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Remembering Jane, The Most Tragic Character From ‘Breaking Bad’

Jane Margolis (Krysten Ritter) from Breaking Bad was certainly no saint. She was a recovering addict who got Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) hooked on injecting heroin mixed with crystal. The 26-year-old tattoo artist also had a sinister side. We saw it when she blackmailed Walt (Bryan Cranston) for Jesse's half of the money. Then again, it was Jesse who got her off the wagon in the first place, and Walt had little right to keep Jesse's money. 

During Season 2 of the AMC series, Jesse's girlfriend became the love of his life. Theirs was a passionate story of two young, lonely, broken outsiders who found refuge in each other. But they never stood a chance - not with Walter White still manipulating and controlling Jesse's life. 

Of all the surprising and devastating deaths to occur over the course of five jaw-dropping seasons of Breaking Bad, Jane's was perhaps the most shocking. The moment Walt simply stood by and let a young woman perish, when he could have easily saved her, served as the true turning point for Walt's transition from Mr. Chips to Scarface.

This is in dedication to Jane - a tragic Breaking Bad character who was trying to put her life back together. It all changed when she made one seemingly innocent but ultimately fatal decision: to rent out the next-door apartment to Jesse Pinkman.

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  • Jane Was A Recovering Addict Who Had Her Life Back Together

    Jane Was A Recovering Addict Who Had Her Life Back Together
    Photo: AMC

    Breaking Bad viewers are first introduced to Jane Margolis (Krysten Ritter) in Season 2's fifth episode, "Breakage." She is a beautiful 26-year-old who serves as the landlord in a small duplex apartment building owned by her father. She rents out her vacant next-door apartment to Jesse (Aaron Paul), whose parents have just kicked him out of the house.

    The morning after Jesse and Jane hook up for the first time, Jesse asks her about smoking pot. Jane's reaction is to leap out of bed. She tells Jesse she has been clean for over 18 months on her way to recovery. Jane works as a tattoo artist and seems dedicated to rebuilding her life.

  • She Is Initially Strong And In-Command, If A Little Lonely

    She Is Initially Strong And In-Command, If A Little Lonely
    Photo: AMC

    Having been kicked out of his parents' house, Jesse is desperate for a place to live. He approaches Jane about the vacant apartment, but she needs proof of employment and a former address. Jane comes off as a strong, independent character, but she also sympathizes with Jesse's dire situation. Showing that she can be empathetic without being a total pushover, she leases Jesse the unit after raising the rent $100 per month. 

    Jane: "And in addition to first and last, I want two more months. D.B.A.A. fee, non-refundable."

    Jesse: "Yeah, of course. Non-refundable. D.B.A.A. Obviously. Yeah. Alright... so, uh... what's D.B.A.A?"

    Jane: "Don't Be An A**hole."

    Sure, Jane comes off as a tough, no-nonsense person, but there's a desperate sadness to her. She has built walls around her and does not appear to have many close friends in her life. Her father warned her against renting out the apartment to people like Jesse. But perhaps the prospect of having someone her own age around forced her to go against her better judgment. Unfortunately, this simple decision would ultimately lead to her tragic demise.

  • A Portrait Of Poet And Artist Elizabeth Bishop Hangs In Jane's Duplex

    A Portrait Of Poet And Artist Elizabeth Bishop Hangs In Jane's Duplex
    Photo: AMC

    Jane's grieving father Donald Margolis (John de Lancie) had the painful task of choosing which dress to bury his daughter in. In the Season 2 finale, "ABQ," after Donald picks out a dress, the camera lingers on a black-and-white portrait of American painter and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Elizabeth Bishop. Why Bishop? The acclaimed artist happens to be Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan's favorite poet.

    However, the portrait also helps paint a picture of who Jane really was. There are no pictures in her apartment of family or friends. Bishop, like Jane, was an outsider. She had a rough start in life; her father perished when she was just 8 months old. Her mother was mentally ill and had to be institutionalized when Bishop was just 5 years old. Meanwhile, Jane's relationship with her father - a concerned dad desperately trying to keep his daughter alive - was long fractured.

