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Two Main Characters You Never Realized Didn't Meet On Breaking Bad

If the iconic AMC drama Breaking Bad were a galaxy, then the yawning black hole of moral corruption at its center would be Walter White (Bryan Cranston). Diagnosed with terminal cancer, the high school chemistry teacher devised a perfectly insane plan to provide for his wife Skyler (Anna Gunn), their son Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte), and their unborn daughter in the event of Walter's death: To cook and sell ultra-pure meth, and lots of it, with the assistance of Walter's former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). Rather like a black hole, Walter's greed and ruthlessness affected everyone in his orbit — exerting a pull from which few ever broke free. From "criminal lawyer" Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) to Jesse, many were changed forever by their association with the infamous drug lord, known to the dregs of the Albuquerque underworld as Heisenberg.

While Walter's love for his family was genuine, he could be shockingly cruel and callous toward those he ostensibly cared for. Of those in his life, Walt Jr. and Jesse were perhaps the two people Walter White loved the most. Once, in a drugged and unguarded moment, he even confused the former for the latter. On its surface, then, it may seem a little strange that the two young men never met, throughout Breaking Bad's entire run.

Walter White went out of his way to keep Walt Jr. and Jesse from meeting

This seems odd. Because as cautious as Walter could often be, he also possessed a streak of hubris about a mile wide, which at times overrode his decision-making process. For the most part, he strenuously attempted to keep his home life and his double life as Heisenberg separate, even after Skyler became a reluctant (but increasingly participatory) partner in his crimes. But in Breaking Bad's later seasons, Walter seemed to become enamored of his own mythology: He was the great and terrible Heisenberg, and it would take more than a minor gaffe or strategic blunder to bring him down. 

For evidence of this, look no further than the season five episode "Buyout," in which Walter insists that Jesse stay for dinner after he unexpectedly visits the White home while Skyler is present. What follows is one of the tensest (and most hilarious) dinner scenes in recent memory, but if Walter is concerned that Jesse will spill some secret that he's kept from Skyler — of which the young man knows plenty — he doesn't show it. He makes this gamble for the sole purpose of getting under Skyler's skin. However, during this dinner, Walt Jr. and Holly are staying with Hank (Dean Norris) and his wife Marie (Betsy Brandt), at Skyler's insistence. 

If it feels as if Walter made more of an effort to keep Walt Jr. away from any aspect of his criminal life than he did with anyone else, it's because he almost certainly did. 

Walter White shielded his son from his double life for many reasons

On the one hand, Walter's efforts to keep his son in the dark could easily be chalked up to the fact that, for all of his faults, Walter was (for the most part) a loving and attentive father to Walt Jr., and he didn't want his son to know any part of the monster that he gradually became throughout the series. On the other, one could make the case that Walter's extreme diligence in shielding his boy from his criminal activities had another explanation: Walter's near-unerring instinct to cover his own ass.

Walt Jr. (or "Flynn" as he liked to called during those times he was feeling rebellious toward his father) was portrayed as being an uncommonly sharp kid, and while he practically idolized Walter, his B.S. Meter would have shot right into the red were he to have found out that his dear old dad regularly associated with a "lowlife" like Jesse — and Walter would surely have known this. Walter also knew that if there was one man in Walt Jr.'s life that the boy might just have idolized even more, it was Hank, the equally loving and attentive uncle in whom Walt Jr. regularly confided.

Were Walt Jr. to have voiced even a casual suspicion in the presence of Hank, the latter's formidable instincts as a DEA agent may have taken over, and led him to sniff out Walter's criminal empire far earlier than he did. It was likely this gut-level knowledge that kept Walter from ever allowing an opportunity for Jesse and his son to be in each others' presence — and while that makes a ton of narrative sense, it's a bit unfortunate for fans. Cranston, Mitte, and Paul inhabited their roles like few actors on television ever have, and we're betting that there are quite a few Breaking Bad fans who would have loved to see them in a room together, narrative integrity be damned.