Top Ten Best “Breaking Bad” Characters and Why

With the “Breaking Bad” movie “El Camino” coming this Friday, I thought the best way to honor one of the greatest TV shows was by making a top ten list of my favorite “Breaking Bad” characters.

10. Todd Alquist (Jesse Plemons)

Todd is sort of the anti-Jesse Pinkman of the show. Jesse has a brash and rude exterior but is soft at heart, while season five newcomer Todd has friendly, approachable exterior and a cold, hollow interior devoid of any semblance of real emotion. Plemons’ performance of Todd is as scary as it is engaging. Todd is a sociopath through and through, and seems to have, at best, a childish understanding of morality. He’s utterly unrepentant of his actions, and makes a fine addition to “Breaking Bad’s” fantastic set of villains.

9. Tuco Salmanca (Raymond Cruz)

Tuco has the honor of being on this list because he is one of the most batshit, unhinged, out of control and hilarious characters on the show. He unfortunately only has four appearances in the series proper, but goddamn does he leave an impression. When Cruz is on screen as Tuco, you never know what he’s gonna do. One minute he’s buddy-buddy with you, the next he’s beating you. Despite all this insanity, there are moments of depth to Tuco. His aforementioned talent of cooking is one of them, but he’s completely dedicated to his family, and takes care of his wheelchair-bound grandfather, Hector. 

8. Gale Botticher (David Costabile)

Despite having very few appearances, Gale is a character near and dear to my heart. He’s the dorkiest and kindest meth manufacturer you’ll ever see in entertainment and this unusual dynamic just makes him loveable. On one hand, we get a genius geek who does cheesy karaoke and quotes Walt Whitman. On the other hand, you get one of the best meth cooks in the show’s universe, rivaling even Walter and Jesse’s talents. Costabile breathes life into this oddball character, making him a definite favorite of mine.

7. Skyler White (Anna Gunn)

Despite all the negative hype surrounding her, I found myself often rooting for her as Walter continued to slide further and further into villainy, and she called him out on many of his moral failings. However, she’s not too clean herself either; she plays a huge role in the financial aspect of Walt’s criminal lifestyle and even gets a thrill from it. Despite that, Skyler has enough of a conscience to realize that this lifestyle has real consequences and Walt’s a danger to everyone around him. Gunn is an incredible actress, especially in terms of facial acting. Some of her best moments come from her reactions to Walt’s lies and criminal lifestyle.

6. Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk)

The sleaziest, grimiest lawyer you’ll ever see on TV (or Netflix), Saul Goodman has the appearance of a cheap, dime-store lawyer with the knowledge of a Harvard Law laureate. He’s silver-tongued and thinks fast on his feet, confounding any cops that are on the heels of clients, like Walter or Jesse. Odenkirk turns the sleaze dial up to 11 in his performance of Goodman with bad combovers, tacky suits and off-color, slimeball comments and jokes. Saul was such a popular character that he got his own spin-off prequel show, “Better Call Saul.”

5. Walter White (Bryan Cranston)

Bear with me, dear reader. While I love (and hate) Mr. White as much as the next fan, and I firmly believe that Cranston gave the performance of a lifetime, it ultimately came down to a matter of personal preference. Walt’s efforts to manipulate those around him were great to watch, but it only made me like those affected characters more. With all that being said, Cranston naturally shines in the leading role, being a brilliant family man and chemist way in over his head in the drug trade, whose morality degrades as the business takes a toll on him and his loved ones. His desperation to secure his family’s finances before his death from cancer is heartbreaking and tragic.  

4. Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito)

Gus Fring, the owner of the successful chicken restaurant chain Los Pollos Hermanos and a multi-million dollar drug empire, is who Walt wishes he was. While Walt is desperately trying to stay one step ahead of who has it out for him, and takes his business very personally, Gus is firmly in control and is all business. Esposito’s performance is brilliant. At the drop of a hat Gus can go from a cheerful, affable community leader to a brutal and murderous drug lord. Gus also has a more sympathetic side to him, being a benevolent boss to all his employees.  

3. Mike Erhmantraut (Jonathan Banks)

I’d say “Breaking Bad” is a show about duplicity. Characters constantly lead double lives and have hidden selves, creating fascinating and unusual character contrasts. Mike Erhmantraut is the perfect embodiment of that, being an incredibly effective hitman and cleaner for Fring, but also a loving and doting grandfather. Some of the best moments of the series are his interactions with his granddaughter which are usually followed up with him quickly gunning down rival drug dealers. Banks’ stoic, world-weary performance of Mike, coupled with occasional glimpses of humanity and warmth makes Mike an amazing character.

2. Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul)

Jesse is the heart of the series, without question or comparison. When you first see him, you think he’s just gonna be a dipsh*t, wannabe gangster who’s gonna get whacked early on. However, Jesse evolves over time, showing his soft side as the business takes a toll on him. He’s forced to compromise his morals, he suffers humiliation upon humiliation. And yet, despite all that, Jesse always tries to do the right thing, and Paul’s performance of Jesse is powerful and profound. Jesse’s partnership with Walt is the cornerstone of the show; without Jesse, Breaking Bad would cease to be.

1. Hank Schrader (Dean Norris)

It may be a bit surprising to see Hank take the number one spot out all of Breaking Bad’s fantastic characters, but here we are. Dean Norris’ performance of Hank, Walt’s brother-in-law, is the stuff of legends. He perfectly blends the personality of a boisterous frat-bro with that of a noble, hard-nosed DEA agent. Beneath all that is a loving and caring family man who’s been changed by the insurmountable horrors and violence that drug empires can cause. While he becomes a lot more morally questionable in the final few seasons, he’s always on the side of the law. Hank’s a true hero, through and through, and makes him my favorite (and in my opinion) the best Breaking Bad character.