‘Breaking Bad’: Walter White is the Catalyst For All of Jesse Pinkman’s Trauma

When Breaking Bad first begins, Walter White is the protagonist of the story. Who can’t sympathize with a man trying to provide for his family?

But by the time the series comes to a close, Walt has transformed into Heisenberg, one of the biggest villains on the show and a man devoid of a moral compass. He ruins plenty of lives, but perhaps the person who suffers the most damage at the hands of Walter White is his former partner, Jesse Pinkman.

Jesse is a former student of Walt’s who probably would have been content living a life of petty crime before being pulled into Heisenberg’s vortex of evil. Here’s how Walt is responsible for almost every terrible outcome in Jesse’s life.

Walt and Jesse
Walter White and Jesse Pinkman | Ursula Coyote/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Jesse wasn’t supposed to become a main character on ‘Breaking Bad’

Early version of the show didn’t include the team of Walt and Jesse — it was more of a solo effort. But fate intervened and Jesse’s death happened to coincide with a writer’s strike in Hollywood, which helped his character see another day. Then showrunners wised up to the chemistry between Walt and Jesse that couldn’t be ignored.

As Vince Gilligan said in a 2011 cast panel, “…it became pretty clear early on that that would be a huge, colossal mistake to kill off Jesse.”

Walter White was Jesse Pinkman’s role model — until he wasn’t

Jesse had a complicated relationship with his parents, who saw him as a failure and treated him as such. When Jesse’s former high school chemistry teacher came along and wanted to cook meth, Jesse could barely believe it but put his trust in Walt the same way the audience did.

The only problem was that Jesse always had a more evolved conscience than Walt and never felt fine about doing the terrible things Walt easily embraced. Ultimately, both men revealed their true characters.

Walt indirectly caused the deaths of two women Jesse loved

Jesse Pinkman, Jane Margolis, and Walter White | Lewis Jacobs/AMC

One of the worst things Walter White ever did was refuse to intervene and save Jane’s life when she was choking on her own vomit in her sleep. Walt did it so Jesse would be free from Jane’s influence, but his actions also led to Jane’s father having a breakdown and causing two planes to crash midair. Plus, Jane’s death sent Jesse on a downward spiral.

And Jane wasn’t the only person Jesse loved who died because of Walt. The white supremacists who keep Jesse captive also tortured him by killing his girlfriend, Andrea, while he watched and threatening her son if he didn’t comply with their wishes.

Walt is the one who turned Jesse over to Uncle Jack and his crew at the end of season 5. Once again, Andrea’s death is on him.

Walt played mind games with Jesse

Jesse tried to quit the drug game multiple times but Walt always refused to accept his resignations. He manipulated Jesse into believing Gus Fring poisoned Andrea’s son Brock when Walt himself was the one who poisoned the child using a Lily of the Valley plant in his backyard.

Then Walt convinces Jesse to murder Gale, which turns out to be the most damaging thing he ever does. While Jesse was able to justify killing people or covering up those murders to an extent — but showing up at Gale’s house and shooting him point-blank felt unforgivable.

Does Jesse forgive Walt for ruining his life?

Without Walt, Jesse would have probably stayed a small-time criminal, hanging out in Albuquerque dealing drugs with his friends. But Walt was never content to be one of the little guys and instead forced his way into drug kingpin status while convincing Jesse to come along as his partner. Even when Jesse tried to escape, Walt just kept luring him back.

Ultimately, Walt saves Jesse’s life by freeing him from the white supremacist compound. But as fans see in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, Jesse has a long road to recovery and cannot mentally process all that’s happened to him. And he’ll spend the rest of his life living a new identity different from the one he always knew.

It’ll take a long time for Jesse to forgive Walt for those deep scars — if he ever can.