Like most Breaking Bad fans, I have grown to adore Jesse Pinkman over the past five seasons. The critical consensus is that the twitchy tweaker who became Walter White’s unlikely partner in meth cooking has grown into nothing short of the show’s moral compass, and the single character it would upset viewers most to lose in these final episodes. Although I’m not at all happy about it, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is precisely why, before Breaking Bad ends — and maybe even next week — Jesse Pinkman needs to die.Think about where we are in the show: with three episodes left, Breaking Bad‘s three most important characters (Walter, Hank, and Jesse) are in the midst of a desert shootout worthy of a classic Western. It’s been heavily suggested that Hank will die in this fight; his phone conversation with Marie laid it on particularly thick, plus we know from the flash-forward that began the Season 5 premiere that Walt will remain free and alive for long enough to celebrate his 52nd birthday in a diner. For this to happen, Hank’s going to need to be out of commission, if not actually dead.
But is Hank the only person the white-power gang will kill? I think that if he were, Vince Gilligan and his writers would have ended the episode with his death or restrained themselves from such on-the-nose foreshadowing. My hypothesis is that they’re engaging in a bit of misdirection: Breaking Bad wants us to prepare ourselves for Hank’s demise so we’ll be even more shocked when Jesse goes down, too. He is, after all, the person the Aryans have actually come to kill.
It isn’t just the plot that requires Jesse to die, though. Gilligan has suggested that death is too good for Walter White, and Walt’s “don’t bother bringing me down, I’m dying of cancer anyway” routine has begun to give the impression that he would consider going gentle into that good night without facing any additional consequences a victory. In order for this series’ hero-turned-villain to really get what’s coming to him, he needs to have everyone and everything he cares about taken away. And as the past few episodes have implied, Walter may have an even deeper attachment to Jesse than to his own family at this point. Sure, he called for the murder of this man who he apparently loves like a son, but that only means it will haunt him more.
And speaking of guilt, death may be the best possible outcome for Jesse. Consider the alternatives: Despite teaming up with the DEA, he’s still got a long prison sentence to look forward to if he and either Hank or Gomez make it out of the desert alive. Even if he does come out of the fight free and unharmed by either Walt or the Aryans, he’s done enough horrible things, and he now understands the magnitude of what he’s done thoroughly enough, that he’ll never recover from the guilt that’s already been eating him alive for several seasons. For a character who will otherwise be doomed to rot in jail or perhaps commit suicide, a noble death in an archetypal Western gun battle — one that finally finds him on the good guys’ side — doesn’t sound so bad at all.
Of course, killing off Jesse won’t just impact the show’s characters; it will also leave Breaking Bad‘s fans deflated and bewildered. That alone might be the most important reason that he needs to die. As long as Jesse is around, looking frustratingly sweet and punctuating his lines with “bitch,” there will still be some element of lightness to Breaking Bad. Because he’s the one we relate to and laugh with, the show will never get as dark as it needs to be while Jessie is alive. And I don’t know about you, but I’m hoping Walter White’s final hours are pitch fucking black. Bitch.