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Mike and Jesse’s Breaking Bad El Camino Flashback Explained
Netflix’s Breaking Bad movie sequel El Camino, picks up where the show left off, following Jesse Pinkman after his escape from a neo-Nazi compound and the death of his erstwhile mentor and tormentor, Walter White. But before it gets down to business, the film opens with a short flashback scene that probably looked pretty familiar to Breaking Bad fans.
In the scene, which seems to be set around the same time as events in the Season Five episode “Buyout,” Jesse and his associate Mike Ehrmantraut look out over a dusty river landscape. Both men plan to leave Walt’s business and flee Albuquerque, and Mike advises Jesse to take control of his life, telling him that he can’t let Walt make his decisions for him.
“Only you can decide what’s best for you, Jesse,” says Mike.
“Where would you go, if you were me?” Jesse asks.
“If I were your age, starting fresh,” says Mike, “Alaska. It’s the last frontier. Up there, you can be anything you want.”
“Put things right,” said Jesse.
“No,” Mike responded. “Sorry kid, that’s the one thing you can never do.”
The scene sets up the film, which goes onto chronicle Jesse’s efforts to acquire enough money to buy himself a new identity and life in Alaska. But it also serves as a callback to one of the show’s most memorable moments—when Walt murdered Mike near the end of the first half of the show’s fifth season.
Like the earlier moment with Jesse, Mike’s final minutes played out against a riverfront backdrop. In the show’s 2012 episode “Say My Name,” Mike is seen skipping stones in the river while waiting for Walt to deliver his go-bag so that he can leave town. When Walt arrives, he demands that Mike deliver the names of nine men who, like Mike, worked for dead kingpin Gus Fring, so that Walt can also have them killed. After Mike refuses, Walt shoots him through the window of his car.
Mike manages to make it out it out of the car and down to the river bank. Walt finds him there, as he sits dying and taking in the view of the water. Walt, realizing that instead of killing Mike he could have just gotten the nine names from chemical supplier Lydia Rodarte-Quayle, apologizes for shooting him.
“Shut the fuck up, and let me die in peace,” Mike responds.
The scene ends with Mike’s body collapsing to the ground. In the following episode, Walt enlists the help of trusty psychopath Todd Alquist in disposing of Mike’s body.
Now, the two scenes don’t appear to have been shot at the exact same location—Mike died at a relatively lush, grassy riverbank, while the waterfront that he and Jesse take in a the start of El Camino is dry and dusty desert. But it’s still a clear call back to Mike’s final minutes. And El Camino’s opening scene also gives new context to a moment that followed Mike’s demise: Jesse first announces his plan to relocate to Alaska in the later Season Five episode “Confessions,” without saying that Mike was the person who suggested it. Now we know that he was following his friend’s advice.
Gabrielle Bruney is a writer and editor for Esquire, where she focuses on politics and culture.