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This Is the Day When Things Fall into Place: Did Jesse Pinkman Really Matter?

By Cindy Davis | Think Pieces | September 18, 2013 | Comments ()


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I was surprised by some of my feelings during this past Sunday’s Breaking Bad episode,”Ozymandias”. In the aftermath of Hank and Gomez’s crushing, brutal deaths, Walt turned his anger against the nearest weak enemy; a cowering Jesse who’d been hiding under the Chrysler during the shootout. After the Nazi Uncle Gang dragged out Jesse, ostensibly to meet the business end of Jack’s gun (but quickly given yet another life extension), a sneering Walt laid out how he could have saved a dying Jane and instead let her die. There was a close-up of Jesse’s broken expression and welled-up eyes, his body slumping as he tried to comprehend both his current situation, and the idea that Walt let the love of his life die. I waited to feel something; the usual wetness of a rolling tear, perhaps a chill? But what really affected me was the seething, misplaced anger leaking from between Walt’s gritted teeth. Later in the episode, the camera panned down from an overhead grate and we saw Jesse chained at the bottom of a cement enclosure, severely beaten and duly terrified of Psycho-Todd. Jesse’s face was a mess, his eye swollen shut, not unlike how he looked after Hank’s “One Minute” beatdown. Instead of feeling sad or sorry, all my mind could muster up was an “Oh look, Jesse got beat up again.” And as Todd escorted poor Pinkman to his new lab home, where he hooked up Jesse to a run like the dog he now is, I watched Jesse—this guy I used to root for—slide his “leash” down to where the photo of Brock and Andrea was clipped. As Jesse and I both realized his predicament, I still felt next to nothing emotionally. I thought over my loss of empathy in the days that followed; discussed it a little bit on Facebook. So what’s left for Jesse? The most obvious outcome is: He helps Todd get the product up to standards, then he’s killed. Another scenario might find Walt scraping the barrel for his last bit of humanity, and coming back to rescue Jesse. More likely is Walt coming back to take out the Nazi Uncle Gang and get his money back; Jesse could either live or die through the experience. But more importantly, will we care? Because the reality is, Jesse is already destroyed and he’s been dead a very long time.

Jesse Pinkman aka Marion Dupree was supposed to die during Breaking Bad’s first season, but because Aaron Paul turned out such amazing performances and had great chemistry with Bryan Cranston, he got to live. In a manner of speaking, that is. On paper and screen Jesse’s character has floated in and out of addiction, murdered a couple of people, found and lost love, had a few small personal victories (“Yeah bitch! Magnets!”), been beaten to a pulp one too many times and generally put through the proverbial wringer. He’s been our comic relief, and sometimes our moral center, standing up as—or for— the innocent(s), and generally rolling alongside that mastermind, Mr. White. When he sank back into addiction, or took us into a day in the methamphetamine life ( “Peekaboo”), Jesse was our guide to the mostly unseen effects of the product he and Walt were putting on the street every day. As the bitched-up, yo! yin to Walt’s formerly straight-laced yang, I remember being terribly upset whenever the boys were fighting or at odds; like a kid who can’t bear the thought of his parents divorcing, I never wanted Walt and Jesse apart. And like a dysfunctional marriage, the Pinkman-White partnership was always doomed to end.

Who would we root for in the split? Used to be, plenty of people would have said Jesse, but as his malaise turned apathy reared more often, and Heisenberg became evermore daring, we went where the action was—where Gilligod intended. We followed Walt’s at first defensive, then exhilaratingly aggressive tendencies until as late as last week, when finally most of us could follow him no more. But we have to know, and we care (regardless of whether or not we’re still rooting for him) what happens to Walt. We care what happens to Skyler, Walt Jr., Holly and Marie. Heck, we’re probably even wondering what happens to Saul, besides the spinoff gig. Can the same be said for Jesse? What if he gets gunned down—will we really cry ? Will we be anywhere near as affected as we were by Hank’s death? Might it be nice if Jesse somehow got out of this alive and started over? Maybe, but aren’t the odds he’d just keep on living the mostly meaningless existence he’s been living for five seasons now; has Jesse’s inexorable apathy seeped into our own consciousness? (And was that intended?) He’s given up on himself more times than I care to count, been rescued from his self-destructiveness several times, and in the episodes leading up to “Ozymandias,” Jesse barely seemed to have the will to live (to Hank’s good and bad fortune, Jesse’s last slip into despair was the only thing that would have allowed for collaboration with our “ASAC Schrader”). Wasn’t Jesse’s whole existence just periods of lucidity between slips into not-really-living? At one point or another, he was a pawn to nearly everyone; Walt, his buddies, Gus, Mike, Hank…perhaps Jesse’s life was only meant for destruction.

Despite the brilliant and most Emmy-worthy Aaron Paul, I find myself asking if Jesse ever really mattered.


“I swore to myself that if I ever wrote another book, no one would weep over it; that it would be so hard and deep that they would have to face it without the consolation of tears.” Richard Wright on Native Son (h/t Jelinas, whose excellent review can be found here.)


