Breaking Down: Skyler’s Plight

skyler white

“Skyler White”

by: Leigh Lane

Last week, I did a rough character analysis of Walter White, comparing him to his fellow characters and offering possible insights to the disturbing reality behind his “breaking bad.”  This week, I’d like to take a look at Skyler’s character—a stark contrast to Walter—and the devastating effects his actions have had on her.

Those who have watched the series from the beginning will likely have noticed Skyler is not the same woman she was in Episode One.  In the first few seasons, she was a confident, self-assured person who would have done anything to help her husband in his time of need.  She was fearless and strong, and one might have even argued that she was unbreakable.  Recent episodes have proven that all people have their breaking points—and the effects can be profound.

Skyler has become the poster child for the battered woman.  While Walt has not physically laid a hand on her, he has beaten her down with his will alone.  The August 5 episode, “Fifty-One,” shows a woman who is barely able to look at her husband, picks despondently at her food, and is willing to inflict physical damage to herself not only in an attempt to expunge the emotional pain (did anyone notice how tightly she wound the floss around her finger and her chain-smoking?) but also to protect her children.

The post-birthday dinner scene is by far the most profound.  As Walt casually converses with Hank and Marie, Skyler moves to the periphery of the scene.  Her moment staring into the pool presents a moment of reflection, and her feigned suicide attempt is a physical demonstration of her desperation.  While she outwits Walt for the moment, effectively sending the children away and out of harm’s reach, the scene that follows shows just how helpless she is.  She has nowhere to go and she knows it.  She is the abused wife: desperate, powerless, stuck.

I understand Skyler’s plight well.  For nearly five years, I was the battered woman.  I stayed because I didn’t know where else to go.  I made excuses for my abuser’s behavior; I hid the real “him” from everyone around us, too ashamed to come forward with the truth and too afraid to stand up to the abuse.  It took a cracked skull, bloodied lips, and head-to-toe bruises for me finally to leave him.  I left my native California, which I love and miss terribly, to escape a man who would most certainly have killed me had I stayed.  I was Skyler White.

She knows she cannot leave, and so she is doing what she can to protect those who she sees as even more important than her: their children.  She can reflect upon a time when she would have done anything for the man she loved, and now she can only wait for what she hopes to be the inevitable: for the cancer to return and take away the monster he has become.  I can’t say how many times I had fantasized the fates taking away my abuser—of learning about his death due to a car accident or some other freak incident—anything to take away the abuse and still leave me without fault.

Until then, she is powerless—because she is afraid of her husband and what he is now capable of.  She knows that not even she is safe from his destructive wake should she cross him.

Sometimes mental abuse is worse than a senseless beating.  I know; I survived both

leigh lane

Click Image To Visit Her Site

 

Leigh M. Lane lives in the beautiful mountains of Montana, where she writes speculative fiction that spans from sci-fi to horror. All of her writing contains a gritty realism that hallmarks her unique voice, which also often has social or political undertones. Her recent full-length releases are Finding Poe, World-Mart, and Myths of Gods.  Leigh’s influences include H.G. Wells, Kurt Vonnegut, Isaac Asimov, Clive Barker, Edgar Allan Poe, and Stephen King.  For more about Leigh M. Lane and her works, visit her website at http://www.cerebralwriter.com.

Comments

  1. HUGO says:

    Fascinating ground those writers are exploring, what to do? one would think since Walt did all this out of love and for the sake of his family, he just might remove himself from the picture for the sake of his wifes mental health, but he himself has undergone a serious change in personality, one of empowerment and control manipulation, can he now bring himself to back off from his family for the very reasonable concern for safety? or will he continue to stubbornly try to continue manipulating the situation regardless of her feelings and mental detioration?
    how long can Skyler hold it together before the impending nervous breakdown brings about further havoc?, and what about Walter jr he too is coming of age and soon will no longer tolerate being treated as a child, all I can say is wow I can feel the tension just sitting there watching every development, I’m guessing the writers are slowly making Walter White a very unsympathetic character in order to prepare the viewers for his tragic and provably very deserved violent ending at the hands of his own created destiny, wow just can’t wait, seems to me the very perceptive Hank is perhaps taking a little too long to put this puzzle all together….

  2. phyllis says:

    I have a difficult time with Skyler’s behavior. She has chosen to stay with Walt. She likes the freedom of having the money. She could have walked away with the kids,no matter how difficult it would have been.So it would seem that in the mid of all of this craziness, she decides that its unhealthy for the children.Not sure I buy her motives.

