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How Ted Could Have Been Better For Skyler On Breaking Bad

The classic AMC drama Breaking Bad is full of strongly-drawn, memorable characters. Plenty of articles have been written examining the nature of the sometimes chummy, sometimes tense, mostly dysfunctional relationship between high school chemistry teacher-turned-Albuquerque drug lord Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and his ex-student and partner-in-crime Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), and even the main supporting characters — like Walter's DEA agent brother-in-law Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) and restaurateur/meth kingpin Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) have secrets and motivations worth diving into. But today, we're here to talk about one of Breaking Bad's most hated characters, and why it would have been interesting to give him an even larger arc: Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins), the owner of Beneke Fabricators and the employer of Walter's wife Skyler (Anna Gunn), who worked as his bookkeeper.

There are a ton of perfectly valid reasons to hate Ted, even on the surface. He's an incredibly irresponsible businessman, constantly trying to stave off the IRS and fix his haphazardly cooked books — a task which he pressures Skyler into taking part in. He frames his brazenly illegal activity as if he simply has no choice, implying that after a bad year or two, he just had to take bookkeeping shortcuts and underreport income for the sake of his beloved employees. Even if painted in the best light, that still makes him a terrible manager. Then, there's the obvious torch he carries for Skyler — and the fact that he's able to successfully manipulate her into an affair with him at a point when (unbeknownst to him) she's at the end of her rope with Walter, whom she'd discovered to be a meth cook and who had recently moved, unwanted, back into her house. Ted even suggested that Skyler, who had recently given birth, take her infant daughter and teenage son Walter Jr. (RJ Mitte) and move in with him.

There's more to hate about Ted, but let's stop bashing the guy for just a moment. In fact, let's take a hard left turn to posit the possibility that — all things considered — Ted would have ended up being better for Skyler than Walter, and that perhaps she should have given him that shot.

Skyler could have called all the shots with Ted on Breaking Bad

Skyler is nothing if not a strong-willed woman. It's only because Walter is in so deep with his crooked activities when she discovers his double life that he's eventually able to convince her — very begrudgingly — to become complicit, purchasing a car wash with him to launder the stacks of meth money. Even then, she seems to be constantly on the lookout for a potential way out, an edge she could gain over Walter that would allow her to extricate herself from the situation.

Ted could have given her that even before she became involved in Walter's "business." He was basically willing to do whatever it would take to whisk her away from her married life, for a simple reason: he was completely smitten with her. For as big a game as Walter continually talked about his family being the only thing that mattered to him, he put Skyler through hell throughout the entirety of Breaking Bad's run, and he did it unapologetically. Heck, he even admitted in the series finale that cooking meth had never been about his family; it had always been about him, and the money, power, and respect that his activities afforded him.

Ted, on the other hand, was... well, a pushover. He would have happily let Skyler call every last shot in their relationship and his life, up to and including the handling of his massive IRS debt. You'll remember that during Breaking Bad's fifth season, in order to avoid bringing legal scrutiny on herself, Skyler arranged for Ted to "inherit" a huge sum of cash that happened to be just the amount needed to pay off the IRS — which Ted then refused to do (yet another reason to hate the guy). Had Skyler been in a relationship with him at that time, he almost certainly wouldn't have been so obstinate — for, unlike Walter, Ted sure seems like the kind of guy who would have been willing to do literally anything in order to keep Skyler happy.

Better for Skyler doesn't necessarily mean better for Ted

Of course, it should probably be noted that just because Skyler leaving Walter for Ted might have worked out better for her, it wouldn't necessarily have been the same for Ted. For one thing, Skyler proved to be totally willing to shamelessly manipulate Ted, even when her methods were obviously dangerous. For instance, she attempted to convince him to pay his tax bill with the help of a couple heavies employed by "criminal lawyer" Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), a situation which resulted in Ted winding up in the hospital in a neck brace after his botched attempt to escape. 

For another thing, potential relationship imbalances aside, Skyler leaving Walter for another man would have put a king-sized dent in Walter's ego; after all, he showed up at Beneke Fabricators ready to make a punching bag out of Ted when he learned of the affair. If Walter had awoken one morning to find that the family he was ostensibly cooking meth to provide for had moved in with that slimeball Ted, it's safe to say that his reaction would have been even more over the top. It's totally possible, even likely, that Ted could have ended up a lot worse off than just landing in a hospital bed.

Skyler's family might have ended up no less devastated had she cut and left Walter halfway through Breaking Bad's run; the same tragic fate likely would have befallen Hank, and Walter Jr. might have become even more sullen and hostile over the whole set of circumstances. But at least with Ted, she would have ended up with a guy who would actually have done anything for her — rather than one who, in the end, was only ever thinking about himself.