With last night’s episode of “Breaking Bad” drawing the acclaimed show even closer to its visible end, it is a point of pleasure for creators and fans alike to witness beloved characters entering their final scenes, and also reflect upon their series-wide arcs. As Walt’s wife Skyler, Anna Gunn has continually surprised in this regard, reacting to her husband’s shift into drug kingpin by turns with anger, frustration and sympathy. The response from viewers has been more one-note however, and in a recent op-ed by the actress, Gunn examined her character’s vitriolic feedback and what those comments have exposed about the show’s dynamic.
Written for the NY Times, Gunn’s op-ed lays out the actress’ feelings of creative fulfillment as Skyler on the show, but also relays a worrying observation over the course of its five seasons. “My character, to judge from the popularity of Web sites and Facebook pages devoted to hating her, has become a flash point for many people’s feelings about strong, nonsubmissive, ill-treated women,” she writes. “As the hatred of Skyler blurred into loathing for me as a person, I saw glimpses of an anger that, at first, simply bewildered me.
On the show, Gunn charts Skyler’s journey upon learning Walt’s secret as “outraged by the violence and destruction of the drug world, fearful for her children’s safety, disgusted by the money Walter brings in and undone by the lies and manipulation to which he subjects her.” She then views these actions through the show’s perspective of Walt as empathetic protagonist, which in turn places the obstinate Skyler as its antagonist—an unbalanced set of standards when it comes to their judgement.
“As an actress, I realize that viewers are entitled to have whatever feelings they want about the characters they watch. But as a human being, I’m concerned that so many people react to Skyler with such venom. Could it be that they can’t stand a woman who won’t suffer silently or ‘stand by her man’? That they despise her because she won’t back down or give up? Or because she is, in fact, Walter’s equal?”
Gunn’s argument doesn’t forgive Skyler’s actions—viewers would be lying if they said her actions on the show never made their blood boil. But those instances are the result of many talented people’s work, and Gunn is conveying her frustrated experiences as the face of all of them. You can read the full piece over on at the NY Times, and for a truly in-depth look at the show and its characters, check out an epic 4-hour interview from August 2011 with creator Vince Gilligan, as he discusses the journey of “Breaking Bad,” his childhood in Virginia, and his 144-episode stay on “The X-Files” (where he first met Bryan Cranston) (via Dangerous Minds).