One of the defining moments of Breaking Bad is Walter White’s murder of Gustavo Fring’s dealers in season 3 to save Jesse Pinkman’s life, but things could have played out quite differently if this event never occurred. Walt (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse (Aaron Paul) have a close, almost father-son connection, and even though they may argue and even fight throughout the series, Walt maintains a love for Jesse, even saving him in the finale, “Felina”, from Jack’s gang of white supremacists. However, if Walt’s logical side had deduced that Jesse was more hassle than he was worth back in season 3, the narrative direction of Breaking Bad would have been very different.
Season 3, episode 12, “Half Measures” sees Jesse face down two rival dealers employed by Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) after they kill a child named Tomás, the younger brother of Jesse’s love interest, Andrea. However, before the two dealers can kill Jesse, Walt runs them down in his car, killing one of them instantly before executing the other with his gun. He then utters just one word to Jesse: “run”. This further leads Gus to decide that Walt is too chaotic to work with, and he instructs Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) to end him. However, Walt manages to get through to Jesse just in time and instructs him to kill Gale Boetticher, Walt’s intended replacement, forcing a furious Gus to keep working with Jesse and Walt.
Breaking Bad season 4 then starts off a game of cat and mouse between “Mr White” and Fring, as Gus begins to groom Pinkman to replace Walt. Eventually, Walt is able to use Gus’ rivalry with Hector Salamanca against him, planting a bomb underneath the cartel Don’s wheelchair, taking them both out, after finding out their connection from Jesse. Had Walter White not started this chain of events by saving Jesse in season 3, things would still have gone badly for him, because if there is one thing Walt can never satisfy, it is his own ego.
Walter White Would Still Try To Kill Gus
There is no doubt that even if he decided Jesse’s life was not worth saving, Walt would eventually still end up trying to kill Gus. As the producer of the purest blue meth Albuquerque and beyond has ever seen, Walt knows he is an extremely talented chemist. His resentment of his ordinary life as a chemistry teacher with wife Skylar White, son Walt Jr, and daughter Holly is the driving force behind his decision to break bad, no matter what he tells Jesse, Skylar, and himself. Therefore, working for someone else would never be good enough for the arrogant White.
Walt would eventually get tired of Gus’ mind games, even if he and the owner of Los Pollos Hermanos remain on generally good terms, as he never would have had Gale or Gus’ dealers killed. As Walt says in Breaking Bad season 5, “I’m in the empire business”, showing that his lust for power is limitless, and he will not settle for being a meth cook – even one earning huge amounts of money. While the details would be different (not involving the then-deceased meth cook Jesse Pinkman), Walt would still try to assassinate Gus. However, this time the result would likely not go in his favor.
Walter White Could Die Earlier (& Change Breaking Bad)
Without Jesse’s help, it seems clear that Walter would have been killed at the hands of Gus’ minions. It is only after Jesse works closely with Mike that he finds out that Gus frequents the retirement home housing Hector Salamanca. It is Gus’ primary mistake to not only give in to his feelings of hated for Hector, who killed his drug production partner and possible lover, Max Arciniega, but also to let Jesse see this. Without Jesse around to tell Walt this vital piece of information, it is only a matter of time before the cunning chemistry teacher’s luck runs out and Mike, Victor, or Gus himself becomes responsible for the death of Walter White.
How Gus Being Alive Would Change Breaking Bad’s Final Season
Killing Walter White and Jesse Pinkman and shifting focus to Gustavo Fring would alter Breaking Bad forever. If Vince Gilligan had written the story this way, Walt’s journey would be just as tragic but far less satisfying. Jesse and Walt’s deaths would feel like a moment from early seasons of Game of Thrones, where any character could die. If Breaking Bad would have still continued into season 5, the only character it could follow would be Gus himself, which would be a pretty amazing twist, and his massacre of the Mexican Cartel including Don Eladio could serve as a suitable series finale.
Furthermore, this huge change would also have a profound impact on the direction of Better Call Saul. If Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) is working with Walt when he is trying to take out Gus, things may not go well for the corrupt lawyer. He could be killed by Gus or end up with a new life courtesy of identity broker Ed Galbraith, ironically putting him in the same position he is already in during the flash-forward scenes in Better Call Saul. However, as Mike survives in this version of the story, he may be able to mitigate the consequences for Saul, potentially urging him to skip town and become Jimmy McGill, brother of Chuck McGill, once more.
Skylar’s Life Would Change
Jesse’s death would change Skylar’s life forever, though potentially more slowly than Walt’s transformation into Heisenberg does in Breaking Bad. Walt would likely maintain a successful working relationship with Gus for some time, without Skylar finding out just how deep into the meth and murder business he is. It would only be after the consequences of his own ego caught up to him, and he is killed by Gus, that Skylar’s world would be rocked. Walt’s criminal enterprise would likely remain a secret, and she would carry on laundering his money with Saul’s help, never able to tell her family, Hank and Marie Schrader and Walt Jr, what really happened to her husband.
Hank May Not Have Found Out Walt Was Heisenberg
Hank and Steve Gomez only find out that Walt is Heisenberg after a long chain of events following Gale Boetticher’s murder by Jesse. It therefore stands to reason that if Jesse is killed before he can take out Gale, Hank would never have been led down the rabbit hole of Gus Fring’s empire and Los Pollos Hermanos would remain a successful front for Fring’s meth empire. As Hank only begins to work through his PTSD following his shootout with the silent Salamanca Twins by working the case, it is possible that Jesse’s death would mean Hank would stay depressed and traumatized. Walt’s eventual death would only compound this, as Hank would still think his brother-in-law is a good, hard-working chemistry teacher, not the drug lord, Heisenberg.
What Would Happen To Jesse?
Though it would be possible for Jesse to kill Gus’ two goons, it is unlikely. Though Pinkman stands alongside friends Skinny Pete and Badger as a beloved Breaking Bad character, he is no killer. The times he does kill shake him to his core, such as when he tears up when murdering Gale and strangles Todd Alquist in a fit of rage. By contrast, Walter seems to find killing a mere inconvenience, even being okay with poisoning the child Brock Cantillo and leaving Jane Margolis to die. As such, Jesse would almost certainly die to Gus’ men, meaning the events of El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie would never happen, Todd and Jack and their gang would never get involved with Walt, and Brock would never be poisoned. While Jesse’s (and eventually Walt’s) death would mean a happy ending for Gus, Mike, and perhaps Saul, it would change Breaking Bad forever, and would not be nearly as satisfying as the actual events of the show.