Between now and June 28, the deadline for Emmy voters to return nomination ballots, EW.com is running a series called Emmy Watch, featuring highlight clips and interviews with actors, producers, and writers whom EW TV critic Ken Tucker has on his wish list for the nominations announcement on July 19.
For a high school burnout, Jesse Pinkman has made quite a name for himself. Unfortunately, it’s murdering meth maker. For four seasons running, AMC’s Breaking Bad has depicted the mesmerizing descent of Walter White (Bryan Cranston) into evil, but it has also captivated us with the doomed struggles of his partner that he’s dragged down with him: the angry, lost, and wounded underdog Jesse (Aaron Paul).
After claiming the Outstanding Supporting Actor Emmy for his potent work in season 3, Paul impressed again in season 4, as Jesse struggled to rebuild his life after gunning down the not-exactly-dangerous chemist Gale (David Costabile). The seventh episode, “Problem Dog,” in particular, proved an emotional showcase for Paul. Still haunted by Gayle’s face (he sees him in his first-person shooter video game), Jesse is instructed by Walt (Bryan Cranston) to kill again by poisoning drug kingpin Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) with ricin. Caught between his two lords, he nearly does it with trembling hands, before Mike (Jonathan Banks) interrupts to give him, of all things, a loaded gun for other reasons.
But the scene from “Problem Dog” that truly resonates was the one in which Jesse attends an N.A. support group meeting. He lays himself bare, though tucking his admission of Gayle’s murder in the analogy of killing a dog (“I was looking him straight in the eye. He didn’t know what was happening, he didn’t know why.”) before lashing out at the group (“You’re nothing but customers to me!”). There would be no salvation in confession, not in this episode. Check it out below before reading what Paul had to say about filming one of his favorite episodes.
On the episode
“Jesse was just so lost in his world, and he’s struggling with his demons and struggling with the fact that he killed Gale, possibly the nicest character that’s ever existed on Breaking Bad.”
On why he loved the support group scene
“It was just so honest on the page. And also it gave Jesse an opportunity to confess what he did, even though he’s talking about a dog. But he really felt like he was confessing to these people. And that’s what he learned in rehab: It’s all about self-acceptance, and it’s all about forgiving oneself, and it’s okay, you can get past it. And Jesse doesn’t believe that he deserves to be forgiven…. It’s just another layer. It’s just another reminder, really, that Jesse doesn’t want to be a part of this. He’s trapped in Walter White’s web.”
On filming that scene
“I really try to live through this character’s skin, and in that particular scene, it felt good to get that off my chest. It felt good to tell that to strangers and just let them know that it’s not okay. Like, ‘No, I shouldn’t be forgiven. What’s that all about? What’s it all mean?’”
On this coming season
“It’s not like Gus’ face is being blown off over and over again — it’s just much heavier…. Walt’s been going down this dark rabbit hole for a very long time, and you see that he doesn’t want to come out of it. It’s not just about the money anymore. It’s about much, much, much more. And he’s dealing with some inner demons that he’s been fighting his whole life.”