to turn himself in. This time around, they’re actually actively working with the cops to find him.
8 Improved: Skinny Pete
In Breaking Bad, Badger and Skinny Pete’s sole purpose was pretty much to be the comic relief. They were hardly even given identities of their own – they were just vaguely characterized as Jesse’s friends who would argue about video games and sci-fi TV shows. However, in El Camino, Skinny Pete really comes into his own.
He comes up with the plan to save Jesse, taking the El Camino and telling the cops that Jesse dropped it off there to give Jesse time to escape in Pete’s Fiero, and he also shows beautiful emotional depth when he tells Jesse that he’s his hero.
7 Made worse: Badger
Badger had a couple of great moments in Breaking Bad, from trying to get an undercover cop to out himself during a deal to holding up under an intense interrogation by Hank Schrader. But in El Camino, he’s just sort of there.
The most he gets to shine is in an argument about when to apex while Skinny Pete is gaming. He drives the Thunderbird down south to give the feds the impression that Jesse is headed for the Mexican border, but that wasn’t even his own idea. Badger was much more interesting in Breaking Bad than he is in El Camino.
6 Improved: Mike Ehrmantraut
Between his acclaimed run on Breaking Bad and a deeper exploration of his past in Better Call Saul, there was hardly any room for improvement in Mike Ehrmantraut as a character. Still, El Camino managed it. In the film’s opening scene, Jesse and Mike discuss leaving Walt’s meth business behind and starting a new life.
It’s a flashback to right before Walt killed Mike. The scene shows that Mike actually cares about Jesse, and it also acts as an ominous prelude to the movie – Jesse can’t start a new life and make amends for his past; he must choose one.
5 Made worse: Old Joe
Old Joe was always there for Walt and Jesse. If they were in a jam, he was always there to help them out. But in El Camino, when Jesse needed him to get rid of the titular stolen car, he just fled the scene and abandoned Jesse when he found out the car had LoJack.
The fact that he just runs back to his truck and drives off makes him look like a coward. LoJack is a stolen vehicle recovery device that allows cars to be tracked by law enforcement, so it would’ve been a risk for Old Joe’s junkyard to be associated with it, but LoJack isn’t the Kremlin. Surely he could’ve worked around it.
4 Improved: Todd Alquist
Ever since getting his big break on Breaking Bad, Jesse Plemons has been capitalizing on playing creepy characters like Todd Alquist (both to sinister dramatic effect, like in Black Mirror’s “U.S.S. Callister,” and to comedic effect, like in the movie Game Night). He can also play likable characters, as he has done in movies like Bridge of Spies and Vice.
But the fun of the Todd character is that he sees himself as a decent guy who is forced by circumstance to commit sadistic acts. In El Camino, he gives Jesse a cigarette and then kills his cleaning lady when she finds his secret stash of cash. The movie revels in what makes Todd a great character.
3 Made worse: Ed Galbraith
One of the more surprising character returns in El Camino was Robert Forster as Ed Galbraith, the guy who owns a vacuum cleaner store with a fugitive relocation business in the basement. What made the cameo even more poignant was the fact that it was Forster’s final film appearance (he passed away the day the movie hit Netflix). But unfortunately, the character is worse after El Camino.
Not only did Ed want the $125,000 for this relocation; he wanted an additional $125,000 for the one Jesse failed to show up for in season 5’s Confessions. It upped the stakes of the movie, but it made Ed come off as a jerk. Sure, there’s risk for him, but Jesse was only $1,800 short and he missed the first relocation due to the poisoning of a child, which is understandable.
2 Improved: Walter White
Shockingly, Vince Gilligan and co. managed to keep it a secret that Bryan Cranston was reprising his role as Walter White in El Camino. In a flashback scene set after the Breaking Bad episode 4 Days Out, Walt and Jesse head to a diner to eat breakfast. Walt starts asking Jesse about whether or not he’s going to go to college, then tries to push a course on him that he doesn’t really want to do.
Then, Walt tells Jesse that he’s lucky that he didn’t need to wait his whole life to do something special. The scene perfectly encapsulates the relationship shared by one of television’s most iconic and troubled duos.
1 Made worse: Jane Margolis
It was great to see Jane again, but her appearance felt tacked on at the end of the movie. The scene came after Jesse’s arc had fully concluded. He’d had his happy ending. Breakfast with Walter White probably should’ve been the last flashback.
Vince Gilligan has said that they shot a longer version of this scene than the one that ended up in the movie, so maybe the longer version felt more like it needed to be there. Jesse’s emotional closure was writing a letter to Brock, and Jane had no relation to Brock. If that final scene was a conversation between Jesse and Andrea (Brock’s mother), it might’ve been more fitting.