|Breaking Bad character|
Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman.
|First appearance||"Pilot" (2008)|
|Last appearance||"Felina" (2013)|
|Created by||Vince Gilligan|
|Portrayed by||Aaron Paul|
|Occupation||Meth manufacturer and distributor, enforcer for Walter White's drug empire|
|Home||Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.|
Jesse Bruce Pinkman is a fictional character in the television series Breaking Bad, played by Aaron Paul. He is a crystal meth cook and dealer, and works with his former high school chemistry teacher, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) in a meth operation. Jesse is the only character besides Walt to appear in every episode of the show.
Despite plans to kill the character at the end of the first season, Aaron Paul's performance convinced show runner Vince Gilligan to keep Jesse in the show. The character and Aaron Paul's performance has received acclaim from critics and fans alike. Critics especially praised Jesse's character development from an unsympathetic junkie to the moral compass of the show as he becomes increasingly guilty and remorseful for his and Walter White's actions while involved in the drug trade. 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 one of two actors 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 as a drug dealer. After being forced to leave his parents' residence, Jesse moved in with his Aunt Ginny, for whom he cared until her death from cancer. Afterward, 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 and preferred hanging out with his friends and smoking marijuana to studying. Walt, whom Jesse almost always calls "Mr. White", was his chemistry teacher and flunked Jesse in his class. Walt himself later says that he never thought Jesse would amount to much, although Jesse's mother (Tess Harper) recalls 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 is diagnosed with cancer and considers making methamphetamine to provide an income for his family, he tries to learn the illegal drug business by accompanying his brother-in-law Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), a DEA agent, on a ridealong. During a drug bust, he spots Jesse running away from the scene but Jesse's partner Emilio Koyama (John Koyama) is arrested. Walt subsequently realizes that Jesse is "Cap'n Cook", a meth maker Hank is investigating. Walt uses student records to track down Jesse, his former pupil, now aged 23, and blackmails Jesse 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 meth that Jesse will distribute, and he gives Jesse $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. He approaches Emilio's cousin Domingo "Krazy-8" Molina (Maximino Arciniega), an Albuquerque meth distributor, to propose doing business with him. Krazy-8 is suspicious and Emilio and he make Jesse bring them to meet Walt. Emilio recognizes Walt as having been with Hank during the DEA bust, and they attempt to kill Walt, but he produces phosphine gas that kills Emilio and incapacitates Krazy-8, allowing Walt to flee with the unconscious Jesse. Once back in town, Walt has Jesse shop for a plastic container in which he plans to dissolve Emilio's body with hydrofluoric acid. Jesse can't find a container big enough, so he dissolves the body in the upstairs bathtub of Ginny's house, which burns a hole through the bathroom floor and spills the remains into the downstairs hallway. After cleaning up the scene and killing Krazy-8, Walt and Jesse attempt to carry out meth distribution on their own.
Walt and Jesse move their lab from the RV to Jesse's basement. Their product becomes a big enough presence in Albuquerque's drug scene that it becomes the focus of Hank's investigation. Dissatisfied with the amount of money Jesse is making as a low-level dealer, Walt convinces him to find a high-end distributor. 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. At their first meeting, Tuco brutally beats Jesse badly enough that he has to be hospitalized. After Walt strong-arms Tuco into a lucrative, albeit unstable, partnership, Walt 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" (Cesar Garcia), 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 to take them to a "superlab" in Mexico. However, Walt and Jesse escape after a struggle with Tuco; they 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, undetected by Hank, wander on foot through the desert before hitching a ride back to civilization. The DEA seizes Jesse's car and money.
