- "I hate children!"
- ―Hal Wilkerson[src]
Hal Wilkerson, played by Bryan Cranston, is married to Lois, and is father to Francis, Reese, Malcolm, Dewey, and Jamie. He is more relaxed in his parenting than Lois, mainly because he is afraid to make the wrong choice. However, he does discipline his boys (most of the time when Lois is disciplining them to back her up), and sometimes even when she is not around. Several episodes refer to him as a former rebel and troublemaker, much like his sons. He is an often immature, inept man who is basically lost without Lois to keep him in line and tell him what to do.
Hal was raised in a wealthy family which consists of his parents Walter and Sharon Wilkerson. Walter died in season seven. He has two sisters named Claire and Amelia, a brother in-law named Tom, and several nieces and nephews who are unnamed. Growing up, Hal had a lot of problems that his siblings didn't have. He wasn't able to get help from his father because Walter was always too busy joking around with him to be serious when Hal needed him.
Against his family's wishes, he married Lois Welker, which caused friction between both families. They despised her because of both her lower background and her pushy, loudmouthed personality. They never came to visit their nephews and mistreated her at every chance they got whenever she came to visit them. It was revealed in Lois' Sister that Hal used to date Susan Welker, and his family had approved of her because she was talented and higher class. It was also shown that both families thought he was nuts for choosing Lois over Susan, which caused friction within the sisters for years. He also mentions that he almost married a Mexican girl two weeks before he married his wife.
Hal blends well with his neighbors, sharing similar interests. As much as the neighbors like him, none of them ever hang out with him because they despise Lois greatly (With the exception of The Kenarbans). Because of the risk of interacting with Lois and her pushy and loud-mouthed attitude, they are all afraid to be around Hal. To a lesser extent, some neighbors also refrain from hanging out with Hal because of his sons and their destructive nature. The neighbors made no attempt to disguise it around them. In the episode New Neighbors, Lois, Malcolm, and Reese got into a conflict the new neighbors, Tina, Josh, and Emily, respectively, whereas Hal and Mike became best friends. Lois forbade him to hang out with Mike anymore and so did Tina to Mike. They hung out in private, late at night, where they would not get caught until Mike's family moved away. Another time this was shown was in the episode Block Party, when the neighbors celebrated the annual vacation taken by Hal and his family with an over the top block party, and despite Lois' apathy, Hal provokes Lois into joining him in a kielbasa eating contest. He and Lois finish the contest in a draw, winning the hearts of their neighbors. Their rebound is short lived however, when without the family to act as scapegoats, the whole neighborhood turns on each other. In the episode Mono, Lois gets mono and has to stay in the house for days. Upon hearing this, the neighbors start befriending Hal and hanging out with him. Hal goes to a series of parties at many of his neighbors houses, becoming the life of the party, and even being unwittingly set up with an attractive divorcee, only to discover that he was never invited before because everyone hated Lois for being pushy and a control freak. They felt it was because of her lack of concern and apathetic nature that they didn't want her around. When Hal heard that people hated his wife, he was appalled and he stopped being friends with them.
In the episode Living Will, Hal's indecisiveness stems from a childhood incident in which he accidentally caused a snake to strike a clown (as an adult he is afraid of both snakes and clowns). This explained why he always deferred to Lois in making decisions for him. When he was given the decision to decide an elderly neighbor's fate, Hal was worried he'd chose wrong and became paralyzed from the waist up due to Hysterical Conversion Disorder to avoid choosing. However, Lois snapped him out of it when she made him realize that he was good at making decisions once by choosing to marry her over Susan against both families' wishes, which finally helped him make a decision (which is not revealed on the show as a joke).
When Lois is away, he quickly loses self-control and indulges in his forbidden enjoyments, such as smoking, gambling, hanging out with friends that Lois doesn't like, loud music, and building "killer robots" (as explored in one episode). Even with Lois with him, in one episode, he steals a car that was speeding up and down the street in front of his house (subsequently pushing it into a lake with her help). In another episode, Hal is seen to love domino toppling, and in the episode Bowling, he is seen as a skilled bowler, making a strike with every bowl. Hal has been revealed as a talented hairdresser. There are also hints that he has a foot fetish. He was also revealed to have an addiction to coffee, and would even drink it in the shower or french kiss Lois just to lick the coffee off her teeth. He claims that he drinks three pots a day.
