- Skyler White had to adapt and navigate the dangerous world of Walter White’s meth empire to protect her children and ensure their safety.
- Skyler’s actions stemmed from a broken marriage and a loss of trust in Walt, leading her to seek an outlet for her anger and frustration.
- Skyler’s character was a statement against toxic masculinity in the show, as she broke free from societal expectations and became a strong and imposing figure.
If there is one thing series creator Vince Gilligan got right with Breaking Bad, it’s how to cultivate remarkable characters that fans gravitate towards, even years later. It’s why the Better Call Saul spinoff is also deemed to be on the same level as Breaking Bad, helping carve out a unique world filled with drama, action, lies, and drugs. Amid all the rule-breaking and law-bending, this universe produced some truly unlikable characters.
A Walter White (aka Walt, Heisenberg) has illustrated, some people will still take to the most reprehensible figures and excuse their sins. Atop the list of most hated persons, however, is his wife, Anna Gunn’s Skyler. Throughout Breaking Bad, Skyler had a lot to own up to after breaking her own ethical code, but upon reconciling all five seasons of the series, she shouldn’t be the most reviled character.
Skyler White Had to Adapt to Walter White’s Empire
Skyler did show questionable traits early on, often bossing Walt around before and after his cancer diagnosis. Part of this is why he often wanted to be alone, or cook with Jesse: he wanted freedom, agency and to control his own fate. Not to say that Skyler was vile, but she did inhibit Walt’s identity at times. But as Walt grew into his Heisenberg persona, his ego got out of control, pushing him to become a dangerous drug kingpin, or as he told her, “The One Who Knocks.” From the moment Skyler found this out in Gilligan’s story, she tried to avoid any future debacle with her obsessed husband.
Skyler felt inclined to protect her children, Walt Jr. and Holly. Her life quickly became about securing them emotionally and financially, knowing rival gangs would come after Walt, as well as the DEA. Once Hank was shot and Skyler discovered Walt had a connection to his former student in Jesse, she had to improvise and map out the best laid plan. She suspected Walt could have her killed too in a selfish attempt to keep the children. This was further evidenced in Season 5’s “Ozymandias,” when Walt kidnapped baby Holly.
Skyler sensed the harsh truth from Day One, which is why she had to become the Queenpin in Walt’s meth empire. Many misconstrued it as her wanting to assuage her own narcissistic side, or get back at Walt, as seen when she slept with her former boss, Ted. While Skyler was vindictive and a hypocrite at times, she also had to check Walt and take back some modicum of control over her own spiraling life. As she did all this, Walt, despite being angry, still let her run his finances and launder his money, which says a lot. He knew that without Skyler, he would have been caught earlier by the feds, or exposed to enemies.
Skyler wasn’t just saving the business selfishly. She was ensuring her children wouldn’t get caught in the crossfire, whether it be with the government or criminals. Walt was expendable, but their children couldn’t be collateral damage. The biggest piece of evidence for this is how she never wanted the drug money to crossover into hers. She didn’t want Walt Jr. driving fancy cars because she knew this was blood money that could be tied to them. Even when Skyler played along and gave the impression she was a happy, obedient wife, all she was doing was trying to checkmate Walt at his own game, which became one of survival.
Skyler White’s Actions Stemmed From a Broken Marriage
It’s easy to see why people think Skyler flipped on Walt in the Breaking Bad story. Some fans thought it was out of jealousy over how much money he was making. But Skyler herself wouldn’t have cared if the millions were brought in legally. Her main goal was always to ensure they had enough money, not just for recreation, but for Walt’s cancer treatment and the children’s academic lives. The moment she realized Walt deflected and made it about her needs, when he was negligent, emotionally abusive and manipulative, Skyler knew her marriage was over.
This wasn’t even about her having a lack of control once she learned Walt was a behemoth. Skyler just wanted to get away from Walt because he was no longer the earnest, honest and hardworking teacher she married. The big catalyst for this was when Skyler found out about Walt’s two phones when he faked his fugue state. She picked up on little lies with Jesse before that, but this crossed a line. If Walt could lie about that, he could lie about anything. In the end, it didn’t matter if he was a cheater or drug dealer, Skyler just didn’t have that trust and faith in him anymore.
It was very uncomfortable seeing Walt getting into bed with Skyler later on and force himself onto her. It definitely wasn’t consensual, as Skyler had no idea who this monster was in her home. This isn’t to condone her actions later on, such as the Ted affair, but Skyler was a hurt wife thereafter. This led to Skyler processing her rage and that hatred towards Walt with visible scorn, especially as she had to keep faking being a happy wife and mother to her children, friends and family. The more dirt she found on Walt, the more she acted out.
There’s a valid, human reason for Skyler’s actions. Keeping such a secret inside poisons someone, so sympathy has to be offered to a Skyler who just wanted an outlet to vent. Infidelity wouldn’t be best-advised, but given how vulnerable she was, it’s understandable, real and relatable Skyler lashed out at a lying Walt. The fact he kept pretending the facade was real left her even more irate, because she was stuck in this tragedy of a marriage while babysitting him.
Fans must remember Walt had mother issues too, with much of their relationship framed from his perspective, Skyler as a den mother in the latter stages of the show was always going to be seen as a bad thing by such a morally decrepit Walt. All he had to do was be a good husband, and admit the truth from the start, but with each lie, the levees broke, pushing Skyler further away from their matrimonial bond.
Skyler White Was a Statement Against Toxic Masculinity
Juxtaposed against the myriad of jerks, including a sinister Saul, Jesse looked like a catch. Even Skyler and her sister, Marie, warmed to Jesse by the series’ end, acknowledging he was the exception to the rule. Notably, when it came to toxic masculinity, Skyler was the antithesis of all this. Breaking Bad went out of its way to fridge women often, with Walt watching Jane overdose and die. Jesse similarly watched Todd murder Andrea, and Lydia was being poisoned for trying to control Walt’s empire. Skyler, knowing Walt had no problem with murdering his foes, wasn’t going to be part of that.
Even before he officially let her know he was into killing, Skyler anticipated this and decided to become more fearless, stronger and an imposing figure to intimidate Walt. It’s something many viewers — especially the men in the audience — didn’t like. But this kind of nuance didn’t require subtlety. It needed an emphatic statement, breaking the gaze from a misogynistic lens. This helped Skyler shed her feminine skin in a series that often had her applying lotion, doing her hair, fixing her makeup and simply falling into that stigma of the pretty “trophy wife” or a housewife, in general.
Skyler was never this kind of woman. Nor would she be resigned to this destiny as a spouse on a proverbial chain. As a result, she evolved to play the game with animals, the only way someone in her shoes knew how to: by playing it dirty. Ultimately, it may have infuriated some, but this brazen attitude helped Skyler avoid jail and separate her kids from Walt by the time the DEA went after Heisenberg.
A chemistry teacher diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer turns to manufacturing and selling methamphetamine with a former student in order to secure his family’s future.