The ongoing global pandemic alongside a wintry mix have kept me inside moreso than usual. While I’m proud that I haven’t completely succumbed to a vegetative state, productivity only seems to come in spurts and I am consuming the usual trio of internet, games, and shows at a much higher rate.
One such show is Breaking Bad – the critically acclaimed AMC hit about a chemistry teacher-turned-meth-cook. The writer/director/producer Vince Gilligan has crafted a surpassing narrative about the nature of power and the real cost that is paid to acquire it. Ironically, meth is the lesser of the vices as the show demonstrates the effect greed and pride have on the main characters and those that surround them.
One such character, Skylar White, is the topic of this post. In my mind, she was the most interestingly presented character and really demonstrated the genius behind Gilligan’s writing.
For the unaware, who should really go watch the show, Skylar is the wife of the wannabe drug kingpin, Walter White. Her character is fairly dull in how it’s initially presented but, as the show progresses, her flaws as a person begin to shine more brightly. In a way, she becomes more reprehensible to the audience as Walter’s interactions grow more callous and daring.
Gilligan presents these deliberate flaws in such a way that the audience finds them more emotionally disdainful than the genuinely evil actions of her husband. Like her habit of smoking while pregnant, her petty attitude, her adultery, and her two-faced involvement in Walter’s schemes where it seemed she would opportunistically sway between statuses as a co-conspirator and victim. These qualities and more were written to provide an illusory balance between the pair’s transgressions.
In the show, Walter is the protagonist. The anti-hero that the audience roots for. Because even if he’s doing vile things, the audience sees his intelligence and dedication as virtuous; we’ve grown with him and seen him rise to such intoxicating heights that the notion of his fall is uncomfortable. In contrast, Skylar is presented with no redeemable character traits. Viewers might see her as holding Walter back or, even less forgivable, trying to return to a boring life centered around their family.
Skylar is a case study in how people can respond poorly to adversity. At her story’s core, she didn’t react well to the discovery of her husband’s cancer and subsequent turn into druglord infamy. She wasn’t a villain, she was a deeply flawed person who handled all of the serious problems in her life poorly, hypocritically and indecisively. Skylar was written realistically – she’s the average, middle-class person who discovers they’re married to some Machiavellian sociopath.