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  • Writer's pictureJacqueline Oiga

Have a Good Rest of Your Life Kid: On Breaking Bad's Jesse Pinkman

An Analysis of the Symbolic Significance of the Children of Breaking Bad in Relation to Jesse Pinkman and his Overall Character Development and Evolution




 

Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad is a story of gradual development and eventual evolution. Every character and aspect of the show grows and matures. The show itself starts out more comedic than dramatic, exhibiting a lighter tone and less depth, only to turn into a dark, emotional journey. There’s obviously the dark evolution in Walter White, the hardening of Skyler White, the serious maturing of Hank Schrader. However, one of the most drastic developments is in that of Jesse Pinkman, the hooligan-type character that was supposed to die in the first season. Jesse, who wasn’t supposed to live long enough to evolve, exhibits some of the deepest conflicting emotions and moral struggles in the series.


One of the most driving, constant contributions to Jesse’s character is that of his encounters with children throughout the series. Breaking Bad is a story set around a methamphetamine empire. There isn’t much room to throw children into this story. However, the majority of the children that do appear are somehow connected to Jesse in one way or another. It quickly becomes evident that Jesse Pinkman has a thing with kids that greatly impacts him. No other character is as affected by children to the degree that Jesse is. This isn’t on accident. It’s interesting to note that the majority of the child characters are young boys, especially those that are somehow affected by the world of drugs. Each season, a new young boy shows up to allude to the state of Jesse’s psyche and/or to foreshadow his future. The young boys that Jesse encounters are symbolic reflections of Jesse himself. As Jesse is driven further and further into the dark world of the drug industry, children continue to remind him of his roots in morality.


 


A Little Kid Named Jesse

>> “You just decide to make your eldest son homeless? Great family, Mom!”


A lot of Jesse’s reactions to children stem in his own childhood familial issues and his naivete. Jesse is a lot like Walter in the sense that he doesn’t belong in the drug industry. He’s simply not cut out for it. Neither are truly cut out for the brutishness of it. Jesse is too naive, too innocent, and too moralistic to last in the industry. These traits are dangerous in his line of business, which later proves to be completely true. It’s easy for Walt to trick and manipulate Jesse into carrying out his biddings. Jesse is a face of relative innocence in a cruel world of crime and vice. In this sense, he becomes similar to the children he finds in the drug world in that they are innocent but surrounded by wrongs. This similarity becomes a common theme among the boys Jesse meets and makes it easier to see them as stand-ins for Jesse himself.


Because Aunt Ginny’s house was listed as Jesse’s legal residence in high school, we can assume that Jesse was living there during his teenhood. From there, we can further assume that Jesse was kicked out of his family home before he graduated from high school. The fact that Jesse’s parents had already given up on him when he was still in school led to a lot of Jesse’s issues later on. For one, Jesse deals with a lot of abandonment issues.The first to abandon him being his parents and the second, in some sense, to be Ginny. The death of Ginny was also the death of the only person that unconditionally loved and cared for Jesse at the time. Furthermore, Jesse was made to grow up and learn to be self-sufficient quickly and abruptly without normal parental support because he was thrown out of the house. His abandonment by his parents fosters Jesse’s craving for acknowledgement and approval. He latches onto Walter because he fills a paternal role and, as his teacher, can offer Jesse the recognition he yearns for.


Jesse’s issues from his family’s abandonment fuel his desire to preserve the innocent youthfulness in the various children he meets. Jesse was forced to grow up quickly. He knows how confused and messed up a kid can become in such a situation, so he wishes to prevent such situation for other children.


Additionally, Jesse’s lack of familial support in his teenhood causes his multitude of childish outlooks in his adulthood. The most obvious of these outlooks is Jesse’s naive view on clear-cut good versus evil. Throughout the series, Jesse struggles with deciding what is good and what is evil. Never does Jesse consider a grey area. To relate this naivete to a childlike tendency, we can look at the Team SCIENCE (Webisode) segment. Created by season two-era Jesse, it exhibits key characters, such as Walt and Jesse himself, as the super heroes. They battle evil because they’re doing the right thing; they are somehow still the good guys even though their line of business is illegal, dangerous, and anything but good.


