Mild spoilers below for the latest episodes of Better Call Saul.
Better Call Saul is ostensibly nothing like its predecessor Breaking Bad in many ways, from its lead character's performance to the lack of a family dynamic and so on. But, of course, there are also many similarities to be found, such as the audience's noticeable disdain for one of the co-leads. And it turns out that fans' negative reactions to Skyler White during Breaking Bad's five seasons taught Saul co-creator Peter Gould a valuable lesson in dealing with viewers hating on Michael McKean's Chuck McGill. According to Gould:
We learned on Breaking Bad, once a viewer is in somebody's corner, you really tend to stay in their corner. So if anybody opposed Walter White, the audience hated that person. Especially, and I think most egregiously, in the case of Skyler. There was a lot going on, there. There was a lot going on with Skyler. But the truth is it's very hard to break out of. First impressions matter, I guess is the way to put it. It takes a lot to pull yourself away from the first impression of the character, even though we who work on the show may see things very differently. I have a lot more sympathy for Chuck than I think most of our viewers do.
Makes sense to me. After all, the mind-state of "my friend's enemy is my enemy" comes into play. Even though Walter White shouldn't have been such a fan favorite character, given his morals were murkier than Swamp Thing's underwear drawer, he still is beloved by millions. And since Skyler was on his side, but not fully on his side, she was viewed as an enemy. So really, Chuck doesn't have a shot at winning people over.
At this point in Better Call Saul's run, Chuck and Jimmy have reached several points of no return in both their personal and a professional relationships. And as intriguing and delicate as the incredible Michael McKean is with the role, it's almost impossible NOT to hate Chuck, even while genuine sympathy is floating around. Because as an audience, we've seen Chuck put so much unnecessary blame and responsibility on Jimmy, who hasn't always been aware of the grudge that had been building since childhood. So we don't even have to feel all that bad whenever Jimmy puts Chuck in his mentally eccentric place. That wasn't exactly how things played out with Skyler, though.
On Breaking Bad, Walt and Skyler's relationship didn't start out with the historic tumultuousness of Jimmy and Chuck's brotherhood. And for all of her issues and her lack of confidence in Walt's ascent to Heisenberg-dom, her level of antagonism never felt as hardcore (or as justified, admittedly) as Chuck's treatment of Jimmy throughout their lives. In some ways, Chuck is responsible for creating Jimmy/Saul, while Skyler's influence on Walt's anti-heroism is nowhere near as organic. Plus, Walter White would scoff and laugh at the thought of anyone else like Skyler taking credit for his effect on the world. And ton of fans would laugh right along with him.
During the Uproxx interview with Peter Gould and Michael McKean, the latter offered some insight into where Chuck's innermost angst for Jimmy is seated.
I think it became pretty clear that there was something about the parents, about mom in particular. On some level, and he's overstating it, Chuck does blame Jimmy for the father's early death, as well. Certainly his ruination. And Chuck made mom proud; Jimmy made mom laugh. You can't buy that, you know? You can buy her pride by working hard, but if someone seems to be loved more than you are and you can't explain it and it doesn't make sense, then the world's a little bit crazy and you might have to go a little crazy to keep up with it. I don't know whether I'm reading too much into it, but this is just something it's always felt like to Chuck.
So you see? Even Chuck's problems with Jimmy weren't necessarily the product of something Jimmy did, but rather how their mother felt about him. Which, in a sense, reflects fans not liking Skyler more because of her stance against Walt's goals, rather than a selection of horrible things she did.
While Walt and Skyler's relationship is pretty much done for on the small screen -- though maybe getting revived through other means -- Better Call Saul is wrapping up its excellent third season in big ways, with two more episodes airing Monday nights on AMC at 10:00 p.m. ET. While waiting, head to our summer TV premiere schedule to see what else is on the way.