Walter & Jesse: The Ultimate Odd Couple
The world officially said goodbye to Breaking Bad last night. Drama’s never seem to fully satisfy every viewer when they eventually bow out, but as someone who was totally caught up in the Breaking Bad experience, I must say I was very pleased with the way things ended. While the show’s supporting characters (Mike, Gus, Todd, Uncle Jack, Hank, Marie, etc) were superb, the heartbeat of the show always seemed to revolve around Walter White and Jesse Pinkman.
Before I go into their on screen relationship, I think it’s safe to say that no one enjoyed playing characters on a television show more than Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. They loved their characters, and it showed. Vince Gilligan created complex villains, and Cranston and Paul brought them to life and made you care about what happened to them, regardless of the hideous things they had done. Calling their relationship rocky would be like calling the Grand Canyon a hole in the ground. If Felix Unger and Oscar Madison were the original odd couple, then Jesse Pinkman and Walter White were the ultimate odd couple. A brilliant chemistry teacher and a high school dropout teaming up to cook meth? Let’s do it! In the beginning, they relied on each to survive. It was clear Walter cared about Jesse, in the bizarre way you care about a wounded dog. The dog has been hurt before, and if you show it the least bit of love, the least bit of attention, it will be obedient. Walter was always the mastermind, and as the seasons continued, his mental stranglehold over Jesse got more and more perverse (Oh, Gail.) I rooted for Walter and Jesse, up until he watched Jane die, then poisoned Brock. We can forgive our fictional anti-heroes, as long as we hold out hope they will someday redeem themselves. We justify the murder of meth cooks and drug dealers as a casualty of war, but once the barrier of innocence is broken, it’s tough to ever fix it. Walter White was ruining Jesse’s life, and we had a front row seat.
In the later seasons, it seemed Jesse might survive his personal hell with the help of a more loving and understanding sociopath, Mike Ehrmantraut. Walt decided to stop that, and in my opinion, was jealous of the relationship Mike and Jesse had. You might treat like your dog like shit, but it’s still YOUR dog. Walt had other reasons to kill Mike, but keeping Jesse wounded and vulnerable had to be at the top of the list. After the death of Mike, Jesse finally seemed to realize that Walter White was more poisonous than the Ricin he fed to Brock. We found out in season one that he had cancer, but as the end approached, we realized that Walter was the real cancer. Everything he touched, everyone he “loved”, was broken by the end. No one’s life was altered more by Mr. White than Jesse Pinkman. They were rarely on screen together for the final season, as Jesse spent most of his time throwing money out of his car window or imprisoned in an underground meth lab. Walter White watched his family fall apart, and in the end, so did he. When the dust cleared, Walter White was dead. Jesse Pinkman, when we last see him, is driving away, destination unknown. Physically, he’s very much alive. As a rabid fan of Breaking Bad, I know better. Jesse Pinkman died long ago. It was a sad conclusion to an incredible story. Like it could have ended any other way.
P.S. I’m not normally a fan of episodic recap articles, but if you love Breaking Bad, you need to read the series finale recap by Andy Greenwald of Grantland. Boom Baby.