    Claudia Roth Pierpont wrote in The New Yorker that Bishop's work was "remarkably honest and courageous." The artist was clearly an important figure in Jane's life. Bishop's oeuvre rarely depicted any details about her own private life. She remained guarded and discreet throughout her work. Instead, she focused on themes of social isolation, the impermanence of life, and the human condition. 

    Jane clearly aspired to be an artist. She loved Georgia O'Keefe and made money working as a tattoo artist. Unfortunately, her dreams never got a fair shake, as her creative aspirations could not usurp her dependency issues. 

    Using the "Jane Margolis" Twitter account @JaneMargolisABQ, she tweeted on October 2, 2014 (several years after Jane's demise): "Elizabeth Bishop is my favorite #NationalPoetryDay #BreakingBad"

  • When Jesse Walks Into Her Life, She Falls In Love Fast

    When Jesse Walks Into Her Life, She Falls In Love Fast
    Photo: AMC

    Jane may have built walls around her heart, but that doesn't mean she's not capable of love. It becomes clear to her that Jesse is involved in some kind of illicit activity. However, she tells him she doesn't care, just as long as he keeps his "business" off-premises.

    In the seventh episode of Season 2, "Negro y Azul," Jesse is going through a lot of turmoil in his business with Walter White. After witnessing an ATM fatally crush a man to cap off an already horrific day in a suburban drug den - the worst part of which is the neglected, malnourished toddler Jesse feels compelled to protect - Jesse becomes so distraught that he's unable to leave his apartment.

    Jesse and Jane are outside smoking when Jesse invites her inside to see his new television. These two broken people plop down on lawn chairs in the middle of an otherwise barren living room; there's no satellite signal on the TV yet, but they sit and watch anyway. Jesse is uncomfortable until Jane tenderly reaches out and takes his hand. The pair fall into an intimate relationship, and it isn't long before they fall in love. Jane falls hard.

  • She Understandably Lies To Her Dad About Jesse, Leading To Her Apology Girl Sketch

    She Understandably Lies To Her Dad About Jesse, Leading To Her Apology Girl Sketch
    Photo: AMC

    In the Season 2 installment "Over," Jesse and Jane have settled into a steady relationship. At the beginning of the episode, Jesse cooks up a breakfast of huevos rancheros and the loving couple lie in bed together on a lazy day. Jane is flipping through a book of Jesse's superhero drawings - all of which sort of look like him - when she hears a knock on her apartment door.

    She leaps from the bed, sneaks out the back, and stealthily works her way back to her own apartment. The knock is from her father/landlord, Donald, who's in a state of constant concern over his daughter's past dependency issues. It's an uncomfortable moment when Jesse walks out of his place to introduce himself to Jane's dad. She panics and breaks Jesse's heart when she introduces him as just "the new tenant" and not her new boyfriend.

    Jesse later tells Jane how angry he is about the introduction, but Jane doesn't back down. She claims she was trying to protect him, and that she can't tell her perpetually worried father that she's hooking up with someone like Jesse. 

    Jesse drowns his sorrows in crystal. A piece of paper works its way under his door. Jane has drawn a self-portrait sketch of a female superhero named "Apology Girl." It's a gesture that not only makes Jesse happy but also shows that Jane can recognize and atone for her mistakes.

  • Because Jesse Doesn't Get The Help He Needs, He Reintroduces Narcotics Into Jane's Life

    Because Jesse Doesn't Get The Help He Needs, He Reintroduces Narcotics Into Jane's Life
    Photo: AMC / https://www.amazon.com/The-Break-In/dp/B001TXWJ4M/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=breaking+bad+season+2&qid=1599264183&sr=8-2

    In Season 2, Episode 11, "Mandala," the inevitable finally happens. Jesse is grieving his friend Combo's (Rodney Rush) demise. He feels responsible because Combo was out selling Jesse and Walt's product in new territory when he was taken out by rival dealers. As usual, Jesse carries all the guilt, even though the blame for the new location falls on Walt. 

    Jesse is despondent and won't let Jane help him. His escape, not surprisingly, is crystal. He asks Jane to leave - the last thing he wants is to be responsible for her relapse. But Jane makes the decision to stay and smoke with Jesse. It's her way of trying to make her boyfriend feel better. This is the moment their relationship takes a fatal turn.