Skyler White is on board.
In what is decidedly a transitional fourth episode in the final eight of season five’s second half (whew), we see the character so often maligned on the interwebs for being Walt’s incorrigible adversary complete a full 180. The turn began in episode ten when Walt collapsed in a heap on the bathroom floor, his chemo-ridden body reacting to the exertion of burying barrels (literally) of money in the desert. There, Skyler uttered words we never thought we’d hear in a reassuring tone we previously thought impossible: “Maybe our best move here is to stay quiet.”
Our best move?
Perhaps this is some kind of bizarre Stockholm syndrome finally taking effect in the captive victim Skyler. In the first half of this season, we realized the devastating truth that she was trapped. Truly, fully trapped, by a monster growling and cornering her on her bed, to the degree that even she confessed all she could do was “wait for the cancer to come back” and kill her captor. Yet, with her captor’s potential killer crouching at the door in the form of cancer and, now, Jesse Pinkman, she has completely switched sides, defending the very one who dragged her to this hopeless dungeon.
And it is Jesse Pinkman who catalyzes the full switch. It all started last week, in showrunner Vince Gilligan’s signature move of thrilling us in the final five minutes. We witnessed Jesse beating Saul Goodman and racing to the White residence to douse it in gasoline. (Will Jesse kill Walt? His family? Find out next week!) And last night, we returned to find the gas can on the floor in an empty and intact house. Disappointingly, it seems, Jesse changed his mind (or had it changed for him).
That change of mind is proof enough for Walter – who lapses into moments of morality or fidelity like an actor trying to believe he really is the role he plays – that Jesse is worth saving, and murder is not an option. Not even Saul can convince him that this is “an Old Yeller type situation.” But it is Skyler who will not compromise on the basis of this faux fidelity, this grasping at straws of hypocritical fatherly forgiveness and delusional mentoring for a troubled youngster. No, Walter is a killer. And so is Jesse. She, it seems, has fully embraced the reality of the present situation as she withstands Walter to the face:
Walt, you need to deal with this… [Jesse is] a person who is a threat to us. After everything we’ve done, you can’t just talk to this person. We’ve come this far, for us – what’s one more?
These words are, truly, an eruption of the Real, burning all the hypocrisies to the ground. There’s no more room for Walter’s deceptions – or self-deceptions. The scrolls have been opened. The great Revelation has begun.
Stockholm syndrome or not, to say that Skyler is now committed to her own downward spiral of justifying evil in the name of family and security and escape is beyond dispute. And when the episode suddenly flashes back to where we left off last week, with Jesse still preparing the White house for its hellish demise, the sides in this final battle become even more clear. The lines are starkly painted as Hank enters, gun drawn, to stop Jesse from completing this act of judgment, to call him to a greater and more decisive victory. It is like witnessing a man in hell redeemed for the purpose of participating in a great plan of vindication.
And vindication is, indeed, what this man in hell wants most.
Not for himself, but over and against his enemy.
He can’t keep getting away with this! He can’t keep getting away with it!
The final four episodes will be, without a doubt, an apocalyptic showdown between good and evil – and the players will occupy all the shades of gray in between. Who will win? Who will lose? And can anyone be saved?
Regardless, we may all say with Saul Goodman: “I never should have let my dojo membership run out.”