|Breaking Bad character|
|Created by||Vince Gilligan|
|Portrayed by||Aaron Paul|
The character has received praise from critics and fans alike. Paul has also received universal acclaim for his performance. For his portrayal, Paul won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014 -- which makes him the only actor to win the category three times, since its separation into drama and comedy. Back when the categories were combined, Art Carney and Don Knotts won three as well, which ties Paul for the most wins in the award's history.
Jesse was born on September 14, 1984 into an upper middle-class family in Albuquerque, New Mexico. At the time the series starts, he has long been estranged from his parents due to his drug abuse and lifestyle. After being forced to leave his parents' residence, Jesse moved in with his Aunt Ginny, who he cared for until her death from cancer. Afterwards, he was allowed to stay in her home, the ownership of which fell to Jesse's parents.
Jesse was a poor student in high school who preferred hanging out with his friends and smoking marijuana to studying. Walter White (Bryan Cranston), whom Jesse almost always calls "Mr. White", was his chemistry teacher and flunked Jesse in his class. Walt himself later tells Jesse that he never thought he would amount to much, although Jesse's mother (Tess Harper) recalled that Walt "must have seen some potential in Jesse; he really tried to motivate him. He was one of the few teachers who cared."
When Walt accompanies Hank on a ridealong during a drug bust, he spots Jesse running away from the scene; he subsequently realizes that Jesse is "Cap'n Cook", a meth cook Hank is investigating. Walt uses student records to track down Jesse, his former pupil, and blackmails him into letting Walt "cook" in the production-side of Jesse's illegal drug trade. Walt plans to use his knowledge of chemistry to cook potent crystal meth that Jesse will distribute, giving him $7,000 to purchase an RV which will be used as a rolling meth lab. Jesse wastes most of the money while partying at a strip club, but one of his friends, Christian "Combo" Ortega (Rodney Rush), lets Jesse purchase his family's decrepit RV for $1,400.
After Walt cooks his first batch of meth, Jesse is struck by its quality, calling it the purest he has ever seen. Jesse later approaches Domingo "Krazy-8" Molina (Maximino Arciniega), an Albuquerque meth distributor, over the prospect of doing business with him. Unbeknownst to Jesse, Krazy-8 is a DEA informant who is suspicious of the proposal. When Krazy-8 drives to the desert to meet the duo, his partner, Emilio Koyama (John Koyama), recognizes Walt from the previous DEA bust. When they attempt to kill him, Walt produces phosphine gas that kills Emilio and incapacitates Krazy-8, allowing him to flee with the unconscious Jesse. Walt has Jesse shop for a plastic container in which he plans to dissolve Emilio's body with hydrofluoric acid. Jesse dissolves the body in a non-acid-resistant bathtub upstairs, burning a hole in the bathroom floor and spilling the remnants of the body in the downstairs hallway. After cleaning up the scene and disposing of Krazy-8, the duo are forced to sell their meth on their own.
Walt and Jesse move their lab from the RV to Jesse's basement. Their product is a big enough presence in Albuquerque's drug scene that it becomes the focus of Hank's investigation. Dissatisfied with the minuscule amount of money Jesse is collecting, Walt convinces him to find a high-end distributor for their meth. Skinny Pete (Charles Baker), one of Jesse's friends, puts him in contact with Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz), a powerful Mexican drug kingpin operating in Albuquerque. However, at their first meeting, Tuco brutally beats Jesse and lands him in the hospital. After Walt strong-arms Tuco into a lucrative, albeit unstable, partnership, he and Jesse expand their operations by stealing a large drum of methylamine. This enables them to produce even more potent meth in larger quantities.
The second season begins with Walt and Jesse delivering a fresh batch to Tuco, who senselessly beats one of his henchmen, "No Doze", to death as the stunned duo watch helplessly. After the DEA conducts a raid on his Albuquerque operations, the increasingly paranoid Tuco believes that Walt and Jesse are about to betray him. Tuco kidnaps the pair and takes them to a remote house in the desert, where he cares for his paralyzed uncle, Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis). There, Walt and Jesse are held against their will for several days, with Tuco stating his intention of taking them to a "superlab" in Mexico. However, the two escape after a struggle with Tuco. Walt and Jesse flee the scene, and watch as Hank—who has been guided to the house by the LoJack on Jesse's car while searching for the missing Walt—kills Tuco in a firefight outside the house. Walt and Jesse wander through the desert before hitching a ride back to civilization. Unfortunately, the DEA seizes Jesse's car and money.
