I’ve gone back and forth on whether I think The Wire is better than Breaking Bad, and this week, I’m going with Breaking Bad as being the greatest TV show of all time. It almost isn’t fair, as The Wire doesn’t have an equivalent to Better Call Saul, which has some of the best episodes in television history, all by itself.
Not only does Breaking Bad also have some of the best TV episodes, it also has some of the greatest characters to ever grace the TV screen. In fact, I really struggled to come up with a top ten best characters on Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul list, so I had to make it a top 13 list since I didn’t want to exclude these three other characters. Oh, and shout-out to Hank, devoted henchman Huell, and Howard Hamlin, who was never really a villain. I was extremely close to putting them on this list as well, but they just didn’t make the cut.
13. Chuck McGill (Better Call Saul)
I mentioned in the intro how Howard Hamlin was never really the villain. But, the same cannot be said for Jimmy McGill’s older brother, Chuck, who made Jimmy’s life a living hell with his passive aggressive nature.
Played expertly by Michael McKean, Chuck was in fact sympathetic to an extent, because he was mentally suffering from electromagnetic hypersensitivity. But, here’s the thing: Jimmy loved Chuck, and he took care of him, even while knowing that Chuck intentionally kept him from advancing in the law.
That said, even though Chuck would often fall deeper and deeper into his own mania, he never forgot that his brother was “Slippin’ Jimmy.” And, he would never let Jimmy forget that, either, even when Jimmy was trying his damndest to be a better person. Chuck took sibling rivalry to a whole new level, which is why he ends up on this list.
12. Todd Alquist (Breaking Bad/El Camino)
Played by Jesse Plemons, who went on to an amazing career after Breaking Bad, Todd is one of the scariest characters on both Breaking Bad and in the movie, El Camino, because he’s what I would imagine a true sociopath is like.
Todd is the kind of guy who can shoot a child without hesitation, and can kill a housekeeper and then eat soup. But, he’s also the kind of mild-mannered guy who you might invite to dinner if you didn’t know that other side of him. I really like enigmatic characters, and Todd is up there as one of the most mysterious. He’s a murderer who never snaps, which is all the scarier.
11. Lydia Rodarte-Quayle (Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul)
One MASSIVE problem that I have with both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul is the lack of substantial female characters. What I mean is, characters like Skylar and Marie were more like reactionary characters who seemed like they were mostly in the story to act as counterpoints to Walt and Hank, respectively. But, I don’t have that problem with Lydia, played by Laura Fraser. Lydia could hang with the big boys when it came to being ruthless and cunning.
The head of Logistics at Madrigal Electromotive GmbH, Lydia supplied Gus with methylamine, before he was murdered, and then, she provided it to Walt, only to later provide it to a White Power group, because Lydia was just trying to survive in these mean streets. Honestly, you really can’t knock her hustle. She even tried to have Mike knocked off, which takes balls to say the very least.
10. Nacho Varga (Better Call Saul)
Nacho, played by Michael Mando, was one of those new characters who you just knew must have met some kind of untimely demise since he didn’t appear on Breaking Bad. So, fans were constantly speculating on just how he died. And now, we know that Nacho was just a man who ran out of options.
In a lot of ways, Nacho is Better Call Saul’s version of Jesse Pinkman. By that I mean he’s a guy with the potential to be good who just got involved with the wrong crowd. We feel bad for Nacho because he wanted to get out, but he just couldn’t. He was in too deep by that point. The worst part is, his father will never know what happened to him. Very few shows can make a villain like Nacho seem like one of the most heartbreaking characters in television, but Better Call Saul nailed it.
9. Lalo Salamanca (Better Call Saul)
The Salamanca family comes in many different varieties, all of them scary. You have the silent Salamanca twins, Leonel and Marco, also known simply as “The Cousins.” You have Tuco, who I’ll get to shortly, and of course, you have Hector, who I’ll also get to shortly. But, one of the scariest of all is the newcomer, Lalo, who was involved in one of the most distressing scenes with the major midseason finale death.
Lalo, played by Tony Dalton, is so compelling because he’s extremely charming. He’s what I imagine the devil is like, luring you in, before stealing your soul. The scariest thing about Lalo is that we still don’t know what depths he’ll sink to. There’s so much potential to his evil. He can make a simple line like, “Let’s talk,” the scariest line in the series.
8. Tuco Salamanca (Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul)
Tuco is terrifying. While Lalo is creepy because you never know where you stand with him, Tuco is like an exposed wire – one false move and you’re toast. He’ll kill you with his bare hands if he has to.