Cindy Davis, (Twitter) will always love this:



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • supergwarr

    at this point we all know the
    only way this can end is with Walt’s death and I think the most poetic way for
    this to happen in for it to be at the hands of his dog Jesse.

    Also one thing I have been
    thinking about is. we know that the M60 is for the NN's but who is the Risen
    for? my guess would be Lydia.

    I think Heisenberg is dead. Walt
    has finally seen the destruction he has Wrought and now wants to end it all.
    every connection to Heisenberg must die including his own creator Walt. Walt will fource his hand to end him.

  • I think the ending that pisses everyone off is Walt saves Jesse, Jesse kills Walt, Jesse kills self.

  • GDI

    I'm glad somebody has said it.
    As annoying as Walt apologists are, the team Jesse is so much more annoying.

    Walt is far too bright a light of misplaced genius and greed, as it is tragic that his talents were not used in a positive way.
    What can you say about Jesse? He's a spoiled brat that turned to drugs, maintained some level of humanity throughout the chaos Heisenberg wrought, but was always getting manipulated by people in higher standing than him.
    He's such a neutral character in most of the events, that he really has no significant weight when the decisions were being made by the head honchos.

  • googergieger

    Everyone in this universe(outside of the kids) is a self centered piece of shit, who all are part of an amazing story to tell.

  • Wigamer

    As my sympathy for Jesse has declined a bit, my sympathy and worry for Walt Jr. has increased a hundredfold. 'Cause that poor boy is pretty well screwed and NONE of it is his fault.

  • emmett digger

    One of the great things about BB is that we all have different reasons for tuning in. For me, it's Jesse Pinkman. He's broken. He's numb. He's trapped. He's out of control. You just want things to work out for this poor sap. I don't really care much what happens to anyone else, to be honest, other than wanting Walt to get his just desserts and his kids get a little of that dough. Other than that, I watch for Jesse. Honestly, I think if Gilligan kills him off, I won't watch the rest - not that there's much left, but still - he's the reason I watch.

  • Jelinas

    Oh, so many thoughts...

    If Jesse kills Walt, that's not a victory for Jesse. It's a victory for Heisenberg. Killing Walt will bring Jesse no real satisfaction, and the ghost of Heisenberg will haunt Jesse forever.

    I do think Jesse matters on the show, although more for the sake of what his circumstances reveal about Walt than for the sake of his own existence. I really think that it's ultimately by his final treatment of Jesse that Walt will be judged. If Walt has any real humanity left, he will do right by Jesse, who is not a member of Walt's family, but has been irreparably harmed by Walt's actions as Heisenberg, as a direct result of his having trusted Walt. If Walt fails to do right by Jesse, his exonerating Skyler and letting Holly go will be tainted with Jesse's blood.

    And aren't Gilligan and crew sort of setting up the Redemption of Walter White? Why show his humanity returning if it'll ultimately be swallowed up in his vengeance against Jesse?

    I don't think Walt loves Jesse, at least not the same way he loves his family, but I do think he cares about him. Walt loved Hank; he was willing to sacrifice his money for Hank; he pleaded for his life; he wept over him. When Hank got in the way of Walt's plans, he didn't turn on Hank; he didn't okay Hank's death to protect what he had built. But when Jesse threatened Walt's plans, Walt put a hit out on him (albeit reluctantly).

    I've said before that I think the terrible things Walt has done in the name of protecting his family were more about winning than about loving. You don't need to sell $80 million worth of meth to protect and provide for your family. I think Walt stayed in the meth business to show his adversaries, which might include himself, that he was in control. His greatest desire was to maintain control of his life, to maintain a picture of peace, even if he had to do it through violence. Maintaining his ideal of a good life -- loving family, financial stability -- never included keeping Jesse healthy and happy. He cared enough about Jesse to do what he could for him, as long as it didn't ultimately conflict with his own goals. But as soon as Jesse got in his way and wouldn't accede to Walt's demands, Walt had to sacrifice Jesse on the altar of being in control of his own life.

    I think I understand what Cindy means, and she's not saying that nobody cares about Jesse. I think the question is not so much "Does Jesse matter?" but "Does what happens to Jesse matter for Jesse's sake?" Ultimately, whether he lives or dies, whether he kills Walt or Walt saves him, the damage is already done. What happens to Jesse only matters because of what it will reveal about Walt.

    I'm so glad Cindy used this Richard Wright quote. Jesse Pinkman and Bigger Thomas have a lot in common. In a lot of ways, Native Son is not about Bigger Thomas. It's about what Bigger's life and circumstances say about the society that shaped and then condemned him. And in the same way that Bigger's condemnation was a judgment on 1930s Chicago, Jesse's fate will be either the condemnation or redemption of Walter White.

  • Wigamer

    Great insight.

