For most of Breaking Bad's fifth season, Skyler White has been paralyzed by depression and fear. But that may soon change.
Breaking Bad: Walt's the new king, but for how long?
Ever since Walter (Bryan Cranston) killed meth kingpin Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), Skyler (Anna Gunn) has been walking on eggshells around her increasingly sociopathic husband. But recently, she's been on a one-woman mission to keep the kids away from Walt, the one battle she has thus far been able to win.
"There is a part of her that's being galvanized," Gunn tells TVGuide.com. "The fact that she was successful at getting the kids out of the house... does sort of give her a little more strength. But again she is dealing with a man that's [unpredictable], so she's still in a huge state of fear and uncertainty. But I think she's somebody who doesn't give up. That's the thing about Skyler: It's very possible that she will continue to try to do whatever she can."
That, of course, begs the question: Why hasn't Skyler turned on Walt and given him up to her DEA agent brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris)? Gunn logically argues that Skyler's complicity in Walt's schemes — she manages a car wash that also launders Walt's dirty drug money — could backfire and land her in jail right alongside Walt. "She's in it so deep ... and I think she's so afraid of the kids not having even a single parent. It's just the fear of the unknown," Gunn says.
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However, the actress, who was recently nominated for an Emmy for her work during the show's fourth season, admits there may be other reasons Skyler continues to protect Walt from the authorities. "It's got something to do with her connection to Walt," she says. "Perhaps it's the romantic in me as a person that feels like there is some abiding love down deep there. I think that one of the things that made Walt and Skyler fall in love in the first place is the fact that their minds are both so keen and so sharp and their intellect is really on par. They really found a partner in terms of the brilliance of both of their minds."
But Gunn also suggests that Skyler and Walt share the ability to transform. While Walt has slowly turned into his alter ego Heisenberg , Gunn says Skyler has developed her own sort of damning qualities. "The things that have been revealed about her character and her personality have been complete surprises to her along this journey," Gunn says. "She's such an adept liar. I think it surprises her that her mind works in that way so quickly. So, I think she's capable of anything in the same way that Walt became capable of things that he probably couldn't never in a million years have imagined. There's a really similar quality to his transformation into the Heisenberg and her transformation into what she's becoming."
Gunn says the completion of her transformation perhaps began when she first told Walt that she's simply just waiting for the moment his cancer comes back and kills him. "I don't think it came from a spiteful place," she says. "She honestly believes that there's no other choice and that there's no other way out. It's such a chilling thing to say, but she's been pushed so far into the corner by him. It's like an animal backed into the corner — they lash out in that way."
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And Gunn predicts that Skyler will continue to lash out. During a moment of weakness in last week's episode, when Skyler seemed on the verge of finally confessing all of her secrets to her sister Marie (Betsy Brandt), Skyler learned that Walt had told Marie about Skyler's affair with her former boss Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins).
"She was as close as she's ever come to confessing," Gunn says. "It's like a pot that's been boiling for a long time with the lid on way too tight. She's so sick of lying and she just wants the relief. If Marie hadn't said something, she may have given it up. [But] she's just enraged and she's just fully indignant at that moment."
Cue the most awkward dinner scene ever, during which Walt invited Jesse (Aaron Paul), his partner in meth-making, over for dinner for the first time. Although Jesse was hilariously uncomfortable, Gunn says that scene is all about the embattled spouses.
"[Skyler and Walt] keep one-upping each other," Gunn says. "She got the kids out of the house, but then Walt kind of hit back. I think she starts to get past her fear at that point and I think it starts to [have] more of an attitude of, 'Go ahead; bring it.' It's almost like they're playing chess with each other across that table and poor Jesse is the guy stuck in the middle wishing he were anywhere else in the world except sitting at that table. It really felt to me that it was a silent game."
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Of course, the last time Walt was in a metaphorical chess match with an opponent, he won. (RIP, Gus!) So how does Gunn feel about her character's chances? "It sort of terrifies me," she says with a laugh. "I really feel a little trepidatious every time I get a script because anybody could get it next. ... She absolutely thinks he could hurt her. It's like being put into a pen with a wild animal and you don't know what they're going to do. It's a wild card now."
But don't automatically count Skyler out. "Skyler is a strong, steely woman, and I wouldn't underestimate her," Gunn says. "She's moving into a much stronger place emotionally, and she's calculating the next move. She is determined like a fierce mother lion to, by any means, protect those kids."
Like, maybe killing Walt herself? "It's been just an unthinkable thing for her to do," Gunn says. "But I imagine that if she gets backed further into the corner, anything is possible."
Breaking Bad airs Sundays at 10/9c on AMC.