Hal is very devoted to his wife Lois. He likes the fact that he is "the only one who really understands" her and believes her to be his "special treasure." He also believes that both his happiness and the well-being of his sons depend largely on her. As a result, Hal supports Lois on most things and allows her to handle disciplining the boys. However, as a man, he often understands what his sons are going through better than Lois, and helps them accordingly, sometimes behind Lois' back. For example, he drives Francis back to military school when he runs away, preventing Lois from finding and punishing him. Although he usually defers to Lois, he also knows when to disagree with her; he calms Lois down when she starts going overboard, as she tends to do, and provides a balance to her abrasive and intense personality. However, Hal and Lois's obsession with each other is also the reason why their house is in such a terrible state as they put sex above all else, even their own children. In one episode, Lois has to take antibiotics for an infection and tells Hal that they cannot make love for the duration of her treatment. Lois and Hal use their newfound extra time to completely transform the house, for example, transforming their brown, dead front yard into a lush, green garden. The house quickly falls back to disrepair when Lois is done taking her medicine.
Hal has sunk to some great lows throughout the show. He has stolen money from Francis to pay for paint for a mid life crisis in which he becomes an artist, and even stole Malcolm's credit card to pay for a ski trip while trying to outdo the boys on Christmas. Additionally, he convinces Lois to take $10,000 of Malcolm's scholarship money for themselves with the promise that they'll "pay him back." He is also shown to be extremely cowardly. Often when he ruins something, he bribes his sons to take the fall. Hal has been shown to be criminally negligent with his children. He almost drove off with baby Jamie on the roof of the car and once said he left Dewey in Mexico. When he and Lois brought baby Francis home from the hospital, he accidentally set Francis' baby carrier in the closet and didn't know where he was when it was time for Lois to nurse him, although he was found a short time later. He has forgotten Dewey's birthday on several occasions, and also forgot Lois' birthday in one episode. Because of this and his general incompetence as a man, his sons have extremely little to no respect for him. Because Hal is nowhere near as mean or intimidating as Lois, nor is he as smart, his sons are always quick to take advantage of him, although they also prefer him over their mother.
Hal is quite passionate about a range of activities, such as roller-skating, painting, pirate radio and race walking. He also has a passion for electronics and listening to old music. He comes from a large and rich family, all members of which have various (repressed) problems. They rarely visit because of their intense friction with Lois. Hal's family believes that Hal deserved a high-class woman like Susan, instead of Lois, who has a lower-class background. His father, Walter, (Christopher Lloyd) never listened to him, and so he always made jokes or tickled Hal before they both could speak about Lois. This, however, came back to him later on when Hal prepares for battle by putting on layers of jackets for a tickle match-up with him. During that time, Walter, while Hal was tickling him, finally confessed to why he encouraged the rest of the family to continue mistreating Lois the way they do. In a seventh-season episode, Hal has a hard time grieving for his father and tried to overcompensate with gifts for the boys in an effort to make sure they would care when he died, because he felt bad that he found it so hard to get sad when his own father had passed. While Reese and Dewey took advantage of it, Malcolm realized it was wrong and tried to stop him, until Hal offered him a car. Lois stepped in at the last minute before Hal purchased the car and started to help Hal grieve for his father's death in a healthier way.