Realizing that the authorities will track him down, Jesse seeks help from his friend, Brandon "Badger" Mayhew (Matt L. Jones). They move the lab from Jesse's house back to the RV. The RV is subsequently towed away by Badger's cousin, Clovis (Tom Kiesche), and stored on his lot for a $1,000 storage fee, which Jesse can only pay half of up front. The next day, Jesse's parents evict him from his home after discovering that he had been cooking meth in the basement. He cannot find a friend to stay with, and his remaining few belongings and his bike are stolen. With nowhere else to go, he breaks into Clovis' lot and passes out in the RV. Resolving to put himself back together, Jesse buys an inconspicuous Toyota Tercel and finds a new apartment. The landlord, Jane Margolis (Krysten Ritter), is a part-time tattoo artist and a recovering addict. She and Jesse soon become romantically involved. Jane, however, tries to hide this relationship from her father, Donald (John de Lancie), who owns their building.
When Skinny Pete is robbed by a pair of addicts, Walt tells Jesse to "handle it". Jesse goes to the addicts' house to confront them, but the plan goes awry when one kills the other in front of him. While traumatic for Jesse, the incident ultimately helps his business; a rumor quickly spreads that Jesse killed the addict, giving him a fearsome reputation on the streets. Jesse is also instrumental in retaining the services of corrupt lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) to help him and Walt launder their money and get out of legal trouble.
After Combo is murdered by rival dealers, Jesse starts using heroin with Jane to numb his depression. His behavior nearly costs Walt a $1.2 million drug transaction with the powerful meth distributor Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). Angered, Walt withholds Jesse's half of the money until he enters rehab. When Jane learns about the money, she blackmails Walt into giving Jesse his share, hoping to use the money to escape to New Zealand. However, Walt breaks into their apartment while Jesse and Jane, high on heroin, are asleep and accidentally rolls Jane over on her back, causing her to choke on her vomit in her sleep. Walt does nothing to help her, and watches her die. Jesse, unaware of what really happened, blames himself for Jane's death. Walt rescues Jesse from a crack house and checks him in to a rehabilitation clinic.
While in rehab, Jesse is told by a counselor (Jere Burns) to accept himself for who he is. At this point, he has learned that Jane's father, an air traffic controller, was so distraught over her death that he inadvertently caused a deadly mid-air collision. Jesse tells Walt that he has taken the counselor's advice and accepted himself as the "bad guy". Jesse leaves rehab clean and sober, and decides to settle unfinished business. First, with help from Saul, Jesse dupes his parents into selling him his aunt's house at a drastically reduced price.
Hank correctly deduces that Jesse's RV is the rolling meth lab he has been looking for, and tracks it down to a local junkyard. Walt and Saul send a fake emergency phone call to Hank telling him that his wife Marie (Betsy Brandt) is in the hospital, giving Walt and Jesse enough time to destroy the RV in a compactor. A furious Hank follows Jesse home and beats him into unconsciousness. The incident leads to Hank getting temporarily suspended from the DEA. While Jesse is hospitalized, Walt—who is now working for Gus as a meth cook—persuades him to renew their partnership. Jesse and Walt cook larger amounts of meth in Gus' underground "superlab", earning considerably more money.
Jesse becomes romantically involved with Andrea Cantillo (Emily Rios), a single mother and recovering meth addict from his Narcotics Anonymous meetings. He eventually discovers that her 11-year-old brother, Tomas, had killed Combo on behalf of two competing dealers. Jesse concocts a plan to kill the dealers with ricin that Walt had earlier created, but is forced to cancel the plan after learning that the dealers work for Gus. However, after Tomas is found murdered, an enraged Jesse sets out to kill them. Walt intervenes at the last moment, killing the two dealers and telling Jesse to run.