Realizing 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, of which Jesse can only pay half of up front. The next day, Jesse's parents evict him from his home after discovering he had been cooking meth in the basement. He cannot find a friend to stay with, and his remaining few belongings and his motorcycle are stolen. With nowhere else to go, Jesse 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 heroin 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 cope with his grief. His behavior nearly costs Walt a $1.2 million drug transaction with the powerful meth distributor Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). Angered, Walt refuses to give Jesse his 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. Walt later returns to Jesse's apartment hoping to reconcile and finds Jesse and Jane asleep after getting high. He accidentally rolls Jane onto her back, and when she starts to choke on her vomit, Walt does nothing to help her. Jane dies and when Jesse awakes the next morning, he blames himself and goes on another drug binge. Walt rescues him 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, Jesse 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, where Walt has brought it so it can be destroyed before Hank searches it. Jesse believes that Walt is stealing the RV from him, and goes to the junkyard as Hank follows. Walt and Jesse lock themselves inside, and Walt and Saul arrange a fake emergency phone call to Hank, which says his wife Marie (Betsy Brandt) is in the hospital. Hank leaves without searching the RV, giving Walt and Jesse enough time to destroy it in a vehicle compactor. A furious Hank follows Jesse home and beats him into unconsciousness. The incident leads to Hank not only getting suspended, but Jesse promising to sue him. While Jesse is hospitalized, Walt—who is now working for Gus as a meth cook—persuades Gus to renew Jesse and Walt's partnership so Jesse will drop the lawsuit. 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 dealers competing with Combo. Jesse concocts a plan to kill the dealers with ricin that Walt had earlier created, but Jesse is forced to cancel the plan after learning the dealers work for Gus. However, after Tomas is found murdered, an enraged Jesse sets out to kill the dealers anyway. 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 plots 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. Stuck with Walt and Jesse because he doesn't have Gale, and angry at Victor for being recognized at the scene of Gale's murder, 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. He attempts to distract himself from the trauma of killing Gale by setting up a perpetual drug 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 (Ian Posada). Jesse becomes increasingly indifferent to his own welfare, and steals meth from the superlab to fuel his drug-laden parties.
Mike informs Gus of Jesse's recklessness, but instead of ordering Jesse's death, Gus has Mike take Jesse on an errand to collect drop money. On the last pickup, Jesse sees a man with a shotgun approaching the car and attempts to run him over, then rams the man's car and drives away. It is revealed that the man with the shotgun was working for Mike, and this was designed to get Jesse out of his state of depression and make him more loyal to Gus. Walt correctly guesses 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 meth 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 a father figure to Brock.
Walt tasks Jesse with killing Gus with a vial of ricin, which Jesse hides in a cigarette. Later on, when Gus is meeting with members of the cartel, Jesse considers spiking Gus' 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 Walt learns Hank is investigating Gus, but Walt 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 Jesse had dinner at Gus' house the night before. Walt confronts Jesse, leading to a physical fight. Jesse gains the upper hand and commands Walt 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 their permanent cook. 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 is shot during the chaos, and Gus, who purposely drank the poisoned tequila to get the cartel to do the same. Afterward, 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) and his children receive protection from the DEA following a threat on Hank's life, Gus uses the information to portray Walt as an informant, further attempting to widen the gap between Walt and Jesse. Walt goes to Jesse's house to plead for help, but Jesse throws him off his property.
Shortly afterward, Brock falls deathly ill. Jesse guesses that Brock has been poisoned by ricin and immediately assumes Walt is responsible. Jesse shows 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 Gus' 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 regain Jesse's loyalty and spur him into action as part of Walt's 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 Jesse's house for the cigarette containing the poison. Walt plants a replica of the ricin cigarette in Jesse's vacuum cleaner, which Jesse finds. Jesse then agrees to continue cooking meth with Walt. Soon afterward, Walt's manipulations of Jesse's feelings for Andrea and Brock cause him to break up with her so they'll be safe from the effects of his involvement in selling drugs.
He and Walt join forces with Mike to establish their own meth operation. After their supplier, Lydia Rodarte-Quayle (Laura Fraser), is unable to continue stealing methylamine precursor by the barrel, she puts them onto a way to steal 1,000 gallons 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. Mike and Jesse want to get out of the business, and arrange for Declan to purchase the methylamine for $15 million. Walt refuses to sell his share, and Declan won't buy unless he gets it all. Instead, Walt makes a deal that enables Jesse and Mike to be paid, while Walt continues to cook for Declan. Hoping to lure Jesse back as his assistant, Walt refuses to pay him, and Jesse leaves, saying he'd rather give up the money than continue in the drug business. When Walt decides to stop cooking, he goes to Jesse's house and pays him his share of the buyout.