  3. I agree with the author about Skylar’s original personality. She was supportive and seemingly a wonderful wife when Walt was diagnosed with Cancer. Walt took charge of these circumstances perhaps not in a way that many can agree with, but h
    e has always had his family held in his highest priority and regard. She reacts by purposely carrying out actions to crush Walt – the affair she had and depriving him of his children by forcing him to move out of their home. Following, she behaved in a manner that would lead us to believe she was concerned about, yet respecting Walt for his commitment to their family. She conspired directly to achieve stability both financially for themselves and extended family – Hank & Marie. Now, we see yet another change in Skylar. She is deceitful, reckless, and suddenly in denial of her previous actions. I have lost respect for this character at this point. I agree with Walt that if her behavior continues, he should have her committed. She is not capable to see how much Walt loves his family and would do everything within his power to protect them and provide for them. How she could look directly into his eyes and state that she is just waiting for him to be stricken down with cancer and to die is simply repulsive. The author accuses Walt of being an abusive husband? In my opinion, Walt exhibits more loving words and support to Skylar and their family than she has exhibited towards him. Who’s the abusive mate here? I disagree with the author completely 100% regarding the emotional abuse Skylar is supposedly being subjected to. I view Skylar as being the purposely abusive mate. I have grown tired of her character’s new incriminating behavior and how it could endanger and destroy the entire family.

  4. Perry says:

    Ms. Lane, I liked your first article about Walt, and I agree with many of the comments made by the people above. But, Ms. Lane, it seems you see abuse everywhere and that’s not health. You are really reaching if you are trying to make Skyler the victim. Skyler is not abused! In fact, she has been the manipulator throughout these seasons. Skyler has many times made it ‘my way or the highway’ with Walt, Marie, and Junior. She had an affair, not the action of an ABUSED person. That’s the actions of a self-centered person. Walt just accepted the affair with no violence, no punishment. Skyler is screwed up because of her own misdeeds and the realization that she can’t live two lives…which obviously Walt can. Walt cracked and became a killer, Jesse cracked and became a killer, Skyler just has to live through this transformation. Abused NO!

  5. Daniela says:

    I absolutely understand and sympathize with Skylar (and the author).

    Granted, the change from mild-mannered science teacher to drug lord is pretty dramatic, but it happened over time (like the proverbial frog in slowly heating water). And Skylar’s initial aiding and abetting probably made it harder to leave later on. She was probably hoping this was a glitch and waiting for things to get back to normal, but now she is truly trapped. Walt has become too powerful and can track her down and do some damage (and if she’s no longer around, who will protect the kids?)

    I see his threats at the end of the episode as evidence that he no longer cares what she thinks or wants (prescient in the 7/29 episode where he just decides to move back in without talking to her).

    He says supportive things because he has decided he wants to maintain the role of loving family man, and his newfound power makes him think he can make that happen, even if he no longer has his wife’s cooperation.

  6. Cynthia Funckes says:

    I am so glad to read a comment that really “gets it” by someone who was emotionally abused. I know what you mean. So many of these comments are scary-probably from young men- who have no idea of spousal abuse. Thanks for your words. I thought it was obvious that Skyler was being destroyed by Walt, but
    some people “don’t like her.” Wow…..

  7. Just to point out here, all of Breaking Bad up until now has transpired in just one year’s time. In the last episode, Walt mentions that he cannot believe it was just one year ago that he was diagnosed with cancer. What a whirlwind of a year! Every character in this story is challenged and faced with extreme difficulty in the choices they’ve had to make and been faced with. I just believe that Walt has chosen his path to make sure his family is provided for. Especially, if he still believes his time is perhaps limited. If Skylar cannot except this, she can leave. Walt would never track his wife down and hurt her. She has already made him leave their home once. Walt continued to make every effort possible to make amends even after her behavior. He told her that he forgave her for her infidelity. If he was a true abuser, what did he do to show this? Yes, he did move back in with his family without her consent – because he was not going to miss out on his little girl. Do any of you remember how he cried when Skylar finally allowed him to hold her? What is wrong with you people not to be able to see that a true abuser would completely behave in a different manner?