Played by Raymond Cruz, Tuco is so scary that he even managed to give me horrible flashbacks of his brief stint on Breaking Bad when I saw him on Better Call Saul, and this is after knowing that he eventually gets his. Now that’s saying something!
7. Hector Salamanca (Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul)
If I say, “Ding ding!” chances are, you’ll automatically know who I’m talking about, since Hector (Mark Margolis) can say so much with the flick of his finger on a bell.
Besides being one of the most memorable characters on the show, we learn so much about what kind of man he was before he was put in a wheelchair that we’re only left to imagine what is running through his mind whenever we see him contorting his face and struggling.
6. Mike Ehrmantraut (Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul)
Mike (Jonathan Banks) is the kind of guy you call when you’re in danger. You know how Walt said that he IS the danger? Well, Mike was the guy you called when you needed somebody to save you from that danger. He is/was a fan favorite, and it’s little wonder why his demise is one of the most major deaths on Breaking Bad.
But, he found life again on Better Call Saul as a slightly younger version of himself, and we learned a lot about just why he is the way he is, which makes his character arc even more impactful on Breaking Bad. He suffered a great deal without us ever knowing it before we learned about his life in the prequel series.
5. Kim Wexler (Better Call Saul)
I mentioned earlier how Breaking Bad had a bit of a female issue (ask many Breaking Bad fans and they really – sometimes unjustifiably – don’t like Skylar and Marie), but Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) may have been an answer to that criticism. Because Kim is a woman you do not want to trifle with in all the best ways.
Kim is often the smartest (and most calculating) person in the room, and she has such an amazing character arc. At first, she seemed like a career lawyer who just had her sights set on rising in the law firm, but now, we see that Kim may actually be the one who is breaking bad rather than Jimmy. I really think Better Call Saul should be the last spin-off series in the Breaking Bad universe, but, if we were to get one more, I would want it to be of Kim. Oh, and if Kim dies, we riot.
4. Jesse Pinkman (Breaking Bad/El Camino)
Poor Jesse. Played by Aaron Paul, Jesse was always the character you felt bad for. Many fans even like to call him the “moral compass” of the show. It makes sense, too, since Jesse was not a bad person. He never “broke bad” and his immaturity was really a sign of his youth. Because come on, the true bad guy was Walt because he preyed upon a kid like Jesse.
In El Camino, we saw Jesse trying to escape the men who wanted him dead, and through it all, we always rooted for him. When Skinny Pete calls Jesse his hero, Jesse may not have understood why, but we did. He’s our hero, too.
3. Gustavo Fring (Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul)
Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) is the scariest character in the Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul universe by a wide margin. And it’s because you never know the depths that he’s willing to sink to to get ahead. I mean, this is a man who will cut his employee’s throat in front of his other employees just to prove a point. Who does that?
Gus Fring. That’s who. The most fascinating thing about Gus is that he underestimated somebody like Walt because he thought, What kind of threat can this former teacher be? I’ve taken on the cartel and won. This will be easy. But, it’s that hubris that makes him such a deeply compelling character. Gus is intense, but you would never know it behind that buttoned shirt and tie.
2. Saul Goodman (Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul)
You know how good a character Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) is? So good that he can carry his own TV show. Jesse put it best when he said that they didn’t need a criminal lawyer to represent them. They needed a criminal lawyer, and Saul is just that, but he’s also so much more.
It’s through his prequel series that we see just how insecure Saul, or Jimmy, has always been. It’s also fascinating to see that Saul’s “breaking bad” was something he never really wanted. He tried to go legitimate, but everybody kept bringing up his past, and it got to the point that it almost became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Honestly, outside of Jesse, I think Saul is the most tragic character in the series.
1. Walter White (Breaking Bad/El Camino)
Walter White (Bryan Cranston) may be the greatest character in television history. It’s his arc, and the fact that it really says more about the viewer and when they think he broke bad than it does about himself, because some might argue that he was broken from the very first episode. But, that’s the beauty of his character. He’s the main antagonist of the show and upon your first viewing, you really have no idea until something just makes you truly hate him.
Like, for example, is it when he lets Jane die? Or, is it when he poisoned a little kid? Or, how about when he kidnapped his own baby? Honestly, there are so many instances where Walt was just being the worst person imaginable, and we, the viewers, were behind him every step of the way…until we weren’t. If that doesn’t make him one of the greatest written characters in TV history, then I don’t know what does.