At this point, Jesse ignores Walt’s “asshole nature” because obviously this guy is actually an angel for sucking it up and cooking crystal meth to provide for his family. Jesse doesn’t want to recognize that he or Walt could be evil. Because Jesse wants so badly to believe that he’s at least the tiniest bit on the side of good, he paints himself as a superhero, something that is inarguably good. This yearning to be a “good guy” is a key part of Jesse’s building guilt complex. He feels such extreme guilt because he doesn’t want to be bad. Later on, Jesse accepts that he is the “bad guy” upon leaving rehab. Because Jesse refuses to accept the possibility of a grey area, he amounts himself to the scum who side with evil.


To apply Jesse’s abandonment issues to his interactions with children, we have to understand that Jesse finds his situation to be miserable and would not wish it upon anyone. When it comes to children that Jesse sees part of himself in, he feels that he needs to save them before they end up like him. These children are still innocent and pure and must be preserved. To Jesse, no one deserves to end up suffering like he does every single day, so he takes it upon himself to make sure that no one will ever have to.


 


You Wait Right Here

>> “Just don’t go back inside, okay?”


Peekaboo (2x06) is probably one of the most important episodes concerning Jesse’s sequential character development. Although it’s not the first time we get to dive into Jesse’s personal life (see Cancer Man (1x04) and Down (2x04) in particular), it’s a huge turning point in how we view Jesse as a person. Throughout season one and part of season two, Jesse is the idiotic junkie burnout. After all, Jesse was supposed to die as a deadbeat. I think we see a lot of Jesse character development in season two because the writers realized that Jesse Pinkman is a character that is here to stay.


So six episodes in, we get a very Jesse-centric episode where Walter orders him to track down a man named Spooge in order to get their stolen drug money back. Jesse doesn’t want to go. He knows that he’s not very scary and he knows that he’s putting himself in danger. Jesse isn’t cut out for the whole “scary criminal using sheer intimidation” tactic. Sure, Jesse deals in illegal business, but this type of force isn’t a regular part of his life. Yet, Heisenberg will not stand for thieves and Jesse just so happens to be the little foot soldier that has to carry out his demands.


Even before the blowfish speech in Negro y Azul (2x07), we see Jesse try to tough it out and be big and scary. The episode opens to an anxious Jesse practicing how he’s going to demand his money, testing what tone is the most intimidating. Jesse works up everything he has to disguise how terrified he is. When he finally goes in, we see that entire facade shatter when a little boy appears in the midst of the filth.


What’s important here is that we see Jesse--who spent so much time getting his scary face ready--instantly deflate into a guilt-ridden, heartbroken, concerned, and most significantly soft demeanor. Instantaneously. Sure, Jesse is still concerned about Spooge, as he asks the little boy if his parents are around, but Jesse puts his little thug mission on pause to sit with the child and make him a sandwich.


This is one of the first times we see a glimpse of Jesse’s notorious guilt complex. Jesse knows what methamphetamine does, he knows how destructive it is. He knows from first hand experience. However, this type of destruction in different. Jesse sees how crystal--the very crystal he cooked with his own hands--destroys the lives of more than its junkie users. It’s in the Spooge house that Jesse realizes that his creation has a consequential effect on innocent children. Knowing Jesse, we can assume that he sees this neglected child and immediately blames himself. He’d reason that it’s his fault because this poor kid’s junkie parents are high on the meth that Jesse sells them.


The situations worsens when the Spooge couple comes home. When Jesse berates the woman for being an awful mother, accusing her with “what kind of mother are you?” She replies “You give me one hit and I’ll be any kind of mother you want.” Jesse is left in a mixture of shock and utter frustration. How could someone be so irresponsible to value getting high over the well-being of their own child?