  • MGMcD

    Jesse has always mattered. I think in fact he matters more than all of the other supporting characters. He is the personification of Walt's increasing evil. Everything that has happened to him and everything he has done, whether it is good, evil, or somewhere in between, has always been a direct result of Walt's decisions. He's not Walt's foil. He's the picture in the attic and Walt is Dorian Gray.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Excellent article, that made me think about my reactions to the latest episode. I *did* feel bad for Jesse but at the same time, he's put himself into these situations over and over again and I've lost a lot of sympathy for him. At this point he just comes across as a fool.

    And I wasn't really too broken up over Hank, he's never really appealed to me much but seeing Steve Gomez's sprawled body was a gasp-worthy moment.

  • Kate D

    I think it depends on whether you believe, as I do, that one narcissistic person could effectively destroy the will and goodness of others through a series of brilliantly executed emotional, physical and devastating actions.

  • Dean Gorby

    Respectfully disagree with this article. I had trouble sleeping after seeing Jesse plead for his torture to stop. I won't have trouble sleeping if Walt meets a similar fate.

  • Supguys

    is this article too soon? Will Jesse be the person who mattered most?

  • MmmHmm

    Guys.... This article is unreal because the show isn't over!!! We are going to find out if he mattered. It might be the case that Jesse is the most important person of all- the person who brought an end to Heisenberg!!!!

  • GDI

    Heisenberg brought an end to Heisenberg.
    Wasn't that the whole point of the show?

  • St

    Let’s face it people stopped caring about Jesse because he is not that adorable puppy anymore. For the last 2-3 years Aaron Paul lost all his hotness. I still can’t understand how. I look at his old pictures and video and he was different person.

    He just doesn’t look the same way he was looking in first seasons. And part of Jesse’s success among viewers was because he was charming innocent stupido. And now he looks like washed up depressing idiot.

  • Mrs. Julien

    I can't tell if this comment is delightfully wry or wow-just-wow. Could I get a ruling?

  • Marc Greene

    I am interested in what happens to Jesse at the end of the series. The imagery that stays with me from the past three episodes is:

    1. Jesse explaining to Hank and Gomey that they don't understand that they are dealing with someone smarter and luckier than them - and then inadvertently providing Walt with that very luck by getting spooked and blowing the sting
    2. The look of apprehension and disbelief in Jesse's eyes as his plan came together and Walt getting cuffed (maybe Walt wasn't as perfect as he first thought...)

    3. Then the look of the most pants-wetting fear when he realized as the Aryan Bros closed in that Mr White IS the Devil. He IS luckier and smarter than Hank and Jesse, and he had just spit in the Devil's face...

    Jesse in many ways was the embodiment of Walt/Heisenberg's humanity and conscience. The part of me that wants Walt to get away with it WAS happy when Walt called him a "coward", then later pointed him out to the Aryans and drove the dagger deeper by revealing his hand in Jane's death. That's the part of me that believes in honor among criminals and that no matter how badly Walt broke, it was all for a good reason. The moral and rational part of me knows so much of "good reason" was inextricably entwined and forever stained with Walt's hubris and wants Walt to finally settle things with Jesse in the last two episodes in a way that both provides Jesse with solace and closure and give Walt a tragic, yet respectful death on his own terms.

  • Washington Irving

    "and generally rolling alongside that mastermind, Mr. White."

    Careful, your inner Todd is showing. I prefer Pinkman's phrasing "that asshole Mr. White."

  • ElvisCostelegram

    In my mind he's the moral center of the show. He, Holly, Walt, Jr., and Marie are the only characters I really care about anymore. Walt is a monster. Jesse is a fuck-up. Jesse still has a hope for redemption. His story matters.

  • Mrs. Julien

    I can't help but feel that if Jesse ends up dead it will be an appropriate ending. His current situation has a rough justice to it and although he has an essential humanity and purity, he is by no means innocent. One wonders if someone making those decisions (even before Mr. White entered the picture) would have ended up dead no matter what. Dead or in prison for being young and stupid.

  • Bert_McGurt

    It's really the only appropriate ending, I think. But I'd like for him to be the one to end things. He's not as dumb as he used to be. Walt made it as far as he did largely because people underestimated him and what he was capable of. It would be fitting for Walt's final downfall to be his underestimation of Jesse.

  • Mrs. Julien

    How about "reasonable" or "realistic" then? I'd like him to survive because I feel sorry for him, but that is not a logical reason, and he is culpable for his own situation and as such logically deserving of a bad end. I also think he should have taken the money and ran, but in terms of character I understand why the writers chose for him to stay. Taking down Walt would indeed be a poetic ending, but his actions have largely already done so, Jesse just got caught in the crossfire (which is ironically non-literal considering the last two episodes).

  • Bert_McGurt

    I guess I should have elaborated - I expect that if Jesse IS the one to kill Walt, that he's willing to do so at the cost of his own life. In fact, THAT may be what Walt underestimates.

    I agree - it'd be unrealistic for him to survive.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Ooooh. Nice.

  • He’s given up on himself more times than I care to count, been rescued from his self-destructiveness several times, and in the episodes leading up to “Ozymandias,” Jesse barely seemed to have the will to live (to Hank’s good and bad fortune, Jesse’s last slip into despair was the only thing that would have allowed for collaboration with our “ASAC Schrader”). Wasn’t Jesse’s whole existence just periods of lucidity between slips into not-really-living?

