While Breaking Bad
is known for its mind-blowing twists and explosive tension, this week's episode reminded us of how well the show can pack in as much drama in a more intimate but unsettling way. It is time to address the Walt and Skyler relationship, which has been icily teetering ever since Skyler discovered the man in her bed was a murderer.
Skyler Tests the Waters
Skyler finally stirs from her fear-induced shock as she begins to show signs of that old fighting spirit we know she possesses. After Walt leases two outrageous cars for himself and Walter, Jr. (something he was unable to do back when Skyler still held some power in the household) and announces he's back in the meth business, she brings up the idea of sending Jr. to boarding school. She's quickly shot down by Walt's aggressive questioning, though he tries to smooth it over with talk of his 51st birthday, a celebration he practically demands.
But Skyler, while submissive, manages to rebel even in her small ways. When Walt gets home, there is no surprise gathering and merriment of his previous birthday party. There's only Walt, Jr. watching TV and microwaved store-bought chicken with the chocolate cake Walt requested. As much as Walt wanted this to be a lighthearted celebration (exalting him), Skyler manages to perform the absolute minimum, and Hank and Marie's tense presence (both having recently discovered Skyler's affair) doesn't help the awkward birthday dinner. Marie, the opposite to Skyler's deeply buried pain, can barely feign small talk about how to mash potatoes as she fights back tears for her poor sister.
Walt's obliviousness continues as he makes a sickeningly artificial speech about needing their support to survive his last year with cancer--meanwhile, Skyler eerily leaves the table in a trance, staring into their pool before fully submerging in it, where we finally see a hint of a smile. It's only when she's near the prospect of death (and freedom) when she can make the torture stop.
But after Marie suggests they take the kids so Walt and Skyler can focus on their clear marital troubles, we realize Skyler isn't as absent as she appears to be. She's almost powerless, yes, but she's going to seize whatever chances she can to manipulate and squirm her way into achieving her goal, which is keeping her children safe and away from Walt. But the master manipulator is onto her, and in a refreshingly honest conversation, both sides admit to fully playing the game--the game of getting their own way and defeating the other. Yes, Walt has the clear upper hand and Skyler openly admits her flawed plan was shortsighted. But she has one thing Walt probably doesn't: time. When she reveals all she needs is patience for Walt's cancer to take his life, it's a cruel but valid point and reminds us of Walt's very real mortality--the starting point of this entire journey.
Just as Walt started his transformation out of a necessity (a necessity to provide for his family), Skyler will do whatever it takes to protect her family. The difference is they are now on opposite sides because Skyler still maintains that as her purpose, while Walt has undeniably moved past that need onto something much more sinister and self-serving. The question is whose desire will outlive the others? Because there's no way these two can continue to pursue such contradicting objectives for very long.
Other Plots and Thoughts
(Image courtesy of AMC)
- Neurotic Lydia is back and tries to fool Mike (really?) into leaving her alone, which only backfires and convinces him she must be killed. Luckily, Walt says the methylamine she provides is too valuable, which seems like it will spare her life, at least for the time being.
- Hank is offered a major promotion, but it would require him to reassign the Gus/Heisenberg/blue meth case he's been so consumed with since Walt came onto the drug scene. It sounds like Hank accepts, but something tells me there's no way Hank is leaving this case behind--he will pursue it until either he or Heisenberg is dead.
- Marie is just as bad at keeping secrets as Skyler is at hiding them. She is as transparent as Skyler is unfathomable.
- As Walt becomes increasingly more unsympathetic, Jesse becomes more humane. He argued against ending Lydia's life (an uptight lady he just met) and bought Walt an expensive watch for his birthday. Last week he ended his relationship with someone he cared about, knowing his secret life would be too much. He's making mature, selfless decisions as Walt has been reduced to caring about one thing and one thing only: exalting himself.