At the end of the episode, Jesse dials 911 and leaves the Spooge kid on the doorstep for the authorities to pick up. Jesse has him close his eyes and promise not to go back inside. This is the most Jesse can do to try to save this kid, to try to make up for his role in screwing up the kid’s life. Jesse wants to take this kid away from the ruins of a meth-infested home; he wants this kid to escape. Jesse wants this kid to have what he himself cannot: escape from the horrible world of drugs.


Jesse didn’t have to call 911. He knows that Spooge is dead and he knows that calling the authorities puts himself in danger. He could have just left that house with his money. However, Jesse needs to help the child there. It’s the humane thing to do. It’s the Jesse thing to do. Jesse knows that if he doesn’t call, this kid might be stuck in that kind of dysfunctional situation for the rest of his life. Because Jesse wants to escape the scary world of drugs, because he wants this innocent little boy to escape, he makes the call.


This episode is Jesse’s first wake up call to the consequences of drugs. This is when Jesse begins to feel guilty for his involvement in the meth business. Before meeting the Spooge kid, Jesse believed that the only people affected by his meth were the meth-heads themselves, destroying only themselves. Now Jesse realizes that this kid’s life is going to be screwed up in one way or another and that it’s at least partially his indirect fault.


Throughout the series, the Spooge kid effects Jesse’s entire outlook on the drug trade. He never forgets about the kid. Three and a half seasons later, we’ll see Jesse study a cockroach on his coffee table in Blood Money (5x09) in the same manner that he studies the cockroach in the Spooge house. This further pushes the idea that Jesse and the Spooge kid mirror each other in that they are both just desolate kids trapped in the drug world who need to get out before it really is too late. Blood Money is a major peak in Jesse’s guilt complex, as that’s when it overcomes him and he completely loses it. After everything he’s had to go through, Jesse takes us full circle by thinking back to that little kid who first opened his eyes to how horrible the drug trade really is.


 


La Familia es Todo

>> “Seeing you with Andrea and that little boy… It was nice.”


One of the most heartwarming ironies in the series is the circumstances of how Jesse meets Andrea Cantillo and executes a complete one-eighty. By Abiquiú (3x11), Jesse has accepted that yes, he is the bad guy. Jesse sees himself as a monster because he’s already sunken so low. What difference does it make if he sinks a little bit further, to the level where he sells to recovering addicts. We know that this isn’t Jesse, the guy with morals, the guy who sees people among all the dollar signs. He’s playing a role, just as he has throughout the entire series. He doesn’t belong in this type of world, doing these kind of things. Yet, he puffs out his cheeks and dives in.


When Badger and Skinny Pete admit that they can’t sell to recovering addicts, Jesse chugs ahead to prove how easy it is. Andrea seems like an easy target. She’s young and restless, she doesn’t want to be at the meeting. She’s got dollar signs written all over her. But oh wait, she has a kid. As much as I hate to compare Andrea to the filthy meth-heads in Peekaboo (2x06), the similarities between the situations and how Jesse reacts to them are remarkably similar. The gist of it is that Jesse sells his legendary meth thinking solely about the money, only for him to find out that there’s a child involved whose life he’s probably indirectly ruining.


This time, however, the mother isn’t too far gone. Once again, Jesse accuses the mother with the same exact line: “what kind of mother are you?” Whereas the Spooge lady replies that she’s more desperate for a hit, Andrea defends herself as a mother. Andrea says “What? Nobody can say I don’t take care of my son. You gonna come in my house and judge me? Like you got no responsibilities so it’s okay for you to get high? What do you know about me? I take care of my baby. I’ll do anything for him. The day Brock was born I swore I wouldn’t let what happened to Tomás happen to my son. I’ll die first.”


This is where the similarities stop. Andrea still cares, she’s still human. Brock is well taken care of. Andrea does everything in her power to shelter him from the evils of the world. When Jesse realizes this, he sees it as a second chance to save a meth-infested home. The fact that he tried to sell meth to Andrea in the first place is enough for him to justify that it’s his responsibility to help out the Cantillo family.


