Vince Gillian's secretive Breaking Bad sequel movie, El Camino, finally hit Netflix last Friday, and the thing was a spare, fitting epilogue for Jesse Pinkman and the series, all terrible bald caps aside. It finally gave Jesse the ending he deserved (and the ending that Gilligan has been teasing for Jesse since the finale aired in 2013) but it turns out that El Camino almost had a different—and way more depressing—finale.
The current version of El Camino ends with Jesse escaping to Alaska with Ed the Disappearer. It's a moment that perfectly mirrors the final shot of Breaking Bad, but instead of Jesse frantically gunning his Camino through a locked gate, he is peacefully driving to freedom and a new life. According to a new interview with Vince Gilligan in Entertainment Weekly, though, the movie originally was supposed to end with, uh, Jesse in jail.
"I didn't get super far down the road, but it was probably going to be a young woman who needed some help," he says. "He was hiding out by the Canadian border, and this woman was working at a motel as a housekeeper or something. [He] goes into the process of saving her, knowing full well that he's going to suffer for it, he’s going to get caught for it, but he does it anyway. And the last scene would be maybe him in a jail cell but at peace for the first time since the movie began. I think there was going to be this component where he couldn’t sleep. He wouldn't get a single night sleep for a week or so upon escaping. The police are looking for him and he’s too haunted and he's too adrenaline-charged. And at the end of the thing, he's in a jail cell, and ironically he can fall asleep like a baby. And I thought, 'Ah, that'd be kind of cool.'"
But when Gilligan started sharing the idea with people in his life, he quickly realized that it wouldn't be as cool as he originally thought.
"I pitched some version of that to my girlfriend Holly," he says, "and I also separately pitched that to [Breaking Bad executive producer/Better Call Saul co-creator Peter Gould] and the writers and everybody looked at me like I was absolutely insane: 'You can’t have Jesse back in a cell at the end of the movie! People will tar and feather you!' I'm glad I listened to them. I think there is a version of that movie that if perfectly executed would work, but I don't know that I was the guy to pull it off. I’m glad I wound up doing it the way I did it."
Later in the same interview, El Camino star Aaron Paul also teased another alternate version of the film—a three-hour cut that ended with a voiceover of Jesse's letter to Brock. But Gilligan eventually decided that it was "best left unknown," according to Paul. Gilligan was probably right, and the subtle, light touch of the final ending works perfectly, but it still would've been nice to know what Jesse would've said to the boy whose life he ruined. At least Jesse didn't wind up in jail, so that's something.