    Maybe this has been said already (haven't read all the comments, sorry!), but:

    Having lived with with someone--a very close friend--who I watched slowly self-destruct over crippling meth addiction, I've always found Jesse and his behavior to be so real, so human, so affecting.

    Meth addicts, in my experience, live an existence that is really just periods of lucidity between slips into not-really-living. That's why Jesse's character has always resonated with me.

    I'm still rooting for him, like I'm still rooting for my former close friend--who still has his moments of lucidity.

  • Darek

    I want Walt to suffer, a lot, and if Jesse is the one who ultimately delivers that'll just be the icing on top.

    The tricky part is that I don't want to see Jesse, as hollow as he is at this point, to lose whatever shred of humanity is left in him. So I don't want him to go after Walt's family or anything of that sort, but if he can cure cancer and then see Walt get put away for a long time I'll applaud. Because seriously, fuck Walt.

  • Dumily

    I've never liked Walter White. I always thought he was a dick. At least Gus and Mike had some balls. If the series doesn't end with Jesse breaking into Walt's new place dressed like Mark Walberg in the Departed, I'll be severely disappointed. Team Pinkman 4 eva.

  • Yossarian

    Breaking Bad is primarily focused one thing: the character arc of Walter White. And as a result of that I think the other characters can suffer at times for being sucked in by the gravity of Walt. They all do amazing jobs with what they are given when it is given to them but they all also have, at times, faded into the background a little or been carried along by the momentum of Walt's story. Hank, Sky, Marie, Walt Jr, and even Jesse (though I would argue Jesse least of all)

    So it's at least understandable that you can make an argument that Walt's actions are more compelling than Jesse's reactions, or that the fate of characters that Walt still cares about are more important than the fate of characters that Walt has written off and left for dead as we approach the endgame. But it's a bridge too far to think that Jesse doesn't matter.

    As a partner, a foil, a surrogate son, as a corrupting influence and a redemptive influence and ultimately as a victim/casualty of Walter White, Jesse is important. But Jesse is also important as a character taken on his own, for all the reasons people have brought up below. He is one of the more complex characters on the show. He is pretty much the only character who has personified any kind of a conscience about the terrible things that have been done. He is both guilty and innocent, He has courted tragedy but also sought atonement and redemption. We have no idea what his fate is going to be but whatever happens to Jesse is almost certainly going to be hugely meaningful and important for the show and what this show is ultimately trying to say.

  • I've always struggled with the surrogate son business. When I discussed this piece with the mister, he commented about that, and said, "Walt loved Jesse." And I fought him on that (and he agreed it was the wrong word). Cared about--yes. Loved? I don't think so. I feel like Walt felt fatherly in that teacher kind of way that someone caring does when he takes on a protege or an apprentice. I think that at some point, Walt did feel Jesse was extended family, but I wouldn't call it love.

    But as I wrote to Artemis, I've been feeling like at different points in Walt's arc, almost anyone could have been used to mirror Walt in different ways.

  • googergieger

    I think the attachment Walt had for Jesse came from their shared experiences. Near death many times. Both majorly triumphant at other times. Etc. That brings people together. Jesse I don't think ever cared for Walt as much as Walt cared for Jesse. I think Jesse followed Walt along and then respected him after seeing what Walt was capable of, then feared him, but I think after we saw Walt kill those drug dealers to save Jesse(let Jane die?) we see he does care for Jesse. Maybe he cares about the potential Jesse has? Maybe he knows he could never share his empire/legacy with Walt Jr. but he could with Jesse? I don't know. I think there is a strong bond there, that was close to love for Walt, and it started forming when these two guys that were way over their heads early on were constantly almost dead and yet constantly were coming out on top.

  • I agree that Walt wanted to mentor Jesse and saw a lot of potential in him, as did several people. But Jesse never has lived up to his potential.

  • Yossarian

    I don't think you can deny that in the story we are being told, Walt cares very, very much about protecting and providing for Jesse, but also about his legacy with Jesse (he wants Jesse to respect and admire him). And those are the same things that are important to Walt regarding his own family. His ability to protect them, provide for them, and leave a legacy.

    He is willing to take tremendous risks and go to exceptional lengths for Jesse, far more than he would for a mere business partner or student. And his increasing desperation as the series progressed to try to make sure Jesse still saw him in the best possible light, it was painful to watch sometimes It was definitely motivated by a deep need for Jesse's approval. Which really only makes sense if he thinks of Jesse as family, as a son.

  • He careD. He still cares for his family, but he essentially sentenced Jesse to death, stabbing him on the way down. So I don't think his feelings for Jesse are quite on the same level as his family.

  • Wigamer

    They're not the same. He would never have ordered a hit on Skyler or Walt Jr. Cared, yes, but not loved.