Hal gives each of the boys "one free pass". He does so when they do something so horrible that he can't tell Lois about it. They don't get to choose when to use it, Hal decides by how bad it is, and how Lois would punish them if she found out. Each of the boys used their pass at a fairly young age. In a flashback, Hal remembers all the times he gave them their "One free pass". Francis used his when he got handcuffed to a pole at a strip club, trying to get his money back from the stripper. Reese's was when he strapped roller skates to a horse and accidentally killed it in the driveway. Malcolm mixed the wrong chemicals in his chemistry set and blew/burned his and Hal's hair off leaving their scalps red, with some smoke trailing off. Hal caught Dewey smoking some of his ten year old hidden cigarettes, which he had hidden all over the house, but had since forgotten. When he caught Dewey, he had already become addicted to them, to the point of going into the "crawl space" under the house to find more (as stated before Hal hid them all over the place). However, Lois found out and Hal had to find all of his hidden cigarettes. Malcolm said, "Mom made Dad get rid of all of his old cigarettes, and said she would make him eat any she found, so he's pretty motivated," just as Hal opened an air vent, letting a huge pile of cigarettes come falling out. He claimed that he hid all his cigarettes in the house to get over his addiction by just knowing they were there. Dewey mentions that there were thousands of cigarettes hidden all over the house and the money Hal spent on them would have been enough to send him to private school.
Hal is an often immature, selfish, stubborn, arrogant, reckless, incompetent, extremely lazy, clumsy, crybaby, naive, but also fatherly, witty, laid-back and kind-hearted man with very questionable ethics and parenting skill. Hal is nowhere near as mean or as intimidating as Lois is and such his sons have virtually no respect for him and find it quite easy to fool him with no true guilt. Despite this his sons prefer him over Lois.
Despite generally being kinder and less harsh than Lois, Hal is generally a completely incompetent, neglectful and horrible father. He is more than willing to sell out his sons in order to avoid being punished by Lois and has underestimated them all on numerous occasions, notably in "Hal's Christmas Gift", in which he expects his sons to make crappy homemade Christmas gifts for him and Lois and therefore planned on giving them a crappy one himself. He has been negligent with almost all of his children, notably Francis and Jamie and has ignored them to such extents that he has even forgotten their own birthdays, notably Dewey and Jamie. Hal is also willing to steal money from his sons in order to meet his own goals and get out of trouble, and even due to jealousy that he himself doesn't have the same kind of money as seen in the episodes "Hal Quits", "Hal's Christmas Gift", and "Malcolm's Money". Hal is generally a pathological and compulsive liar to his sons and has lied to them to simply get them to stop bothering him and will commonly go back on his word after making promises to his sons. Hal has on occasions been harsh to his sons like Lois and very rarely attempts to stop Lois from punishing them even in situations where they do not deserve a harsh punishment and even assists Lois in punishing them. Hal is even shown to be angered when his sons disobey him, notably in "Chad's Sleepover", showing that he wants to dominate his sons to a degree the same as Lois.
Hal is not above throwing tantrums or giving into complete despair. Most of the time, it's about very petty annoyances, frequently engaging in self-destructive vendettas against those who cross him. In the episode Convention, when he and Lois go to a convention, he keeps getting into fist-fights with a man who stole a great idea from him long ago. In the episode Lois' Birthday, when a clown at a batting cage calls Lois a "Wide Ride", he immediately strikes the clown and continues to get the whole family involved when other clowns join the fray.
He's also the jealous type to an Absurd degree. Especially when it comes to Lois.
Although it doesn't happen much, Hal has a temper tantrum about something that actually is worth freaking out over. A major example of this was when Lois's hateful mother Ida sues them, even with a new baby on the way and a hopelessly high amount of debt. While Hal put on a brave face for Lois, he then went into their car and flew into a horrendous, wailing, sobbing fit, while Malcolm was watching. (Grandma Sues) One time, Hal was left to take care of the kids on their own and always screamed and yelled at them, telling them he was at "Zero Tolerance", but he never meant it because he'd always almost instantly back out, and give them a tearful apology and tell them that they were right and give another chance. It carried on like this until finally, Malcolm pushed him across the line and got himself kicked out of the house. However, Hal eventually did forgive Malcolm and went crazy, looking for him, and apologizing for everything he did, just like always. It just took him an entire day to do so. (Kicked Out) One time, Hal very will might have hit the epitome of his anger as he became so furious, that it overwhelmed his body and he could barely move. He started spewing angry gibberish because he couldn't talk straight. This was in response to hearing a horrible, outlandish thing that Reese did (which is never revealed). (Reese's Apartment). Upon hearing that Lois was pregnant with yet another child, Hal collapsed in his bed, screaming at the top of his lungs in horror. (Graduation)
Hal is also shown to be very squeamish, and has a long list of things that he's scared of. Mainly, the thing he's scared of is content from TV and movies. Hal is terrified of cartoon characters like Rosie the Robot and "evil puppet" movies.
