When the news about a Breaking Bad movie came out, we decided to hold off until there was information on the cast, because what is Breaking Bad without Walt and Jesse? We now have more info, with reports that the series will move forward as a film with Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman in– it is a sequel. I will put a series spoiler alert here (even though it went off the air in 2013!!!!!), but I’m going to talk about the finale. You ready?
Last we saw Jesse Pinkman, he was escaping a meth lab compound run by white supremacists who were holding him hostage, forcing him to cook meth and live in a hole. Walt arrived at the compound knowing Jesse was alive (remember, he thought Jesse was dead, on his orders, until he went back to Albuquerque) and purposely set up a diversion so Jesse wouldn’t get killed in the compound ambush.
That’s the nuts and bolts of the story, but emotionally Jesse drove away triumphant and pretty f-cked up, physically and mentally. He was also utterly alone. Jesse was held captive for a significant amount of time and there was no one looking for him - no family, no friends. Badger and Skinny Pete only mentioned him to Walt because they told him about the blue meth that was still on the street – Jesse’s proof of life. Mike and Andrea are both dead and Saul is on the run (though it’s unlikely Saul would go looking for Jesse). He escaped the compound with no home to return to.
In terms of a storyline, there’s a possibility he could hide in plain sight in Albuquerque (where the series is being filmed, more on that below). Jesse was not Heisenberg; he was basically a silent partner. It’s unclear if the police, beyond Hank and his partner, Steve, (both killed in the desert) even knew of Jesse’s existence in the operation. Skyler and Marie knew about him, but they would likely assume he was killed on Walt’s command. They would have no reason to think he survived.
Now that he’s free, he could seek out Brock, Andrea’s son who Walt tried to poison (which is what led to Jesse finally turning him into Hank). Jesse was also haunted by the killing of the boy in the desert and that information will somehow need to come to light – that was a huge motivation for his character and sent him into a guilt spiral. Beyond that, though, what does Jesse’s life look like? There are a few possibilities: Team up with Skyler and restart the business. She can keep the books, he can cook meth, and all of their enemies are dead. Or he could try to live a life of recovery and service, which is what he did in fits and starts on the show. He could also revert back to being a petty criminal, the Jesse Pinkman we first met who was supposed to be killed off in the first season. The biggest question is, who is Jesse without Walt?
There’s also the question of Walt himself. Last time we saw him, he was shot, but not dead. To paraphrase Bryan Cranston, we never saw a white sheet. There is absolutely a possibility that Walt is alive.
I can (and will) talk about possible plot points all day, but I want to touch on the business aspect of the sequel. This is the second project to spin out of the Breaking Bad universe (Better Call Saul has done quite well). Aaron Paul, who is still on an extended social media break, is choosing to go back to this world, the one that made him famous. He has not had a project come close to the success of Breaking Bad and while there are never any guarantees, this feels like a sure bet for him creatively and professionally. Not only do they have the legacy of Breaking Bad behind them, but a roll-out model that will make it super accessible to both die-hard and casual fans.
The distribution of the film is a collaboration between Netflix and AMC. Vince Gilligan has always credited streaming for helping the show find a broader audience in its early days and avoid cancellation on AMC; they want to continue to go where the eyeballs are. This film will be part of his deal with Sony TV, so he’s not working as a showrunner under Netflix, even though it will air on Netflix first. It’s a little confusing, but there’s no downside to being on Netflix. Audiences don’t care who owns the rights to what, they just want access to the new thing, and this sounds like it will be convenient for fans.
Deadline also notes that the format is not a lock - it could be a movie or a limited series, depending on how they cut it. The next obvious question is: when? The Albuquerque Journal notes that a production called Greenbrier, a codename for the project, started in November 2018 (read more on it from a local journalist here).
Which brings us back to Aaron Paul’s social media break announced in mid-December. His wife posted this photo of them in late December with their daughter.
A couple of weeks before that, she posted a throwback of them at an awards show in 2012. Looks like Jesse to me.