We spent 5 seasons watching the seemingly ordinary middle-class family’s home life as it descended from artificial bliss to complete disaster. Since Walt and Skyler ended up living there for the most of their on-screen lives, it is actually extremely strange to discover that they initially purchased the White Family Home as a starting home.
The White family was the epitome of the stereotypically “strong” family in season 1, but by the time Breaking Bad ended, the family’s foundations were crumbling under pressure from the very man who claimed to be taking care of them on a daily basis. Walter White’s narrative has a happy ending, but what about his family?
Make sure you watch all the way to the finish because that is exactly what we will attempt to explain in this video: what happened to the White family after Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul?
The White Family isn’t exactly what Walt wanted from his life
This film should begin by making it clear that the life Walter White leads in Pilot is not the one he had imagined or was even capable of leading. In a sense, it all stems from his ex-girlfriend Gretchen Schwartz. Walt used to date Gretchen, his lab assistant at Gray Matter Industries, the company he and his closest buddy Elliot had founded, before he met Skyler. Walt and Gretchen had an extremely intense romance that ultimately failed because of Walt’s ego.
Walt has always detested wealthy people, and that hatred started with her, even though we would not get to see it come to the surface in an overt way until he has his outburst on Gretchen. He left her on the 4th of July weekend when he met her parents without saying a word because her wealth humbled him, and not in the way that it drove him to make himself a better man.
No, he just took up his business and moved elsewhere, buying himself out of Gray Matter and going to work at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. While working there, he met Skyler, who was a hostess at a restaurant near the lab itself, and after an extended courtship, the couple eventually got married. Skyler, unlike Gretchen, came from a modest background and was studying to become an accountant.
There were going to be no ego issues here for Walter, he thought, and so when he went with her to buy what would eventually become the setting of most of Breaking Bad, he retained his youthful ambition. He called the house small and complained about many things that he has been unable to fix by the time the series begins because of the way his life plays out.
Skyler was pregnant when they went to check this house out, you see, and it is heavily implied that Walt only got a teaching job because of the demands of a family. So while he does love his wife and his child, Walt Jr., very much, they simply aren’t what he expected to get out of his life.
And when you watch the Pilot after getting all this context, it will start making sense; Walt’s daily routine, his decision to not tell his family about his cancer, the way Walt treats his own surprise birthday party, he has agency over only one of those three things and that is critical to understanding the role the White Family plays in the context of that theme in Breaking Bad. Having said that, let’s look at the White Family itself.
The White Family in the beginning
At the start of Breaking Bad, you can tell that the White family is trying really hard to blend into the suburban lifestyle but is finding it increasingly difficult to keep things going. And the only person who seems to be aware of all this is Walt, because it is through his eyes we see this story, and in his eyes, his entire family is in a position he never intended for them to be in in the first place.
And more than that, he has allowed others to make decisions for him for so long that he doesn’t even have control over his family anymore. Walt is a genius with a Nobel Prize in his exercise room who gets emasculated by his brother-in-law at his own surprise party and everyone- including his own son- seem to like him more than they like Walt.
But the White Family when you take him out of the equation for a bit are your typical struggling family putting on a façade of confidence; Walt Junior has cerebral palsy and is 15 when the series starts, which means he needs assistance as a default setting with certain things. And though he loves his dad, going to school with him every day and being called Junior all the time does nothing for his own personal development. It’s clear that Walt also loves his son but views him more as a responsibility.
Skyler White is your typical hustler who is obsessed with the idea of doing everything by the book. She used to be an accountant at Beneke Fabricators but has since retired to become a rather thrifty housewife. She writes short stories and auctions off show pieces to make enough money so she can help her husband pitch in for the unexpected baby they are about to have.
Oh, that’s right, Skyler is also pregnant at the start of the series, and her pregnancy can be looked at as a catalyst for Walt’s criminal activities; because before that he was not inclined to work himself to near-death for Bogdan and his eyebrows but now, Skyler was running the ship so tightly that he didn’t even have time to really take in that so many people showed up for his surprise party because he was too busy apologizing to his wife for being late.
