‘Breaking Bad’: Peter Gould Reveals Why Writers Let Jesse Pinkman Live in the Finale — ‘Jesse Had Suffered Enough’
One of the most memorable scenes from the Breaking Bad finale is the image of Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) busting down the gates of the white supremacist compound where he’d been held captive. He drove through the locked gates while screaming and crying, no doubt reflecting on the torture he’d endured during his time in captivity. And how it was all brought on by the same man who rescued him: Walter White (Bryan Cranston).
There was always a possibility that Jesse would die at the end of Breaking Bad. Head writer and co-executive producer Peter Gould sat down with The Hollywood Reporter following the finale to discuss why Jesse lived in the end.
Jesse Pinkman was supposed to die in season 1 of ‘Breaking Bad’
Not all Breaking Bad fans realize that Jesse was never supposed to become an integral character in the series. Then two things happened: showrunner Vince Gilligan realized how great the chemistry between Walt and Jesse was, and the writers went on strike in all of Hollywood.
“The original plan was to kill [Jesse] off, but I have to say, the writers’ strike, in a sense, didn’t save him because I knew by episode 2 — we all did, all of us, our wonderful directors and our wonderful producers — everybody knew this talent, how good you are, and a pleasure to work with,” Gilligan said to Aaron Paul during a cast panel in 2011.
“And it became pretty clear early on that that would be a huge, colossal mistake to kill off Jesse. But the idea was … I didn’t know how important Jesse was [going to be].”
Writers decided not to kill Jesse in the ‘Breaking Bad’ finale
After becoming an integral part of the Breaking Bad universe over 5 seasons, Jesse faced the biggest challenge of his life when Walt turned him over to Uncle Jack and his crew, instructing them to kill him for his betrayal. Instead, Jack kept Jesse prisoner and forced him to cook blue meth under Todd’s watch.
It seems impossible that Jesse would survive. But he did. As Gould explained to THR, they chose to let him live because he had already been through so much.
“We really felt that Jesse had suffered enough — maybe not objectively, but in dramatic terms. The show is definitely a dark show, but it’s not dark for the sake of trying to shock,” he said.
“We really felt pretty early on that we wanted Jesse to live. That was one of the things that liberated us in terms of having his suffering. You do wonder at the end of it, ‘What future could there be for this guy?’”
Jesse gets his redemption in ‘El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie’
The answer to that came a few years later with the release of Breaking Bad‘s epilogue.
The made-for-TV movie sequel, El Camino, focused exclusively on the aftermath of Jesse’s escape from the compound and how he recovered and found peace. Gilligan started thinking about creating El Camino while filming the final season of Breaking Bad, which just serves as further proof that writers were never going to kill Jesse.
El Camino was a critical success and gave a fitting ending to one of the best characters on Breaking Bad. In the end, Jesse found peace escaping to Alaska to start a new life.