In the Breaking Bad universe, Alburquerque is full of unique characters, all of whom have some kind of role in the criminal underworld. Even the most minor characters, such as Old Joe who runs the scrapyard or the nameless arms dealer, are more fascinating than most main characters in other shows.
When it comes to the main characters of this crime drama, the caliber of acting is on another level, and they elevate the already incredible dialogue. They each have their time in the sun, and there are seasons that focus as much on the supporting cast as they do on Heisenberg himself.
Season 1: Tuco Salamanca
Breaking Bad is written incredibly tightly, but it still took some time for audiences to get used to the world. As brilliant as Bryan Cranston as Walter White, it was still a little jarring seeing him in such a dramatic role coming off his seven-year tenure as Hal in Malcolm in the Middle. And there are rough edges to some of the other characters that weren’t smoothed over until season 2, as Hank was much more of a typical alpha male in the early episodes.
However, when it comes to Tuco, who is essentially the season’s main antagonist, he perfectly captured the tone that the series would pin down later on. The meth dealer is intense, intimidating and kind of hilarious. His unhinged personality makes it clear that he can snap at any minute, which makes him a fascinating character who was gone from Breaking Bad too soon. Fans did at least get a lot more of the character in the Breaking Bad spinoff, Better Call Saul.
Season 2: Saul Goodman
Season 2 is where all the pieces really fell into place for Walt to properly build his empire. He takes down Tuco, becomes known for having completely pure crystal meth, and starts dealing with Gustavo Fring. More than anything, he was aided by his criminal lawyer, Saul Goodman. Usually, when a main character leaves a TV show but the TV show continues, something feels missing. With Breaking Bad, it’s the opposite. Saul was introduced midway through season 2, and rewatching season 1 is strange without him and his bold and brash schemes.
It was inspiring casting, as comedian Bob Odenkirk brought an equal amount of charm and sliminess to the character. Those are two contrasting qualities that wouldn’t ordinarily work, but Saul somehow pulls it off. The character is so entertaining that his prequel series, Better Call Saul, is as popular as Breaking Bad. The show has even lasted longer than its big brother. The spinoff is entering its sixth season, whereas Breaking Bad had only five.
Season 3: Jesse Pinkman
Jesse was entertaining from the get-go, and whether it’s his hilarious excitement over magnets or the blowfish discussion, the character is at the center of most of Breaking Bad’s funniest scenes. But that isn’t why he’s the MVP of season 3.
As Aaron Paul was a mostly unknown actor when he was cast for Breaking Bad, audiences saw the actor’s skills develop as the show went on. Not only that, but the character developed and became more three-dimensional alongside Paul’s acting. The greatest showcase of both elements is in season 3. Jesse is still reeling from the death of Jane, which he thinks was his fault, and because of this, he falls back into drug addiction and begins a downward spiral of self-loathing. With Walter manipulating him to commit crimes and murder Gale, Jesse’s season arc is emotionally exhausting. Though the show is about Walter’s transformation from Mr. Chips to Scarface, season 3 was Jesse’s season.
Season 4: Gustavo Fring
Tensions between Gustavo Fring and Walter rose throughout season 3, leading to the riveting game of cat-and-mouse that is the whole of season 4. From the very first episode of the season, it was clear that Fring meant business, and he didn’t even have to say anything. In the season opener, “Box Cutter,” Gus has just one scene (besides the flashback with Gale) and almost no dialogue.
Gus walks into the meth lab where Walt and Jesse are being held, then slices his loyal henchman’s throat just to send a message. After commiting the cold-blooded murder, he casually walks out as if it was just another day at the office. These sadistic actions continue throughout the whole of the season, cementing Gus as one of the most iconic villains ever. And the season ends with a deservingly theatrical death, as the antagonist gets half of his face blown right off.
Season 5, Part 1: Walter White
Fans can argue forever over what was the worst thing that Walt did, whether it was not turning Jane on her side when she was vomiting in her sleep, or ordering Jesse to shoot Gale. But one thing that’s clear is that Walter became more and more evil with each season. While seasons 1 and 2 see Tuco as the villain, and seasons 3 and 4 see Gustavo Fring as the villain, Walt as the villain of season 5.
In season 5, Walter White did things that went against his personality, but he was simply turning more into Heisenberg. He very much consumed the role of the boss of a drug empire, and he played into it in many ways. In one of the most impressive but horrific actions, Walt has 10 inmates killed across three different prisons within a timeframe of just two minutes. And as is the case with so many drug lords and other criminal kingpins, Walt grew too full of himself. That’s clear from one of the best monologues in the series at the beginning of “Say My Name.”
Season 5, Part 2: Hank Schrader
The second half of season 5 is essentially a sixth season, as the two halves were released a year apart, and there was a four-month-long break between shooting. Part 2 picks up literally where Part 1 left off, which was Hank’s epiphany on the toilet when he realized that Walter was, in fact, Heisenberg.
From that point on, Hank is the actual protagonist of the show, as he does everything he can to put an end to Heisenberg’s reign of terror. It sees him and Steve Gomez, the two halves of Breaking Bad‘s greatest bromance, in top form as they work together to bring Walt down. In the end, Hank goes down in a way that only a hero like Hank can: in a blaze of glory, following a shootout with neo-Nazis.