One of the great things about Breaking Bad is its bold ability to cast practically every character you encounter in a bad light. Not every character along the way commits crimes, and certainly, there are several that never committed the worst crime of all, which is murder, but nobody gets out of this series unscathed. Well, maybe Walt Jr. and Holly, but they were kids, and Walt Jr.’s lifelong psychological issues are probably assured based on how it all ends. Characters like Skyler, Saul Goodman, Lydia-Rodarte Quayle, and others all commit felonies and exist as accomplices in both Madrigal and Walt’s criminal activities, but there is room for comparison when comparing these characters to characters such as Walt, Jesse, Gus, Mike, Todd, Tuco, et al. Like The Sopranos, you cannot help but wonder how everybody will make out after the series finale airs. Can anybody find redemption in the wake of the fallout of the story’s final act? I think this is certainly true, but the characters who can are few and far between. Some of the characters in this list do terrible things, and yes, a few of these characters will inspire more than one eye roll just by seeing their names. But all hope is not lost for these characters (those who survived that is), and it is almost certain that what they experienced during Walt’s reign of breaking bad has now given them a new outlook on going with the flow and not disrupting the social order just to “feel something.” Spoilers ahead…
Those who hate Skyler White (Anna Gunn) passionately hate her, and then there are the rest of us who get what Vince Gilligan was aiming for with this character. Yes, Skyler did some abhorrent things, and yes, she was also polarizing and toxic (at times) long before she even found out about Walt’s meth-cooking, but none of this makes Skyler repellent beyond redemption. When the pilot opens on Walt’s 50th birthday, he and Skyler have been married for 16 years, and for most long-term married couples, this means that the marriage has settled into more of a supportive friendship long after the embers of new and exciting passion have withered away. Skyler is pushy at times–she definitely runs the White household and merely has a different and more apparent way of showing her mid-life frustration than the more silent and passive Walt shows his. This doesn’t make her a terrible person–it just makes her a person in general.
Once Skyler discovers that Walt has lung cancer, by which time he is secretly cooking meth with Jesse which brings about a lot of mysterious absences and lame excuses to cover the reasons, Skyler does become resentful of Walt’s behavior, and she starts to feel it is okay to break bad as well. She starts smoking cigarettes again (while pregnant), she shuts down emotionally on Walt and eventually takes her old job back which results in her stepping out of her marriage. Once Walt confesses that he manufactures drugs, Skyler becomes an accomplice in his burgeoning criminal enterprise. They both break bad albeit in different ways–and Walt clearly lays this all out in his conversation with Skyler in the series finale. Unbeknownst to Skyler, Walt offers her a way out of almost certain accessory charges–but the damage done to their lives will reverberate long into the future. Nobody has perfectly addressed the toxic fandom around Skyler White better than Anna Gunn herself.
Hank and Marie Schrader
Being an obnoxious person is obviously not a crime, but the writers of Breaking Bad went to great lengths to explore the icky behavior and hypocrisy of both Hank and Marie. Marie was Skyler’s entitled, snobbish, nosey, and kleptomaniac younger sister–but despite all of this messy behavior, Marie was not mired down in selfishness to the extent of those around her. She breaks bad several times throughout the series by stealing to achieve a vicarious thrill, and her and Hank’s self-preservation is paramount in her mind, but it is hard not to feel great sympathy for her in the series finale. Hank was brutish, a jerk more than once, a prototypical “bro” long after the age for frat-like bro culture should have passed, but he was a mostly decent person. There are some fans who hate how he ruthlessly pursued Walt in the final season–but that was his job.
Poor Ted. Watching his level of sleazy behavior deteriorate to the point of embarrassment by the final season was equal parts cringe and equal parts amusing when he takes a sliding fall across his living room floor. Ted Beneke was the quintessential venture capitalist—complete with rampant corruption and a strong dose of hypocrisy that allows him to excuse his embezzlement as a means to provide for his employees. But when his true colors are revealed to Skyler when push comes to shove concerning the IRS bringing all of them down, all of our suspicions about Ted become crystal clear. Most people will meet a Ted Beneke at some point in their lives, and some redeem themselves when they get caught while others do not. When we last see him, it seems like Ted is ready to move on.
Skinny Pete and Badger
Jesse’s long-time friends Skinny Pete and Badger are the types of low-level criminals that pop up in shows and movies that you cannot help but like. They never reach the heights that Jesse reaches in terms of co-heading a criminal enterprise, but they do their fair share of breaking bad as a means to an end. We last see the characters in the film El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019), which picks up right where the story ended in September 2010. Along with Ed Galbraith, who also shows up in El Camino, Skinny Pete, and Badger will keep going through their lives as low-level criminals–the type of criminals that are only interested in business transactions to make a living.