The first time we see Brock--just as Andrea is about to take Jesse’s meth--is when Jesse snaps out of his whole “bad guy” complex and allows his true morals to take over. That little boy is enough for morality to outweigh the money signs. His presence gives Jesse a reality check. Is the money really worth it? Jesse chooses that no, the money doesn’t matter if it’s going to turn the Cantillo family into something like the Spooge family.


As he always does, Jesse wants to shield the innocent from the drug world. Brock, this sweet, completely innocent, untouched kid, is at risk of ending up dead like Tomás, neglected like the Spooge kid, maybe even trapped like Jesse. The last thing that Jesse ever wants is for anyone to end up as miserable as he is. This kid needs someone to protect him and his family. Unlike the Spooge kid, Jesse knows that he can directly help and save the Cantillo family, rather than letting someone else handle it. Reminded of the Spooge family, Jesse wants to make up for it and directly involve himself this time around. Andrea is a nice girl and Brock is a good kid. At this point, Jesse doesn’t see a downside of involving himself. He sees this as his redemption. This is Jesse’s proof that he really isn’t the bad guy.


It becomes very obvious to everyone that Jesse is happy with the Cantillos. He loves Andrea and he adores Brock. They make him happy, even when he’s still trapped in Heisenberg’s miserable drug ring. Jesse’s happiness turns out to be the only downfall of involving himself with the Cantillos. Walter makes it clear to him that his association with the Cantillos puts them in danger because they are Jesse’s weak spot, open for anyone to use as leverage. All Jesse wants in the end is to protect those that he feels needs to be protected. So Jesse takes one for the team and breaks it off because that’s what’s best for them. That’s the most effective way to keep them out of the drug world since Jesse is their only solid link into it.


I am completely sure that Jesse would beat himself up every day because he blames himself for Andrea’s murder and whatever misery it brought upon Brock. He tries so hard to protect them, only to be the reason for their suffering in the end.

 


No Half Measures

>> “It’s like shooting a baby in the face.”


Once again, Andrea introduces Jesse to another situation involving a child put at risk because of the drug industry. When Jesse investigates for himself, he discovers that Tomás Cantillo is in fact a ten-year-old boy who shot Jesse’s friend and is now pushing the meth that Jesse cooked himself. Already struggling with major guilt, Jesse takes on the guilt of contributing to the creation of a situation that entrapped Tomás in the drug industry. Jesse had initially blamed himself for Combo’s death. If Jesse had put his foot down and refused Walter’s insistence of pushing their territory, Combo would be alive. Because of that piece of guilt, Jesse can reason that Tomás would not have been able to join the gang or have to murder anyone because Combo wouldn’t have been there to shoot. Jesse’s mind runs on a constant loop of “what if,” which further contributes to his guilt complex.


To top it off, this kid is selling Blue Sky, the Heisenberg signature. Jesse knows that if he hadn’t cooked it, if he hadn’t let Walter cook it, then this kid wouldn’t have to sell it. There’s obvious loopholes in Jesse’s logic because the Fring operation would most likely continue just the same. Tomás would have joined a gang via some other initiation. However, Jesse is still naive and still believes that he is the bad guy, that he is the one that caused this because he is part of the evil.


Tomás’s situation hits Jesse the hardest because this kid is in just as deep--if not further on some levels--as Jesse is in the drug world. This kid’s situation is exactly what Jesse keeps trying to prevent. Jesse’s goal is to prevent any more kids from ending up in the misery that he lives in. To Jesse, the worse thing anyone can do is to manipulate children into eternal servitude in the drug industry.


The manipulation used on Tomás should sound familiar. Jesse is disgusted by what the drug dealers are doing to Tomás when Walter White is actually doing the exact same thing to Jesse. That piece to the Tomás story is one of the many reasons that Tomás serves as a standin Jesse, mirroring and foreshadowing many of Jesse’s actions and his situation in general. Tomás being ordered to shoot and kill Combo is foreshadowing to Jesse being ordered to shoot and kill Gale Boetticher. Both Jesse and Tomás are naive kids, trapped in the drug industry, being puppeteered by their adult manipulators.

