If Walter White is Breaking Bad’s protagonist turned villain and Hank Schraeder the obnoxious oaf turned gallant hero, Jesse Pinkman is the show’s great tragic figure. Throughout five seasons and a movie, his progression takes the form of a downward spiral, the young man growing up to find that the world is a terrible place.
But while Jesse’s descent and generally good heart makes him one of Breaking Bad’s more likeable figures, he’s no angel, and has a hand in more than his share of terrible acts. These aren’t all outright evil or malicious; he’s no chessmaster like Walt or cold hearted killer like Todd. Sometimes it’s simple carelessness or stupidity that leads to terrible results.
Still, there are no purely good people in this show, and many times in Breaking Bad we see the astonishing depths folk can sink to when their backs are against the wall, or when they allow their own desires and ambitions to get in the way of basic morality.
Jesse may be the closest thing to an innocent Vince Gilligan created, but as we’ll see, he’s a pretty long way off that.
Spoilers follow for the entire series.
10. Scamming Walter
In fairness, Walter started this one. It was the former Mr White’s idea to get into the meth game with his old student, and Walt’s bullying and blackmailing that forced Jesse to acquiesce.
When their relationship began, though, it was Jesse who had the know-how and the power, and he used his upper hand to take advantage of what was then a poor old dying sap who had no idea about the criminal world.
Walt handed Jesse his life savings in order to buy their iconic RV so as to embark on a life of guerilla meth production. Demonstrating the naivete of the man at the time, he didn’t expect Jesse to do that most predictable of things: go and waste the vast majority of the stack on booze, babes, clubs, and crank.
This is no way to treat a guy who’s put his trust in you, even if Walter’s intentions were far less than pure. Indeed Jesse wakes up the following day with a changed heart, and takes the necessary steps to secure the mobile meth lab (he buys Combo’s mom’s van - she’s none the wiser, making this even worse).