Michael Corleone had Kay, Frank Lucas had Eva, and Jordan Belfort had Teresa and then Naomi. What do all of these women have in common besides being the First Ladies of their husbands’ respective empires? The general public views them all with a similar distaste after they complicated their husbands’ plans to conquer their illegal trade.
But why? Surely, you can empathize with Skyler after all that she’s been through. Right? No? Is this hatred of her character caused by something sinister like people not being comfortable with a woman who stands up to her husband (even when he’s committing some major marriage no-no’s, facilitating major drug distribution, and committing murder)? Or is it simply that in this age of the anti-hero, anyone who stands up to the (bad) guy that we’re rooting for earns derision? Unfortunately, it might just be a little bit of both, but is she ultimately just really misunderstood?
If you’re curious about these questions or eager to give Skyler another chance, come with us on this quick trip through her evolution (warts and all) on Breaking Bad, and at the end, maybe you’ll cut her some slack.
Intervention Gone Wrong
When Skyler was first introduced, she was admittedly controlling and a bit high strung. One time that she used those attributes to better the life of someone else was when she brought the family together for an intervention to help Walt come to terms with his cancer diagnosis. Sadly, things got turned around by Walter and his mystical monologue powers.
Thinking Quick Off Her Feet
We quickly learned that Skyler wasn’t an angel, by any means. When her sister Marie’s kleptomania resulted in her being falsely held in the back of a store for shoplifting, she faked labor to get out of it.
Happy Birthday, Mr. President [of Beneke Fabricators]
After a while, Skyler felt noticeably unwanted by Walter due to him keeping secrets, being busy, and even disappearing for days at a time for unknown reasons. In any relationship, that makes outside temptation a lot harder to ignore. So, when Skyler didn’t get that attention at home, she eventually found it elsewhere in the arms of her boss, Ted Beneke. It was pretty much over once she did her impersonation of Marilyn Monroe singing to JFK. Even JFK couldn’t say no to that.
Trouble in the White House
Skyler went on to find out that Walter was responsible for one of the biggest crystal meth distributions the country had ever seen. Initially, she didn’t know how to handle it and even threatened Walt with divorce and going to the police. The truth coming to the surface understandably led to a pretty rocky home life.
Trying to Stay Clean and Legit
After folding to the pressure and deciding to work with Walt to help keep him out of trouble and better manage his money, Skyler was finally able to convince him that he’d done enough to be able to retire comfortably. She’d even gotten him to invest in the same car wash he was fired from as a cover. But when old associates started to show their faces around their new and legitimate business, Skyler had to make it clear – they were out. Or, so she thought.
The Dangers of the Deep End
Managing all of the secrets and pressure that come with running a drug empire can be overwhelming. Hell, it almost drove Walt crazy on several occasion. After realizing that going completely legit was only a fantasy, Skyler went to a dark place emotionally and psychologically. During one of her low moments, she walked into the deep end of the family pool with no intention of coming back out.
When All You Can Do is Wait
She’d had enough. Skyler knew there was no hope for her marriage or life going back to the way it was, so she accepted that the best thing was for her kids to be away from Walt so that she could protect them until his cancer came back to kill him. There’s definitely no coming back from that.
Jesse In the Middle
One of the funniest moments of the series came when Jesse ended up stuck in the middle of the massive wedge two people had put between each other at dinner. Skyler was completely emotionally shut off at this point and Walt was always irritated by something. Things got ugly pretty quickly before Skyler dismissed herself from the table.
Don’t Bring a Fist to a Knife Fight
Question: if someone is putting your entire family in danger as an extension of their own drama, how long would you let them stick around? Especially after you asked them to leave, but they adamantly said they wouldn’t? We’re by NO means condoning violence here, but Skyler was quick to consider it as an option.
The True Motivation
After being dragged through the mud and left behind by Walter’s actions, Skyler ended up working a lousy job and living in a small apartment while the authorities were constantly interrogating her about her involvement. So when he showed up after who knows how long, she didn’t have much to say, so she let him talk. But, one thing she wouldn’t let him say is that he did all of this for the same family he drove away.
In the end, Skyler had her flaws, just like a well-rounded character should. She was often depicted as controlling and sometimes unappreciative of what was done for her. But, to be fair, a lot of her actions and their consequences were direct results of her husband being too busy building up a crystal meth juggernaut to satisfy his own ego and control issues. Depending on how you look at things, her mistakes made certain situations worse than they had to be, but her suggestions also improved others.