After Jesse goes into hiding, Gus replaces him with Gale Boetticher (David Costabile), Walt's previous assistant in the superlab. Walt realizes Gus is plotting to have Gale master his and Jesse's meth formula as part of a larger plan to be rid of him. To prevent this, Walt plans to have Jesse pre-emptively kill Gale. Jesse begs Walt to go to the police instead, insisting that he doesn't have it in him to kill someone. When Walt is cornered by Gus' men Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) and Victor (Jeremiah Bitsui) at the superlab, he calls Jesse and tells him that he will have to kill Gale. Jesse shows up at Gale's apartment and, after a moment's hesitation, shoots him dead.
Immediately after Gale's murder, Walt and Jesse are brought back to the superlab, where Gus slices Victor's throat with a box cutter in a gruesome show of force. Jesse dismisses Walt's fears that Gus is planning to kill them, and escapes his guilt by setting up a perpetual rave at his house. He also places a large amount of drug money in Andrea's mailbox, urging her to leave Albuquerque with her young son, Brock. Jesse becomes increasingly indifferent to his own welfare, stealing meth from the superlab to fuel his drug-laden parties.
Mike informs Gus of Jesse's recklessness, but instead of ordering his death, Gus has Mike take Jesse on an errand to collect drop money. On the last pickup, Jesse sees a man approaching the car with a shotgun and attempts to run him over, but ultimately rams the man's car and drives away. It is revealed that the man with the shotgun was working for Mike and this was all just a test for Jesse, which he passed. Walt correctly states that Gus is trying to drive a wedge into their partnership, but Jesse dismisses him. During Jesse's next assignment with Mike, which involves the retrieval of stolen product from two addicts, Jesse gets one addict fixated on digging a hole in the yard and disarms the other, which impresses Gus. Shortly afterward, Jesse resumes his relationship with Andrea, and becomes like a father to Brock.
Walt tasks Jesse with killing Gus with a vial of ricin, which Jesse hides in a cigarette. Later on, when Gus is having a meeting with members of the cartel, Jesse considers spiking his coffee with the ricin, but refrains from doing so upon realizing that he could poison the third parties present (and might end up drinking the coffee himself). Walt pushes Jesse to try to set up a meeting when he learns that Hank is investigating Gus, but backs off when he sees a text message implying that Jesse has been lying about not meeting Gus. Walt puts a tracking device on Jesse's vehicle, and learns that he had dinner at Gus' house the night before. Walt confronts Jesse, who beats him up and tells him to leave and never come back.
Gus and Mike take Jesse on a trip to Mexico to have him teach Walt's formula to the cartel's chemists. Impressed with Jesse's skill, Gus seemingly arranges to have Jesse become a permanent cook for the cartel. However, during a party, Gus uses a poisoned bottle of tequila to kill off the cartel's leadership, including its chieftain, Don Eladio (Steven Bauer). Jesse saves Mike, who was shot during the chaos, and Gus, who purposely drank the poisoned tequila to get the cartel to do the same. Afterwards, Gus offers to hire Jesse as his full-time cook. Jesse accepts on the condition that Gus spare Walt's life. When Walt's wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) seeks protection from the DEA, Gus uses this information to portray Walt as an informant in an attempt to further the gap between him and Jesse. Walt goes to Jesse's house to plead for help, but Jesse throws him off his property.
Shortly afterwards, Brock falls deathly ill. Jesse guesses that Brock has been poisoned by ricin, and immediately assumes Walt is responsible. He showing up at Walt's house and confronts him at gunpoint. However, Walt convinces Jesse that it was Gus who poisoned Brock, reminding him of Gus' willingness to kill children. Jesse eventually tells Saul about Gus' visits to Hector's retirement home, leading Walt to visit Hector himself and talk him into luring Gus to the location. Gus is subsequently killed when Walt sets up and Hector activates a pipe bomb beneath the elderly drug lord's wheelchair. After learning of Gus' death, Walt storms the superlab and rescues Jesse.
After they destroy the superlab, Jesse reveals that Brock was not poisoned by ricin, but by Lily of the Valley berries. Jesse realizes that Gus couldn't have poisoned Brock, but Walt assures him that killing Gus was the only course of action they could have taken. The final scene of the fourth season shows a potted Lily of the Valley in Walt's backyard, revealing that Walt had poisoned Brock in order to spur Jesse into action and further his plan to kill Gus.
