As anyone that’s followed my posts or Tweets know, I’m obsessed with Breaking Bad. Admittedly, my foray into the show was similar to how I stumbled kicking and screaming into Harry Potter. Initially, with the latter, I rejected it. I said I wasn’t going to read those lame books. Then, I read Chamber of Secrets and was hooked. Similarly, with Breaking Bad, I leisurely watched it from time to time, often taking long breaks in between episodes (sometimes even right in the middle of an episode). Finally, around maybe mid-way through the second season, I was hooked; ergo, I’m now obsessed. The show is immaculately brilliant all-around. Certainly, there’s much to be said about how well-written and how well-acted it is, but the characters is what helps make the show and their particular storyline arcs therein from the series beginning towards the looming end.
When I started thinking in my head, “Who are my favorite Breaking Bad characters?” I began to realize just how many great characters this show has. And they’re all well-developed and as I said, well-acted. It’s incredibly difficult to narrow a list like this down and order it accordingly. Additionally, it’s hard to establish some criteria in which to base it on. Obviously, it’s subjective, but am I basing it on which characters I actually like or just how well-written they are? Also, should I take into consideration the acting too? If I did it based on actually liking the characters, Walter wouldn’t even make the list because from a character standpoint, I think he’s a piece of psychopathic shit. Therefore, I’m just going to base it on how well-written I think the character is and well-developed.
Also, the Breaking Bad Wiki is a valuable source I will use to make sure I get my facts and so forth correct. Let’s get started. Finally, keep in mind; this is a favorite characters list, so I’m writing this in mind for fans of the show. Therefore, spoilers abound. Additionally, Breaking Bad is a mature show and as such, I evoke the right to use mature language – fair warning.
#8 – Skyler White
I’ve seen some spellings where her name is spelled “Skylar.” If you prefer that, then go ignore my spelling. In any event, Skyler’s a great character essentially because she’s a strong female character able to stand up next to the manipulative and psychopathic Walter. Now, granted, she didn’t get there overnight. I think she was always that “take no shit” wife, but she had a bit of perhaps willful ignorance in the earlier seasons. And she had her breakdown moments later on when learning of his meth activities. Still, she was strong and perhaps her grandest moment (in terms of sticking it to Walter), came in the appropriately titled episode, “I.F.T,” the third episode of season three. She says to Walter to end the episode, “I fucked Ted.”
Skyler like many of the characters on this list is full of moral complexity. She’s certainly terrified for her children’s safety and it’s clear she considers them first and foremost, so viewing her behavior and actions through that lens; it’s somewhat understandable to sympathize with her. At the same time, I couldn’t help but wish she had helped Hank after Hank learned Walter was Heisenberg.
#7 – Tuco Salamnca
Well, that’s a curveball, right? Out of all the characters and in only an eight-person list, why Tuco? Because he was fucking terrifying. He was like the antithesis to Gustavo Fring and it was great. In fact, it was when Tuco got more involved in the show that kept me going in the early stages. He was just a brutal, in-your-fucking-face, bloody-knuckled son of a bitch. Guys like him scare me because of their unpredictability. Unpredictability unnerves me, but when that unpredictability is predicated on violence and aggression, I’m shitting my pants. His best scene comes in the seventh episode of the first season, “A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal” when he – in one of those unpredictable violent outbursts – kills his own henchman, No-Doze, supposedly speaks for him, Tuco, high on meth, beats the fucking hell out of him. It’s hard to watch.
Tuco was representative, to me at least, of just how far Breaking Bad was willing to push the envelope and of course, he was only the beginning.
#6 – Saul Goodman
First off, I went half-way through season five before learning from others that his name is a play on “it’s all good man.” That’s simple, but brilliant and suitable for a guy like Goodman. A show like this has to have the sleazy, corrupt and dirty lawyer. That’s not exactly a new concept, but even so, the character is great. He always seems to have some kinda answer to help Walter or Jesse get out of a problem (they often created because they didn’t listen to Saul; go figure). He is undoubtedly good at what he does. His motivation is as one would expect: profit. For the right price, he’ll do almost anything. I think what Saul does most for me in this show, other than Hank, is offer a bit of goofy comedy to an otherwise very serious and very dark subject matter. I don’t have any particular standout scenes in mind from him, however.
#5 – Mike Ehrmantraut
He’s like the grandfather I would want, if I didn’t mind the whole assassin bit. And that is exactly the dichotomy inherent in his character that makes him so cool; he has an obvious sensitive side, whether in playing with or otherwise giving money to his granddaughter or in his father-son relationship with Jesse, but then, there is also the bad-ass old dude that will shoot you through a wall or keep going forward even if his ear gets clipped by a bullet. He doesn’t seem to actually enjoy killing, but he’ll do it because he wants the money and he’s, nevertheless, quite skilled at it. He’s not wild like Tuco or manipulative like Walter; he just does what’s necessary.