So in the beginning, the White family is a middle-class family trying to live the upper class life and really working hard to earn an honest living. Things might have stayed that way, too, if Walt hadn’t caught Hank watching a DEA bust on TV and decided to become a meth kingpin to “support his family”, but that’s for the next section.
How Walt’s Heisenberg Life starts ruining his family
Once Walt’s cancer diagnosis is confirmed, a significant change occurs in his attitude that spells the beginning of the end for the White family; he stops caring what others think he should be doing. Now, don’t get us wrong, from a personal viewpoint this is growth in that Walt is finally taking agency over his own life. But when you look at the bigger picture and see the way he chose to take said agency, you realise that this family is like a ticking time bomb, just waiting to explode.
Once his disappearances and extended absences begin taking place, every member of the family is affected; Skyler is distressed that her husband is getting distant from her and might just be having an affair, Walt Junior is so sick of his parents fighting that he takes on a new name- Flynn- and baby Holly is thankfully in the womb still so she doesn’t have to witness a lot of the initial disturbances in the White family thanks to Heisenberg.
And once Skyler discovers Walt’s “new profession”, the problem only worsens as she serves him divorce papers without even explaining things clearly to Junior. The White family becomes the definition of dysfunctional and yet somehow their closest relatives- Hank and Marie- fail to notice exactly why things are unravelling the way they are. Walt’s cancer diagnosis, ironically enough, becomes the shield that he uses to justify everything to everyone and while it works with Junior, Skyler remains unconvinced.
I mean, Walt literally forced his way back into the White house after separating from Skyler and refused to leave until things were resolved his way. We honestly don’t blame Sky for having an affair with Ted Beneke, because how else could she have expressed her frustration with this entire situation Walt had put her in?
The man claimed to be doing everything he did for the good of the family and yet his notoriety put them at a very high risk; the Cousins stalking and marking the White House is a great example of why Skyler was right to be paranoid of Walt after she found out what he did for a living. But once he showed her just how much money there was in the meth business and explained that he was really doing it all to support his children’s futures, Skyler relented and even struck up a business partnership with her husband.
She became his new money launderer, using her experience at Beneke Fabricators to convert Walt’s drug money into clean, taxable cash that would eventually help their children get through college and live life unlike them. During this time, it appeared as though Walt and Skyler were getting along well and him and Junior were just off to the races as father and son. Junior even reverted to using his given name once his father came home, and Skyler had her own “Heisenberg moments” with Bogdan and Ted respectively, but the good times didn’t last for too long.
Once Gus fired Walt and threatened his family, the timer on the implosion of the White Family sped up rapidly. Walt’s increasingly erratic and arrogant behaviour put Skyler on edge to the point she willingly gave “custody” of her children to Hank and Marie so they would be protected from the man who protects this family.
After Walt defeats Gus and tells Sky he won, she is visibly horrified by the lengths to which he went because the explosion was broadcasting live on the news and she could see what he really meant by that statement. From that point onward, she was terrified of her husband, and did everything he asked of her not just out of loyalty to her marriage and her children, but also out of fear.
What really broke the family apart was Walt getting Hank killed. Of course, he didn’t do it himself, he didn’t even know Jesse was with Hank at the time, but he called Jack and Jack killed Hank, so Walt is responsible for Hank’s death to say the least. Right after this shootout occurs, Walt rushes back home with his barrel of money and tries to get his family to leave with him but by this point, Skyler has told Junior what his father really does to earn money and they are both finally done with him.
Walt turns on the Heisenberg mode to try to intimidate his wife to agree with him, but after his own son pushes him off and protects his mother like a cub protecting its injured lioness mother, Walt flees the White house with Holly and realises that there is nothing he can do for them anymore. Not the way he wanted to, anyway. So he calls Skyler and gives her an alibi to keep her safe from police and prosecution.
He returned Holly via fire station shenanigans, and went on the run thanks to Ed the Disappearer who set him up with a fake identity and a secluded cabin in New Hampshire. After this, the only thing we hear about the former White family is that they have moved into an apartment that is not-so-great and Sky is working as a taxi dispatcher to make ends meet; and the only reason we hear about even this is because Walt is desperate for conversation and Ed is the only one he can talk to. But this isn’t the last we hear of the White family; that would come in the season finale of Breaking Bad back in 2015 and even as recently as the penultimate episode of Better Call Saul.
