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cheek by jowl

The Homeboy Off: Breaking Bad’s Jesse Pinkman vs. The Killing’s Stephen Holder

Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman and Joel Kinnaman as Stephen Holder.

When AMC premiered The Killing in the spring, critics were quick to praise the network for churning out another intelligent, nontraditional bit of television programming. Things eventually went off the rails, of course, meaning one particularly notable factoid about the show was lost in the shuffle: The Killing's homicide detective Stephen Holder is, after Breaking Bad's meth dealer Jesse Pinkman, AMC's second major character fond of speaking in "urban" malapropisms and dressing like Ghostface might any day now ask him to join Theodore Unit. With Breaking Bad returning on Sunday but The Killing possibly still fresh in your mind, herewith is a helpful guide to the differences and similarities of the AMC homeboys.

  Jesse Pinkman Stephen Holder
Actor's Pedigree Played by Aaron Paul, best known for his turn in Big Love, and, to some, for walking in slow-mo through a high-school hallway in the music video for Korn’s “Thoughtless.” Played by Joel Kinnaman, who is famous in Sweden. Sweden!
Member of an Awkward Partnership? Yes, with Walter White, his former chemistry teacher, now cooking meth for various money-related reasons. They scream, yell, quibble, dispose of bodies, kill people, and almost die together, often with Walter belittling and cursing Jesse out the whole time, but, at the end of the day, there’s a real affection there. Again, yes, with his police partner Linden, who, to his great consternation, can’t tear herself away from the Rosie Larsen investigation to run off to Sonoma and marry her creepy fiancé. But as fake antagonists, it’s a fairly soft relationship. Before you know it, Holder’s bumming her cigarettes and genuinely caring about the well-being of her kid.
Drug Issues? Yep. Both cooks and imbibes crystal meth. At times has been a full-on junkie; more recently, he's been in recovery, though that's looking wobbly. Also, has no ethical issues selling drugs to his fellow twelve-steppers. Also yes, but he’s a recovering addict. Attends meetings, during one of which he flashes a gold coin he stole from his nephew as a demonstration of how ridiculously high he used to get. And sometimes, he pretends to smoke weed, complete with fake weed, to get information.
Wardrobe Beanies, graphic tees, baggy cargo pants, multi-patterned hoodies. Implicitly, much indebted to Marshall Mathers LP–era Eminem. Not as much diversity: He basically rocks a hoodie underneath a jacket the whole time. Also, according to Kinnaman: “He’s been wearing the same hoodie for eight episodes … it smells terrible. I don’t think Holder smells that great. I just got that feeling.”
Innovative Use of Language An aggressive, overly articulate patois all of his own; heavy on "yo," and the word “bitch” is basically a vocal period. Tucking the Swedish inclinations underneath the clipped, hood-originated vocal tics makes for an engaging blend. He’s heavy on the “homeboy”s and “damn girl”s and the “anyone hittin’ that?”s, but he never strays too far away from what a recovering addict and possibly corrupt Seattle cop might actually sound like.
Family Issues? Loads. As a high-school troublemaker and longtime addict, his family will barely have anything to do with him. Ditto. Though Holder thinks he can make things up to them by standing them up and bringing gift baskets.
Does He Clean Up Well? One word: yes. Same word.
Are There, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, Multiple Humans Currently Alive Excited About the Return of His Show? Yep! Nope!
Photo: Credit: AMC, Carole Segal/AMC