Additionally, Jesses has always been marked for death. We see him decked out in skulls, black, and red. Tomás, who is the most similar Jesse stand-in, ending up dead teases us with a foreshadowing of Jesse’s possible death. Although Jesse doesn’t actually die, another death symbol on Jesse’s behalf is not uncommon in the series.


In another light, Tomás’s death may also foreshadow Jesse’s eventual failure to protect Andrea and Brock. Jesse goes through many lengths to involve himself in the situation in order to save Tomás. In the end, Tomás ends up murdered because of Jesse’s interference. The situation is almost causatively identical to Andrea’s death. As with Andrea, Jesse blames himself for Tomás’s death. According to Jesse-logic, if Jesse hadn’t interfered and tried to save Tomás, the boy would still be alive.


As for Jesse’s character development, Tomás and Brock combined get Jesse to realize that maybe he’s not cut out to be the bad guy. Jesse shoulders a lot of guilt concerning the Tomás events, but Jesse knows full well that the drug dealers are even scummier than he is. Jesse knows that he’s scum but he also realizes that he’s not as filthy as Gus’s monster drug dealers. Jesse’s attempt to save Tomás is more proof that he really isn’t the “bad guy” at heart.


 


A Kid That He Didn’t Need to Shoot

>> “The kid was waving at us. He wasn’t going anywhere. He was saying hi.”


Dead Freight (5x05) opens to a little blond boy riding around the desert on a dirt-bike. He plays with a tarantula before scooping it into a jar and driving away. This teaser should be enough to raise red flags because this episode will surely play to Jesse. The first curious piece here is this kid on a dirt-bike. Who do we know that likes dirt-bikes and motocross? On Jesse’s website in Cat’s in the Bag… (1x02), Jesse in fact planned on participating in motocross the following summer. After the Tuco incident wrecks his car in Grilled (2x02), Jesse resorts to utilizing his motorcycle instead (which gets stolen in the series of unfortunate events in Down (2x04)). In Twaughthammer (Minisode 3), Jesse doesn’t even appear in his band’s music video for “Fallacies” because he was recovering from a motocross accident. The child in the teaser didn’t have to be on a dirt-bike. Drew could have had any kind of vehicle, yet it was very unique and specific. It has to be a reference to Jesse because of the level of detail. So immediately, we can already connect the child to Jesse in some manner.


Furthermore, the child curiously plays with the tarantula, letting it crawl over his hand. This gesture and the juxtaposition of the shot are interestingly similar to when Jesse picks up a beetle on the sidewalk in Peekaboo (2x06). A mirror of Jesse’s actions tie down the idea that this kid is an allusion to Jesse in a more symbolic manner.


The most obvious connection is to Jesse is that the child looks just like a child version of Jesse. We see glimpses of a schoolchild Jesse back in the Pinkman house in Cancer Man (1x04) that we can compare to Drew. A lot of people admitted to initially assuming that this could actually be a child Jesse in a flashback. Later on, people were starting to say that the actor who portrayed Drew was the same actor who portrayed Jake Pinkman, Jesse’s younger brother. This turned out to be wrong, but it only supports the fact that Drew was casted to look like a Pinkman as a further connection to Jesse.


The foreshadowing here is incredibly subtle but extremely powerful once you catch on to it. Drew Sharp turns out to be season five’s boy to push Jesse’s guilt and moral struggle over the edge.


It’s important to note that in the beginning of the season, Jesse is a lot more confident and more alive in terms of the business. Walt starts to treat him as an intelligible human being and finally awards Jesse with the acknowledgment he had been working for throughout the entire series. The murder of Tomás is far in the past and thoroughly avenged. Gale is still a dark shadow but is only that, a shadow. Brock’s poisoning must have been an accident. Sure, they had just killed Gus but that was a necessity to save themselves. It was a heroic act of vigilantism. Work becomes more exciting, more thrilling. Jesse starts to feel like he has some control in his life.


As soon as Todd raises his gun, that mirage shatters around him.