Jesse is torn up about what happened to Brock, and becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to the ricin. Jesse has Walt help him search his house for the cigarette containing the poison. Walt plants a fake replica of the ricin cigarette in Jesse's vacuum cleaner. Jesse then agrees to continue cooking meth with Walt. Soon afterward, Jesse breaks up with Andrea to keep her and Brock safe.
He and Walt join forces with Mike to establish their own meth operation. After trouble with their supplier, Lydia Rodarte-Quayle (Laura Fraser), leaves them without any methylamine precursor, they decide to steal 1000 gallons of methylamine from a train traveling through New Mexico. During the heist, their accomplice Todd Alquist (Jesse Plemons) shoots and kills a young boy, Drew Sharp (Samuel Webb), who was witness to the crime. Jesse is horrified, and decides to quit the meth business. When Walt refuses to pay him the $5 million buyout, Jesse storms off, saying he no longer cares about the money. When Walt decides to stop cooking meth, he goes to Jesse's house and pays the remainder of the buyout.
Overwhelmed with guilt for the child's death, Jesse tries to give his money away through Saul. When Saul refuses, Jesse tosses his money out to the streets. He is quickly arrested, and interrogated by the APD, who then allow Hank - who now knows that Walt is "Heisenberg", the meth kingpin he has been trying to catch - to question him. Jesse, however, does not confess anything and is quickly bailed out by Saul. Shortly after, Saul, Walt, and Jesse meet in the desert, where Walt suggests that Jesse skip town and start over with a new identity. Jesse agrees, but just as he is about to get picked up, he realizes that Saul's bodyguard Huell (Lavell Crawford) took his ricin cigarette. He goes back to Saul's office and assaults Saul, who admits that Walt was the one who orchestrated Brock's poisoning and gave the order to Saul to steal the ricin. Jesse then goes to Walter's house and pours gasoline throughout the building. Before he can light the fire, Hank arrives and convinces him that the best way to get Walt is to work together.
Hank allows Jesse to stay at his house, so he can tape Jesse's confession. Hank plans to have Jesse wear a wire in order to record the conversation between him and Walt. Jesse goes to the meeting, while Hank and his partner Steve Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) watch in surveillance trucks. Jesse notices a suspicious man next to Walt, and believes that Walt is going to have him killed. He walks to a pay phone and calls Walt, saying he is going to get him. Jesse tells Hank that he has a better way to get Walt; through his drug money.
Hank interrogates Huell and deduces that Walt buried his money in the desert. Jesse calls Walt claiming that he has found the money and threatens to burn it if he doesn't show up. Hank and Jesse follow Walt to the money's location via the cell phone signal. Upon seeing that nobody is there, Walt realizes that Jesse has tricked him and asks Todd's uncle Jack (Michael Bowen) to come with his crew and kill Jesse. He calls it off when he sees Hank and Gomez are accompanying him, and surrenders to Hank. Jack's crew then arrive, and a gunfight ensues in which Hank and Gomez are killed. Jesse hides under Walt's car, but Walt gives away his location. Just before Jack's gang takes Jesse away, Walt spitefully tells him that he watched Jane die. At Todd's headquarters, the gang beats Jesse until he reveals all he knows, and locks him in a cell. Todd escorts him in chains to a meth lab, where Jesse notices a photograph of Andrea and Brock, before Todd tells him he must cook.
Jesse manages to escape, but is caught by Jack and his men when he begins to scale the outside fence. Todd takes Jesse to Andrea's house and kills her right in front of him. Jack threatens to kill Brock next if Jesse attempts to escape again.