While Hal and Lois blame a lot of their misfortunes on their children, a lot of it stems from Hal's own reckless behavior and extremely poor work ethic.
Hal works as a low-level, cubicle-bound, white-collar worker in a large, scandal-ridden corporation. He was used as a scapegoat for much of the company's shady business practices, a charge that would have resulted in a lengthy prison term. However, with the help of Malcolm, Hal proved that he could not possibly be the guilty party because all of the incriminating evidence against him took place on Fridays, and Hal presented inarguable proof that he had been skipping work on Fridays for many years. Though this cleared him of any wrong doing, Lois, having snapped out of being mentally unstable, yells at Hal for skipping work on Fridays. He stated in the sixth-season episode Motivational Seminar that he works in systems management. In another episode, Hal's company head stated that Hal was one of the best systems managers he ever had, however, in the episode College Recruiters, Hal says he could be replaced at his job in an hour.
Hal is absolutely devoted to Lois and loves her dearly. He married her against the wishes of his family and overall has a good, strong marriage with her. The two love each other so much that they engage in sexual intercourse to extents so great that they have neglected their children, completely allowed their home to fall into a state of disrepair and have blown off working for money that they desperately need. Hal and Lois however do have conflict on numerous occasions and Hal, like his sons, has a desire to outsmart Lois and has shown pleasure when they are able to outsmart her and prove her to be wrong at something, notably seen in the episode "Traffic Ticket" in which he personally destroys a videotape that will completely exonerate Lois for a false accusation of impeding traffic simply to prevent Lois from learning that she was right about the situation and to savor their one possible chance of convincing Lois she is wrong about something.
Hal is a troublemaker, much like his sons and as such Lois has punished him on occasions and gotten angry at him for his stupidity and neglect of their children. It is evident that Hal greatly fears Lois and even bribes his sons in order to take the fall for trouble he has gotten into in order to avoid facing Lois' wrath. If not for their sons in order to vent their anger on, it is shown in the episode "Stilts" that Los and Hal hold many secret from each other that could destroy their marriage entirely, though by blaming their sons for all their problems are able to continue functioning as a happy couple. Hal is very supportive of Lois and almost always allows her to punish their sons and rarely attempts to intervene and hates his sons for putting Lois through so much emotional pain. The one thing Hal desires most of all is to one day be free of their destructive children and grow old and happy together with Lois.
Out of all his sons, Hal appears to love Francis the most and the two have an overall good relationship with each other. Hal was a little negligent with Francis when he was an infant and once forgot him in the closet and no doubt suffered immensely due to Francis' destructive behavior. In spite of this, Hal appears to recognize that Lois did indeed go a bit too far with disciplining Francis and appears to be in agreement that Francis turned out badly largely as a result of her. Hal has even helped Francis escape Lois' wrath on occasions, notably in "Francis Escapes" in which he secretly drives him back to school in order to prevent Lois from finding him. Hal however has shown some disappointment in Francis, notably seen when he visits him at military school and discovers he does almost nothing but cause trouble, however he becomes very proud when he learns that Francis stands up to their cruel commandant on behalf of his classmates. Hal even shows disappointment that he has missed out on some of Francis' important life events such as getting married, traveling and overall turning into a decent man.
Francis loves his father deeply however he has had some conflict with him on occasions and was once disgusted at him when he and Lois kicked Reese out of the house, but in spite of this he prefers Hal over Lois and once apologized to him for putting him through so much pain ("AA"). In the final episode of the series, Hal discovers that Francis has finally found a good job and is very pleased and helps him hide it from Lois as Francis does not want to giver her the satisfaction of knowing he is finally listening to her.
