In the final season of Breaking Bad, Walter says:

I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really - I was alive.

But I don't think he ever did it for himself. At every point of continuing the meth manufacturing there is always a threat to his life. (He needs to be alive for some time to earn money) or his family member's life. He always thought of his family rather than meth.

So I am not sure why he says that to Skyler. Also I am not able to agree with some justification spread in the internet that he did it for himself.

Is there any indication that he lied to Skyler?

  • The idea he was lying for Skyler's sake assumes his motivation was the same across the series. It isn't: he has a character arc and his motivation changes.
    – matt_black
    Jun 1, 2023 at 10:36

6 Answers 6


Walter White is a complex character, and so are his motivations. I'm fairly certain that he started cooking meth to support his family. The idea of illegally profiting from his skills never crossed his mind before he was diagnosed with cancer. Before that, he was content with working in a humiliating second job to make ends meet. Early on, Walt calculates how much money he needs to leave his family in a financially stable state should he die, and spends much of his early career trying to achieve that goal.

But as his work progressed, his legend grew. The pseudonym Heisenberg he picked for himself for a one time event slowly began taking on a life of it's own. He was now known as the genius behind the nigh-mythical Blue Sky. His long dormant pride and ego started to wake up. Now, he was cooking meth to feed his ego and defending his image. He gets angry when defective Blue Sky is cooked by Jesse. His personality clash with Gus Fring causes a drug war that claims several lives.

By the time Walt wins the war with Gus, he is making way more money than he needs to support his family. He becomes a true drug kingpin whose first priority is creating profit. He has no qualms about murdering people who get in his way. Even his surrogate son Jesse is no longer safe from him.

Walter could have exited the life of crime he found himself in several times, but a combination of greed and pride have always stopped him. It wasn't until he realizes that he has far too much money than he could ever spend, that the truth dawns on him. He has been doing this for himself, and not for his family. So he decides to retire, but by then it's too late and Hank is on his trail.


No he didn't lie. Most of his career as a drug manufacturer is him flexing his long abused ego.

  • 9
    Like he says in the episode Buyout, "Jesse, you asked me if I was in the meth business or the money business. Neither. I'm in the empire business." Jun 6, 2014 at 23:50
  • 1
    Walt definitely did not realize the truth when he found he had more than enough money. Even after that he stayed Heisenberg, e.g. threatening Hank, trying (but failing) to tell Saul they weren't done yet in the second to last episode. I believe that it wasn't until after Junior told him that he didn't want his dad's dirty money, that the wool was finally lifted from his eyes.
    – stannius
    Jun 5, 2017 at 15:33

I don't think he lied to Skyler. He was right - he did it for himself. I understood Walt's character as someone who could not achieve what he deserved for a long time in his life. Walt reveals this frustration to a psychologist during season 2, when he is lost and found and recovering in a hospital. I somewhat remember his dialogue. He says to the psychologist

I am a 50 year old man with lung cancer. I am an overqualified chemistry teacher teaching at high school. I have watched all my peers surpass me in every possible way. My teenage son has cerebral palsy. My wife is pregnant with a child we did not plan. And you are asking why I ran.

I think these lines were true and reflect Walt's sheer frustration in life. When he started the Blue Meth thing, he really felt alive as he became a man of high importance. Walt definitely had huge ego, which was evident in later seasons. It should also be noted that if he was doing it for the family, he could have stopped a long time ago. He had several chances, but he did not. Best chance was when Mike decided to hand over the business to another group, but Walt foiled this attempt. Remember the famous dialogue when he tells Jesse that, "he is not in meth business or drug business - he is in the empire business"?

Walt may have started the whole thing for family, but pretty soon his alter ego Heisenberg took over, and after that, it was all about himself. So he was definitely not lying.

