Good television drama pulls a main character in several directions at once, and few shows are stretching and torturing a protagonist like AMC's Breaking Bad. High school chemistry teacher-turned-meth-peddler Walter White is deep in the s***, to put it lightly.
First, there's the drug trade business he's got going on, which has set some cartel assassins on his trail, ready to cut his head off and mount on a plaque for Tuco's uncle. He's also got cancer, and a brother-in-law in the DEA who's hot on the trail of his drug-dealing alias.
But his biggest problem right now is his wife. Skyler White, played wonderfully by the fantastic Anna Gunn (Emmy time?), has been slowly boiling over for the last few seasons, and the lid blew off the pot last night.
But prior to that, I've had many discussions with my Breaking Bad-watching friends about her behavior. We know Walter, we love Walter. So when Skyler acts the way towards Walt that she does—a few thousand degrees colder than the dark side of Neptune—we tend to call her a major b****.
She's forbidding Walter from entering his house, from spending time with his kids, and from speaking to her more than he has to. It's some of the harshest treatment anyone has ever received on a family drama, and because we're predisposed to love Walt and brush off his incredibly irresponsible decisions, we take our anger out on Skyler.
But she has a point. Walter lied to her—to her face—multiple times. She gave him the benefit of the doubt and got burned. So is it so wrong that she's acting this way? Does the fact that he's "doing this all for his family" give him a free pass? Well, that's an ethical question that will receive different responses from different people.
However, Skyler doesn't seem to have as much of a problem with white-collar crimes, does she? At work, she turns a blind eye to the fudged profit reports after Ted explains he's doing it for the company and its employees (essentially, the company's "family"). Is this a double standard for Skyler?
Another ethical question (Breaking Bad is great at these, isn't it?): Walt set the money—about $600k if I remember it right—down in front of Skyler in the middle of the hallway, said it was earned, and insisted no one would miss it. Would you take the money and let things slide? After thinking about it for a few minutes, that little devil on my shoulder won out and convinced me that I would.
But the biggest surprise of the season is Skyler's rash decision to bone her boss. Whether it was to spite Walt, to gain some sort of control in her life and the upper hand in her donnybrook with Walt, or to satisfy some deep-seeded attraction to Ted, that move was the key action of Season 3 so far, and one that hurt me almost as much as it hurt Walt.
I know some Breaking Bad fans have dismissed Skyler as a whiny wife with no real thing going for her on her own, but I've always been fascinated by her and think this may be the season everyone else realizes what a fascinating character she is.
Here are some Skyler-related questions for you to answer in the comments section below:
Do you think Skyler has been too harsh on Walt? Should she be more forgiving?
Would you take the cash, or is it just dirty drug money?
Why do you think Skyler boinked her boss? To get control of her life? To throw it in Walt's face? Because she's always wanted to? All of the above?
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom