The Breaking Bad Character Who’s Even Less Popular Than Ted Beneke
A huge part of the enduring appeal of Breaking Bad lies in its incredible characters. We want to root for them all, even when they’re at direct odds with each other — like high school chemistry teacher-turned-ace meth manufacturer Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and his DEA agent brother-in-law Hank Schrader (Dean Norris). Likewise, for all of his obvious flaws, we never want to see any harm to come to Walter’s partner Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) — and while she’s a bit controversial among fans, it’s tough to take issue with some of the hard stances (and questionable choices) made by Walter’s wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) throughout the series.
Of all the show’s major recurring characters, though, few were as reviled by fans as Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins), Skyler’s boss at Beneke Fabricators, a company perpetually on the verge of going under thanks to Ted’s shady business practices and insistence on creative accounting. It’s not just one thing about him: he carries an obvious, brightly-burning torch for Skyler, he constantly uses circular logic to pressure her into continuing to cook his books, and once Skyler gives in and begins an affair with him, he lobbies her to give up on Walter and move in with him. Most maddeningly of all, late in the series, after Skyler is privy to Walter’s illegal activities, she arranges for Ted to receive a miraculous, mysterious windfall which she suggests he use to pay his IRS bill — which he refuses to do.
Yes, Ted is a gigantic pill — but according to a Google Trends analysis of Breaking Bad’s characters, ranked by popularity, it appears he is not the least popular major recurring player. Who did the fans dislike even more intensely? That would be Marie Schrader (Betsy Brandt), Hank’s beleaguered, kleptomaniac wife, and Skyler’s sister.
Why is Marie so unpopular with Breaking Bad fans?
Marie ranked dead last in popularity, and as with Ted, it’s safe to say it’s not just one thing about her that drew the ire of fans. Brandt is a fine actress, and she gave it all she had — the problem was, she wasn’t given much to work with. Compared to the rest of Breaking Bad’s stable of compelling characters, she is shockingly underwritten. She exists mainly to serve as a foil to the intense, driven Hank, and every time she’s given a subplot of her own, it tends to bring the proceedings to a screeching halt.
Those subplots always focused on character traits of Marie’s — her kleptomania and duplicity — that aren’t just under-explained, they’re not explained at all. In the show’s first season, Marie steals an expensive white gold tiara as a baby shower gift for Skyler. When Skyler attempts to return it and the theft is exposed, Marie simply, frustratingly, refuses to admit it until the next season. Later, in the third season, Marie deals with Hank’s injuries and paralysis by visiting open houses, spinning wild lies about her identity and lifting items from the homes. Again, she’s not given any backstory to explain why she does these things — she just does, and her obstinate refusal to acknowledge her deeds alienates her from Skyler and puts Hank at potential odds with his DEA colleagues. We know that for the show’s entire run, Marie is seeing a therapist to address her issues — but despite the fact that Hank talks the guy up to be some kind of miracle worker (we never actually see him onscreen), he obviously isn’t helping.
Perhaps more than any other character on Breaking Bad, Marie could have simply been excised from the entire show — and the omission would likely have had a positive impact, moving the proceedings along at a tidier clip, without having to slow down to explore her go-nowhere subplots and weird character flaws.
Who are Breaking Bad’s most popular characters?
It may or may not surprise you to learn that, despite being Breaking Bad’s main character, Walter was not the series’ most popular. He came in second — by a fairly substantial margin — to Jesse, Walter’s perpetually hard-luck accomplice. Jesse’s arc throughout the series was one of the most brutal in all of television, and Paul invested him with a charisma and soulfulness that few other actors could have matched. It’s thanks to him that it was a no-brainer to make Jesse the focus of the spin-off movie El Camino – not bad for a character that was originally supposed to have been killed off in the first season.
Coming in third behind Walt: Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), the “criminal lawyer” who manages Walter and Jesse’s operation, and who wrangles them out of more than one tight spot. Odenkirk gave a surprising depth to a character that could have functioned (and sometimes did, when the situation called for it) as purely comic relief. It’s no wonder that the character was given his own spin-off series after Breaking Bad ended. It is something of a wonder that this series, Better Call Saul, is pretty much the artistic equal of the mothership series.
Rounding out the top five are Mike Ehrmentraut (Jonathan Banks), the badass, no-nonsense “fixer” who figures prominently on several of Breaking Bad’s (and Better Call Saul’s) most prominent storylines, and Mike and Walter’s employer Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), the meth distributor-slash-chicken restaurant chain owner whose successful run atop the Southwest’s drug trade came to an explosive halt thanks to the machinations of his longtime enemy Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) and Walter himself.
Great, timeless characters, all — and ones that probably could have been given a little more screen time, at the expense of Ted and Marie.