  • Yossarian

    Maybe not equal, but they seem to be in the same ballpark. Up until just recently the idea of killing Jesse was unthinkable. (Did he ever actually use the words "he's family"? Or does he just talk about Jesse in the same way he talks about Hank?)

    And, yeah, it finally reached a breaking point and he is willing to cut ties with Jesse and let him die. But things are falling apart for Walter White. He basically cut ties with Skyler and Walt Jr (and Holly, too) in this episode. He may still care about them in a way and try to save them (set them free), so that is different from Jesse's fate of being thrown to the wolves, but as recently as a few weeks ago he was still desperate for Jesse's approval and trying to protect him and provide for him, like family.

  • "...but as recently as a few weeks ago he was still desperate for Jesse's approval and trying to protect him and provide for him, like family."

    I'm pretty sure that was Walt making sure Jesse was still under his control--even Jesse realized that much.

  • maydays

    This is very true. I agree with you that love is not the right word. I think Jesse would have liked to feel loved by Walt and that's what made the hug in the desert so heart-wrenching. That was when Jesse realized that it's all been about manipulation and control. Never about real emotion and camaraderie, as much as many of us (and Jesse) would have liked to believe.

  • I think he realized before that moment.

  • Yossarian

    It's both, and it's very similar to the way he tries to control his real family. It's not like he has a healthy relationship dynamic with Skyler or anyone else. His wacky gas pump story is very similar to how he is trying to manage and control the perception Jesse has of him. This is how Walt treats family, he tries to manipulate them and manipulate how they think of him because it is so important to him.

    Saul, Mike, Gus, Gale, Todd, Uncle Jack, these are business associates kept at arms length. Walt still cares what they think but he is much quicker to ruthlessness. In fact, part of his downfall is because he was blinded to the harm Jesse could (and would) do to him because he loved Jesse and kept him too close.

  • I don't necessarily agree, but I respect your pov.

  • Artemis

    The purpose of every single character on this show was to provide another angle for exploring Walt. This is a character study about our main guy. Because it's a good character study, secondary characters like Jesse and Skyler and Hank also have their own arcs and development. But fundamentally, this is a show about one man's complete moral corruption. And Jesse has been indispensible to that story.

    Jesse has been a son to Heisenberg, a mirror image of Walt Jr. in the same way that Heisenberg is the mirror to Walt himself. He is the representation of what passes for innocence in the drug trade, a guy who has done bad things but remains the moral center of that world, who has only hurt people under duress, and who has been utterly, entirely destroyed by being pulled along on Heisenberg's descent. Every time Walt has rationalized away a terrible consequence of their actions, Jesse has taken more of it onto himself--more guilt, more pain--and in so doing, demonstrates precisely how twisted and beyond redemption Walt is. When the show began, Jesse and Walt had similar reactions of horror and disgust to the idea of killing Crazy 8. But now it is only Jesse who feels that way about Gale or Brock or the child in the desert; he is a yardstick for exactly how bad Walt has broken.

    But beyond that, the fact that Jesse did not have a clear purpose of his own is entirely the point of the character. Most people in the drug trade are not Gus or Walt. They're Jesse or Combo or Skinny Pete -- people with no grand plan or aspirations to empire, people who got into the business because they were users themselves and not because of some big crisis in their life that required extreme action, people who get knocked around and beat up and spend some time in jail and maybe overdose, people who stay in the business not because they have something to prove but because they don't really have anywhere else to go or they're too messed up to even try to get out. And maybe that life sounds meaningless to you, but it still looks better than what results from Walt's approach to life.

  • I agree with much of what you've said. Jesse isn't the only one to be horrified by his own actions though--even at the end, Walt was certainly horrified by what happened with Hank and ruining his own family. Whether or not he takes responsibility in his own head is another matter, perhaps.

    When I've thought about how Jesse was kept around because AP was so good, I wonder how Gilligan approached his character. Wasn't he always disposable? And by virtue of that, couldn't things we viewed through Jesse's lens have been mirrored though other characters?

  • Artemis

    I think he's played a role other characters could not because he's been with Walt every step of the way. He was there from the very first cook, the first kill, the first business expansion, the first cold-blooded murder. He has seen the same horrors and faced the same dangers. We don't know from Skyler or Hank what Gale's murder meant, but we know that Jesse was willing to run--knowing it was more dangerous to himself--than to kill Gale, whereas Walt was convinced that Gale's murder was justified because of the corner they had been backed into. We know that it destroyed and haunted Jesse to have murdered Gale, and that it didn't effect Walt at all. That's the kind of thing that no one else could provide.

  • I don't think we can know or say it didn't affect Walt at all. At that moment, it was his only play to save his own life.

  • Bert_McGurt

    I think Walt must have been affected in some way - he kept the copy of Leaves of Grass Gale had given to him after all.

  • Wigamer

    I think he kept that because he knew how much Gale looked up to him as a chemist. Walt's not keeping mementos of people he had killed because he feels guilty. He got off on the fact that Gale kissed his ass. "To W.W, My Star, My Perfect Silence."

  • Bert_McGurt

    Exactly. He liked the dynamic, and I think he even liked Gale. I don't think he felt guilty either.