A few months later, Jack and his gang bring Jesse before Walt in shackles at Jack's compound. Walt tackles Jesse to the floor just as gunfire from a machine gun he had hidden in his car erupts on the cabin, killing most of Jack's gang. Jesse breaks Todd's neck using his handcuffs chain, and Walt kills Jack. Walt hands Jesse a gun and tells him to kill him. Jesse notices that Walt is mortally wounded, and forces him to admit that he actually wants to die. When he does, Jesse puts the gun down and tells Walt to do it himself. Before Jesse leaves, Walt answers a call from Lydia and tells her that he poisoned her with ricin; Jesse, now free of the cartel, nods gratefully to Walt. Jesse then drives off, laughing and crying with relief. Series creator Vince Gilligan has said that he deliberately left Jesse's ultimate fate ambiguous, preferring to let the viewer decide what happens to him.
Series creator Vince Gilligan originally intended for Jesse Pinkman's character to be killed at the end of Breaking Bad's first season. Gilligan wanted Jesse to die in a botched drug deal as a plot device to plague the main protagonist Walter White with guilt. However, Gilligan said by the second episode of the season, he was so impressed with Jesse's character and Aaron Paul's performance that "it became pretty clear early on that it would be a huge, colossal mistake to kill off Jesse". Gilligan also liked the chemistry between Paul and Bryan Cranston. The character has been said to become the "flawed moral center" to Walter White in later seasons. Paul has said that he initially saw the character as "black-and-white", but that over time it has become evident that he "has a huge heart; it just got messed up".
Paul felt that he had a "lock" onto who the character was when making the episode "Cancer Man," in which his family is introduced. Paul also noted how after Jesse's parents disown him, the character looks for a father figure in Walt and Mike.
The writers wrestled with the question of how long Jesse's innocence would survive Walt's influence. Gilligan opines that Jesse's naïvete makes him a better man than Walt.
Paul found it difficult to play Jesse sober in the third season. Paul says it "really threw me for a loop. It was hard to nail him. I had no idea where they were going with this character. He's so numb and cut off from everything." Paul prepared by spending time at a rehabilitation clinic, observing its patients and interviewing its director.
The fourth season premiere "Box Cutter" showed Walt pleading with Gus to save Jesse, demonstrating his paternal relationship and loyalty to Jesse. Walt tells Gus that he refuses to continue cooking if he kills Jesse. Paul felt this was "the first moment that Jesse realizes that Walt's loyalty is to Jesse."
The party scenes at Jesse's house in "Thirty-Eight Snub" and "Open House" were created as a way for Jesse to cope with his guilt and self-hatred after murdering Gale Boetticher in the third season finale, "Full Measure". Gilligan said these scenes were written because he wanted to demonstrate that the actions of the characters in Breaking Bad have major consequences. The writers discussed how Jesse would react to having killed Gale, and chose the party story arc in part because they felt it would be the most unexpected for the audience. Bryan Cranston says of those scenes, "I thought it was a great way to show a person going through a private hell. That everybody suffers, deals with their own personal loss in many different ways."
In "Open House," Jesse goes go-karting by himself. The idea was inspired by Paul and other crew members going kart racing between filming episodes. The idea for Jesse to have his head shaved in "Bullet Points" was also Paul's, as he felt it was appropriate for Jesse's inner struggle.
In the original pilot script for Breaking Bad, Jesse's name was Marion Alan Dupree.
Jesse's character development has received critical acclaim. Alan Sepinwall noticed a gradual change when audiences shifted their sympathies from Walt to Jesse, who had received mixed reception in the first season. Aaron Paul thinks some of the major turnaround episodes for this are "Peekaboo" and "ABQ". In his review for "Peekaboo," Erik Kain of Forbes writes that as Walt grows increasingly less sympathetic, Jesse is growing more human and complex, as evidenced by his relationship with the neglected son of two drug addicts. Emma Rosenblum of New York Magazine writes that "Jesse started as an "absurd screwup" with a "defiant gait" and the bravado of a wannabe gangster. Her opinion changed beginning with "Peekaboo". Gilligan said the writers' decision to write that episode was to get into Jesse's mind-set. Emily Nussbaum of The New Yorker noted that "Gilligan "swivel[ed] background characters into the spotlight, where they can absorb the sympathy we once extended to Walt." Critics thought "Blood Money" expanded Jesse's role as a contrast to Walt and the moral conscience of the series. The Hollywood Reporter's Tim Goodman also noted Jesse's role as a contrast to Walt and his character development. Alyssa Rosenberg of ThinkProgress contrasts Walt with Jesse's growing moral conscience.
