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Wednesday, 22 of September of 2021

Breaking Bad – “Fifty-One”

“Life is good, Skyler.

Breaking Bad title cardIt’s really not. But that’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?

I have to imagine that this week was flush with blog posts re-considering long held prejudices and grudges against Skyler and/or Anna Gunn. Or at least I hope they are. I admit that I’d be writing one myself, but I kind of want to interrogate why I’ve come around on Skyler, and the reason why frankly has me irritated with myself for being an asshole.

But we’ll get to that. I think “Fifty-One” may be one of my favorite episodes of the series so far because it shows the real threat that Breaking Bad‘s, as a friend of mine, Maria, called it on Facebook, “unchecked masculinity” has on the world. There are women trying to escape (not just get away from but actually escape), and the men simply will not let them. And if we weren’t sure about this, the cold open is Walter and his son pointlessly revving the engines of leased sports cars.

Let’s quickly chat about Lydia, who I kind of love. She’s wound incredibly tight (two different shoes is a nice touch) but she’s still trying to play some angles, to get out of things. The problem is she’s only able to get by by the skin of her teeth. Her glued GPS at the barrel of methylamine isn’t the most well-thought out plan, but then neither was her idea to kill eleven other men through Mike’s hand. But it’s that her plans are so amateurish that they pose such a threat. There’s too much of a chance she could do something to screw everything up for the guys making the drugs and the money, and she needs to be eliminated.

So it’s kind of startling when Mike decides that he’s been sexist in letting Lydia live and that he should’ve killed her earlier. I don’t know how this will play out (suspecting it will next week given that Walter has declared that “Nothing stops this train.”) But in seeing Lydia attempt an act of self-preservation, it creates wonderful parallels with Skyler’s struggle to regain some control in her home.

Skyler’s actions are more desperate, but Skyler’s situation is a bit more desperate.

I’ve slowly come around on Skyler, but I hate the reason that I perceive that I have. As Skyler has fallen more and more into the role of the victim, the abused, the hostage, the more I’ve come to sympathize with her, and a bit of me hates myself for it. Here was a woman who was doing everything she could with and without knowledge to keep her family safe and protected, and I never felt much toward her. Her issues with Ted, especially, put her in the role of doing dumb things that just don’t always play well compared to the, sigh, more exciting (read: masculine) issues of dealing with the drug cartels and making meth.

But now that’s scared out of her mind, enough to feign(?) a suicide attempt in front of her husband, her sister, and her brother-in-law, I’m legitimately terrified for her, I worry about Skyler’s survival in a way that I hadn’t before. But I hate myself for never being terrified before, for never thinking to be terrified before.

Skyler’s fear demonstrates to us just how far Walter has gone in less-than-enthused eyes. We may love him as an anti-hero, but Skyler offers a much needed corrective on that love, that this anti-hero worship is not something we should be embracing. When Walter, once again, engages in his abusive behavior, practically telling Skyler that she has no recourse, that he has every way to keep her, and the children, stuck in the house or within his grasp (threatening to commit her!), it sinks in just what a house of horrors the Whites’ home has become. And so when Skyler, horrified that she even has to give voice to this, says that she’s waiting for the cancer to come back, she realizes her only move against Walter is to start chain smoking again in the vain hopes that his cancer will be triggered by some second-hand smoke.

It’s as desperate a plan as Lydia’s glued on GPS, and will prove to be about as effective, I suspect. But both women are increasingly out of moves in this narrative where masculinity has all the cards, even as it has to rely on these women to maintain facades of legitimacy, be it as a business or as a family.


  • “People like to joke about this car, but it’s sturdy as hell.” Love it.
  • I must admit that I completely lost track of the Heisenberg hat.
  • Just give Anna Gunn an Emmy now, all right? She plays the hell out of that post-suicide attempt scene in their bedroom.
  • Not sure what to make of Hank’s promotion.
  • Ophelia vibe? Hell yes. (Actually I went to Edna Pontellier first, and then, obviously, to Ophelia.)

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