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Easter eggs you missed in El Camino

Breaking Bad was always a series designed to reward close viewings. By the time it wrapped up, it was agreed that one of the show's critical strengths was its clockwork-like attention to detail. Everything about the show seemed to be there with clear purpose, making it a rare series without much in the way of plot holes, dropped storylines, or extraneous scenes, and that's a trend that continues in the sequel story El Camino.

When the acclaimed final episode of Breaking Bad, "Felina," premiered in September 2013, it decisively concluded the saga of Walter White. It was something of a ghost story, following Walt in a new identity as he poked through the ashes of his old life, tying off some loose ends and leaving him with some semblance of victory. But the fate of Jesse Pinkman was left unknown, leaving viewers with a sliver of hope for his future but no details. 

Now, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is here to fill in the blanks, serving as a final character study for the series' other leading man. Did Jesse get away with his freedom and his life? Did Mr. White, the devil himself, stay dead? And how many references are hidden throughout the film? Well, let's delve into the details and dig up some Easter eggs you may have missed in Breaking Bad's grand epilogue, El Camino.

A mysterious mailbox

El Camino begins with a flashback of Jesse and Mike Ehrmantraut making conversation about where they might escape to if they ever ended up as fugitives. Mike is clear in his answer: Alaska, "the last frontier." By the time we catch up with Jesse screaming down the road after the events of Breaking Bad, it's clear he's had escape to the great white north on his mind for awhile. 

But Jesse's dash for freedom is almost immediately derailed by the swift arrival of some police officers, alerted to the Nazis' compound by the pounding hellfire of Walt's military-grade coup de gras. Seeing the red and blues approaching, Jesse swerves his car into a driveway, laying low with the lights off as the police pass. When they do, he backs out swiftly, knocking over a mailbox and sending junk mail flying. But the mailbox doesn't sail out of frame — it hangs there, holding in the corner of the shot as Jesse flees, with the address number "212."

The number has significance in Jesse's story. "Phoenix," the twelfth episode of Breaking Bad's second season, can be rendered as episode 212. That's the episode that sees Jane die, a turning point in Jesse's life that takes him from a bad situation to true, prolonged misery. Considering that one of El Camino's last scenes is a flashback of Jesse and Jane, this shout-out to the moment that their budding romance ended seems suitable.

The final frontier

Over the course of their time on Breaking Bad, Skinny Pete and Badger proved themselves to be surprisingly adorable. While it would be easy to write the two off as layabouts perpetually in the process of getting their lives together, the show imbued them with peculiar interests and surprising depths, from Skinny Pete's showstopping piano skills to the duo's abiding passion for sci-fi. 

In the season five Breaking Bad episode "Blood Money," Skinny Pete and Badger have an extended dialogue about Star Trek, with Pete spinning theories about how transporter tech works and Badger pitching his own episode of the show. 

In a later episode, "Rabid Dog," Walt meets with Saul Goodman and his associate Patrick Kuby in an effort to locate the fugitive Jesse. Kuby then explains that he posed as a meter reader to plant a bug in Badger's mom's house, hoping to overhear some intel on Pinkman's whereabouts. Unfortunately, he only managed to hear three hours' worth of Pete and Badger prattling on about Babylon 5. (We want to see that deleted scene.)

With that background in mind, it's a real pleasure to see Skinny Pete's house so decked out in Star Trek paraphernalia, from starships on the bookshelves to sci-fi inspired chairs in front of the TV. It's just another detail to further flesh out characters we thought we already knew, showing how their addictive personalities can be put toward interests way more wholesome than what you'd find at the end of a meth pipe.

Crossroads of love in El Camino

One of the more obscure Easter eggs in El Camino doesn't require an extensive knowledge of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, so much as it relies on the viewer's knowledge of the show's creator, Vince Gilligan. But what Breaking Bad super-fan wouldn't love him? The charming and folksy showrunner has come to inspire great loyalty in the people that he works with, but he also draws similar praise from fans of his work. Apart from the quality of his art, that fandom seems to be partly owed to the fact that he's proven so willing to engage audiences with callbacks and references, nodding to the viewer in a way that says, "Hey, we know you're watching, and we appreciate it." 