  • GDI

    He looked at Gale as a consummate professional. He respected him, but also was bothered by some of his quirks.

    Ultimately, he was just a co-worker.

  • JJ

    That is a lot of use of the majestic plural, because you keep making seemingly factual statements ("We followed Walt’s at first defensive, then exhilaratingly aggressive
    tendencies until as late as last week, when finally most of us could
    follow him no more.") that are fine as your opinion but don't seem to be as objectively true as you make them out to be.

    Of course he matters to the story, but you're in the comments making a different argument that his life doesn't matter because he doesn't have a purpose in life. His arc matters because he's been struggling to get out of that loop (rehab, getting out of cooking, learning to stand up for himself) and yes, repeatedly failing. It makes at least some of the audience root for him, and that's not worthless or immaterial in the least.

  • maydays

    This is first time that a Pajiba piece has earned a big "WTF!?" from me. And I don't mean that disrespectfully, I just find it amazing that someone's opinion could be the polar opposite of mine! It's a testament to the richly layered BB world...we are all invested in these characters in different ways.

    At this point I spend each episode sobbing for Jesse. It's ridiculous, really. The fates of Sky and Walt were sealed long ago, and I'm watching to see how it plays out, but it's the destruction of Jesse that hurts me the most. He seems to be the only one who saw this coming. Who knew that his naïveté and apathy let the devil destroy everything he loved. He's the only one whose future is a mystery to me.

  • I think it's interesting that you describe Jesse and naive and apathetic, and to some extent, he always had an innocence about him. But I can't ignore the life Jesse was living before he met Walt, nor the many times he's slipped back into addiction.

    Jesse bears responsibility for himself and his own actions as much as any of the other characters who've "let" Walt destroy them. But who/where was Jesse in the first place? Would the outcome of his life have been much better if he hadn't met Walt?

  • Alli Boyd

    I can relate to Jesse because I have fallen into despair more than a few times but of course not to the extent that Jesse has. I also think that Jesse is not naive or innocent in all of this, but I feel we need to root for someone to come out of all of this into something positive and there is something about Jesse that makes many people root for him to be that person.

  • googergieger

    That something is he isn't Walt. A lot of the love for Jesse come from, "Walt's worse". Jesse had done plenty of horrible but he feels bad, Walt can justify it all to himself. That key difference is what make people utterly despise Walt and root for Jesse.

  • JJ

    Does his life need to be better in the end? That is a completely separate matter from your seemingly rhetorical question about his mattering or not.

  • It is indeed separate.

  • JJ

    So then it has no bearing on whether or not Jesse "mattered," right? Because it seems like you've taken the position that he didn't because you felt indifferent to him in the last episode in particular and his arc in general.

  • I've asked the question (as opposed to taken the position) because after this episode I started thinking about the entire character arc, and how Jesse was conceived from the beginning. If he was never supposed to live in the first place, and the character served as just an additional reflection on Walt, did he really matter? It's a discussion, not a mandate.

  • Marc Greene

    He definitely mattered to the plot. He definitely mattered to Walt. Heck, he mattered plot wise more than Marie, Walt Jr, and Holly. Did he have as much of a dynamic arc Hank and Skylar? Probably not, but I think his developmental arc probably ended a bit sooner than theirs. You are right in that he hasn't really developed in the last half of this season, but I definitely think he changed from early season 4 to early season 5. I think your point stands as far as his development over the last say 5 episodes or so, but again his importance to the plot was undeniable.

  • I feel like we've watched Jesse *seemingly* develop a few times, but then give up on himself and slide right back into the same old behaviors. I don't necessarily need him to have a dynamic arc, but if someone exists only to be used by everyone else, only to be abused and to abuse himself; if he ends up dying in these last two episodes, I'm not sure how I'll feel.

  • Wigamer

    Also, he's a drug addict. People who struggle with addiction have behaviors that manifest in exactly this way. It's what is most painful for their family and loved ones--that slow trajectory towards a horrible end.

  • I agree. And I don't think any of us can answer the question for Jesse or any other addict--but I think the question can be asked: If the whole of his existence is being an addict, and he never comes out of it...if people use him and he never learns or does better for himself; compromises himself and his morals, and *if* he just dies at the end...did he matter? It's a question I'm asking myself--and now, others.

  • Wigamer

    Maybe it's because we've watched Walt on this major, larger-than-life trajectory, while Jesse's story has played out somewhat more realistically, there's not much left for Jesse to do but die. He's totally broken, and he's not coming back from what he's been through. So, I get what you're saying, because if the point of his character was just to be endlessly victimized until he died...yeah. Not so great.

  • Exactly.

  • JJ

    "and the character served as just an additional reflection on Walt"

    That's just not true. I don't need to repeat Yossarian's argument about the complexity of his character, but to call him "just an additional reflection on Walt" is a gross, incorrect oversimplification.

