el camino alternate endings

When Aaron Paul‘s long-suffering Jesse Pinkman crashed a stolen El Camino through the fences of the white supremacist compound where he had been kept enslaved in the explosive Breaking Bad finale in 2013, his fate was left on an ecstatic but ambiguous note. Six years later, we find out the aftermath of Jesse’s escape from the neo-Nazis who had tortured him in this weekend’s El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. And while the film offers a more decisive fate for Walter White’s former partner, writer-director Vince Gilligan didn’t always plan the ending in this way.

Gilligan originally pitched a much darker ending for El Camino, one that ended up being nixed by everyone around him, including Breaking Bad executive producer and Better Call Saul co-creator Peter Gould. But his original three-hour cut of El Camino also offered another, less drastically different, alternate ending. Following the film’s release on Netflix this weekend, Gilligan and Paul revealed more about these two El Camino alternate endings.

Spoilers for El Camino follow.

After the feral scream that was the Breaking Bad series finale, El Camino offered a somber, calm epilogue for the compassionate fool that is Jesse Pinkman, albeit one filled with bloody Wild West shoot-outs and disturbing flashbacks to the meth-maker’s time in captivity. In the end, Jesse would escape arrest and buy his way to freedom with the help of a “vacuum store owner” Ed (Robert Forster, in a sublime final role), making his way to a life of peace at the “final frontier” of Alaska.

It’s an ending that both Gilligan and Paul have been hinting at for a while, with Gilligan telling Entertainment Weekly in 2013, “The romantic in me wants to believe that he gets away with it and moves to Alaska and has a peaceful life communing with nature,” and Paul reiterating that idea last year, hoping that Jesse went “just straight up into Alaska, a mountain town in the middle of nowhere, and just started building things with his hands.” But Gilligan told Vulture that as the years passed, he began to second-guess that optimistic idea.

“You think to yourself, ‘Well, that’s too simple. Getting away is what everybody expects, so maybe I got to go the opposite way,'” Gilligan said, revealing that he originally crafted a movie in which Jesse Pinkman sacrifices himself to help another new character escape.

“I like irony in storytelling. I love ironic twists. Once I had set about coming up with this movie, for the longest time, I had it in my mind that the thing we wanted most to see was for Jesse to escape. And the thing he wanted most to do was escape. So I was trying to concoct a plot in which, hero that he is, he saves somebody else — somebody I would have introduced as a new character into the movie. Because he’s such an innately heroic character in my mind, he saves someone at the end of the movie and he willfully gets himself caught knowing that it’ll save this other person. At the end of the movie, he’d be locked in a jail cell somewhere in Montana or someplace. And he would be at peace with it. It was all this very interior, emo-type, very dramatic stuff.”

But Gilligan said that when he pitched that idea to his girlfriend Holly Rice, who immediately (and rightfully) told him he was insane. Gould and the writers of Better Call Saul told Gilligan the same, “So I dispensed with that idea,” Gilligan said.

Paul was actually never aware of this original ending and was thrown when EW informed him about it. After expressing his shock at Gilligan’s original pitch, Paul said he was “happy that he got away,” though there was a second alternate ending that he wished could have made the cut.

In this original cut, which was a whopping 3 hours long Paul revealed to Collider,  Jesse’s final drive-off to the Alaskan wilderness would have been accompanied by him narrating the contents of Jesse’s letter to Brock (Ian Posada), the son of his killed girlfriend Andrea (Emily Rios). “It’s heartbreaking, it’s beautiful, just honest. But Vince just thought, ‘You know what? Maybe it’s best left unknown,'” Paul said, though he was “really crushed to see made the cutting room floor before we started shooting.” The letter was apparently the first thing that Gilligan wrote before even writing the script, but as the director cut 30% of the original 3-hour cut from the film, some things had to go.

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