Alan Sepinwall noted how "Down" showed how far Jesse has fallen: Jesse, once a kid with a normal suburban life, becomes a drug dealer. He noted how he was "trapped," which made his storyline paralleled to Walt's character arc. Sepinwall also praised Paul's work.
Seth Amitin of IGN wrote of the episode that though Jesse was close to rock bottom, he still could not admit or accept his problems. Amitin called Jesse the "coward in all of us in tough situations." Amitin was still sympathetic to Jesse's pain, misery and feelings of meaninglessness, in part because of Paul's "fantastic acting". In his review for "Breakage," Amitin wrote that the episode "rehumaniz[ed] Jesse". He notes that though Jesse is rebuilding his life, he has not learned from his mistakes.
Jesse's role in "Full Measure" garnered positive reviews. Tim Goodman of the San Francisco Chronicle called the episode as "an exclamation mark on the tortured journey of Jesse." Entertainment Weekly called "Full Measure" one of Jesse's best episodes, and that him killing Gale cost him the last of his innocence. Quentin B. Huff of PopMatters called Jesse's story arc an "emotional rollercoaster animated by intense grief."
Michael Arbeiter praised Paul's performance in "Box Cutter," calling him "phenomenal" despite barely speaking any dialogue in the episode. Seth Amitin reviewing for IGN called Paul's performance in "Problem Dog" as "the performance of the series". Myles McNutt of Cultural Learnings praised Paul's performance in the episode as "Jesse descends further into a place from which he might never escape." USA Today's Robert Bianco wrote of the character in his review for "Blood Money": "Aaron Paul's Jesse, the show's sometimes wonky moral compass, only has to leave a room to set your nerves on edge, wondering what will happen when he returns. That's a tribute to the writers, obviously, but it's also a tribute to Paul, who always seems to be on the verge of either imploding or exploding – and may even be able to pull off both at once. I wouldn't assume he can't."
In an interview with David Whitehouse of The Guardian, Paul remarked on his character's popularity with Breaking Bad fans: "It's crazy [that people side with Jesse]. At the beginning, everyone – including me – saw him as just a drug burn-out. A kid with no sorta brains. But as each episode was revealed to everybody, it showed quite the opposite. It's incredible how Walt and Jesse are completely trading positions. Walt has no morals whatsoever any more, and Jesse, who wants to try to be good, is terrified of him."
Robert Downs Schultz of PopMatters notes that while Jesse and Walt are both murderous liars, thieves, con-men and drug dealers filled with selfishness and a desire for respect, only Jesse feels it. While both characters damage the lives of their loved ones, only Jesse is consumed by the guilt, remorse and self-hatred. Schultz writes that Jesse knows he's a bad person who can never properly repent for his sins. A life of crime, however, seems to be the only way for Jesse to not be a failure. Schultz disagrees, saying that Jesse is simply the "conscience of the show, the moral center, the heart," but rather a more complex character.
Alyssa Rosenberg of ThinkProgress deemed Jesse and Walt's relationship "powerful because of its contradictions rather than its clarity." Walt is a paternal figure to Jesse, but a manipulative, "judging, brow-beating, perpetually disappointed" one, making their relationship more tragic than anything else.
In 2010, 2012, and 2014, Aaron Paul won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, and has been nominated in 2009 and 2013. Paul won for the episodes "Half Measures" (2010), "End Times" (2012), and "Confessions" (2014).
In 2010, Paul was nominated for the Television Critics Association Award for Individual Achievement in Drama and the Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries, or Television Film for the third season.
In 2012, Paul was nominated for the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for the fourth season, but lost to fellow Breaking Bad cast member Giancarlo Esposito.
In 2014, Paul received his first Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries, or Television Film for the final season, losing to Jon Voight for the first season of Ray Donovan. However, on February 23, 2014, Paul won the Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries, or Television Film for the final season. On June 19, 2014, Paul won the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for the final season. On June 26, 2014, Paul won his third and final Saturn Award for his portrayal of Jesse Pinkman for the final season, making him the only actor to win this award three times.
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