10 Most Memorable Jesse Pinkman Moments From Breaking Bad
Our favorite meth cook-in-training had some tragic moments, some comic moments, and some tragicomic moments.
On Friday October 11, Netflix will debut El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. It stars Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, the long-suffering, sarcastic, assistant meth cook with a heart of gold on Breaking Bad.
Originally, Jesse was supposed to die at the end of the first season. But thanks to Paul, whose performance elevated Jesse from a supporting character to a co-lead, we got five full seasons of an Emmy-winning, career-defining role. Jesse had layers, and as Walt became more monstrous with each subsequent episode, Jesse correspondingly became more sympathetic. He sought approval from a series of father figures, from Walt to Gus to Mike. But now, all three men are dead, and in El Camino, Jesse will have to stand on his own.
Here are the 10 most memorable Jesse Pinkman moments from Breaking Bad.
10. Setting The Silverware
Season 1, "Cancer Man"
This moment occurs early in the series run, when Jesse goes back to his parents' home in another attempt to reconcile with them. They're about to throw him out when they see him setting the dinner table, and decide to leave him be. Breaking Bad is adept at making even the worst characters sympathetic by showing us tiny glimpses of their humanity. It's not much, but this table scene gives us a brief glimpse into the kind of son Jesse's parents wanted him to be. And it makes his subsequent, more permanent estrangement more tragic.
9. The Dance Party From Hell
Season 4, "Thirty-Eight Snub," "Open House"
After killing Gale (more on that later), Jesse goes into a full-on, self-destructive spiral. He opens his house to what can be best described as a drug-fueled dance party. Over the course of two episodes, the house takes on a nightmarish appearance. And just when everyone is ready to pass out, Jesse cranks up the music and throws out money to keep the mayhem going. He's attempting to drown out his guilt with noise and confusion, but it doesn't work. Gus and Mike eventually have to intervene and restore Jesse's sense of self.
8. Student Becomes The Teacher
Season 4, "Salud"
When Gus transports Jesse down to Mexico to show the cartel scientists the proper way to cook meth, the scientists are taken aback. How could this bruised-up kid with no education teach them about their own business? But Jesse rises to the occasion; Walter's high standards have stuck with him. He criticizes the cleanliness and state of their lab as Gus and Mike look on, paternal smiles creeping onto their faces.
7. Child's Play
Season 2, "Peakaboo"
Jesse's love of children is constant throughout the series, most notably his protective relationship to Brock. But one of the earliest glimpses we got at his paternal side was when he went to collect money from a meth-addicted couple, and instead found their dirty, malnourished son, who was visibly neglected. Appalled, Jesse made the child some food and played peakaboo with him. It's a tragically brief respite from the hell of this child's existence.
6. The Great Train Robbery
Season 5, "Dead Freight"
No Western is complete without a train robbery. But whereas Mike and Walter seem resigned to killing someone, Jesse has a more creative, blood-free alternative, where their marks won't even know they've been robbed. The actual heist is one of the most thrillingly edited sequences in television. It's also one of Jesse's greatest triumphs, until it all comes crashing down in the final moments of the episode. There is no perfect crime.
5. The Biggest Mistake
Season 5, "Madrigal"
One of the most infuriating parts of Breaking Bad is watching Walt lie to and manipulate the people around him. When Jesse first discovers that Walt poisoned Brock, Walt manages to talk his way out of it by redirecting the blame to Gus. And Jesse, in a heartbreaking monologue several episodes later, cries that he could have murdered Walter and made the biggest mistake of his life. Walter massages his shoulders and comforts him, for a guilt trip that was a complete fabrication. It feels evil in a way that is more brazen and explicit than previously shown.
4. Backup in Mexico
Season 4, "Salud"
The final stop in his impromptu trip to Mexico, Jesse accompanies Gus and Mike to see Don Eladio. He finds out, along with the rest of us, that's it's a revenge mission years in the making. Gus' enemies all collapse and die from poisoning, and Jesse has to carry a sick Gus out of the house and to the car. On the way, he shoots and kills the last Salamanca, destroying the remnants of a once-powerful cartel family. Jesse shows a selfless loyalty and capability that Walt never had; it's doubtful that even Jesse knew he had this level of competence within himself.
3. Choking Todd
Season 5, "Felina"
Jesse spends months shackled in a white supremacist compound, being tortured and beaten to produce meth. It's a fate that even Walter would not wish on his worst enemy. And we see Jesse's anger and frustration boil over in the series finale, when Jesse attacks Todd from behind and wraps his metal chain around Todd's neck. The two men roll around on the floor for a bit, before Jesse cinches the chain and audibly snaps Todd's neck. A dark, yet well-earned moment.
2. Bye-Bye, Gale
Season 3, "Full Measure"
Gale had to die. And Gus left Walter and Jesse little choice in the matter; the only way to save their lives was to kill the only other meth cook who knew Walt's technique.
But it's one thing to understand what must be done, and another thing entirely to actually do it. The horrified, crying face that Jesse makes as he shakingly pulls the trigger was the final, haunting image of Season 3's finale. It changed the character dynamics of the show, and it showed that despite all his bluster, Jesse never wavered in his loyalty to Walt. He was willing to give Walt not only his life, but a piece of his soul.
1. Losing Everything
Season 3, "One Minute"
In a Twitter post celebrating El Camino, Aaron Paul posted a clip of Jesse at one of his lowest points in Breaking Bad. Paul said that this scene was important viewing before watching the movie.
It's a pathetic monologue by Jesse, who, after being beaten to a pulp by Hank, takes stock of how much he's lost ever since he started working Walt. It's a self-flagellating speech, in which Jesse laments Walt's disapproval of his cooking. And Walt, in another act of Iago-esque manipulation, concedes that Jesse' meth is as good at his.
A lot of Breaking Bad's violence, especially in the first couple of seasons, was played for dark-humored laughs. This beatdown's aftermath, however, was not. There was no sarcastic humor to lighten the mood. The audience sees Jesse as a clearly manipulated victim, deserving of our pity.