What happened to the White Family after Breaking Bad & Better Call Saul?
After relocating to New Hampshire, Walt tries to reconcile with his family one last time by sending them some money to help them get out of their frankly destitute living conditions. He calls Junior- who has now permanently reverted to calling himself Flynn- at his school to tell him he is sending $100,000 to his best friend Louis’ house so that they can use it to make their lives better. An emotional Walt desperately tries convincing his son that he didn’t kill Hank and that all he did, he did for the family but by this point, Flynn sees his father for who he is.
He threatens to expose Walt’s call to everyone who will listen to him and warns him never to contact his family ever again. When Walt shows up in Albuquerque looking to tie up loose ends, he decides to finally do something that will actually help his family get out of the situation he has put them in. He first visits Gretchen and Elliot Schwartz at their lavish new home and intimidates them into accepting the money he has brought with him; Walt’s plan is to use Gretchen and Elliot’s PR clean-up campaign to his leverage and get them to create an irrevocable trust fund for his children so his own money can reach them through someone they genuinely know and trust.
This act not only parallels the offer Elliot made to Walt when he visited him for his birthday party, it also shows you just how much he has changed. Earlier, when Gretchen and Elliot revealed his secret to Skyler- that he had actually refused to take their help for his treatment- Walt was forced to admit wrongdoing and come up with excuses to explain all of it. This time, there would be none of that; Gretchen and Elliot would either keep their word and pretend to do it out of the kindness of their hearts, or they would be killed by the two best hitmen West of the Mississippi.
It was as simple as that. After ensuring that his family would receive said money when Junior turned 18, Walt visited Skyler at her apartment one last time and came clean about why he did what he did; he finally told her that he did it because he liked it and he was good at it. He did it because it made him feel alive, and there is nothing he can do to undo the damage he has already done, but maybe he can help with damage control.
Walt gives Skyler a lottery ticket with the coordinates of Hank and Steve Gomez’s dead bodies; after he disappeared, Sky was being harangued by law enforcement to divulge everything she knew about his operation and they were relentless. Walt knew that this information could help Sky cut a plea deal and get herself out of the legal quagmire he left in his wake, and for this, Skyler allows him to hold Holly one last time and get a final glance at Junior returning home from school before he goes and takes care of his business.
After Walt and the neo-Nazis are found dead at Jack Welker’s compound, a wild goose-chase begins for every known associate of Heisenberg who hasn’t already been picked up or killed, and this is where we learn what happened to the White family. In Better Call Saul season 6 episode 12, Francesca calls Gene on the day he asked her to and reveals that police tails follow her till this day.
She scoffs at Skyler White because she was able to get the plea deal Walt arranged for her and regain some measure of normalcy to her life; this revelation, coupled with the fact that Junior is 17 at the end of Breaking Bad, makes it more than likely that after the series concluded, Skyler received that trust fund money from Elliot and Gretchen Schwartz a year after, and she most likely used it to do exactly what Walt said he was earning the money to do; to take care of her family.
It is unlikely that Gretchen and Elliot revealed the source of the money to her; 1) they were too scared of Walt by now, even after his death and 2) they still thought that professional hitmen were watching them. So in the end, the White Family got the conclusion that their patriarch wanted for them: they became rich enough to see themselves through their lifetimes without worrying about literally anything. But the cost they paid to get to that point was way too high.
We have seen a lot of family dramas, sitcoms, comedies, thrillers, etc in our lifetime but no one does a little bit of everything quite as perfectly as the White family. Their moments of brevity capture the exact kind of bliss that domestic life should be all about, but their tense moments are just as extreme, with meth, blood and tears littered in the middle of all this. If Breaking Bad is the tale of trading in one’s soul to pursue their passion to the fullest, then the White family is the price he ended up paying. And no matter how many millions he throws at them to make up for it, nothing can change that.