Breaking Bad’s Whites are initially introduced to us in the pilot episode (no pun intended). They are a three-person middle-class family with a fourth unexpected member on the way. There is Walter White, the family’s elderly patriarch, Skyler White, the pragmatic expectant mother, and Walter White Jr., a young man with severe cerebral palsy who must use crutches to walk.
There is another family that was introduced in Pilot whose impact on Vince Gilligan’s universe is felt just as deeply as this one, but this family and the repercussions of their actions end up becoming the main focus of everything that unfolds over three different cinematic projects.
We had no idea how the Schraders’ narrative ended until the last episode of Better Call Saul aired; we could only speculate. But at last, we have knowledge. Here is the tale of what happened to the Schrader Family following Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, without further ado.
They were a happy, almost tropey couple in the beginning – Hank & Marie Schrader
The Schraders’ narrative is intimately related to the Whites’ not just because Hank works for the DEA and Marie is Skyler’s biological sister, but also because it highlights the differences in the relationships that people form. Although very little is known about Hank’s early years or life, or that of Skyler and Marie, we do learn that he has been around for a much longer time than Walter, despite getting married after Walt wed Skyler. Marie was his high school sweetheart and they used to go to school together.
After asking her out multiple times- and getting rejected multiple times- Hank finally persuades Marie to see him and they eventually build a strong, deep and loving relationship. We never hear about Hank’s parents either, so we can assume that they were either estranged from their son or no longer in this world. In fact, it is possible that Hank deciding to become a DEA agent had something to do with his parents, though it is pure speculation.
All we can say for certain is that he is a veteran with nearly 30 years of experience under his belt by the time Breaking Bad begins. And when it does, Hank and Marie’s relationship seems like everything Walt and Skyler want theirs to be. The couple have a strong foundation- despite Hank’s “slip-up” before getting married to Marie- and they are very confident in each other’s company. Their introduction happens in the Pilot at Walt’s surprise birthday party, where they end up becoming the life of the party.
The Schraders are a proud and outspoken couple, ready to crack jokes at others’ expense and then brush it off as sporting behaviour; but they do it in such an endearing fashion that you can’t help but adore them. Their sheer charisma- juxtaposed with the lack thereof in the White family- is yet another way in which Vince Gilligan portrays just how dead Walter’s life really was before he became Heisenberg. But while the Schraders are there to lend an ear and a hand as soon as Walt and Skyler need one, it’s not like they don’t have their own problems.
Marie’s kleptomania + Hank’s paranoia = Chaotic Neutrality
One of the things that make the Schraders so easy to root for is the fact that despite knowing each other’s worst sides, they stick by each other. Marie has a documented problem with kleptomania; she does it almost on a whim as a way to release stress whenever she experiences it because she is too vain to verbally admit it. Hank knows this, and has set her up with a therapist called Dave who has actually helped Marie make incredible progress with her condition; according to Hank, anyway.
Marie’s kleptomania starts acting up whenever she starts stressing out about her family members because even though she is pompous to the extent all her belongings are purple in colour, she cares deeply for her family and cannot bear it when they are going through a tough spot. Inversely, Hank is no good at processing emotion either. When he gets shot by the twins and put in the hospital, he takes out all his anger and frustration at Marie.
His wife simply strong arms him into keeping up with his physiotherapy because she knows how to get what she wants from her husband; she knows him. No matter what Hank and Marie go through in their personal lives, they are actually there for each other and are their honest selves with each other.
These selves can be very ugly at times- Hank’s treatment of Marie during his mineral-obsession can be called snappy at best- but they are real, and they are a whole hell of a lot better than their in-laws, who choose to avoid talking about things until the very end, when the crap has already hit the fan. This duality makes it all the more tragic that the Schraders were the ones who were practically duped into keeping Walter’s cover as Heisenberg intact.
How did the Schraders fall apart? Hank Schrader vs Heisenberg
Hank thought that his fight with Heisenberg was entirely unrelated to his family’s issues, which ends up being his biggest mistake because if he had just paid closer attention to close home, he’d have realised Walt was Heisenberg the entire time. But it was Hank’s vendetta against the biggest kingpin in the US and his blind faith in family that ultimately caused everything to fall apart.
Multiple times across the series we have seen Hank create mountains out of mole hills when it comes to scrutinizing obscure evidence and piecing together the bigger picture the best way possible. But he fails to notice that his brother-in-law, who was a brilliant chemistry teacher, was the person who stole the lab equipment that he found out in the desert. He fails to think of Walt again after Blue Sky mark 1 comes back from the lab as being the purest they had ever seen.
When Hank is shot by the twins and ends up in hospital, the Whites offer to pay for his medical bills with Walt’s drug money, which ends up implicating them in his crimes as well. And neither Hank nor Marie question as to why Walt and Skyler were leaving their children with them for weeks on end, when by rights they should be with their parents. So the very thing that makes the Schraders the best couple in Breaking Bad ends up causing them unparalleled grief and tragedy; trusting their family.
Heck, the only reason Hank even figures out that Walt is Heisenberg is because Walt gets too arrogant and puts Gale’s gift- with a signed dedication to him- in his toilet as “reading material”. And once he does find that out, things unravel rather quickly between the Whites and the Schraders. Marie is disgusted with her sister and forces her to tell Walt Junior the truth. When Skyler refuses to turn Walt in, Marie literally tries to escape with Holly; Hank was seen earlier contemplating adopting babies with Marie or making one themselves, since the Schraders never had children.
