Here’s why Walter White is dominated by Skyler White in Breaking Bad:
In the beginning, Skyler dominates Walter partly because he has an unassuming, meek character.
She is also a domineering type of person, and it’s natural that she would dominate that kind of person.
Over the course of the show, the dynamics change, and Walter becomes the dominant party.
So if you want to learn all about why and how exactly Skyler dominates Walter, then you’re in the right place.
Let’s get right into it!
What Is Breaking Bad?
Just in case you missed the phenomenon, Breaking Bad is a television drama that aired on AMC from 2008 to 2013.
It’s about a chemistry teacher (played by Bryan Cranston) who starts cooking meth to pay for cancer treatments.
Things progress, and he becomes one of the most prominent drug lords in the country.
I’m going to spend some time talking about two of the main characters, Walter and Skyler, and their relationship.
In order to do that, I have to go through some major spoilers for the show.
If you’re worried about spoilers, this is your chance to stop reading.
Otherwise, feel free to continue.
Who Is Walter White?
The truth is that you don’t need to know a ton about Breaking Bad to follow this conversation, but there are a few critical points.
Walter White is the primary protagonist of the show.
He’s the chemistry teacher who becomes a drug lord, and he’s married to Skyler White.
The show is a lot of things, and among them is a character study that shows Walter going from a fairly ordinary person through a transformation that makes him a chilling criminal mastermind.
His transformation is the primary appeal of the show.
Who Is Skyler White?
As for Skyler, she is Walter’s wife.
In the beginning, she’s an ordinary housewife, and as Walter begins his journey in a life of selling drugs, she knows nothing about it.
Eventually, she learns the truth, and she actually becomes one of his chief accomplices.
Their dynamic definitely shifts over the course of the show, but in the beginning, she’s more or less the one holding the household together while Walt is struggling with some stuff, including cancer.
How Does Skyler Dominate Walter? (3 Ways)
We know that Skyler dominates Walter, especially at the beginning of the show.
I’ll get to why their relationship functions in that way in a bit.
First, let’s talk about the methods.
How does she do it?
How do we see that she really is the one pulling the strings and making decisions?
#1 Snide Remarks
One of the reasons that so many fans of the show dislike Skyler is that she makes a lot of sine remarks that are intended to undercut Walter and his confidence.
Some would argue that she is emotionally abusive or manipulative.
Others might not.
I’m not really worried about labeling what happens.
The thing that is clear is that she does have a sharp tongue, and there are clear cases when she uses it to dominate Walter.
It’s especially prevalent at the beginning of the show when he is clearly still lacking in personal confidence and hasn’t evolved into the mastermind drug kingpin that he later becomes.
#2 Controlling the Kids
Skyler’s sharp tongue is probably the weakest of her assets when it comes to controlling Walter.
He has plenty of flaws as a character, but he really did start the whole thing so that he could take care of himself and his family.
At the same time, the two entered into their marriage with the assumption that Walter would earn the money while Skyler stayed home with the kids.
Unsurprisingly, this left Skyler with stronger influence over the kids.
That’s actually kind of normal in such a household.
But, Skyler clearly uses the kids to control Walter at multiple points, and unlike her sharp tongue, this technique continues to hold sway over him well after he gains confidence and becomes a big deal in the underground world.
Her control over the kids is extended as control over Walter, and it’s not something that he ever fully shakes.
#3 Their Sex Life
I’m going to keep this safe for work and avoid any graphic details.
Let’s just say that at the beginning of the show, Skyler is fully in charge of when and how they consummate their marriage.
As the show goes on, Walter becomes more confident, and a lot of Skyler’s dominance in the relationship wanes.
Even as that happens, sex is a tool that she uses to exert influence over Walter.
There are some scenes that dispute this idea a little at the end of the show (I’m trying to use very gentle language here).
Even so, for the bulk of the show, sex is another way that Skyler dominates their relationship.
Why Is Walter Dominated By Skyler? (2 Things)
That covers how she dominates him, but why is that the dynamic of their marriage?
It certainly doesn’t have to be that way, so what are the underlying factors?
For the most part, it boils down to their personalities.
#1 Walter’s Demeanor
This really is half of the story.
At the beginning of the show, Walter is a relatively meek human being.
He’s not overbearing.
He’s not loud.
He doesn’t do rash things or act crazy or even raise his voice.
He’s just an everyday kind of guy, going through the motions in his life, right up until extreme events force him to change.
And, his change is gradual.
In fact, it’s what people love so much about the show.
It’s hard to say exactly when he went from a normal guy in a tough situation to a straight-up villain.
By that same token, it’s hard to say when he truly stopped feeling any meekness, and as long as that meekness was there, Skyler was going to dominate him.
She didn’t even have to be a particularly dominating type of person.
He was just that unassuming.
#2 Skyler’s Demeanor
I just said that Skyler would be the dominant one in the relationship even if she wasn’t a particularly dominating type of person.
Here’s the thing.
She is a particularly dominating type of person.
She’s not completely over the top in this regard, but there are several key clues throughout the show that demonstrate that she prefers to be the one making the decisions.
The most obvious of these is when she more or less takes over the underground finances.
She’s the one who figures out how to launder money from the drug sales, and she pretty much pulls off the whole thing on her own.