Out of all his sons, the one Hal hates the most is Reese. Hal appeared to be very fond of Reese when he was born and tried desperately to educate him and make him intelligent so he would be better than Francis, though this ultimately failed and resulted in Malcolm being born a genius. Hal has shown much disgust at Reese's cruelty and delinquent behavior and for being a complete moron in general. Hal has made it clear many times that he views Reese as being completely hopeless and that he will amount to nothing in life and simply wants to be free of him forever. Hal has shown pleasure seeing Reese suffer and being punished, notably in the episode "Butterflies" in which he allows Dewey to continue torturing Reese with the sound of butterflies for another week following a traumatic encounter Reese had with them and also in "Reese Cooks" in which he and Lois find a new way to punish Reese by refusing to let him cook, which makes him completely miserable. In spite of this, Hal has demonstrated that he still cares for Reese and has helped him get out of trouble a few times and in "Standee" even showed that he was impressed at Reese's plan to get revenge on a garbage man, though still claimed that it was too late for Reese to put his destructive focus and determination towards his schoolwork. Hal once even told Reese (though while sleepwalking) that he prefers him over Malcolm as he has more in common with Reese.
Reese on the other hand also enjoys seeing Hal in misery and, alongside his brothers, enjoys humiliating Hal and taking advantage of him and seeing him get physically injured and has shown hatred towards him for some of his actions and appears to view Hal as being useless and stupid as revealed in "Clip Show 2". Despite this he looks up to Hal commonly and like all his brothers prefers him over Lois.
Hal and Malcolm have a strained relationship. While Hal loves Malcolm and has gotten along with him on numerous occasions, he does treat Malcolm very poorly on occasions, once kicking him out of the house when he was at "zero tolerance" and has stolen money from him twice in "Hal's Christmas Gift" and "Malcolm's Money" in order to get out of trouble and due to his jealousy that he and Lois have nowhere near the same amount of money. Hal has even sold Malcolm out to Lois on a few occasions in order to not get in trouble himself. Hal commonly attempts to use Malcolm's genius in order to further his own goals, such as in the episode "Casino" in which he uses Malcolm to count cards at blackjack. Hal almost never tries to stop Lois from completely interfering with Malcolm's life and allows her to humiliate him and deprive him of freedom and happiness. Despite this it is shown that Hal highly values Malcolm for his intelligence as seen in "Baby: Part 1" in which he refuses to allow Malcolm to go to school in London as he claims he and Lois need him desperately to fix their problems and in the final episode of the series it is shown that Hal believes that Malcolm has the capabilities to one day become president of the United States.
Malcolm does not appear to hold much respect for Hal due to him being an incompetent and unintelligent man and a poor father. Malcolm has also shown that he is completely embarrassed by Hal and in the episode "Houseboat' pretended not to know him and openly called him a "nutcase" to a girl he was trying to impress and did not help him when he was locked outside the changing rooms which resulted in Hal almost being arrested and becoming a registered sex offender. Later in the same episode, after Hal took him out fishing and bought him a new rod just to spend some time with him, Malcolm quickly abandoned him in the middle of the lake in order to go spend time with hot cheerleaders. Malcolm later revealed that his relationship with Hal would never be the same after this. Malcolm has taken advantage of Hal on numerous occasions and enjoys seeing him in misery and humiliating him though he still prefers him over Lois and has gotten along with him on numerous occasions.
Out of all his sons, Hal treats Dewey the poorest and the two have a strained relationship. Like Lois, Hal has completely neglected Dewey for a majority of his life and has forgotten his birthday on numerous occasions and once even stated that he forgot Dewey in Mexico once. Hal does not appear to enjoy spending time with Dewey much and commonly misses events with him at the center on purpose to the extent that Dewey even tries to hide activities from him in order to spare himself the disappointment. Hal has been nasty to Dewey on occasions, notably in "Chads Sleepover" in which he gets angry at Dewey for disobeying him and has denied him pleasures on occasions by claiming he asks for too much (even though he gets the short end of everything in their family). Hal has also humiliated Dewey on numerous occasions. In spite of this, Hal loves Dewey very much and he is one of Hal's favorite sons. Hal recognizes that Dewey is very intelligent and in the series finale reveals that Dewey will live a life of fame and luxury unlike Malcolm. Unlike Lois, Hal commonly attempts to cheer Dewey up after ignoring him and once tried desperately to earn back Dewey's love after refusing to give him piggybacks anymore.
