Jesse Pinkman had it rough. So rough that, if you’re like me, you may feel a tear or two of happiness form in your eyes as you think about that final moment of a battered Jesse driving away, laugh-crying, finally (maybe) free. While, admittedly, some of Jesse’s problems stemmed from his own bad decisions, he became a character we rooted for, a character we wanted to see escape.
Jesse’s an addict, and in a society that tends to shun addicts, Jesse could have just been another one-dimensional worthless druggie. But Breaking Bad did something great by giving Jesse a conscience and a heart and humanity, qualities TV and movies often ignore when portraying addicts. We get to see Jesse’s complexity in the episode “Peekaboo” when he sets off to retrieve stolen money and drugs for Skinny Pete and ends up forming a bond with the offenders’ son, a toddler left alone at home. This kid, a red-headed little boy with snot dripping out of his nose and a Marshmallow Fluff mustache, is the product of two addicts much worse off than Jesse. When the parents finally do get home, they’re dirty, scabbed, and incoherent — not exactly the picture of good parents.
Jesse puts on a tough-guy face when he’s dealing with the couple, pointing a gun at them throughout his tirade and overall acting like a careless, violent man no better than Walter White. Unlike Walter though, Jesse still keeps the kid in mind during his mission. He panics when the kid goes missing, frantically asking the parents where he went. He berates the mother for not taking proper care of her son. At this point, protecting the child is as important to him as doing what he was there to do.