Much of Jesse’s enthusiasm was because he was the boss. He could control what they did, what was necessary. Harming children was the number one “don’t” on his new list of rules. Jesse continuously brings morality into an illegal business, which only continues to backfire on him. Todd pulling the trigger on an innocent child proved to Jesse that he really isn’t in control. This new business was supposed to be different. They were supposed to change. Drew’s death was proof that in fact, nothing had changed. The only difference is that Jesse’s the boss of the drug ring that kills children. This was his operation, his business. There is no higher up boss to blame.


Todd doesn’t think twice about pulling the trigger and Jesse doesn’t think twice about protesting. Walter is an in-between, but he probably wouldn’t have killed the kid. Jesse is the most moral in this group, contrasting with Todd. Jesse has always been against killing, even if it made his own situation worse. With Gale, Jesse offered to go into eternal hiding while Walt could get witness protection and Gale could go right on living. It would be a hard life, but not having to pull the trigger on Gale would've been a much better life to live with.


In the following episode, Jesse does not participate in the disposal of Drew’s body. Instead, he waits outside and has a smoke with trembling hands. Todd joins him but Jesse does his best to avoid doing anything rash. Yet, Todd dares to brush it off as "shit happening" and Jesse cannot hold back any longer. He punches Todd when his control slips and his frustration overwhelms him. Jesse stalks off because he realizes that right now, violence isn’t going to solve anything and one punch is enough to get his point across. Jesse tries to maintain self control, but he knows that he can’t be around Todd and he can’t take part in the disposal because it’s just not right. Jesse cannot force himself to actively participate in an operation that allowed innocents to be killed.


Season five shows us a very ecstatic, enthusiastic Jesse and then abruptly turns around and gives us a broken Jesse, overwhelmed with guilt and remorse. It becomes completely clear that after everything that’s happened, Jesse is most definitely not in control of anything. He is not in control of the meth business. He’s not in control of his own life, even. Most strikingly, he is definitely not in control of his emotions.


Drew’s death is another awakening for Jesse. It snaps him out of his pleasant fantasy of being in charge and having affluence in the business. Once again, it’s a little boy that reminds Jesse exactly what kind of horrible business he is involved in.


In the beginning, Jesse was only interested in the money. Nothing else mattered. He dreamed of making “fat stacks,” even in season three. Now that he has five million dollars, about as fat as his stacks could ever be, Jesse realizes that the sacrifices that he had to make for it were not worth it. There had been too much death and too much wrong that now weighs down on him. Five million dollars came with infinite guilt and psychological hurting attached to it.


Jesse tries to give half of his dirty money to Kaylee Ehrmantraut and half to the Sharp family. Jesse knows that money will never be enough, its won’t make him feel any better about Drew’s death, but it’d be better than spending that money himself. He’s not worthy of it. The least he can do is pass it on to Drew’s parents. Spending the money isn’t possible. Jesse can’t handle the guilt of using money that couldn't be earned without murdering innocents. It's better in the hands of the grieving family than it is rotting in Jesse's possession.


When Saul refuses to carry out his wishes, Jesse's growing guilt complex overwhelms him. It finally takes hold of him and Jesse just loses it. Stack after stack of money is literally thrown out the window. What kind of life is he leading when he has multiple deaths of his hands? Drew was the last straw. Jesse can't handle this business anymore.


 


Two Miracles Short of Sainthood

>> “But son, you need to stop focusing on the darkness behind you. The past is the past.”


This section is a little confusing so I feel like I should introduce it before I dig into it. This is my interpretation of Paul Tyree’s child in Down (2x04), Jesse’s younger brother, Jake, and Mike’s granddaughter, Kaylee. The one thing that these kids have in common is that their involvement in the drug world is very minimal, if present at all. If they are tied into the drug world in some manner, it’s not enough to endanger them. These kids are living comfortable lives, sheltered from the horrors that the other children in the series face.


