About two years ago, all excited and enthusiastic about the discovery of this amazing TV show, I wanted to write a piece about Skyler White from Breaking Bad. Played by Anna Gunn (Emmy Award-winning Anna Gunn, that is), Skyler has always been a source of fascination for me. In those first couple of seasons, back when we were still naïve, before we knew what lay ahead, before everything went so mind-bendingly wrong, Skyler was just Walt’s irritating, meddlesome wife. She was the character we all loved to hate. We were, after all, very much team Walt. We found ourselves gullibly corrupted by his intent. We rooted for him. His reasons were good, after all. He was just a poor cancer-stricken chemistry teacher, awaiting his impending death and desperate to leave something behind for his family. And so we got behind him, okayed ourselves with his actions. He had to kill Krazy 8 that time. It was eat or be eaten, right?
Meanwhile, Skyler was there, consistently sticking her oar in and generally irritating the crap out of everyone. She was so full of questions, comments and accusations. “What’s going on?”, “Where have you been?”, “Who’s this Jesse Pinkman?”. She was so confrontational and we didn’t have the patience for it. We were trying to run a successful meth business. All for her benefit. And she wouldn’t ever just leave her long-suffering and loving husband alone.
How blind we were. They say hindsight is 20/20 and now, in the aftermath of Breaking Bad’s penultimate episode, hindsight is drenched with remorse. While Walt hides away in his New Hampshire shack, receiving his back-alley chemotherapy from “Max Cherry, Cherry Bail Bonds“, Skyler is left to face the music for his sins. How can we loathe her now? Look what Walt has done to her. How cowardly of him to run away. How selfish. How demonstrative of the monster he has become.
We feel foolish now for not predicting all this. It was never going to work out. We were never going to get a fairytale ending with Breaking Bad. We should have known that Krazy 8’s death was the start of the mudslide that would swoop us up and carry us from blithe support of our beloved Heisenberg to utter horror at this callous and frightening drug lord.
Skyler was always the moral centre of Breaking Bad. In seasons one and two, when we hated her the most, it’s now blindingly obvious that she might as well have been wearing a halo. She was a middle-aged, pregnant woman whose husband was stricken with lung cancer and secretly cooking methamphetamine. She was just as worried for her family as Walt. He shut her out, he grew distant, he wasn’t even there when Holly was born. And still, for five seasons, we’ve watched her stand by her husband in the most graceful manner. We’ve watched her consistently, in her own famous words, “protect this family from the man who protects this family.” We’ve watched her instill logic into some of the show’s most ominous situations. And most of all, we’ve seen her desperately ache to be free from it all. “I can’t remember the last time I was happy,” she told Walt in ‘Buried’. And she meant it. Skyler never asked for any of this. She was never okay with it. She was just too loyal to walk away.
I never wrote anything about Skyler two years ago. Anything I would have composed would have been nothing more than a scathing release of annoyance on my part anyway. I would have regretted it. I didn’t know what was to come.
The promo just released for ‘Felina’ opens with a flash-back to Walt in his classroom, telling his students that “chemistry is the study of transformation.” That man seems now to be just a vague memory. Walter’s transformation from lame teacher to terrifying criminal is almost unfathomable. It’s difficult, even, to try and pinpoint where we lost him. When did we start to lose faith in his “reasons”? We were behind him after Jane’s death. We were behind him still after Gale Boetticher’s death. We were behind him after he bombed the nursing home. We even found some crazy logic in his poisoning of Brock with the Lily of the Valley.
It has only been recently that we have truly started to see the light about Walt’s character. We didn’t like it when he killed Mike. We didn’t like it when he told Hank to “tread lightly”. Or when he made the incriminating tape for Hank and Marie.
The final nails in the coffin of Walt’s supposed decent character have hit hard and heavy in the last number of episodes, most notably his giving the go-ahead for Jack to murder Jesse. It was then we realized irrevocably that our old friend Walter, who just wanted ensure his family’s security after his death, had actually died long ago and in his place now stood a cold, calculating and merciless criminal, who could so calmly and ruthlessly surrender his “family”, his partner and the only true friend he ever had to his certain death. Despite his attempt to beg Jack for Hank’s life at the desert stand-off, we were finished rooting for Walt. He had taken us for a ride and now, like Jesse and Skyler and everybody else that’s ever stood in his path, we had run out of empathy for his cause.
Sunday night’s penultimate episode, ‘Granite Slate’, was almost an hour long and, following the stress of last week’s episode, felt somewhat anticlimactic. That’s with the exception of the harrowing scenes involving poor Jesse. Not that that a lull in the action is a bad thing. We needed this break from the distress and the stomach-churning moments to compose ourselves and prepare for the carnage that is sure to come in next week’s finale.
The theories on how it’s all going to go down on Sunday night are abundant, wide-ranging and all purely speculative. No one really knows what’s going to happen. It all seems to come back to the opening scene of ‘Blood Money’ when, in a flash-forward, we saw Walt arriving at his house in Albuquerque, now dilapidated, fenced-off and vandalised. He opened the trunk of his car, revealing a very serious looking gun. He then broke into the house, went into the bedroom and retrieved a vial of ricin from behind a socket. And so, we deduce two things: 1) that he abandoned his ‘Dr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium’ DVDs and, 2) Heisenberg’s got a plan.
So who is the ricin for? Who will face the barrel of that gun? The very fact that Walt has returned to Albuquerque at all implies that he is ready to end things. Ed, Saul’s extractor guy, told him in no uncertain terms, “if you leave this place, you WILL get caught.” Walt is the subject of a police manhunt. There is no slipping in and out. If he’s back, he’s back with intentions. Beyond that, we can only theorize.
I’d love to see Walt save Jesse. Who wouldn’t? Walt said himself that he considers Jesse “family” (said while he was arranging Jack’s hit on him) and we’ve always rooted for their relationship. Alas, I’m not optimistic for that outcome. In fact, I’m not optimistic for Jesse at all anymore. Regardless of the fact that I don’t believe he will ever forgive Walt, I don’t believe that he will ever recover himself. Jesse is a broken man, a shadow of the comical kid with the “Yo! Yo! Yo!” answering machine. He has always struggled with the morality of his crimes and now, with the revelation of Walt’s presence when Jane died and the cold-blooded shooting of Andrea by Todd, it’s not illogical to assume that the Jesse we once knew is gone forever.
My personal hypothesis is still in progress. I can’t make a call on Jesse’s fate. But I’ve decided that, while we know that Walt must have his last stand, so too must Skyler. She has been supportive, rational, careful, soft and strong. She has kept Walt afloat in many ways with her sound mind and intelligence. But that makes her his accomplice, and, despite Walt’s spineless and cruel phone call where he attempted to exonerate her in the eyes of the police, Skyler’s going to have to face consequences. I’m thinking something along the lines of her and Walt coming together and deciding that, ultimately, the best thing for their family now, is to be without them, ensued by a possible suicide pact and Marie getting what she’s desperately craved from the start – the children.
About the season finale, show creator, Vince Gilligan, had this to say, “Rightly or wrongly there will be a conclusive ending. Our story from the beginning has been designed to be close-ended. It’s very much designed to have a beginning, a middle, an end and then to exist no more.”
Gilligan has previously spoken about his belief in justice and the prevalence of good over evil. Whatever that means for Walter, for Skyler, for Jesse, for Walt Jr. and Holly and for poor, innocent and widowed Marie, we’ll know soon enough.
It’s time for a battle-weary Walter White to put on his pyjamas and climb into the bed he has been making for himself for the past five years.
Are you ready?