5 Reasons Why Jesse Pinkman is The Unsung Anti-Hero of Breaking Bad

Jesse Pinkman went from slacker high school drug dealer to the moral center of Breaking Bad. Five reasons why he's the hero of the villainous Team Heisenberg.

With the final episodes of Breaking Badcoming upon us this Sunday, the netverse has been filled with anticipation, with everyone asking: “What’s going to happen to Walter White?”

Now don’t get me wrong, I am as twitter-pated as the next Breaking Bad fan to see what will happen to Walter. Watching his character go from man-next-door in a hard place to ultimate bad-ass has been a master class in tour-de-force writing and acting.


I am on the edge of my seat to see what will happen to Walter’s Sancho Panza in crime, that bad, bad, bad boy Jesse Pinkman. And it’s not just because he’s played by Aaron Paul, who is, legitimately, smokin’. Watching Jesse’s, dare I say reactionary, growth into maturity and a conscience juxtaposed against Walter’s downward spiral has been an unexpected pleasure. So much so that I’m not sure I want to see Jesse get what’s coming to him. I think if any of the characters of the show deserve a pass at a second chance, it could legitimately be argued that it should be Jesse. Why? Well, I am prepared to make my case.

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1. He may have started out as a high school drug-dealing addict drop out, but he’s no killer

Ok, ok, technically, yes, if you want to argue semantics, he is a killer. BUT that doesn’t mean he started out to become a murderer. He just wanted to make some dough, have some fun, do some drugs, and not have to go to class anymore. We’ve all veered down career paths that seem to make sense until suddenly we wake up and go, uh….where did this take a wrong turn?

Joking aside, it was clear that Jesse was forced/manipulated into killing Gale to save Walt in Season 3. Granted, he didn’t have to pull the trigger, and maybe he should have let Walt fall, but a bro has to back his other drug dealing bros. More telling is how he spirals downwards in Season 4 after the murder, which is indicative of the fact that yes, Jesse has a conscience and yes, he doesn’t love the path he is walking.

2. He has tried to clean up his life

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Remember Season 2? Where Jesse goes to rehab and meets Jane and the two of them fall in love? We saw a new Jesse then, one that could have patched up his life, eventually made his way out of the whole drug business and lived a happy, steady, normal life. Unfortunately that was not to be, especially since Walt could not have his right hand man walking off into the sunset with Jane and he needed a clean Jesse, not one that was sliding back into the drug haze Jane was bringing him. I’m not saying Walt killed Jane deliberately, but he let her die and you can’t tell me in his rush to not save her, his need for Jesse did not factor into his action.

3. He has occasional moments of business brilliance

We all know that Walt is the undisputed mastermind of this meth dealing operation. Jesse, however, isn’t necessarily the best at long-term strategy. Remember, when we met him in Season 1 he was adding chili powder to his product to make it more…distinct. Nonetheless, as the seasons have progressed it’s become more and more clear that he has the type of creative thinking/out of the box flashes that have gotten the team out of more than one tight spot. Remember the “Yeah, bitch! Magnets!” moment in the first half of Season 5? I could totally see Jesse as the idea factory end of a dot com startup or a small business. Which, essentially, his meth dealing is, just with more blood and guts and overall escalating evil. 

Nonetheless, Jesse isn’t stupid. He figured out in Season 4 that Gus was not the poisoner of Brock and suspected Walt (until, in Season 5, Walt does some slight of hand with fake ricin to convince Jesse he didn’t).

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4. He has lines he will not cross and isn’t afraid to say so

Jesse has clearly reached his limit with drugs, Walt, and their entire messed up meth situation. In Season 5 it was clear that Jesse has become the level-headed (Jesse! Level-headed?) balance to Walt’s greed and lust for power and control against the reality of situations. He stood between Walt and Mike many times in Season 4 and 5, trying to keep the peace.

Most telling is that after Todd shoots the young boy who witnessed Team Heisenberg’s train robbery, Jesse walks away from everything. He realizes that nothing, not Walt, not money, not drugs, is worth the casual taking of life, especially young life. In a huge reversal, Walt shows up and APOLOGIZES to Jesse, and even pays up the rest of the buyout. It remains to be seen whether Jesse will have anything to do with Walt, regardless of how many reparations Walt attempts to make.


5. Creator Vince Gilligan wanted to kill Jesse off in the first season—and then didn’t

It’s telling when the creator of a show plans to kill off a side character and then not only refrains, but has him become a huge part of the show. Jesse’s development and Aaron Paul’s performance were a surprise to Gilligan, which speaks volumes about where Jesse’s arc could continue to travel. In an interview at the Paley Centre in 2011, Gilligan explained that he was so impressed by the direction of Jesse, he realized it would be an enormous error to kill off the character.

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Will Jesse continue to surprise everyone and forge a path independent of Walt? Will he be the key to Walt’s downfall? Or will he end up being pulled into the black hole of corruption that is now Walter White, and be doomed? I hope not. I hope Jesse will get a second chance somehow, and I have to say, I would certainly not be opposed to a Breaking Bad spinoff featuring Jesse Pinkman in his attempt to make a new man out of himself. Think about it—can a man leave his past behind or will it always catch up to him? C’mon AMC, I know Walt deserves some comeuppance, but I, for one am not ready to let go of Jesse.


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