Overwhelmed with guilt for Drew's death, and correctly guessing that Mike is dead, Jesse tries to give his money to Saul with instructions to give half to Mike's granddaughter, and half to the parents of the boy Todd shot. When Saul refuses because doing so will draw too much attention, Jesse drives around town randomly tossing bundles of cash onto sidewalks and front lawns. He is quickly arrested and interrogated by the APD, who then allows 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 afterward, 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, meaning that Walt was the one who orchestrated Brock's poisoning. Jesse goes back to Saul's office and assaults Saul, who admits that Walt told him to steal the ricin. Jesse then goes to Walt's house and pours gasoline throughout the building. Before Jesse can light it on 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 Jesse's conversation with 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 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 Walt 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 Jesse has tricked him and asks Todd's uncle Jack (Michael Bowen) to come with his crew and kill Jesse. Walt calls it off when he sees Hank and Gomez are accompanying Jesse, and Walt 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 Jesse's location. Just before Jack's gang takes Jesse away, Walt spitefully tells Jesse that he watched Jane die. At Todd's headquarters, the gang beats Jesse until he reveals all he knows and then locks him in a cell. Todd escorts the chained Jesse 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. As punishment, 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 Walt had hidden in his car erupts on the cabin, killing most of Jack's gang. Jesse breaks Todd's neck using the chain cuffing Jesse's hands, and Walt kills Jack. Walt then hands Jesse a gun and asks 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 he has poisoned her with ricin. Jesse, now completely free of the cartel, nods gratefully to Walt, 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. However on November 6, 2018, Gilligan revealed that a feature Breaking Bad sequel film is in the works, with the logline stating that the film “tracks the escape of a kidnapped man and his quest for freedom.” Therefore this implies that the film will reveal the fate of Jesse Pinkman from immediately after the events of the Breaking Bad season finale.
Rumors of a possible Breaking Bad film, under the working title Greenbrier, had arisen in 2018. A stand-alone film project was officially announced in November 2018; the film, written by Gilligan and produced through Sony Television, would be set in the Breaking Bad universe. According to the New Mexico Film Office, they had approved production for Greenbrier in and around Albuquerque, with production to start in November 2018 in New Mexico. The film reportedly will "follow the escape of a kidnapped man and his quest for freedom". According to /Film, it will be a sequel and feature Paul reprising his role as Jesse after the events of the series.
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 Walt 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 had become evident that Jesse "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 Jesse's 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 has said 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 Walt's paternal relationship with and loyalty to Jesse. Walt tells Gus that he refuses to continue cooking if Gus 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 they 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 shift of the audience's 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 wrote that as Walt grows increasingly less sympathetic, Jesse grows more human and complex, as evidenced by his relationship with the neglected son of two drug addicts. Emma Rosenblum of New York Magazine wrote 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's and the moral conscience of the series. The Hollywood Reporter's Tim Goodman also noted Jesse's role and character development as a contrast to Walt's. Alyssa Rosenberg of ThinkProgress contrasts Walt with Jesse's growing moral conscience.
Alan Sepinwall noted how "Down" showed how far Jesse had fallen: Jesse, once a kid with a normal suburban life, becomes a drug dealer. Sepinwall noted how Jesse was "trapped," which made his storyline parallel Walt's character arc. Sepinwall also praised Paul's work.
Seth Amitin of IGN wrote of the episode: 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, nonetheless, 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 noted 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 "an exclamation mark on the tortured journey of Jesse." Entertainment Weekly called "Full Measure" one of Jesse's best episodes, and noted his killing Gale cost Jesse 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, observing: "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 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. Paul would later win the award in 2014, for the show's second half of the final season.
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.
