Walter White’s young and naive sidekick Jesse Pinkman plays a huge part in making Breaking Bad one of the greatest TV shows of all time. In the pilot, the audience is led to believe that problematic Jesse is inherently bad, while the stand-up citizen Walt is a good man, a man who only agreed to cook meth to provide for his family on his way out. But when the two interact, it’s pretty obvious that Walt is a mean bully, while Jesse has a heart of gold. Walt always thought that he knows best, even though Jesse also had great judgment. Unfortunately, he didn’t trust his instincts enough.
Jesse is a polarizing character. While some fans root for him from the get-go, others find him insufferable. He has loads of flaws, but his best qualities redeem him time and again.
Redeem: He Has A Big Heart
Jesse is the most likable character on Breaking Bad because he is sensitive and kind. He generally doesn’t let it show because when he does, he gets punished for it. Jesse is such a tragic character because his virtues are used against him.
In one of the earlier seasons, Jesse is waiting for Skinny Pete and plays with a bug in the meantime. He smiles gently at the small creature and is visibly upset when Skinny Pete stomps on it without giving it a second thought.
Hate: He Has Substance Abuse Issues
Jesse finds himself getting high on meth on several occasions. When he met Jane, a recovering addict, he even started doing heroin to escape the bleak reality he found himself in. Walt missed his daughter’s birth because Jesse was passed out, but then again, if Walt offered to be supportive in the aftermath of Combo’s death, Jesse wouldn’t have sought solace in drugs.
He’s very bad at saying “no” to drugs, and while fans can empathize, it’s also not his best trait.
Redeem: He Is Desperate For A Father Figure
It’s hard to stay mad at Jesse considering he has nowhere to turn to in life. His own family had no understanding for him, but it’s hard to blame them since Jesse lied to them over and over again. Desperate to belong, he clings on to Walt, even though he’s being manipulated all along.
Perhaps Jesse knew all along that Walt was toying with him, but his longing for a father figure was stronger. The same wish led Jesse to bond with Mike.
Hate: He Is Impulsive
Jesse sometimes fails to think things through. In “4 Days Out”, he used all of the drinking water to put out a fire, leaving him and Walt stranded in the desert nearly dying of thirst. It’s hard not to get mad at him when his initial reaction is to be defensive, impulsive, and reactive. Jesse’s antics might seem funny to watch sometimes, but it’s hard to watch him get verbally abused by Walt in return.
Being explosive is his way of protecting himself from Walt, but unfortunately, that only contributes to Walt looking down on him even more.
Redeem: He Has A Moral Compass
Jesse has always been against violence, while Walt entertained ideas of murder from the get-go. When Badger got caught, Walt considered a convenient prison shanking to get rid of Jesse’s friend. Jesse found it hard to live with all the horrendous things that he had done and that’s why he decided to betray Walt and turn himself in as well.
In “ABQ”, Jesse had a complete mental breakdown following the death of Jane and Combo. He told Walt that he deserves everything that is coming to him. Walt could sleep just fine at night, while Jesse struggled to keep his demons at bay.
Hate: He Doesn’t Stand Up For Himself
We can discuss Walt’s good and bad traits all we want and judge him for mistreating Jesse, but ultimately, Jesse could have stood up for himself and drawn some boundaries with Walt. Instead, he lets people walk all over him.
Walt talks down to him every time Jesse messes something up. Jesse never criticizes Walt back, even though Walt often went against Jesse’s advice and had gotten them in several horrible situations. Jesse told Walt that it’s a bad idea to work with Tuco, yet Walt went down that road. It’s heartbreaking to see him refuse to draw boundaries.
Redeem: He Is Good With Children
Our hearts melt anytime Jesse is around kids, be it his younger brother, the neglected kid from “Peekaboo”, or Brock. Jesse likes being around children because they are innocent, kind, and accepting. They don’t judge him based on his appearances like adults do.
Curiously enough, Jesse never met Walt’s son, even though there were several chances they could have run into each other. He’d probably be kind to him as well; kinder than Walt was, at least.
Hate: He Is A Bad Friend
Jesse feels bad about becoming a boss to his friends, since that further alienates him from any form of human connection. He doesn’t like the idea of being feared, but he doesn’t do anything about it either. Jesse made several friends during the show, but almost none of them had a happy ending.
He exposed his best friends to peddling meth in a new territory, even though he knew deep down that meant trouble. Badger got arrested, Combo killer, and Skinny Pete luckily walked away since he was on probation. In El Camino, Skinny Pete told Jesse that he was his hero. Pretty heart-breaking, considering Jesse wasn’t a great friend to any of them.
Redeem: He Is Emotionally Intelligent
Jesse was a problem child, misunderstood by his parents and the school system. By no means does that mean that he is not smart. Quite on the contrary; unlike Walt, who has suppressed his spirit for most of his life, Jesse is more in touch with his emotions.
That being said, being emotionally aware worked against Jesse. If he were as cold as Walt, he wouldn’t have developed such severe PTSD. Just events from season 1 alone damaged Jesse for life.
Hate: He Is Unreliable
Jesse cares about Walt more than Walt cares about him, but he is much more unreliable than Walt. Imagine Jesse was a responsible adult who wouldn’t resort to yelling when talked to and who wouldn’t blow hard-earned money on strippers and drugs.
Walt and Jesse’s operation would have run much smoother if only Jesse proved himself to be trustworthy. “Never trust a drug addict,” Gus told Walt. Unfortunately, he was right. Jesse met a horrible end that he didn’t deserve in Breaking Bad: Walt betrayed him and handed him over to psychopathic Neo-Nazis.