"Jesse Pinkman is someone who looks at the world with childlike wonder. He's full of sympathy for the weakest, but he lives in the world that crushes the weak. So Jesse's story is about a loss of innocence."
Warning: this article will spoil "Breaking Bad," so don't read on if you haven't seen the show and you care about spoilers.
Jesse Pinkman's transformation works on a spiritual and realistic level, and ScreenPrism, a film & TV analysis site, labels it as such. Jesse, one of the main protagonists of Breaking Bad, is a character that serves an almost Christ-like character arc. No person suffers as much throughout the series, from transgressions that were largely not his own fault, but the fault and depravity of his partner, Walter White.
Jesse is also quite possibly the most sympathetic character in the show as one of the most human ones, someone who cared for his sick aunt as she died and suffered from cancer, and one who cares about the vulnerable more than any other character. He is hospitalized after being beaten by Tuco Salamanca. He is beaten unconscious by Hank, Walt's brother-in-law. He sees his aunt die of cancer, his friend Combo killed by rival dealers, and experiences his girlfriend, Jane, die in her sleep right next to him. He succumbs to heroin addiction, and by the end of the series, Jesse is tortured and used as a slave to make high-purity methamphetamines, and watches Andrea, another girlfriend, get killed when he tries to escape.
Again, Jesse is Christ-like not only in that he suffered this much, but that he suffered mostly for the sins and ambitions of Walt in his fear of being found out and rising to the top of the food chain.
According to Matthew Jacobs of The Huffington Post, Jesse is the most sympathetic character because he is the person who truly exists inside each of us in heart. Despite the ways Jesse was initially unlikable as a junkie trying too hard to make it in the drug world, he developed as the heart and soul of the series.
"He's not meant to be part of the world to which he belongs," Jacobs writes. Our introduction to Jesse is during a DEA raid of his drug dealer partner, Emilio Koyama. We see Jesse in nothing but his underwear, falling off his roof and onto a lawn. This is what initiates a pattern of what Jesse does over the course of the series: "fall to his knees, often awash in a stream of blood."
While Walt becomes a natural fit in the underground world of meth making and dealing, Jesse has to force himself to adapt to his circumstances, and even overcompensate doing so. "Jesse is no villainous hero because, at his core, he is no villain. He's done despicable deeds, sure, some without remorse." Jesse's suffering, pain, and moral compass make us and Jesse himself realize that the drug and meth dealer isn't who Jesse Pinkman really is.
Again, there's a part of Jesse that's a shattered and tragic part of our own identities, "the ones perhaps buried in the outer regions of the subconscious, carry the same burdens that Jesse's does." In Jesse was something that was lost, that became lost somewhere along the lines of brokenness with his family. And then there's the part of us that is the addict.
"Jesse's chief tragic flaw is that he repeats his mistakes." He should have turned his back on the meth trade much earlier, according to Jacobs. But at the same time, manipulated so heavily by Walt, forced to re-invent his whole life if he actually left the trade, what other choice did Jesse have? The fault for so much of Jesse's tragedy is not in himself, but in Walt.
"His humanity has been stolen from him, largely by Walt's cruelty. It's Walt's fault he is being held captive by Jack and his army."
If Jesse is an allegory for Jesus Christ, as a man who suffered and lived for the sins of others, then Walt Whitman is the cruel and malevolent God willing to do anything to maintain his power. "Breaking Bad" ended with Jesse as much more of a victim than a criminal, "a life tarnished in the worst possible way: by those who wield influence and power over you, rendering you helpless to their will." Walt was never tortured or beaten the crap out of, hospitalized, or the one who saw multiple loved ones die in senseless ways. He strangely seems to avoid consequences at all.
And that's because Jesse takes those consequences for Walt, on numerous occasions. Unlike Jesus who died for our sins, Jesse suffered and lived continuously, as a shell of his former self, for Walt's sins. "More so than Walt, Jesse represents the paradox that lies within: a deep desire to be good — a desire whose influence he doesn't even understand — weakened by circumstances that thrust him out of that cocoon."
Maybe Walt was a benevolent God figure at the end when he let Jesse live, and gave him one more chance to live and remake his life. But Jesse's story beforehand was so tragic and unfair that we have no idea how he will possibly recover.
At Walt's whim, Jesse was never given a chance.