TVLine's Performer of the Week: Aaron Paul

Aaron Paul Breaking Bad Breakdown SceneA weekly feature in which we spotlight shining stars


THE SHOW | Breaking Bad

THE EPISODE | “Confessions”

THE AIRDATE | Aug. 25, 2013

THE PERFORMANCE | Let’s get this straight right now: Jesse Pinkman is a punk. He’s a criminal with no real ties to civilized humanity, and he hawked a product that creates ruin in individual lives and chaos in the community at large. He’s a loser, a waste, a killer.

But add Aaron Paul, and this scourge of law-abiding society also becomes a tragically broken young man desperate for connection. On Sunday, as Jesse begged Walt to “just, for once, stop working me” at their desert rendezvous, Paul vibrated with the tension of his character’s grief and guilt. “Just tell me you don’t give a s—t about me and it’s either this,” he said, his voice raised and his eyes wet, “or you’ll kill me the same way you killed Mike.”

Jesse’s conflict was apparent in his portrayer’s every move. As Bryan Cranston’s Walt approached him, Paul’s wiry frame retreated as if readying itself for a fight, but his face began to buckle under the weight of everything that had happened in the past year. During the hug, Paul kept Jesse rigid for a beat, then wilted into gulping sobs against Walt’s chest. He played the moment as a man adrift seeking comfort anywhere he could — even against his better judgment.

Scenes later, after Jesse’s epiphany about Brock’s poisoning, Paul took Jesse’s rage at being bamboozled and funneled it into his frenetic attack on Walt’s house. He moved Jesse with purpose, issuing guttural cries as he marinated the Whites’ home in gasoline. We can’t have been the only ones shouting “Yeah, bitch!” as Paul spun his character so beautifully out of control now, can we?

HONORABLE MENTION | In the few times Jane Fonda has graced HBO’s The Newsroom, the actress has shown that her Leona Lansing is powerful, shrewd and aggressive – but who knew she was also so damn funny? Fonda didn’t show up until the final moments of Sunday’s episode, but her performance of antics both odd (the glee with which she infused the Atlantis Worldwide Media chief’s Daniel Craig tirade) and admirable (the seriousness with which she exhorted Charlie, Mac and Will to regain the public’s trust) made us chuckle and cheer. Viva la Leona!

What performance knocked your socks off this week?