Many Breaking Bad fans were shocked that the AMC drama's midseason premiere wasted no time getting to the Walt-Hank confrontation. But the premiere featured a far more subtle surprise: Walt and his wife Skyler seemed happier together than they have in months.
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Walt (Bryan Cranston) kept Skyler (Anna Gunn) in the dark about his meth-cooking for two seasons. When she found out about his drug operation, she eventually came on board to help Walt launder his money with her accounting background. But as Walt's alter ego "Heisenberg" grew more powerful, Skyler became increasingly afraid of her husband, remarking in an early Season 5 episode that her only course of action is to wait for Walt's cancer to come back and kill him.
So, now that Walt has made a storage locker full of cash and vowed to Skyler that he's out of the game, has that fear gone away? "I think she's really in a place where she's not sure which way to go," Gunn tells TVGuide.com. "She's gone back and forth so much. Do I turn him in? Do I run away? Do I stick with him and if I stick with him do I go along with this? He said he's quitting, and I think for the first time in many seasons they're, in a strange way, united and in the same place with each other."
While Skyler might be temporarily less afraid of her husband, she still is plenty fearful. "There's a definite fear of the threat of the outside because she still doesn't know everything he's involved in," Gunn says. "She knows he's done some really bad things and that retribution could be coming any day ... But the real danger of all of this [is] if anybody finds out, it all could fall apart. I think she not only lives in fear of retribution, but I also think she lives in fear of being found out. If her family finds out, I think that is almost a bigger fear than dangerous people coming to the house. That turns her stomach."
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Yet, Gunn says Skyler is, for the time being, trying to remain positive. "She has this desperate need [to think,] 'Is there any possibility we can be a normal family and we can ride this out and maybe not get caught?'" Gunn says. "It's almost like a sense of denial. Everything seems to be OK, so maybe we can pretend and get by and put this money aside and save it for our kids and maybe that will work."
Of course, viewers know that probably won't happen. In fact, the likelihood of Skyler's stomach-turning fear becoming a reality seems imminent now that Hank (Dean Norris) has confronted Walt. (The description for Sunday's episode says "Skyler's past catches up with her." Draw your own conclusions.) So, will Skyler stand by Walt when and if Hank comes to her looking for answers? "I think she's come to a place where she would do a lot of things to protect her family," Gunn says. "And I don't think she even knows what she might be capable of to protect her family."
Indeed, besides Walt, Skyler is the character that has perhaps become the most morally compromised over the course of the series. But Gunn thinks that's the ultimately the point of creator Vince Giligan's tale. "He's not saying these people necessarily changed into different people, he's saying these people had this stuff lurking around in them from the beginning and then the set of circumstances allowed it to come out of them," she says. "That's what makes people fascinated about watching the characters because they think,' Can that be lurking in me? If I were them, would I make those choices?'"
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But regardless of Skyler's next move, Gunn says her character does recognize that she's walking a path of her own choosing. "Skyler has a deep, deep awareness of the fact that all these things she's done are wrong," she continues. "Even though she was doing them for survival reasons, they kept getting in deeper and deeper and making things worse and worse. She really understands that there were choices that she could and should have made that would have stopped a lot of this stuff from happening. And I think she wishes ... that she had made those choices. But she can't un-turn those corners and she can't undo those things. She has to live in that, and that's an awful place to live."
Breaking Bad airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.