Jake Pinkman is the first kid we ever see Jesse interact with in the series. It’s kind of nice because Jake is supposed to be everything that Jesse is not. For starters, the wardrobe department lays it out quite clearly for us. Jake and Jesse’s wardrobes are completely opposite. With Jake, you have a clean cut, neat, sweater vest kind of boy with his hair combed back. With Jesse, you have a ridiculous, immature choice of clothing worthy of a hooligan. On another level, Jake is smart and successful. He has the entire world at his fingertips. His future is unbelievably bright. While Jake has to have a serious dinner table discussion about having to choose which instrument he’s going to play in the school band, Jesse has to chat about getting drug-free and turning his life around. Furthermore, Jake’s walls are plastered in awards and pictures of him in his extracurriculars. Throughout the episode, we see that Jesse has every right to resent Jake, to hate him and despise him. After all, he’s the favorite child, he’s everything Jesse couldn’t be, he’s the last hope for their parents.


Despite the fact that Jake is a living example of Jesse’s failure, Jesse tries to have a good relationship with him. He tries to get a conversation going and tries to catch up on Jake’s life. He wants to be close and he wants to be able to just hang out like normal brothers. Jesse lets him know that he’s there for him if he ever needs advice because, hey, not all smarts come from books and Jesse’s been through a lot. Jesse is fully aware that his parents don’t want anything to do with him but he tries to make it different with Jake. For Jesse, his parents have already decided that he’s bad news, but Jesse desperately wants his kid brother to see that he’s not that bad. There’s not much to say other than Jesse is clinging to his family and Jake is that last hope of salvaging his familial life.


I don’t think that Jake particularly cares this way or that for Jesse. Even so, when their parents find Jake’s marijuana blunt, Jesse decides to take the fall for him. He knows that it’s the last straw in his own relationship with his parents, but he doesn’t want Jake to go down the same road. They already turned their back on one child because of drugs, there’s no way that Jesse’s letting them do it again. He lets Jake continue to be the perfect kid and he allows his own relationship with his parents to become even more strained. I’d say that Jake is hardly grateful, but knowing that Jake is spared a screwed relationship with his parents is enough to keep Jesse going.


Jake, ever the grateful child, asks for his blunt back as Jesse is waiting for a cab. Jesse smashes it on the sidewalk and tells him it’s skunk weed, anyway. It might be because Jesse thinks that Jake doesn’t deserve that blunt after he went through all that trouble to protect him, but I like to see it as Jesse, once again, steering his brother down a different road than the one that he went down. With Jesse’s recurring distaste for the drug world, it’s safe to assume that Jesse doesn’t want his own kid brother involved in it. There must be some logic in that if your druggie older brother tells you not to do drugs, you probably shouldn’t do them. Taking away Jake’s weed is Jesse’s attempt at keeping him out of the drug world.


Kaylee Ehrmantraut is the only female child that Jesse has a significant connection to. Additionally, she is the only child to concern Jesse without ever actually meeting and interacting with her. Kaylee, like the other children in this section, isn’t tied too deeply into the drug world. Her only connection is through her good old Pop-Pop, Mike Ehrmantraut.


Jesse really looked up to Mike. They bonded throughout seasons four and five. Mike grew to care about Jesse. He was constantly trying to shield him from Walter’s evil because he had Jesse’s best interests in mind. Unlike Heisenberg, Mike cared more about Jesse’s well-being than the money. Mike was the one who pushed for Jesse to get out, for Jesse to finally escape the drug trade. Escape has been Jesse’s goal from the beginning. Mike is the guy who helped Jesse finally achieve that goal. Jesse knows that Mike was probably the only person in the drug world that truly cared about him, which makes his death even worse to bear.


Jesse wants to give his blood money to Kaylee because “she needs someone looking out for her.” Because Mike is dead and Walt killed him. Mike was always trying to leave money for Kaylee but never really succeeded. Jesse knows that Mike is dead because of the meth operation that he and Walt pressured Mike into. He is also very aware that his five million dollars is dripping in filth, blood, crime, and vice. To Jesse, it only makes sense that Mike’s granddaughter is given the money with Mike’s death on it.


