Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why Breaking Bad Fans Are Divided On This Terrifying Character

One of the more interesting things about the classic AMC series Breaking Bad is how it succeeded in getting us to sympathize with some very unsympathetic people. This is particularly true of the absolute louse at its center, high school chemistry teacher-turned-meth kingpin Walter White (Bryan Cranston), who actually begins the series deserving of our sympathy; anyone can relate to the kind of terror and existential anguish a terminal cancer diagnosis like Walter's might bring. Of course, his reaction to that diagnosis — hiding it from his family and roping in wayward former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) to help him cook meth to provide for them after he's gone — was highly questionable, but Cranston's portrayal had us on board with Walter even as his decisions went from questionable to outrageous to horrifying.

Likewise, Paul's performance as Jesse had us rooting for the kid even as he wore his character flaws — an unearned sense of entitlement, an allergy to responsibility, a quick temper — squarely on his sleeve. Viewers even developed a fondness for such morally shady characters as "criminal lawyer" Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) and fixer Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks). Yet, one character, introduced in Breaking Bad's fifth and final season, wasn't there to garner viewers' sympathies, but to terrify them. When Walter and Jesse begin using houses that are scheduled to be bug-bombed for their cooking operation, Ehrmantraut secures them the unquestioning obedience of the pest control company's criminally savvy employees — which include Todd Alquist (Jesse Plemons), whose connection to white supremacist groups will prove to have a short-lived advantage for Walter from a business standpoint. From a personal standpoint, virtually everything goes wrong for Walter and Jesse from the moment they lay eyes on Todd — because his smiling, pleasant exterior masks the fact that he is an actual, irredeemable monster who is capable of damn near anything.

Fans are split on whether anyone with Todd's psychological profile actually exists

In a Reddit thread (which contains NSFW language), Breaking Bad fans recently opened up a discussion about whether Todd's extreme two-faced nature had any basis in reality. This is a guy who was, on the surface, polite and courteous; he had an obvious respect for Walter, and even demonstrated a boyish charm in the presence of Walter and Jesse's business partner Lydia Rodarte-Quayle (Laura Fraser). He also, without hesitation, shot a 12-year-old boy dead when the youngster inadvertently witnessed criminal activity; participated in holding Jesse captive in a hole in the ground, forcing him to cook; and killed Jesse's girlfriend Andrea in front of him when he tried to escape. 

User devildog3375 opened the discussion. "I have never seen a character in a TV show more f***ed up than Todd," they wrote. "That dude is so nonchalant about killing a child, torturing Jesse, tormenting [Walter's wife] Skylar, and threatening [his daughter] Holly all the while keeping a smile and acting as if nothing is wrong. It looks like he compartmentalizes all the insane evil he commits."

Wrote one user in response, "[Todd is] just psychologically unrealistic. The whole 'acts nice but is a total psychopath' thing is just for TV, in reality there's not any person who's just going to kill a kid and not experience some strong emotions." But user detectiveDollar had a pretty strong refutation for that assertion, writing, "It's not unrealistic, he's just extremely compartmentalized emotionally. [Jeffrey] Dahmer was extremely kind and disarming, which is how he was able to attract his victims."

That's true of a great many real-life psychopaths, but the original poster was unmoved. "I've read this exact criticism of him before about how unrealistic his character is from a psychological standpoint," they replied. "It's definitely for cinematic affect. It has me posting on Reddit after all."

Jesse Plemons thinks that Todd's duality is what makes him so scary

When he was asked for his opinion on Todd's psychological makeup in a chat with Rolling Stone during the airing of Breaking Bad's final season, Plemons had a few interesting observations. "The way the character was described in the beginning was 'fresh-faced, completely innocuous, a guy you wouldn't really even notice,'" the actor said. "He's like an ambush predator; he seems really, really harmless, and I think that's the scariest part. And I think that's why Walt was intrigued by him; Todd seems like a guy who's with his church group, but he's more calculating than he seems."

Although the series never made it plain, Plemons also shared some thoughts that he'd had about what made Todd tick — opining in particular that he probably fell in with his Nazi gang leader uncle, Jack Welker (Michael Bowen) out of necessity, and not necessarily because he subscribes to his ideology. "[Todd] probably didn't have a father figure, and his mother was probably an addict or something [...] And I think Uncle Jack gave Todd a safe haven," said Plemons. "I guess it's obvious that they're part of the Aryan Brotherhood, right? We were really thinking about that angle, and not a stereotypical gang of hard guys. This is really all that these guys have: their tight-knit, brutal family."

Plemons obviously put a lot of thought into the role of Todd, and it showed up on screen. On a series fully stocked with likable, relatable characters who regularly do awful things, he created one that was singular: a character so outwardly pleasant, and yet so completely morally bankrupt, that he's been called the most terrifying, villainous figure of Breaking Bad's entire run.