Dewey however has shown multiple times that he is disgusted at the way Hal mistreats him and neglects him and as a result has no problem in manipulating and taking advantage of him and enjoys seeing him in misery. Despite this Dewey like all his brothers prefer Hal over Lois and enjoys spending time with him when he can and overall loves his father.
It is very clear that Hal was visibly horrified when he learned that Lois was pregnant with Jamie and threw a huge tantrum in the car (which only Malcolm witnessed). Despite this Hal loves his youngest son deeply and has shown that he enjoys spending time with Jamie. However, Hal has been very negligent with Jamie and once almost drove off with him still in his baby carrier on the roof of his car and even switched him with another baby at the park once and also nearly forgot that he was in a box wrapped as a Christmas gift. He even once suggested they did not need to get him a Christmas gift due to him being too young to know it was Christmas. The episode "Morp" showed that Hal was on the verge of completely neglecting Jamie just like he and Lois did Dewey and as a result Dewey had to manipulate them both to give Jamie a proper birthday party and not neglect Jamie the same way that they neglected Dewey. Hal even once used his infant son as a way to win money by using him in games against other fathers and their babies ("Malcolm's Job"). In spite of this Hal does love his son.
- Hal loves and fears Lois more than anything else in the world.
- When he was in college, he ran a pirate radio station under the name of "Kid Charlemagne".
- He has Pithecophobia (fear of monkeys), mentioned in the episodes Monkey and Dewey's Opera. He also has Coulrophobia (fear of clowns) and Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), mentioned in Living Will.
- Bryan Cranston has played his role of Hal in two TV shows aside from Malcolm in the Middle.
- He voice acted for a portrayal of Hal in the Family Guy episode I Take Thee, Quagmire. The scene was a skit parodying the series. In it, Lois (who, in this representation, is voiced by Beth Littleford) is relentlessly yelling to Malcolm, Reese and Dewey, but she is abruptly beaten down with a refrigerator door by Hal (voiced by original actor Bryan Cranston) and says "Kids, we're free. We're finally free.". The four then walk out of the house and into the sunset.
- The second time was in a Breaking Bad alternate ending, exclusively in the Complete Series set. In it, Hal wakes up from a nightmare and wakes up Lois (Jane Kaczmarek, reprising her role) and tells her about all of the major events from the series, including Hector's bell, Jesse's tendency to say "the b-word" and describing Hank as "That guy from The Shield. True to her character, Lois says that the nightmare is no excuse to not drop off the kids at school that morning (presumably referring to Jamie and the unborn child from Graduation) and Hal goes to bed after calling Lois "Skylar". He turns out the light and the camera pans over to the bedside chair, with Heisenberg's hat on it and the last line of the Malcolm theme song (Life is unfair.) plays as it fades to black.
- In "If Boys Were Girls", Lois imagined that if she and Hal had daughters instead of sons, Hal would be a depressed, overweight, emotionally frail chain-smoker who is easy to manipulate and is completely obedient to his wife and daughters.
- Despite this, Hal still retained the easy-going, understanding and loving father he is. This allowed him to be spared by his own daughters who took their anger out on Lois for being the overbearing, selfish and controlling mother she is.
- Lois imagining Hal in such a negative light in her fantasies is possibly a nod to how she views herself physically in reality and possibly considers herself unattractive (maybe due to her pregnancy at the time) and is secretly depressed over the fact that she is the only female in her family (The events of this episode show she strongly desires having a daughter and has shown displeasure being outnumbered by the boys). The episode "Malcolm's Job" even shows that Lois is a secret smoker when she is at work, a nod to Hal in her fantasies smoking as well. However Lois is nowhere near as obedient to her children in reality and is the one who dominates them.