His death actually turned out to be quite sad, but yet, in true Mike fashion, bad-ass anyhow. “Shut the fuck up. Let me die in peace,” he says to Walter.
#4 – Gustavo Fring
So, as I said before, Tuco was the in-your-face bad-ass; Gustavo is the much more suave, subtle bad-ass. And that is far, far more frightening. He’s calculating, he’s cerebral and above all else, cold. He has no limits. He will use a kid to his advantage, if he wants. I particularly liked his backstory with the Mexican drug cartels and how he rose to prominence. Essentially, the death of his business partner fueled him on until it came full circle wherein he enacted revenge on the cartels by drugging them. Such a great scene, but an even better one is the first episode of season four, “Box Cutter.” Honestly, this is one of my favorite scenes I’ve ever witnessed on television. It was intense, jaw-dropping brutality. And the motherfucker didn’t say one word until afterwards. It was completely methodical, deliberate and disgusting, quite frankly.
In a weird way, I was sad about his death too, even though it was his time to go. There was nothing left for him to do. I respect him in a you’re-so-brilliant-but-evil way.
#3 – Hank Schrader
Hank’s character evolution or maybe devolution is fascinating to watch. He opens the series as the loud-mouth, somewhat abrasively funny, DEA agent brother-in-law to Walter. He’s certainly a tad arrogant and ready to take down some cocksucking drug dealers, as he may say. Then, he gets into the shootout with Tuco and his nerve is noticeably shaken. He’s obsessed with catching “Heisenberg,” but now he’s a bit more jittery and unsure of himself. It certainly doesn’t help when he later has that run in with the two Mexican assassins. That was by far one of the most intense scenes I’ve ever seen. I was screaming at the television for Hank to chamber that fucking gun. Come on, Hank, don’t die!
And now, as fate would have it, Hank, the earlier loud-mouth, arrogant DEA agent, is being cornered and boxed in by his nerdy brother-in-law, Walter. Hank knows he’s Heisenberg and that’s absolutely crumbling to his psyche. All that time searching, all that he’s sacrificed and his own brother-in-law is a drug kingpin. You can see the pent up rage he has every time he’s within a few feet of Walter’s. It’s great to watch, but sad too because Hank has lost almost everything.
#2 – Jesse Pinkman
Admittedly, I didn’t care much for the Jesse character early on, but he grew on me. While the show is about Walter “breaking bad,” I think the juxtaposition is Jesse “breaking good.” In a nutshell, the dumb druggy kid from the beginning has become the moral bedrock of the show later on. He cares and has a heart. He struggles with addiction, depression, parent issues and yes, he helps in the distribution of meth; and yes, he killed Gale. But after all of that, he’s not a bad guy to me. I just think he’s easily manipulated and Walter’s a master manipulator; ergo, Jesse made some bad mistakes. And clearly, the point is, he regrets those mistakes deeply.
Jesse’s a great character because he’s real and gritty. He says “yo” and “bitch” and gets by on pure street smarts. There are many great Jesse moments scattered throughout the show; it’s difficult to narrow it down to just one. Overall, though, as I said, it’s his character arc that I am most impressed with.
#1 – Walter White
How can it be anyone other than Walter? The show is clearly representative of the arc he goes through. He begins as someone we sympathize with. Yeah, he’s making meth, but fuck, man; he’s got cancer, mounting medical bills, a handicap son, and an unborn daughter. He wasn’t a killer or a rapist or a pedophile; just a dude making drugs under shitty circumstances. I liked him and felt for him. And even after some questionable acts, like killing those drug dealers to save Jesse with the car and then the headshots, I still was like, “Yikes, but I’m still with you Walter.” The final straw for sure was the poisoning of Brock and just the pure, unadulterated way in which he manipulates everyone.
He’s an arrogant, egotistical, textbook psychopath. He started out as someone doing something out of necessity and grew into someone trying to acquire an empire of status. I mean, fuck, the dude created an alter ego for himself. The way he completely shut down Skylar by essentially saying, “What the fuck are you going to do? You can’t do anything. I’m fucking Heisenberg,” was awful. Later on, his arrogance in dealing with Hank, after all he did to Hank, was abhorrent, “Tread lightly.” Come on. How can anyone sympathize with him still, I have no idea. Yeah, he manipulated Hank, Skylar, Jesse and countless others, let Jane die, killed Mike in cold blood, had those prisoners killed by neo-Nazis, and so on, but I think what gets me the most is how he manipulates his own handicap fucking son. How can you do that? Does he not have any standards or limits?
Walter’s one of the greatest characters in television history. For my money, given the television shows I’ve seen, I would say he is the greatest. Going from a character I sympathize with to a character I despise is an extraordinary feat of storytelling, writing and acting. It’s actually weird to go back and see some of those earlier scenes again because it’s a completely different character, but here’s the thing; Heisenberg was always there. Undoubtedly, at the end of the day, Walter made choices, cancer or not, and those choices over time manifested into the alter ego or the in actuality, the real ego, that is Heisenberg.