Movie Reviews

Breaking Bad: Why Todd Looks So Different in El Camino

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. In reality, El Camino was filmed almost six years after Breaking Bad, which is why some returning characters appear very different. One of the actors whose appearance changed most noticeably was Jesse’s captor, Breaking Bad‘s Todd Alquist, played by Jesse Plemons. Todd and his white supremacist Uncle Jack played a critical role in Breaking Bad‘s final season as a marker of how far Walt and Jesse had fallen. When Jesse Plemons filmed Breaking Bad‘s final episode, “Felina,” he was 24, but he was 30 by the time he filmed El Camino — and was clearly older and more heavy set than he was in Breaking Bad.

Of course, the real explanation for Breaking Bad ‘s 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, El Camino is told almost entirely from Jesse’s perspective, which could distort how characters like Todd Alquist are portrayed.

Related: Breaking Bad: What Walter White’s Heisenberg Name Really Means

Of all the villains from Breaking Bad Todd was 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 strangling his housekeeper to death because she came across his money stash. El Camino‘s depiction of an older and heavier Todd Alquist may be a reflection of how Jesse perceives him.

This interpretation is supported by the way in which the creepy Todd Alquist is introduced in El Camino. In the first flashback scene that features Todd, 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 Jesse Plemons’ Todd through Jesse’s eyes, rather than being shown an objective view. After all, this is Jesse’s memory, and memory can be subjective.

The theory for why Breaking Bad‘s 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 Alquist 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 Todd Alquist’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 Todd Alquist’s own death that little bit more poetic.

Related: Breaking Bad’s Plan To Kill Skyler Explained (& Why It Was Changed)

Jesse Plemons’ Breaking Bad role as the disturbed Todd Alquist placed the actor perfectly as an unusual, captivating, and quietly menacing onscreen presence, and his performance led to roles in movies and series like I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Black Mirror, and The Power of the Dog, for which Plemons’ supporting role earned him an Oscar nomination. The difference between Jesse Plemons’ Breaking Bad appearance and that in El Camino reflects Plemons’ shift from playing teenage characters to being an acclaimed adult character actor. Indeed, despite looking noticeably heavier in his reprised role as the soft-spoken murderer, Jesse Plemons’ El Camino look takes nothing away from — and arguably enhanced — his stellar performance.

The same can be said of Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul. Although Paul’s noticeably older look doesn’t fully line up with Jesse Pinkman’s age in El Camino, the actor’s real years and extended onscreen experience did well to reflect the stress that the character has been going through. While the actors of El Camino, including Jesse Plemons as Todd Alquist, don’t look exactly how they did in Breaking Bad, this factor never really got in the way of how El Camino continues the groundbreaking crime series’ legacy.

Next: Breaking Bad: Why Jesse’s El Camino Letter To Brock Wasn’t Revealed

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