  • chanohack

    Perhaps you don't care as much as you might because, like you said, Jesse's been dead for a long time now. He can't lose his life because he doesn't really have one anymore. Even if he gets away in every sense, he's a ruined person. We care about Jesse, of course we do, but we've been slowly mourning him for the entirety of Season 5B.

  • Maybe longer?

  • Sars

    I care about what happens to Jesse- I see him as as I see Skylar and the rest of Walt's immediate family- victims of Walt's selfish pride and manipulation.

    Jesse was a kid wanting to make a few bucks here and there- he didnt want the respect due to a criminal mastermind, and he didnt want millions, he just wanted to make enough money to get numb. He just didnt want to feel the sadness of parental neglect and the tole of the emotional trauma of taking care of a terminally ill relative, abandoned by all but him.

    Yes he was stupid, and yes he was a junky and yes he was WRONG to get into it with Walt. But essentially he was a child, who didnt even want to kill a bug, because at his core, he identifies with the weak and the helpless (as he is one).

    So Sunday night, the thing that disturbed me, the thing that stayed with me, and festered in my mind and being, was Jesse chained to to ceiling, working as a drug slave, beaten and bruised and a fate way worse than death, that he reallydid not deserve.

    I want Jesse to survive, and if he doesnt, I want him to just die so his pain is over. I care.

  • You describe Jesse thusly: "was a kid, wanted to make enough money to get numb, was a junky, was wrong," but have any of these things changed? Isn't he still all these things? Is it meaningful to spend an entire life in despair?

  • Sars

    I'm talking about why I care about him as a character- how he started has a lot to do with how he ends up.

    I do think he has changed- Jesse was young and immature and sad and desperate at the same time. He was also self-assured. He felt like he was a man.

    Now he is an old soul- not sure of what his next move should be. He is broken down and bruise and almost dead- He isnt numb anymore, regardless of how many drugs he does.

    I care about Jesse, because when I first saw him, he was a funny kid, just hustling to get by, and now both physically (and props to Aaron Paul for that) and emotinoally he has transformed in to a broken down piece of metal.

    It's sad to see a transformation like that- and so I care.

  • Fair enough.

  • maydays

    I think apathy is more relatable than monstrosity. I think Jesse had the potential for redemption. I don't think his choices had to doom him, but Walt manipulated him so they did. It's

  • I think he had the potential too. But it never happened.

  • Bert_McGurt

    I think they have changed, yeah. He's certainly not a kid anymore. Not after all the death and horribleness he's witnessed (and caused). He had all the money he could ever want - but he literally threw it away. He's not a junkie anymore - yes, he's used again, but that's not the same thing.

    Is he still wrong? Maybe. But he's TRYING to be right.

  • Bert_McGurt

    I've been just as affected by Jesse's situation as Hank's. I've been hoping that Walt's descent would be matched by Jesse's redemption, and I still do. And just as we saw Walt recover a little bit of his humanity when he gave Holly back, I hope to see Jesse recover a little bit of his defiance and turn the tables on Todd and his uncle's crew.

    You guys remember the flashback at the start of the last episode? It was obviously there to establish the significance of the To'hajilee location, but one other thing sticks out. Walt is in the middle of the cook, describing something to Jesse (who looks like he's not paying attention) - and he asks him "are you listening?"

    Well, remember what happens later that episode? Walt's forced to cook, under duress, for Emilio and Krazy 8 - and he winds up incapacitating them with the deadly smoke. Now, Jesse was knocked out an hogtied at the time, but he knows what happened and what Walt did, and he's become a pretty talented chemist in his own right.

    The question is - Jesse, were you listening?

  • emmalita

    Great point!

  • Bert_McGurt

    Thanks!

  • Bert_McGurt

    Also, it was kind of a weird juxtaposition to read this article while thinking of the end of Empire Records.

  • Fredo

    Short answer: Of course, he mattered.

    Longer answer: His path was always dependent on Walt's path. He's been with Walt since the first step and has, in a sense, been the closest companion through this last year. The "monster" turn by Walt has been mirrored in Jesse's path and how he's responded to it. He went from minor drug link to the partner of the best meth cook ever. He's murdered and been threatened with murder. He's fought and been beaten and risen up again.

    That said, Jesse's biggest threat has never been Walt: it's been Jesse all along. From his own drug use to allowing Walt to take control of his life, Jesse has been the passive partner to Walt and to his own destruction.

  • But that's just it: "His path was always dependent on Walt's path."
    What was Jesse's own purpose? Ride-along?

  • Fredo

    The equal and opposite. The mirror to reflect Walt's fall. As Walt has risen in prominence and in ruthlessness, so has Jesse become more introspective, detached and fearful of what they've done.

  • Interesting thought, but just thinking or feeling badly about the things they've done doesn't necessarily make him opposite. Walt's felt badly at times. I have no doubt he was horrified by what his actions had done to Hank.

  • Fredo

    I would also say that Jesse doesn't just think/feel bad about what he and Walt have done. His morose attitude this season, the giving way of the cash, the way he sought to destroy Walt; those are all indicative of a man who is rejecting himself and rejecting Walt.