But in El Camino, one of those nods is a lot more personal. As Todd is driving Jesse to his apartment to help with an ambiguous but foreboding errand, the car passes by the intersection of Holly Avenue and Arroz Lane. Holly, of course, was the name of Walter and Skyler White's daughter, the newborn whose future security so motivated Walt's twisted turn toward crime. But Holly's name was itself a reference to a real-life figure: Vince Gilligan's longtime girlfriend, Holly Rice, with "Rice" translating — quite suitably, considering the setting — to the Spanish word "arroz."

A creepy nod to Todd and Lydia

Of all people, who would've thought the Breaking Bad movie would spend so much time on Todd? One of the most loathsome villains in a series that had plenty of those to go around, Todd returns in El Camino in extra large fashion, with an extended flashback of a dreadful weekend Jesse spent in his company. With the series already having firmly established Todd as a truly cold-hearted psychopath, El Camino delves into just how weird he is, in skin-crawling detail.

With his apartment full of serial killer-esque trophies, sparse decor, and an actual dead person, Todd in El Camino comes off like a combination between Jeffrey Dahmer and that kid from St. Elsewhere. The most perplexing objects in Todd's home can be found in his collection of strange, apparently hand-made snowglobes. While they'd be innocuous and kitschy as decor for your average kindergarten class, they come off as eerie, even sinister, in the context of Todd's apartment. 

The most insidious example of Todd's craftsmanship is the one held up by the faux police officer just before a cornered Jesse makes himself known. The snowglobe seems to show a representation of Todd locked in a winter wonderland with Lydia, the high-powered operative in the global meth scheme whom Todd developed an unsettling fascination with during the series. Keeping to what Todd knows about her, she's shown literally submerged in a giant teacup, frolicking while Todd watches. We don't mean to be controversial, but we're really glad that guy is dead.

Jesse's dogged determination

Breaking Bad is a show that loves its motifs, whether it's a one-eyed pink teddy bear floating in the pool or the sky blue color of methamphetamine, memorial ribbons, and so much else. Another one of the series' minor motifs is the dog metaphor — with different characters being described as canines — adapted to relate to whatever is happening in the story at the time. In season four, the deceased Gale Boetticher is described euphemistically as a problem dog who needed to be put down by Jesse for being an inconvenience. In season five, the unhinged, revenge-focused Jesse is referred to as a sort of "rabid dog" that needs to be killed for posing a threat to Walter. And finally, after Walt acquiesces to defeat and flees Albuquerque, a single stray dog crosses the street on the road behind him, all alone.

El Camino brings the dog motif back in a truly disturbing way in the dynamic between Jesse and Todd, who further proves his creepiness through the way he treats his prisoner during their weekend out. On multiple occasions, from the gentle pats on Jesse's head to the remarks about keeping him better groomed, Todd reveals that he thinks of Jesse as nothing more than a domesticated animal, one he can handle with the promise of treats should he ever turn feisty. It's deeply unsettling, and it speaks to the depths of abuse Jesse suffered during his captivity that the series proper only ever hinted at.

That crawl space in El Camino

Jesse's escape from Albuquerque in El Camino is a long and arduous process, more resource-gathering and table-setting than an all-out sprint out of town. When Jesse returns to his parents' home, sneaking in with a hidden key after luring them off of the premises, he makes a beeline to a locked safe, working to retrieve some old guns for a coming conflict. 

As he makes his way through the house, he briefly stops by the stairs to look up toward the second story, where the safe lies at the floor of a closet. When he pauses to look up, he's standing over an evident crawl space, outlined in the floorboards. 

Jesse would have no way of knowing this, but a crawl space just like this one played host to one of the most iconic shots in the entire series … and one of the lowest points in Walt's criminal career. In the "Crawl Space" episode, Walt ended the hour literally sunken under ground, his face framed by the rectangular entrance until the floor of the house looked like a kind of open casket. The famous shot had intense implications for the story to come. Walt, it seemed, was a dead man.

Notice how Jesse doesn't have any business in the crawl space of his own family's home. When Walt was backed into a corner, he sank into the ground. Finding himself in a similar situation, Jesse keeps his eyes up and ascends the stairs, getting one step closer toward freedom.

Better call Clarence

During the lead-up to the release of El Camino, questions were raised as to just how much of the Breaking Bad universe you would need to have experienced in order to get something out of the movie. Seeing Breaking Bad itself seems like a given, but many people wondered if they would have to be caught up on Better Call Saul. And rightly so. It's a good show, but one that's easy to sleep on. 

