The 8 Best Character Arcs in the Breaking Bad Universe, Ranked

It's one thing to be a great character. It's another to have great character development. Here are our favorite arcs in this TV universe.

We often recommend products we like. If you buy anything through our links, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you.

Now that all is said and done with the Breaking Bad universe, we can look upon both TV series plus the one film (El Camino) and admire how this extraordinary long-form saga ended up defining an era of television.

In reviewing their episodes and their various storylines, both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul were clearly crafted with special care by their writers. Every single detail mattered by the end of each show's run.

But some characters developed in ways above everyone else, blowing us away with their complexities, backstories, and twists.

Here, I dare to rank the characters of both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul to see which ones had the best character development arcs.

8. Lalo Salamanca

When Lalo Salamanca first walked onto Better Call Saul and identified himself as a Salamanca, we all felt it was a bit much.

Hector had already been brought down by Nacho and Fring, so bringing in another member of the Salamanca clan felt forced and unnecessary. Oh, how wrong we all were!

Lalo Salamanca became one of the greatest characters of modern television, blessed with charm and a suave personality that commanded a presence on the show unlike any other.

Tony Dalton was a breath of fresh air who brought a new kind of edge to Better Call Saul full of twists and turns.

7. Nacho Varga

Nacho Varga's life played out on screen as one of the more tragic tragedies of Better Call Saul.

He was unquestionably intelligent, he had a sense of what was right and wrong, but most of all, he wasn't a bad person. He was just someone who unfortunately got tangled up with Hector Salamanca and the Cartel.

Watching Nacho grow further entwined in Fring's hands was almost painful for us, who knew what the outcome of his life would be after he was pushed into the service of the Chilean.

In the end, Nacho's journey saw him killed to protect his beloved father, which only served to break our hearts in half.

6. Kim Wexler

Kim Wexler was Better Call Saul's greatest mystery in so many ways.

At first, she appeared to be a woman who knew Jimmy had a crush on her, but knew better than to lead him on. Over time, we saw that they shared a much deeper relationship, which came forth as Jimmy slowly changed from a good man into the ruthless Saul Goodman. 

As Kim further bonded herself to Jimmy in the hopes of keeping him on the right path, she only ended up being dragged away from her own career and deeper into Jimmy's web of lies and deceit.

Many of us were convinced she wouldn't make it to the end alive since she never appeared in Breaking Bad. However, she played a definitive role in the ending of Better Call Saul, and her arc was perfect TV. 

5. Gustavo Fring

We still don't know the whole truth of Gustavo Fring. He's the kind of character who held such devotion from his fans that it feels like delving into his past would ruin the mystery that makes him great.

In all his appearances across Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad, Fring was the one character who seemed unbeatable. He was a master tactician and a monster, willing to kill anybody who got in his way. 

Gus Fring's character arc was an opera of hatred that centered on his mission of revenge against the Cartel—a mission that was decades in the making and intricately planned.

When it came to pass, Fring's true brutality came to light. Few could've given such weight to this character as Giancarlo Esposito did, and his legacy as one of TV's greatest villains remains cemented. 

4. Mike Ehrmantraut

Throughout both series, the tale of Mike Ehrmantraut compounded all the tropes of a traditional "good guy" into one character.

Mike was originally meant to be a throwaway character in Breaking Bad, but what we ended up getting was one of the most morally gray characters in the entire Breaking Bad universe.

All Mike wanted to do was protect and provide for his daughter-in-law and his granddaughter in the wake of his son, who was killed by corrupt cops. That was a challenge that proved very difficult to achieve. 

And so, he ended up in the employ of Gus Fring. We realize that Mike was essentially a good guy who was corrupted in his own way by his desire to protect the people he loved—a most tragic character arc, indeed.

3. Walter White

Walter White's story was the primary story of Breaking Bad, a series that was kicked off by the man's terminal cancer diagnosis and his desire to provide for his family—by manufacturing and selling meth.

Initially, we thought Walter was an innocent man who was dealt a terrible hand in life and resorted to sordid methods in order to achieve a kind of greater good for his family. Except, none of that was really true.

Walter White did everything he did because he liked it, because it made him feel alive. Doing it for the family was merely a cover, a front, a lie he told himself to make him the hero of his own story.

In truth, Walter was never the good guy. He was a wolf who lived his life as a sheep, who discarded that facade as soon as death stared him in the eyes, resulting in an epic tale of destruction and collateral damage.

2. Jimmy "Saul Goodman" McGill

When Better Call Saul was first announced as the next series pursued by the Breaking Bad creative team, fans were skeptical. Of all the characters to explore, they chose... Saul Goodman?!

Well, in retrospect, after six perfect seasons of slow-burn television, we have to eat crow. Saul Goodman was the best character that Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould could've chosen for a TV series.

The Greek tragedy of Jimmy "Saul Goodman" McGill's life became one of TV's finest examples of storytelling. It may even be the rarest of jewels: a prequel series that actually shines brighter than the original.

Through the pain and torture of his life, we see Jimmy McGill devolve into a terrible person—and then repent for the man he's become. It's an absolutely stunning achievement that sets an impossible bar. 

1. Jesse Pinkman

No tale in either Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul held our attention as strongly as the tale of Jesse Pinkman.

Jesse was just a kid who started cooking meth with Walter White in order to make some extra cash. Was he perfect? Far from it. But he certainly didn't deserve getting caught up in Walter's evil schemes.

Trapped in a life of dealing drugs, Jesse Pinkman always stood out for his defining trait: a heart that understood right from wrong.

Jesse felt the weight of every situation in ways that Walter—and everybody else—never did. Jesse wanted to repent for his sins, he wanted to become a better man, but his circumstances wouldn't allow it.

For all his colorful language and questionable moments, Jesse Pinkman was the moral heart of Breaking Bad, the bravest and truest good guy in the same way that Samwise Gamgee was in The Lord of the Rings

When El Camino revealed his fate, we delighted in his escape, knowing he was the only character who deserved to start again with a fresh slate. 

More Articles Like This

The 9 Best Side Characters in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Ranked

The 7 Best Fictional Queen Characters in TV Shows, Ranked

7 Great Batman Characters Who Need Their Own Spin-Off TV Series

The 10 Best Crime TV Shows About Anti-Heroes Who Break the Law

The 7 Most Tragic TV Characters of All Time, Ranked

What Is the Lovers Trope? Explained (With 5 Examples in Movies and TV)

The 10 Best Scenes and Moments in Breaking Bad, Ranked

The 10 Worst Parents on TV (And What We Can Learn From Them)

10 Common Italian Stereotypes in Movies and TV, Explained