Breaking Bad is known for its morally questionable and often deeply flawed characters. Yet, it’s Walt’s wife Skyler who’s been consistently one of the more divisive characters. Despite her well-meaning nature and relative innocence – at least early on – this character has received scorn from some fans. It makes sense in a way, since, from the perspective of the antihero Walt, she stands as the antagonist in some fashion.
But even through the lens of this warped perspective – there is much to appreciate about this morally thoughtful counterbalance to Walt’s harsher, more reckless ways. Like most characters in the show, she has both flaws and redeeming qualities. She’s also delivered some of the series’ most memorable and often overlooked dialogue, much of which is granted more impact thanks to the convincing and raw delivery of Anna Gunn.
“When I Put Everything Into Quicken, Nothing Flashed Red, So That’s Gotta Mean It’s Ok, Right?”
While Skyler’s role is typically that of a more serious, grounded counterpart to Walt, she also has her share of more lighthearted, humorous moments. Case in point? This amusing moment, which is really a performance within a performance.
Midway through the series, the IRS is bearing down on Ted, whose tax fraud is in danger of being exposed, prompting Skyler to step in and deflect this heat. She pulls this off by pretending to be a naive, airheaded employee, all the while distracting the man adjacent to her with a rather “flattering” outfit. This is a great moment for Skyler, as it demonstrates her cunningness, which is quite underestimated for much of the series.
“We’ve Come This Far … What’s One More?”
Walt tends to put his wife in precarious spots, especially in the latter half of Breaking Bad‘s run. Understandably, Skyler doesn’t take to these new dangers particularly well. But as time goes on, she begins to shift to a more practical, “do what is necessary” approach, even if she has moral objections to it.
This is exemplified in the season five episode “Rabbid Dog,” when it’s becoming clear that Walt must end the growing threat of a scorned Jesse. This line is powerful on its own, though the regretful tone in which it’s uttered makes it particularly emotional.
“Marie – Shut Up!”
The significance of this line is in its emotional, gut-wrenching delivery from Anna Gunn, rather than the brief dialogue itself. This marks a truly pivotal and generally somber moment for Skyler’s character.
We can see she’s breaking down right before our eyes as she continually barks at Marie to shut up while conversing in the wash office, getting more aggressive with each utterance. As Marie sits and takes this abuse, she can only sit in disbelief – much like the viewers.
“I ****** Ted”
Skyler has a knack for communicating and showing a lot with a little. Much like her outburst at her sister, this revelation to her husband is memorable despite being short and simple.
Skyler is fed up with Walt by the time season three gets going. She finds herself stuck between a rock and a hard place as her drug-dealing husband refuses to leave their house. Her apparent solution is to get him angry at her by sleeping with another man. She also looks to maximize its impact by coldly, nonchalantly telling him about it later that day. It’s one of those classic jaw-dropping moments that get viewers yearning to see what happens next.
“If I Have To Hear One More Time That You Did This For The Family …”
Heisenberg continues to “break bad” more and more, making it increasingly tough to root for him, even with his critical situation. But the remaining thread that makes him at least a bit empathetic is his desire to keep his pride and provide for his family.
Skyler may have somewhat bought this early on – but as lives are lost and Walt’s drug empire starts crumbling by the epic finale, she’s had enough of this excuse. This is conveyed in the highly annoyed tone of her delivery of this great line. This prompts a similarly great remark from her husband, who finally decides to speak from the heart.
“That’s It. That’s The Only Good Option. Hold On. Bide My Time, And Wait.”
In a heartbreaking – but fairly understandable – moment, Skyler confesses her wish to weather Walt and “wait for the cancer to come back,” as they discuss what to do with their kids.
It’s a harsh dose of reality for him, but what else can she do at this point? Again, the stubborn Heisenberg hasn’t left her many options if she seeks to be free and clean of his dealings as well as gain some peace of mind. This revelation makes for a moment that’s both intense and somber – and can hold its own with some of the best dramatic films.
“I Learned From The Best. Something Tells Me Hank Is Here Because Of You – And I’m Not Forgetting That.”
Skyler manages to ride the line in terms of going along with Walt and playing the moral angel on his shoulder keeping him in check. This quote is an excellent representation of this dynamic. The sly Skyler really outdoes herself when she decides to concoct a clever cover story for Walt’s accumulation of wealth through gambling and card counting.
But this shocking moment is really capped off by this quote, which follows after Walt asks how she managed to think of this. This line serves as a significant moment for her character, while also being an underlying warning to her husband all in one measure. It conveys that in a way, he is corrupting her – but also that she refuses to fully “break bad.”
“… Cause God Knows SHE’S The One With The Really Important Problems!”
In one of the most memorable rants in Breaking Bad – if not in TV, in general, Skyler snaps when Hank visits their house and requests her to get in touch with her sister. This visceral moment in the episode “Seven Thirty-Seven” ensures its audience that they’re in for a wild ride.
Skyler goes off – telling Hank of her unfavorable situation with her husband and distant son, while rattling off their issues with house maintenance and finances. But yet, she must bend over backward for her sister, who she refers to with some “colorful” language.
“I Want My Kids Back. I Want My Life Back. Please Tell Me – How Much Is Enough? How Big Does This Pile Have To Be?”
Much like Jesse calling him out for refusing to cease his dealings, Skyler attempts to hit Walt with reason and put things in perspective as he’s grown from drug pusher to kingpin. Her message is essentially two-fold – when does it stop? How much is enough?
She communicates this in a visual manner, revealing his huge stacks of cash that’s formed a pile large enough to lay on. But she also does this through this powerful quote, which is both a thoughtful question and a desperate plea.
“Someone Needs To Protect This Family From The Man Who Protects This Family.”
There are many moments in Breaking Bad that allow Skyler to thrive as Walt’s moral center and grounded partner. But one of the best examples of this dynamic is this memorable statement from the season four episode “Cornered.”
It leaves an impression with its cleverness and harsh dose of truth. It also reminds fans that Skyler has little choice in the grim reality Walt’s made for her and that she’s doing what she must, just like Walt.