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Jesse's Best Father Figure On Breaking Bad Isn't Who You'd Think

No one in Breaking Bad is winning Father of the Year, but you could say that multiple characters showed at least a vague interest in becoming a father figure type for troubled and traumatized meth addict-dealer-maker Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul).

Jesse's relationship with his biological parents is at best tense and at worst non-existent thanks to his drug habit and criminal activity — and that's before the series even starts. When we meet him, he's already lost the relative to whom he was closest: His grandma, in whose house he's living.

In the early seasons, it looks like Walter White (Bryan Cranston) might step into the role of replacement parent, but that's before the worst thing Walter White did on Breaking Bad, which was watch Jesse's girlfriend Jane (Krysten Ritter) die from an overdose without doing anything to help. From there, their relationship only gets more toxic, thanks to various betrayals and attempted murders.

So, if Walt falters as Jesse's would-be father figure, who steps up? Jesse's best father figure on Breaking Bad isn't who you'd think — and he has his own sad reasons for struggling to help his would-be adoptive son.

Mike tries to help Jesse, to a point

The only reason fans got to know and love Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) — a man of few words and many suspicious talents — was because Jesse needed help.

After Jane's death, Walt calls lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), who sends in a clean-up guy: Mike. Originally, Saul was supposed to go himself, but Odenkirk was busy shooting How I Met Your Mother and wasn't available, so Banks was hired to play Mike. The gig turned from one-off to unusually long-term, as Banks appeared in episodes through season 5 (until the character's talents for avoiding a violent death finally came up short), and then went on to appear in spin-off Better Call Saul.

Mike's initial impression of Jesse was dismissive. He warned his boss Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) off of dealing with Jesse and Walt, seeing Jesse as just another untrustworthy junkie. But he slowly warmed to the troubled kid, and occasionally tried to guide him towards better life choices.

Walt was more overt about his affection for Jesse, but at the same time he constantly manipulated his young partner and dragged him further into his own dangerous world, all purely for selfish reasons. Mike, on the other hand, was externally aloof, but tried to get Jesse to see the trouble into which Walt was pulling him. His last interaction with Jesse is a perfect example: After Mike declares he's out of the meth business, Jesse tells Mike that he hopes to, "See you around." Mike, however, bluntly says he has no intention of reuniting once he's walked away, but he does offer Jesse some final advice that Walt would never have given him: "Kid, just look out for yourself."

The Breaking Bad cast has their own theories on Jesse's father figures

Walt and Jesse's relationship comes to a suitably explosive end in the last few minutes of Breaking Bad's final episode. Having turned his former partner over to the Aryan Brotherhood before leaving New Mexico, Walt originally plans to kill Jesse along with the white supremacist gang when he returns. In case it's been a while since you watched the show or had the entire Breaking Bad story finally explained, Walt believes Jesse has betrayed him and is making and selling their trademark blue meth with the Aryan Brotherhood as an equal partner. Once he realizes Jesse is being held hostage and forced to cook, however, Walt decides on the spot to spare him. During his rigged artillery bombardment of the compound, he shields Jesse from the bullets, getting shot in the process.

Cranston felt that this was a suitable testament to their rollercoaster relationship. He told Entertainment Weekly that Walt's impulsive self-sacrifice proved that even at that point, he saw Jesse as something like a son. "There is more than familiarity. It's deep-rooted. And it's so true. Because sometimes you don't know the depth of what you feel until you're tested," he said.

Meanwhile, Banks has his own view on Mike's feelings towards Jesse. He told The Guardian that Mike's guilt over the death of his son fundamentally broke him and made it hard for him to get close to people. "I don't think he ever wanted to take Jesse on as a son, but I think he instinctually loved him. Mike has a lot of love in him," he said.