More importantly, it makes sense when her character does that.
That’s because the viewers are used to seeing her in lead roles in her life.
She really does have that dominating type of personality.
You mix that with the meekness of Walter, and it’s an instant recipe for a lopsided marriage.
But, this goes deeper.
Eventually, Walter stops being meek by any sense of the word.
He tries to pretend like he hasn’t changed for the sake of appearances, but Skyler notices when he changes and how.
Despite the fact that he becomes a criminal mastermind, Skyler holds her own in the relationship.
There are plenty of cases where she can still control him, and that’s because of how strong her personality was the whole time.
But, Is Walter Really Dominated By Skyler?
While everything above is pretty fair, it’s not the whole story.
You’ve probably noticed in the language I used throughout, but things change over the course of the series.
Walt starts off meek, but he doesn’t end that way.
He becomes a very strong and dominating character.
He’s someone other characters outright fear in the end.
Does that extend to his marriage?
While Skyler is clearly the stronger personality in the beginning, that’s just not the case by the end of the series.
She remains a strong character, and there are always ways that she can influence Walt, but overall, he becomes the dominant party as things progress.
And, we should probably talk about that too.
How Does Walter Dominate Skyler? (5 Ways)
If you’ve watched the whole show, then you don’t need to be told.
At some point, Walt is clearly the one in charge.
Skyler remains a strong character, but she clearly looks trapped in the marriage toward the end of the show’s run.
That means that Walter dominates her, arguably much more than she dominates him.
How does he do it?
What are his tools and methods of domination, and how do they compare to what Skyler did in the beginning?
At the beginning of the show, Walter makes the money, and Skyler runs the household.
It’s a pretty ordinary arrangement, and even though Skyler mostly manages the finances (she’s particularly skilled at it), Walter is the one with the primary income.
That disparity only grows as the drug money starts to roll in.
Walter is the big-time bread earner, and even though he doesn’t hold that over Skyler’s head in the beginning, it does give him internal power in their relationship.
Later on, he outright tries to use money to control her in a few ways.
It’s subtle, but when Skyler decides to use the drug money to help her sister, it feeds into this idea.
It’s one of the smaller ways that Walt dominates his wife, but it’s always sitting there, under the surface.
He controls the money, and she does depend on it, whether she likes it or not.
#2 Threat of Jail
This is a more overt method of control that arises as the series progresses.
Early, Skyler doesn’t know that Walt is making drugs.
Eventually, she finds out, and once she knows, she can either turn him in or become an accomplice (which is how the threat of money really does control her at times).
She becomes an accomplice, and from that moment on, she’s a subordinate in Walter’s organization.
It doesn’t always appear that way in direct terms, but that’s ultimately how it is.
Walter has to do things for the sake of the illegal business, and Skyler often gets dragged along.
She has no choice.
If she turns Walt in, she destroys her family and risks jail time as an active accomplice.
From that point on, she’s in an impossible situation, and Walter definitely exploits that at different moments in the show.
And, then there’s the threat of violence.
Eventually, Walter makes the full transition to drug lord, and he’s no longer the meek, sometimes nice guy that started the series.
Perhaps the most famous line and moment in the whole show is “I am the danger.”
This is the first time he makes it clear that he really is a dangerous and violent man.
From that moment on, Skyler has to seriously contend with the idea that Walk can and will hurt her if he needs to.
Everything changes after that moment, and the real threat of violence is what probably truly shifts the dynamic of their relationship.
Right up until that line, Skyler believes that she can talk Walt into going to the police.
She never believes it again afterward.
He is the dominant person in the relationship, and it stays that way for the rest of the show.
Walt isn’t all threats and bribes.
Part of what makes him so compelling is that he’s a fairly smart guy.
He stumbles his way into the drug business for sure.
There are mistakes all along the way, making the entire process feel human and relatable.
But, he’s smart, and he finds his way through the stumbling blocks to become massively successful as a drug lord.
Part of his ability to succeed is rooted in his ability to think cleverly and subtly manipulate people.
It happens a lot, and he uses it on Skyler too.
She’s probably even aware many of the times that he does it, but it doesn’t matter.
He’s a manipulative person, and his propensity for manipulation grows with his drug business.
Throughout the show, Walt’s manipulations push back against Skyler’s domination, and by the time he’s the dominant party in their marriage, he is constantly putting her into impossible situations and manipulating her choices.
This goes hand in hand with threats of jail and violence, but it’s worth being more specific.
In many cases, the threat of jail or physical harm is understood.
It doesn’t have to be plainly stated.
Skyler knows that what they’re doing leads to jail, and she understands how dangerous the drug business is.
That doesn’t require specific threats.
But, at times, Walt needs to be clear.
He needs to show the people around him just why he isn’t a pushover or someone to trifle with.
Sometimes, he does the thing that makes us all love his character so much, and he lays down the law.
Walter overtly intimidates Skyler.
The first and most obvious time is when he tells her that he is the danger, but it comes up a few more times.
Near the end of the show, he calls her and tells her that she needs to toe the line.
Some suggest that this is to make her look like a victim to the police, and that might be true.
But, there’s also a real threat in there too.
She really does have to toe the line, and that’s because he has too much at stake.
Intimidation is definitely the bag of tools he uses to dominate her as the series progresses.