Four iconic Jesse Pinkman episodes to get you pumped for "Breaking Bad" movie "El Camino"
The Breaking Bad series finale saw high school teacher turned drug kingpin Walter White achieve a measure of redemption. And he died with a little smile. It still ranks as one of the most satisfying series finales ever. The fate of his former partner Jesse Pinkman was left ambiguous though. Sure he was high tailing it to freedom, but with no support system and a fresh load of trauma heaped upon him, it was difficult to believe he would ever be okay.
But naturally, that’s the perfect jumping-off point for this epilogue of sorts, El Camino, which seems to pick up immediately after the events of the finale. And with Jesse Pinkman as the sole focus this time, we thought it would be a good idea to lay out four of the greatest Breaking Bad episodes centered on our favourite bitch.
4. Peekaboo (Season 2, Episode 6).
Although by this point in the show, Aaron Paul had more than proven himself to be the perfect foil to the very Dad-like Walter, “Peekaboo” was perhaps the first episode to demonstrate his sheer versatility as an actor.
The premise is pretty simple: Jesse, armed and nervous, demands back his stolen drugs and money from a couple of filthy crackheads. With Jesse obviously puffing himself up and the crackheads’ unpredictability, these scenes married comedy and tension in a way that only Breaking Bad can.
Things get unexpectedly complicated and tragic when Jesse discovers their neglected and mute boy. He gives the child a chance for a better life in the end and delivers one of the more poignant parting words of the series to boot: “Have a good rest of your life, kid”.
3. 4 Days Out (Season 2, Episode 9)
Because their chemistry crackled and Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul are so likeable in and out of their roles, it’s easy to misremember Jesse and Walt as being mostly solid if prone to bickering like a married couple business partners. I certainly misremembered it that way. But upon recent rewatch, it was startling to see just how often they were fundamentally at odds with one another even when they were working together.
However, 4 Days Out is that buddy comedy rapport I exaggerated in my memory. It’s a simple “solve the problem” stand-alone episode that increasingly seems to be a relic of a bygone era of television. But it’s so much fun to watch and calls to mind the classic Sopranos episode “Pine Barrens”, a similar premise wherein two criminals comically fuck up a straightforward situation. Jesse and Walter decide to cook a huge batch of meth in the middle of nowhere but are left stranded when their RV battery dies. Their frustration and rage at each other, borne more of their boneheaded decisions than a life and death kind of thing, was hilarious to watch. It might just be the funniest Jesse Pinkman has ever been. And the lush visuals, the gorgeous tableaux of the vivid blue sky and the sweltering browns and oranges of the desert, made for one of the most strikingly composed episodes of the show.
2. Open House (Season 4, Episode 3)
Breaking Bad made the shift from dramatic dark comedy to apocalyptic thriller so gradually. And yet it’s still shocking to see how fundamentally Jesse’s PTSD has altered him by “Open House”. From this episode until the end of the series, Jesse is never well again.
Jesse’s downward spiral is not only communicated through Aaron Paul’s tightly wound performance but through the increasingly depraved and grotty house parties he throws in an effort to distract himself. It’s tragic all around, with the occasionally sitcom-y rapport between Walt and Jesse dissolving entirely in this episode. Take note of the costume design change too, as Jesse sheds his trademark gaudy baggy skater boy clothes for raggedy black jackets and pants.
As a contrast to our previous two picks, it’s easily one of the least fun episodes of the entire show, but nevertheless a stunning showcase for Aaron Paul’s chops.
1. Problem Dog (Season 4, Episode 7)
Finding no relief from the recent events that have rattled his soul, in Problem Dog Jesse fully asserts himself as the voice of moral clarity in a season where everyone is at their lowest point and irreparably compromised.
This episode is best remembered for his monologue at his twelve-step meeting. He alludes to his murder of Gale to save himself and Walt, comparing it to killing a dog for no reason. It’s an emotional and wonderfully delivered monologue, full of sorrow, guilt, and outrage.
Sadly, circumstances kept Jesse in the degrading position, worsening until he was literally a meth-cooking slave in the last couple of episodes. The big question hanging over El Camino is not just whether he can evade the law and find safety, but whether he will be able to live with himself when the dust has finally settled.
And we can’t wait to find out.