When their in-laws refuse to play ball, the Schraders put up a united front and get to work on taking them down. Hank coaches Jesse Pinkman in how to be a snitch and Marie feeds and helps him recover his strength, all because it would make Walt “pay”. They show a very dark side of themselves, honestly, pursuing their vendetta against Heisenberg as if they had nothing to lose when in fact they stood to lose the most.
The DEA would most certainly treat Hank like an outlaw when they found out that Walt was his brother-in-law and even assisted him with his investigation into Gustavo Fring. His career would be over right after he made his biggest collar. Marie, on the other hand, started discussing how cathartic poisoning a certain “family friend” would be with her therapist Dave, showing just how much the couple resented their in-laws now.
While Hank and Marie’s actions would ensure Walter White’s eventual downfall and death, it would turn out to be mutually assured destruction for them as well. When Hank apprehends Walt, he and Gomey are ambushed by Jack’s gang and Hank is killed mid-sentence by Jack himself. This happens right after he tells Marie that he finally has Walt in custody. Walt ends up taking responsibility for Jack’s death anyway, to clear Skyler of any wrongdoing, but this is the last straw for her sister.
What happened to the Schrader Family at the end of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul?
After realising that Walt has killed Hank, Marie cuts off all ties with Skyler. We don’t hear about what she is doing professionally, but we can assume that she kept in touch with Steve Gomez’s widow Blanca after his death, given that the two couples were just as close as the Schraders were with the Whites. Because Hank’s body wasn’t found for several months, the Marie did not get any closure with his death and remained bitter with her sister for enabling the monster who did this to their family. But when Walt returned to Albuquerque to tie up loose ends, he gave Marie the closure she needed, yet again in an attempt to save Skyler from the authorities.
Marie- after having remained aloof from her sister for months- calls her to let her know that Walt is back in town and checks up on her just in case he tries to contact her. Marie also appears to be in a somewhat relenting mood, as she asks Sky to be safe and vigilant, unaware that Walt has been listening the entire time. After the Breaking Bad finale aired in September 2013, it took 9 years for us to find out what happened to the Schrader Family ultimately; and it turns out that the answer is closure and a modicum of justice.
In the Better Call Saul Season 6 Episode titled Breaking Bad, it is revealed that Skyler White got her plea deal with the feds, which means that the DEA was able to recover Hank and Gomez’s bodies. In the series/franchise finale, titled Saul Gone, we meet Marie Schrader once again for what is perhaps the final time ever. She is still in mourning, as she wears clothes that clearly signify grief even in a black-and-white episode, but she finally has closure on her husband’s passing.
It is implied that Hank and Steve received proper burials and were memorialized by the DEA has martyrs and top-rate field agents that future generations should look up to. And Marie’s speech to Saul at his plea hearing only reinforces the fact that Hank Schrader- not Walter White- was the true moral compass of Vince Gilligan’s creation. Though he was gone, the impact of his police work is what toppled Walt’s multi-million dollar empire and the fact that Saul was going to get seven and a half years for it disgusted her.
But whether it was fate, a change in heart, or divine realisation, we will never be able to tell which, something caused Goodman to change his mind on the day of his hearing and he ended up coming clean about his involvement with Walt’s meth business. He even ended up taking responsibility for crimes he committed with an accomplice, and essentially set himself up as the facilitator of the entire ordeal, which earned him 86 years in prison and Marie Schrader and Blanca Gomez a measure of true justice.
Saul Goodman was alive, and their husbands were dead. Nothing could change that. But killing Saul wouldn’t be justice, it would be revenge. The fact that it was James Morgan McGill- the loser younger brother of Charles McGill- who ended up giving Marie the justice she deserved is just one of those poetic things that Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould are so good at pulling off. We don’t know what happens next; Marie is clearly still not over Hank, and with Blanca by her side, it looks like the two women are going to stick with each other for now as they heal.
And even then, she might never be okay, because the Schrader Family at this point is practically just her. But their legacy- from what it could have been with Walt’s fake videos to what it ended up being thanks to Hank’s legit heroism and ingenious police work- is something that will never be tainted, and that is the highest compliment we think we can pay to a family from this universe. The Schrader Family, though annoying and overbearing at times, are the moral heart and soul of the Breaking Bad franchise, and we are just glad that they got some of the justice that they so sorely deserved.
Seeing Betsy Brandt in the franchise finale was such a rollercoaster of emotions. We are used to seeing Marie as the strong, sassy, somewhat shady sister-in-law who loves gossip and knows how to get her way. To see her reduced to just empty bags of grief towards the end was genuine depressing to watch at points; which only makes her vindication in Saul Gone all the more satisfactory.
The Schrader Family entered the Breaking Bad universe as natural antagonists for our guy Walter White because come on, who are these do-gooders who break the law themselves to judge our evil genius, huh? But as the seasons progressed, you came to see that at least the Schraders had a soul, and by the time you heard all about Saul Goodman and Jesse Pinkman’s story, you realised that you were a bleeding idiot for ever disliking them in the first place.
Somewhat ironically, the Schrader Family are the real heroes of this franchise, and it is bittersweet to know that their story ended on such a tragic note. We only wish they would’ve ended up being the ones with the happy ending; but we all know there’s nothing like that in a Vince Gilligan production by now, don’t we?