- Schultz, Robert Downs (August 21, 2013). "It's All About the Weight, Yo: A Meditation on Jesse Pinkman's Long Road Down". PopMatters. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
- "Pilot". Breaking Bad. Season 1. Episode 1. January 20, 2008. AMC.
- "Grilled". Breaking Bad. Season 2. Episode 2. March 15, 2009. AMC.
- "Más". Breaking Bad. Season 3. Episode 5. May 18, 2010. AMC.
- Bowman, Donna (January 27, 2008). "Cat's in the Bag". The A.V. Club. Chicago, Illinois: Onion, Inc. Retrieved August 2, 2011.
- Bowman, Donna (March 2, 2008). "Crazy Handful of Nothin'". The A.V. Club. Chicago, Illinois: Onion, Inc. Retrieved August 2, 2011.
- Bowman, Donna (March 8, 2008). "A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal". The A.V. Club. Chicago, Illinois: Onion Inc. Archived from the original on July 23, 2011. Retrieved July 22, 2011.
- Amitin, Seth (March 10, 2008). "Breaking Bad: "A No-Rough-Stuff Type of Deal" Review". IGN. San Francisco, California: J2 Global. Archived from the original on July 23, 2011. Retrieved July 22, 2011.
- Bowman, Donna (March 8, 2009). "Seven Thirty-Seven". The A.V. Club. Chicago, Illinois: Onion, Inc. Retrieved August 2, 2011.
- Bowman, Donna (March 15, 2009). "Grilled". The A.V. Club. Chicago, Illinois: Onion, Inc. Retrieved August 2, 2011.
- Bowman, Donna (March 22, 2009). "Bit by a Dead Bee". The A.V. Club. Chicago, Illinois: Onion, Inc. Retrieved August 2, 2011.
- Bowman, Donna (March 29, 2009). The A.V. Club. Chicago, Illinois: Onion, Inc. http://www.avclub.com/articles/down,25871/. Retrieved August 2, 2011. Missing or empty
- Michelle MacLaren (dir), Vince Gilligan (wrt) (July 22, 2012). "Madrigal". Breaking Bad. Season 5. Episode 2. AMC.
- George Mastras (dir, wrt) (August 12, 2012). "Dead Freight". Breaking Bad. Season 5. Episode 5. AMC.
- Colin Bucksey (dir), Gennifer Hutchison (wrt) (August 19, 2012). "Buyout". Breaking Bad. Season 5. Episode 6. AMC.
- Michelle MacLaren (dir), Moira Walley-Beckett (wrt) (September 8, 2012). "Gliding Over All". Breaking Bad. Season 5. Episode 8. AMC.
- Bryan Cranston (dir), Peter Gould (wrt) (August 11, 2013). "Blood Money". Breaking Bad. Season 5. Episode 9. AMC.
- Michelle MacLaren (dir), Thomas Schnauz (wrt) (August 18, 2013). "Buried". Breaking Bad. Season 5. Episode 10. AMC.
- Michael Slovis (dir), Gennifer Hutchison (wrt) (August 25, 2013). "Confessions". Breaking Bad. Season 5. Episode 11. AMC.
- Sam Catlin (dir, wrt) (August 1, 2013). "Rabid Dog". Breaking Bad. Season 5. Episode 12. AMC.
- Michelle MacLaren (dir), George Mastras (wrt) (September 8, 2013). "To'hajiilee". Breaking Bad. Season 5. Episode 13. AMC.
- Rian Johnson (dir), Moira Walley-Beckett (wrt) (September 15, 2013). "Ozymandias". Breaking Bad. Season 5. Episode 14. AMC.
- Peter Gould (dir, wrt) (September 22, 2013). "Granite State". Breaking Bad. Season 5. Episode 15. AMC.
- Vince Gilligan (dir, wrt) (September 29, 2013). "Felina". Breaking Bad. Season 5. Episode 16. AMC.
- Snierson, Dan (September 30, 2013). "'Breaking Bad': Creator Vince Gilligan explains series finale". Entertainment Weekly. New York City: Meredith Corporation. Retrieved May 27, 2016.