  8. I would also like to add a deeper explanation to my belief that Walt would never hurt Skylar if she left. Remember when she did attempt to divorce him? Was his response to this emotionally abusive? On the contrary – he attempted to make amends and yes, not lose his family. That is why he moved back in. He doesn’t want a divorce from Skylar. He loves her and he loves his children. I’m tired of you referring to him as an abusive husband and not seeing the reality here. I was emotionally abused by my ex-husband and I know what that is like. I don’t see any of that behavior in Walt. So far as I can see it, Skylar behaves like a sociopath who takes no responsibility for her actions and blames it all on Walt.

  9. linda n says:

    I SEE YOUR VIEWPOINT BUT SHE IS TAKING THE MONEY AND SHE IS MORE SEXUALLY ATTRACTED TO HIM WHEN SHE SEES HIM AS A BADASS, CAN,T HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT IT TOO!

    • Tom Shoyer says:

      Do you think she is sexually attracted to him? It would make more sense but she seems like she hates him.

      T.

  10. Deborah says:

    Wow – maybe you do have to have lived it directly or indirectly to see it. It is scary how controlling Walter has become over Skyler. Hurt her? Oh, yeah, in a heartbeat. He is trying to emotionally manipulate her and she is scared to death. There is no doubt she is paralyzed by fear. When he said he forgave her – the tone in his voice said it all. He does not forgive her, she knows it, and she better stay in line or pay the price.

  11. Marion says:

    I did not like her from the beginning. she just stayed because of the money. she betrayed her sick husband with another man when he discovered he had cancer she was not really looking after him- he thought he was dying, where was she? did she even really loved him? for me, not a good woman and not a good mother. smoking next to a baby? not good. and she could have been divorced- she did want the money. now she discovers her man has changed and will make her pay for what she did…she cowardsly tried to kill herself. in a pool. in front of everybody. to help the kids go out the house…come on, really that stupid? the writer might not see it that clearly because she was harmed by a man once. skylar is a egoistic bitch that does not care about anybody but herself. and walt is no better! in my eyes, the only person with a pure heart and being lost in the world is poor jesse. that is why he is my favourite character and skylar, i hate her the most. sorry if my english is not good, i am from Germany.

  12. Mojo Bone says:

    I think Marion has a point; there are no wholly sympathetic characters here, except the kids and maybe racist DEA agent Hank, who’s an assh*le, but generally an honestly bigoted assh*le. It’s easy to see oneself in all the characters who ‘break bad’ and that’s almost certainly by intention. It’s in everyone’s character to go off the ethical rails, given the right , or rather wrong circumstances; everyone’s a winner, a killer, a loser, a saint. It’s why I can’t stop watching.

  13. shulgidude says:

    Im sorry i cant agree with the author on this , although i empathize with her being the battered woman in her real life. Skylar is by no means a battered woman. She is just falling apart because she can no longer control and manipulate walt like she had been doing for years. She is coming to ends with herself due to the fact that she might actually have to care now and not just dish out orders to her obedient husband. She is the one who had the affair and she is the one who was constantly harping on walt. Walter just loved her and the kids and wanted to make sure she was taken care of when he died. Skylar stated that she is just waiting for the cancer to come back and saying other things like she will make up lies that he hurt her. It takes a more evil person to make those lies and statements than it does to take a beaten down man/victim and have him realize that he isnt the push over everyone treated him like. In my opinion the role of skylar is a self absorbed egotistical woman who cant bare the fact that she can longer direct and control the lives around her so she is making herself into a victim, since she surely isnt strong enough to be an accomplice, or thankful enough to be a loving wife. Walt never asked anything of her except for her to “climb down out of his a**” i believe was the exact phrase he used. She was the one who insisted on being a part of the business because she wanted control. Its unfortunate that Walter had to realize his potential by being a criminal, but his intentions were to be a good husband, he remained true to skylar and the family at all costs. All he did was find his inner strength.

  14. Tom Shoyer says:

    Leigh

    Did you cheat on your husband before he started abusing you? Probably not but Skylar did. She had no trust or loyalty at all. She bailed at the first sign of trouble into the arms of another man. Walt used to be a good man. His environment (Skylar) and the mistakes he’s made (Grey Matter) and turned him into this meglomaniac. Your situation and hers are not at all the same. And she’s not dis-empowered although I’m kinda hoping the ungrateful wench will be disembowled…kidding of course. She’s not really held hostage…she can go to the authorities anytime she wants and end it. I’m sure it waas a lot harder for you.

    T.

Speak Your Mind

*