  • Just because we know what he said was true, does not mean he wasn't lying. He could have been saying what he thought Skyler wanted to hear.
    – stannius
    Jun 5, 2017 at 15:30

Walt was absolutely not lying. Throughout the show he's had many times where he could have backed out of the business, but kept going because he likes it. He has a huge ego, and for the first time he's respected (Jesse actually sees the art in what he does, which is something he is unable to show his students in his chemistry class who could care less about his passionate lectures.) And as Heisenberg he's powerful.

But if you need proof you just need to look at "Over" from Episode 2. In that episode, Walt has just found out his cancer is in remission. He's also just produced a huge amount of meth that he can now sell and pay any bills he may have (I believe that's what he eventually sells to Gus for half a million dollars.) Tuco's long gone, and at this point Walt has an easy exit from the business. He's accomplished his goal of paying for his treatment and helping his family. Nobody at this point is pulling him back in.

But Walt is unable to satisfy himself around the house, and when he sees the kid buying the ingredients for meth at the store, he goes up to him and says "Stay out of my territory." That is pure ego from Walt. He is proud of the blue meth, he's proud of his work, and he's proud of Heisenberg.

I think that was the moment Walt stopped providing for his family, and started providing for himself. Remember even from Season 1 he was getting much more sexual as a result of getting off of the excitement, and when drunk Walt often reverts to his Heisenberg persona. This is a man who was never respected, and finally is proving he's great and powerful. In the end, he tore apart his family with his work, which is contradictory to what he claims was his cause, but he needed to tell HIMSELF that he was doing it for his family. In the end, he finally admits to Skyler and himself that he was doing it for himself the whole time (Or in my opinion, at least since the episode "Over")


The show's creator Vince Gilligan who wrote the character of Walter White and wrote the lines you are referring to says that these lines are meant as an admission of guilt and calls it a "long overdue bit of honesty".

One of the critically acclaimed lines from the finale is the admission from Walter White the show's protagonist, that "I did it for me." It was a stunning revelation that -- despite what he'd claimed throughout the series -- he engaged in all of his misdeeds for himself -- and not his family as he'd repeatedly claimed.

Gilligan said on "CBS This Morning," "It was a long overdue bit of honesty from Mr. White. I think he was doing it for him all along. And he finally copped to it, which I think was very important to have in that final episode."

I happen to agree with him.



I think he did it both for himself and for his family, and as time went on it became more for himself as he saw he was getting respect from drug lords than he wasn't getting from his family or students. He also loved the thrill of the dangerous situations. For example, sex in that car earlier in the series was "so damn good" because it was illegal.

However, up until the very end it was still about his family too. For example, he did attempt to send money from New Hampshire, but that little disrespectful turd cripple son of his botched up that attempt like he botched up the family getaway. (Actually, the way he eventually got his money to the family was a better scenario....sending the money to one of the cripple's friends was not a good idea. It would have been caught, and he would have lost everything.)

I think he told Skylar he did it for himself because that is what she wanted to hear and thus to give her closure and peace of mind.


All the way back in the pilot episode, right after his diagnosis, Walt takes his son clothes shopping with Skyler. When a group of jocks start making fun of Walt Jr, instead of letting it slide or reasoning with them he instead goes around the building and sneak attacks the largest jock, taking him out. When he lets him up he challenges him to a fight, but the jock backs down and leaves. That was years of frustration let out due to there being no consequences to actions any more and a taste of the adrenaline from being freed from consequences for his actions.

Then he blows up a douche's BMW over a parking dispute, despite being at a gas station where a camera would have covered what he did.

Telling Hank that Gale can't be Heisenberg, but was just an apprentice - despite that putting Hank back into the investigation.

Walt takes unnecessary risks all the time. He liked the adrenaline. I once saved a girl from drowning, while the risk was low (I'm very tall so had my feet on the bottom, where as she couldn't reach) I had such a buzz for like three days later. If you've ever had that feeling I can understand why you'd chase it again.

  • 2
    So, your answer is "no," he didn't lie to Skyler and he did do it for his own gratification? Please make sure you always clearly answer the question.
    – DavidW
    Jun 1, 2023 at 1:30

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .