One of Breaking Bad’s returning characters looks radically different in El Camino, but this could be explained by Jesse’s skewed perspective.
The Breaking Bad character Todd Alquist looks radically different in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie — here’s why. El Camino takes place immediately after the end of the Breaking Bad series finale, but in reality, it was filmed almost six years later, which is why some returning characters appear very different. One of the actors whose appearance changed most noticeably was Jesse’s captor, Todd Alquist, played by Jesse Plemons. At the time of filming Breaking Bad‘s final episode, “Felina,” Plemons was 24, but he was 30 by the time he filmed El Camino — and was clearly older and heavier than he was in Breaking Bad.
Of course, the real explanation for Todd looking different in El Camino is not only the long wait between the filming of “Felina” and the epilogue movie, but also the fact that El Camino was filmed in secret over just 50 days, so there wasn’t a great deal of time for Plemons to undergo any kind of radical weight loss in an effort to look like his 24-year-old self again. However, for those who need an in-universe explanation, there’s actually a theory that explains not only why Todd looks older in El Camino‘s flashbacks, but also why Jesse Pinkman doesn’t look like he’s in his 20s anymore (Aaron Paul was 39 at the time of filming).
Unlike Breaking Bad, which had a broader view of the general storyline, El Camino is told almost entirely from Jesse’s perspective. In stories like this, there’s often an unreliable narrator factor in which the protagonist’s worldview and fallible memory skew what the audience sees. In the case of Jesse Pinkman, the incredible amount of physical and psychological pain he had gone through by the end of Breaking Bad and the exhaustion he must have had from having to watch his back constantly would definitely affect the way he remembers the facts. This could explain why the audience is shown different versions of Jesse and the other characters.
Why Todd Looks So Different In El Camino
Of all the villains from the series, Todd was the Breaking Bad character who was certainly the cruelest — especially from Jesse’s perspective. Although Todd was only in his early 20s in Breaking Bad, he committed some horrendous acts: murdering a little boy who accidentally witnessed the train heist; working with his Uncle Jack to keep Jesse locked up and enslaved; and, as we find out in El Camino, strangling his housekeeper to death because she came across his money stash. With all of that in mind, El Camino‘s depiction of an older and heavier Todd may be a reflection of how Jesse perceives him.
This might seem like a reach, but it’s supported by the way in which Todd is introduced in El Camino. In the first flashback scene that features the creepy Todd Alquist, the audience sees him from Jesse’s perspective: first as a shadow over the tarpaulin that covers the cage, then through the bars of the cage, so that his face is partially obscured. The film firmly establishes that audiences are seeing Todd through Jesse’s eyes, rather than being shown an objective view. After all, this is Jesse’s memory, and memory can be subjective.
How A Breaking Bad Theory Explains Todd Change
The Breaking Bad theory for why Todd looks so different in El Camino also explains why Jesse himself looks older as well, despite the movie taking place right after Jesse heads to Alaska in the Breaking Bad series finale. A scene early on in the film (after Jesse arrives at Skinny Pete’s house but before he has shaved his face and cut his hair) shows Jesse examining himself in the mirror after taking a shower, during which he has a traumatic flashback to being hosed down during his captivity. If El Camino is being told from Jesse’s perspective, then in addition to the physical trauma of being held prisoner taking a toll on his body, we are likely also seeing Jesse as he feels rather than as he is. After all the psychological damage that’s been inflicted upon him, it’s doubtful that Jesse still feels like a man in his 20s — and his outward appearance reflects that.
The appearance of the actors in El Camino was one of the movie’s biggest obstacles. Another obvious example of this is the younger Walter White in the movie’s flashback at the diner, where it’s rather evident that Walt’s bald head had to be created through makeup because Bryan Cranston’s own hair had already grown. Although it could be argued that the slightly different physical appearance of Todd in El Camino distracts from the story, it requires no more suspension of disbelief than when a character is completely recast for a sequel. Moreover, his flashbacks do add some interesting details that flesh out the character’s Breaking Bad arc — for example, the fact that he kept the spider belonging to the little boy he shot as some kind of souvenir. And, of course, the manner in which Todd killed his housekeeper makes his own death that little bit more poetic.
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