    One more note to add: is Jesse the heir that Walt wanted for his Heisenberg side? When Walt died only Jesse would have been left with the Heisenberg Formula. Until Jesse turned his back on Walt (so to speak). Todd and the other cooks had it but they lacked the on-hands-training that Jesse had with the master chef.

    Maybe a lot of Walt's anger at Jesse had to do with a response to the sense of rejection he got from Jesse.

  • Artemis

    I have no doubt he was horrified by what his actions had done to Hank.

    Strongly disagree. I think Walt was horrified by what happened to Hank, but nothing he did demonstrated a willingness to accept that it was his actions that caused Hank's death. To the contrary, his first response was to find someone else to blame. That's why he ratted out Jesse, that's why he looked him right in the eye as he gave the kill order, and that's why he twisted in the knife by telling him about Jane's death.

    Walt has never, ever been willing to admit that he has done wrong. His entire run in the drug trade, every single terrible thing that has resulted from it, he has cast about to justify his actions and make someone else the party in the wrong. He blamed Mike for Walt shooting Mike. He blamed Jesse for Brock's poisoning. He blamed Hank and Marie for the damage that would be done to the family if Walt's crimes became known. And he absolutely, 100% blamed Jesse--and perhaps the Nazis, though he wasn't in a position to say so--for Hank's death.

  • GDI

    Admission of mistakes is seen as a weakness in the drug trade, something that Walt has taken to heart.
    He does not want to go back to being weak, especially when it could get him killed or marginalized.

    Yes, it does have to do with his ego. But such is the same for any kingpin (or hell, most rulers of industry or sovereign nations).

    Walt knows he has done horrid things. It eats at him constantly, so he sets those feeling of remorse and fear aside. Every once in a while, we get to see that struggle he has internally, usually at the cost of something or someone important to him.

  • Walt--at that moment--absolutely did lash out at an blame Jesse, because he can't quite accept that his own actions got his BIL killed. But does Walt know it deep inside himself? I absolutely think he does. And I think he gave an inkling of that with the phone call to Skye.

  • Fredo

    True, but notice that he never internalizes his emotions over the things he's done. Even his anguish over Hank's death (honest to be sure) was quickly extinguished by his need to find someone to blame.

    The twist here is that Jesse was in the drug world as both user and pusher when Walt was the milquetoast chemistry teacher.

  • Kristen Mc

    OMG, Cindy, you are dead inside!

  • Really, I'm not. I even managed to find sympathy for Skyler this episode, when I haven't cared for her in a long, long time.

  • Kristen Mc

    Baby steps. :)

  • AudioSuede

    I absolutely feel for Jesse. I'm honestly rooting for the big ending of the series to be Jesse finally being the one who puts down Walt. It's really the only way that storyline will be satisfying to me. But no matter what, he's the humanity of the series, and in the place they left him in this episode, I've never cared more about his well-being.

  • $65530708

    HE MATTERS TO ME.

    *But really that could be more do to the fact that Aaron Paul has been fantastic through out the run of the show and his performance made me care.

    The same could be said about Omar Little / Michael K Williams, who didn't really matter in the grand scheme of the Wire but still had a huge impact on me.

  • ecuamerican

    To think "did Jesse Pinkman really matter?" is to render the show meaningless if you answer NO. Maybe rephrase the question...

  • GDI

    Mechanically, yes, he did matter in pushing the story forward.
    But as a cog within the narrative, he was always somewhat disposable. Walt could have let him die many a times. But didn't, because he wasn't that far gone.

    He was the canary in the mine shaft of Walt's ever-blackening soul. Just a measurement tool to gauge the concentration of evil.

  • ecuamerican

    I think you proved my point. You call him a cog, but by definition, he would BE needed to move the story along. This whole story is a machine--one piece missing and we're not where we are, specifically Walt and Jesse (both being the largest "cogs"). "We're partners, we split things 50/50" is a phrase Walt and Jesse uttered a lot in the first 4 seasons. One introduces the other to another world, or pushes/pulls the other along.

    Again, I don't wholly disagree with the post. Just to rephrase the question.

  • jf

    We care what happens to Skyler, Walt Jr., and baby Holly more than Jesse? I absolutely disagree. The dissolution and destruction of Walter White's family is guaranteed and the only question is how it plays out. I am far more invested in Jesse and his fate, and whether or not he finds redemption.

  • emmalita

    Since Hank's murder, I feel like my emotions and judgement about all of the major characters are in a state of suspension. I know there are only two episodes left, and I trust Vince Gilligan and the writers. I'm holding my breath so to speak waiting to see what happens. I don't think I'll be sorting out my feelings until after the finale.

  • chanohack

    Self-preservation? Can't blame you.

  • emmalita

    I tend to enjoy and appreciate good shows rather than become emotionally invested in them. The only other show I've been as invested in was Battlestar Gallactica. I felt so let down by the last season and the final episode. So yes, it's self-preservation. But because I have so much hope that the next two episodes will be fantastic.

  • Wigamer

    Will you still like me if you know how much I hate BSG?

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