Warning: major spoilers for Breaking Bad and El Camino ahead.
The Breaking Bad finale was, in a word, perfect. Walter White (Bryan Cranston) dies on a floor in the underground meth lab where he had just rescued Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) from forced labor. As he dies, he smirks at the camera, knowing that he was going out the way he wanted — having given money to his family, Skyler (Anna Gunn), Walter Jr. (RJ Mitte), and baby Holly. In El Camino, the Breaking Bad Netflix sequel, Walter’s ghost looms over Jesse’s new life like Heisenberg’s shadow on the New Mexico desert, because the story is Walter and Jesse.
Walter appears in one scene in El Camino. It’s a flashback that harkens back to season 2 of the show, when Walter and Jesse had managed to MacGyver a boost to their RV car battery after a huge-quantity cook. In El Camino, Walt and Jesse meet up the next morning in a dingy motel and grab something to eat. As they chow down on salad buffet (and drink an entire pitcher of water, after cooking in the desert), the two begin talking about their lives after cooking meth. Jesse tells Walter, “Your family is gonna get every dime they got coming to them, Mr. White, no matter how long it takes,” because at that point in the series, Walt was considering leaving the “business.” Walt advised Jesse that he should take his earnings and go back to school.
Jesse, of course, did no such thing — he went deeper into the meth underworld, briefly serving as Michael (Jonathan Banks) and Gus Fring’s (Giancarlo Esposito) protégé, suffered through addiction and losing Jane Margolis (Krysten Ritter), and eventually got locked in a basement to cook. Jesse never would have taken Walt’s advice. “I think his dream would be to probably start working with his hands again and make some shit with wood,” Paul told TV Guide, which makes sense for the character. Jesse was always the laborer of the operation, while Walt was happy to pull the strings.
Paul also said that the dynamic between Walter and Jesse is the defining component of the series. “That is Breaking Bad, Walt and Jesse,” he said. “[The show] really followed Walt's journey, his evolution into Heisenberg, and Jesse along the way, and so it was really important to have him on board, of course, and especially in that time, which is so nice because that was before the true utter chaos happened.” El Camino, by comparison, is Jesse’s evolution, consequences and all.