Vince Gilligan was asked this very question during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. While he had hopes that the dramatic stakes would be clear enough to engage total novices, he did agree that it's a better movie for a fan of the series. "By all means, see Breaking Bad first," he said. "Better Call Saul … not as much."

You can't say the man lied to you. However, there is at least one Better Call Saul reference tucked away in El Camino, working to further establish this fictional Albuquerque as a living, breathing place. 

When Jesse arrives for his final confrontation with Uncle Jack and Todd's affiliates, he has to wait patiently as the group is entertained by a group of strippers, brought to the location by a bodyguard named Clarence. This is the same Clarence who proved to be uniquely unfit for bodyguard duties during a previous encounter with Mike in the Better Call Saul episode "Pimento," where he was only referred to by his size, rather than his name.

Bugging out

When Breaking Bad first started, it was easy to see Walter White as a good man with his back against the wall and Jesse Pinkman as his amoral, necessary foil. Oh, how that perspective changed by the end. One of the ways in which the audience learned to view Jesse with compassion was in the way he himself was compassionate toward those around him, particularly children and animals. Even typically loathsome creatures like creepy-looking insects were treated kindly by Jesse, as was shown in the season two episode "Peekaboo." 

That episode involved Jesse going off on his most arduous solo mission to date, fending off violent, far-gone methheads as he attempted to also do right by their sorely neglected child. Before that episode took off, though, Jesse whiled away the time by letting a large black bug crawl onto the back of his tattooed hand, regarding it with a smile as it crawled around his fingers. (That Skinny Pete then immediately moved to crush the bug seems to have done little harm to their abiding friendship.)

El Camino makes a reference to this scene as Jesse waits for the strippers to leave before his final attack on the neo-Nazis' associates, letting a similar bug crawl onto his hand. He regards it closely this time, keeping his thoughts private. Whatever he's thinking, it's likely that bugs like these were among his only companions during his long months in captivity. At least they're not houseflies, though. On Breaking Bad, flies drive you crazy.

Breaking bread with Walter White

The one question everyone had on their minds going into El Camino's mysterious release was simple: "Are we going to see any Walt in this thing?" While few really thought the bullet-riddled Mr. White would be coming back to life — that'd be more "El Monstruo" than "El Camino" — it was wondered whether or not Bryan Cranston would be back in the role in a flashback and a bald cap. 

The answer to both questions turned out to be "yes" — a somewhat obvious yes, in the case of the bald cap. From the clothes that they're wearing and their general demeanors, Jesse and Walt's flashback scene seems to take place immediately after they've found their way back to civilization after being stranded in the acclaimed season two episode "4 Days Out." The scene features plenty of fan service — one last triumphant "yeah, b—-" from Jesse as he raids a salad bar, more of Walt and Jesse's warm-at-times father-son relationship, and one final insult from the aloof and condescending Walt, who forgot Jesse even graduated high school.

During their discussion, Jesse and Walt get into the mildest of disagreements about the value of pineapple, which Walt can take or leave. Jesse claims it's good for you, "full of bromine," which Walter corrects to "bromelain." While Jesse's attempt at trivia is, as Walt says, not even close to being right, it is a reference to the chemical element that forms the "Br" in Breaking Bad's memorable title card.

The way forward at the end of El Camino

When it was first announced as the official title of the mysterious, shot-in-secret Breaking Bad movie, the name "El Camino" struck many as only deepening the mystery. It was unexpected. What could it mean? 

Obviously, "El Camino" is most known as a classic car from Chevrolet, with the hood stripes on some models forming the basis for a few of the Breaking Bad movie's promotional posters. It's specifically the model of car Jesse uses to flee from the Nazi camp, but he doesn't hold onto the car for that long. Instead, it remains stowed at Skinny Pete's place as part of an improvised plan to keep Jesse safe. After the first 15 minutes, it's barely in the movie anymore. So what gives?

Well, Breaking Bad was always a series that enjoyed playing around with titles. Like in season two, the titles of each of the ominous plane crash flashforward episodes ultimately spelled out "737 Down Over ABQ." And then there's the last episode of the show, "Felina," which is both an anagram of "finale" and a reference to the Marty Robbins song that scores a critical part of the episode. And translated into English, "el camino" means "the way," which is a turn of phrase as open to interpretation as Jesse's original fate. He spends the movie looking for a way out of his predicament, and a way forward in his life, perhaps ending up, as Aaron Paul told us so many years ago, as a carpenter living quietly in Alaska.