To be completely honest, analyzing Jesse’s interactions with Paul Tyree’s kid may be a little bit excessive, so we won’t try to read too far into the brief scene in Down (2x04). The most important thing we can take away from this scene is that Jesse wasn’t always as amazing with kids as we take him to be. Not to discredit Jesse’s amazing kid skills, but there’s obvious tension in this scene. Jesse tries to be cool with the kid, but it’s not as natural as his kid instincts post-Peekaboo.


A lot of Jesse’s being cool with kids is very much driven by his guilt from the meth business and Jesse’s loss of his own innocence. Tyree’s kid is just like any kid. He’s sheltered from the evil drug world. His innocence isn’t on the line. He can’t really be affected by Jesse’s actions. The real importance of the Tyree kid is the lack of a an effect on Jesse. For our purposes, the Tyree kid is the control variable of a kid in Jesse’s life. He proves that the more significant children in the series are particularly connected to Jesse because they are connected to the drug world in some way.



 


It's All About Accepting Who You Really Are

>> “You either run from things or you face them, Mr. White.”


Aside from Walter White, Jesse Pinkman undergoes the most drastic changes throughout the span of the series. We first see Jesse as a carefree, easy going kid that provides us with comic relief. By the end of it all, we have a sorrowful yet headstrong individual who deals with a plethora of emotional and moral conflicts. His time with Walter forces him to truly grow up and take his actions seriously. Jesse has to mature his outlook on life and take responsibility for his actions, as the consequences can be severe.


While children played a prominent role in Jesse’s evolution, there were definitely other major players in his development. In the first two seasons alone, Jesse has to deal with being manhandled by Emilio and Krazy 8, only to end up having to dissolve a body and kill the other. These events take a serious toll on Jesse’s state of mind and he becomes extremely paranoid. Tuco Salamanca kidnaps him into the desert and holds his life on a string. Death had never seemed so close. After falling madly in love with Jane Margolis, she slips right through his fingers and dies lying directly next to him. Her father crashes a plane and kills all the innocent people on board because of her death. Yet, Jesse thinks that he could have saved her. She wouldn’t have died if it weren’t for him. And if she hadn’t died, neither would the people on the plane.


In season three, Jesse gets nearly beaten to death by Agent Schrader. That’s enough and Jesse wants out. Yet, Walter finally acknowledges his good work so he can’t give up now. That is, until shit hits the fan and he’s forced to shoot Gale Boetticher, a relatively innocent guy, at point blank. Gale didn’t deserve to die, but here Jesse actively shot him dead. Season four involves the messy death of Victor as a warning to both Walter and Jesse. The two are constantly dancing on eggshells because Gus isn’t going to put up with any more of their antics. Jesse gets a confidence boost after his trip to Mexico only to become an active participant in Gus’s murder.


In season five, Jesse finally feels important, only to have it turn completely against him. Mike, who Jesse sees as a second surrogate father figure, is probably dead. Walter has gone completely crazy on him and Jesse is finally able to read his manipulation tactics. Then, of course, Walter puts a hit out on him and we know that their relationship is seriously screwed. After five seasons of only having each other, really, Jesse is on his own again. Of course, Jesse’s time as a meth slave for the nazis is probably life-changing, but we don’t really get to see anything about his development during and after his slavery.


A lot of bad things happen to Jesse that affect him in one way or another but only a few really change Jesse as much as his interactions with children do. The most prominent non-children events are Jane’s death and its consequences and the murder of Gale Boetticher. Jane’s death is Jesse’s wake up call to how harmful drugs really are. Gale is his first blatant murder that wasn’t necessarily out of self defense. Both events are large contributors to Jesse’s guilt issue.


Jesse Pinkman’s maturity growth and emotional decay are the key parts of his overall transformation throughout Breaking Bad. Jesse is forced to grow because he is moralistic and is eaten by a spiraling guilt complex. Events involving children fuel Jesse’s moral struggle with guilt more often than any other kind of event. Thus, Jesse’s relationships with children are vital parts of Breaking Bad because they continuously push Jesse to drastically evolve as a character.



16 April 2014

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