Anna Gunn plays Skyler White on Breaking Bad and she’s got something to say. Skyler is the wife of chemistry-teacher-cum-meth-dealer Walter, an ordinary woman thrust against her will into a world of violence, money, temptations, danger, and moral compromise.
All the acting on the show is amazing and Anna Gunn is no exception. She’s alternately angry, depressed, desperate, resolute, and strong.
And people hate her. So much that Ms. Gunn wrote a piece in the New York Times responding.
A typical online post complained that Skyler was a “shrieking, hypocritical harpy” and didn’t “deserve the great life she has.”
“I have never hated a TV-show character as much as I hate her,” one poster wrote. The consensus among the haters was clear: Skyler was a ball-and-chain, a drag, a shrew, an “annoying bitch wife.”
I enjoy taking on complex, difficult characters and have always striven to capture the truth of those people, whether or not it’s popular. Vince Gilligan, the creator of “Breaking Bad,” wanted Skyler to be a woman with a backbone of steel who would stand up to whatever came her way, who wouldn’t just collapse in the corner or wring her hands in despair. He and the show’s writers made Skyler multilayered and, in her own way, morally compromised. But at the end of the day, she hasn’t been judged by the same set of standards as Walter.
“Male characters,” she says, “Don’t seem to inspire this kind of public venting and vitriol.”
I never saw Skyler as a nag, a shrew, although other people (ahem) in my household have. I’ve seen her as a victim who has not given up. Her goal has been to protect her family and she’s made some morally questionable decisions down that road.
Last week’s episode, Buried (recap here), was the strongest yet in which Skyler crosses over into the dark side, rejecting her chance to come clean and get out. She’s not a victim any more. She’s driving this train, or at least helping.
Personally, I’m less concerned with whether Skyler is a feminist heroine or not. I’m more interested in seeing what happens as her own compromises take her down the same trail that Walt has blazed. She’s in. Will she personally sell meth? Will she kill someone?
Why can’t a woman have as powerful a story arc as her onscreen husband?
Most of all, what will her choices mean for her children? When she refused to let Marie take her baby, she essentially signed her kids up for the devastation to come.
What do you think? What will happen to Skyler? And does she deserve it?
Breaking Bad Season 6 Episode 2: Buried
Breaking Bad Season 6 Episode 3: Confessions
Vote on what the end should be here.