- Hall, Jacob (November 7, 2018). "Exclusive: The 'Breaking Bad' Movie Will Be a Sequel Following Jesse After the Series Finale, Aaron Paul to Return". /Film. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
- Goldberg, Lesley (November 6, 2018). "'Breaking Bad' Movie From Creator Vince Gilligan in the Works". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
- Hall, Jacob (November 7, 2018). "Exclusive: The 'Breaking Bad' Movie Will Be a Sequel Following Jesse After the Series Finale, Aaron Paul to Return". /Film. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
- Porter, Rick (July 16, 2012). "'Breaking Bad': John Cusack as Walter White and other could-have-beens". Zap2it. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
- Rosenblum, Emma (March 21, 2010). "The Ascent of Jesse Pinkman". New York Magazine. New York City: New York Media. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
- Itzkoff, Dave (March 18, 2010). "Aaron Paul of 'Breaking Bad' - Character and Career, Both Alive". New York Times. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
- "Breaking Bad – Aaron Paul Almost Got Killed Off (Paley Interview)". (Paley Interview). Paley Centre. Retrieved August 2, 2011.
- Gross, Terry (September 19, 2011). "Aaron Paul: 'Breaking Bad' Dealer Isn't Dead ... Yet". NPR. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
- Koski, Genevieve (July 13, 2012). "Aaron Paul on Breaking Bad's 'bloodbath' of a fifth season". The A.V. Club. Chicago, Illinois: Onion, Inc. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
- Sepinwall, Alan (July 11, 2012). "'Breaking Bad' star Aaron Paul looks back at Jesse Pinkman's greatest hits". HitFix. Culver City, California: Uproxx Media Group. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
- Cranston, Bryan (July 2011). "Inside Breaking Bad: Box Cutter". AMC. Archived from the original on July 21, 2011. Retrieved July 21, 2011.
- Paul, Aaron (July 2011). "Inside Breaking Bad: Box Cutter". AMC. Archived from the original on July 21, 2011. Retrieved July 21, 2011.
- Cranston, Bryan (August 2, 2011). Breaking Bad Insider 403 (Audio commentary)
|url=(help) (Podcast). Breaking Bad Insider Podcast. Event occurs at 21:47–22:00.
- VanDerWerff, Todd (October 10, 2011). "Vince Gilligan walks us through season four of Breaking Bad (part 1 of 4)". The A.V. Club. Archived from the original on October 11, 2011. Retrieved October 10, 2011.
- Cranston, Bryan (August 2, 2011). Breaking Bad Insider 403 (Audio commentary)
|url=(help) (Podcast). Breaking Bad Insider Podcast. Event occurs at 21:47–22:00.
- Golubic, Thomas, 23:32–24:45
- Catlin, Sam, 18:57–19:08
- MacLaren, Michelle (August 9, 2011). Breaking Bad Insider 404 (Audio commentary)
|url=(help) (Podcast). Breaking Bad Insider Podcast. Event occurs at 29:35–30:00.
- Kain, Erik (November 10, 2011). "Breaking Bad - 'Peekaboo' and the Humanity of Jesse Pinkman". Forbes. New York City: Forbes Media. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
- Brennan, William (August 9, 2013). "Skyler White Is the Best Character on Breaking Bad". ThinkProgress. Washington DC: Center for American Progress Action Fund. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
- Goodman, Tim (August 11, 2013). "'Breaking Bad' Deconstruction: Ep. 9: 'Blood Money'". The Hollywood Reporter. Los Angeles, California: Eldridge Industries. Retrieved August 12, 2013.
- Rosenberg, Alyssa (August 12, 2013). "'Breaking Bad' Recap: Blood Money". ThinkProgress. Washington DC: Center for American Progress Action Fund. Retrieved August 12, 2013.
- Sepinwall, Alan (March 29, 2009). "'Breaking Bad' Down: Lies and the lying liars who tell them". Blogspot. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
- Amitin, Seth (March 30, 2009). "Breaking Bad: "Down" Review". IGN. J2 Global. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
- Amitin, Seth (April 6, 2009). "Breaking Bad: "Breakage" Review". IGN. San Francisco, California: J2 Global. Retrieved August 22, 2013.
