Ursula Coyote/AMC

Skyler and Marie stand by their men—until the men don't like it so much

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August 01, 2011 at 06:00 AM EDT

A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do—but a woman’s gotta do it better. So we learned this week, as Skyler out-maneuvered Walt in the Great Car Wash Swindle of 2011, and Marie crumbled under the pressure to play the good wife. Between Jesse’s breakdown, Hank’s powerlessness, and Walt’s uneasiness over Skyler’s scheming, it was an episode that asked some big questions: What does it mean to be a strong man? How does a man’s strength affect his wife? And what sane person could ever mistake Fritos for Cheetos?

For many of the guys on Breaking Bad, masculinity has always been inextricable from work. Hank and Walt both seem to believe what Gus said last season: “A man provides, and he does it even when he’s not appreciated, or respected or even loved. He simply bears up and he does it. Because he’s a man.” When that episode aired—at the height of what economists were calling “the mancession,” a time when men were being disproportionately laid off and women outnumbered them in the work place for the first time in history—that quote tapped into a very of-the-moment anxiety: If Walt and Hank couldn’t provide for their wives, what kind of men were they?

But since Walt started dropping more than $300 on Winston Churchill’s favorite champagne, it’s probably been safe to say that he’s not worried about paying the bills. Lately, he’s been more motivated by power. And now that Gus has the upper hand at work, installing cameras in the meth lab and manipulating his employees, Walt’s even more invested in keeping the upper hand at home. Which might be why he was so outraged when Skyler told him that his car wash boss Bogdan said “Something along the lines of, you weren’t man enough to face him yourself, and that you had to send your woman to do your business for you.” Ouch.

Apparently, Skyler’s threatening to some people—and Bogdan and Walt aren’t the only ones. Some Breaking Bad viewers loathe her so much, they’ve created “The Official I Hate Skyler White” group on Facebook. When a blogger tried to defend Skyler earlier this year, one commenter went on the attack. “This character will either remind you of the overbearing, controlling girlfriend you were glad to be rid of or the overbearing, controlling wife who you never had the balls to say ‘f— this’ to,” he wrote. “I think if you, as a woman, can’t understand where the men who hate this character are coming from, you’re probably one of these busy body bitches yourself.” Who us?

We’re kind of amazed that Skyler’s character has been deemed so unforgivable. Walt’s out there dissolving corpses in acid and landing his brother-in-law in permanent bed rest, and we’re still rooting for him.

NEXT: What’s up with Marie’s shoplifting?

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Walter White descends into the criminal underworld.
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