30 Day Television Challenge: Day Twenty-Two

Most Annoying Character: Skylar White (Breaking Bad)

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I could probably sub out just about any other female character from Breaking Bad here, or perhaps even AMC for that matter. For all intents and purposes, AMC is the channel with the middle-aged, white man with the pain-in-the-ass wife. Accordingly, Skylar is no exception.

Why exactly is Skylar so annoying? In a word, she nags. She is all up in Walt’s ass. She refuses to sublimate herself to Walt’s ambitions and is an obstacle for our hero to overcome. The ideal wife, we are to conclude, is the one who silently assists the hero achieve his goals; she is a passive receptacle for her husband’s desires.

What I find so annoying about Skylar is how long it takes for her arc to become apparent. For the first two seasons, she’s a broken record. Her concern for her husband and family manifests as a micromanaging urge to monitor and survey. Walt must go to great lengths to hide from Skylar’s Sauronesque gaze.

By extension, I would say Skylar’s slow progress as a character speaks to one of the few yet glaring faults I find with the series. Too often, Breaking Bad is stuck in neutral and takes too long to really kick into gear.

For example, the first half of the series really belabors the collision between middle class suburbia and the criminality of the underclass. The latter is an exciting, masculine world of kill-or-be-killed stakes; the former is mediocre, dull, and effeminate. It isn’t until the third season when Walt gets fired from teaching that the show finally moves away from this concept, and, in my opinion, truly catches its stride.

In regards to Skylar, she is a force of the suburban lifestyle. She feminizes Walt and holds him back from realizing his ambition.

She is a ball buster.

Yet, despite all this, I would argue Skylar is the bravest character in the series.

Breaking Bad is all about characters confronting the void. Taking into consideration Nietzsche’s oft-quoted aphorism, “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you”, I would argue Skylar is the most courageous in her confrontation with the void.

Walt, staring down the barrel of cancer, throws himself completely into his megalomania, frantically building his “empire.” Jesse hides under a blanket of debauchery and drug addiction. Hank is courageous, too, but he takes refuge behind a veil of performative masculinity.

Skylar is courageous because she doesn’t hide. She approaches problems realistically, refusing to believe Walt’s delusions, seeing his violence for what it really is. Initially, Skylar must be kept in the dark; she isn’t a trustworthy accomplice by Walt’s standards. She, however, figures out the truth for herself. Eventually, Skylar is seduced by Walt’s perverse logic and becomes an accessory.

Nevertheless, after staring into the void, Skylar looks beyond it and turns away. She fortifies herself against the lure of money and egoism. The void entered her like a disease but her system rejected it.

cheers,

-B

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~ by braddunne on January 9, 2013.

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