- Goodman, tim (June 14, 2010). "Breaking Bad: Spoiled Bastard. Ep. 13, season finale: 'Full Measure'". San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco, California: Hearst Corporation. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
- Busis, Hillary (August 8, 2013). "'Breaking Bad': The 5 best Jesse episodes". Entertainment Weekly. New York City: Meredith Corporation. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
- Huff, Quentin B. (June 8, 2011). "Characters, Compounds, & the Study of Change in 'Breaking Bad: Season 3'". PopMatters. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
- Arbeiter, Michael (July 17, 2011). "'Breaking Bad' Recap: Box Cutter". Hollywood.com. Archived from the original on July 19, 2011. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
- Amitin, Seth (August 29, 2011). "Breaking Bad: "Problem Dog" Review". IGN. Chicago, Illinois: J2 Global. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
- McNutt, Myles (August 29, 2011). "Breaking Bad – "Problem Dog" Review". Cultural Learnings. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
- Bianco, Robert (August 11, 2013). "'Breaking Bad' Review: Astonishing, Again". USA Today. McLean, Virginia: Gannett Company. Retrieved August 14, 2013.
- Whitehouse, David (October 12, 2012). "Breaking Bad: Aaron Paul plays a drug-dealing killer and viewers can't get enough of him". The Guardian. London, England: Guardian Media Group. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
- Rosenberg, Alyssa (July 26, 2011). "Freaks and Geeks: Walter White, Jesse Pinkman and the Moral Vision of 'Breaking Bad'". ThinkProgress. Washington DC: Center for American Progress Action Fund. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
- "Aaron Paul". Emmys.com. Retrieved August 26, 2014.
- "Emmy episode entries revealed: Lea Michele, Hugh Laurie, Jim Parsons plus more". Los Angeles Times. July 15, 2010. Retrieved February 25, 2014.
- "Episodes Submitted by Drama Emmy Nominees Revealed". Backstage.com. August 16, 2012. Retrieved February 25, 2014.
- "Exclusive: AMC's Emmy episode submissions for 'Breaking Bad' & 'Mad Men'". GoldDerby. July 16, 2014. Retrieved July 16, 2014.
- "36th Annual Saturn Award Winners Announced!". Comic Hero News.com. June 28, 2010. Retrieved June 28, 2010.
- "'Breaking Bad', 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' Take Home Saturn Awards". The Hollywood Reporter. July 26, 2012. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
- "Television Critics Association Awards: Awards for 2010". IMDb. Retrieved February 25, 2014.
- "Satellite Awards: Awards for 2010". IMDb. Retrieved February 25, 2014.
- "Critics' Choice TV Awards: 'Homeland', 'Community' & 'Sherlock' Double Winners". Deadline.com. June 18, 2012. Retrieved June 19, 2012.
- "Golden Globes 2014: The Winners". The Hollywood Reporter. Los Angeles, California: Eldridge Industries. December 12, 2013. Retrieved December 12, 2013.
- Kilday, Gregg (February 23, 2014). "Satellite Awards: '12 Years a Slave' Wins Best Motion Picture". The Hollywood Reporter. Los Angeles, California: Eldridge Industries. Retrieved February 23, 2014.
- Prudom, Laura; Littleton, Cynthia (June 19, 2014). "Critics' Choice Awards: 'Breaking Bad,' 'OITNB,' 'Fargo,' 'Normal Heart' Among Top Winners". Variety. New York City: Condé Nast. Retrieved June 20, 2014.
- Cohen, David S. (June 27, 2014). "Saturn Awards: A Genre Reunion and More Gold for 'Gravity'". Variety. New York City: Condé Nast. Retrieved June 27, 2014.
- Itzkoff, Dave (March 18, 2010). "Aaron Paul of 'Breaking Bad' - Character and Career, Both Alive". nytimes.com. New York Times. Retrieved July 13, 2012.