In which I attempt to better understand the art of scene writing through a close reading of Breaking Bad, one scene at a time.
NB: To whomever might be reading this, those first two posts were a tad ambitious. I’m trying to develop a small daily habit that sharpens my scene-writing and scene-analyzing ability, but the only way I can make it sustainable is to take it in smaller chunks. So I won’t be taking down entire sequences in fell swoops. Just scenes, which I will define as a goal with a completion.
Completion of a goal, as I see it, can take four forms: Success, Failure, New Plan, or Postponement.
So below is a reasonable task.
EXT. HIGH SCHOOL - MORNING
J.P. Wynne High School. Home of the Fightin’ Skyhawks. Two thousand-plus students, many of them in overflow trailers.
Into the faculty lot motors a 1991 Nissan wagon. It was a piece of shit when it rolled off the assembly line, and has not improved with age. It parks in a handicapped space. A handicapped placard hangs from the rear-view.
New baby on the way, need a new hot-water heater, and his car sucks. Visual establishment of money problems. The difference being that Walt drives a 2004 Pontiac Aztek in the show, which speaks more to domestication than impoverishment.
Walt climbs out from behind the wheel, checks his watch. He’s late. Walter, Jr. struggles to get out of the passenger side. He fumbles with his crutches and his backpack.
WALT: All set? (off his son’s nod) Alright, see you at home.
Walt grabs his briefcase and hurries toward the building, leaving his son to work it out for himself -- which is, again, exactly how Walter, Jr. wants it.
Not a very compelling scene.
CONFLICT: Walt might be running a little late. Jr has a hard time getting out of the car.
Walt’s WANT is to get to work on time.
OBSTACLE: He doesn’t really have one. This scene enlightens the audience on the nature of the father/son relationship w/r/t Walt Jr’s cerebral palsy
COMPLETION is that he leaves his son to work it out on his own. And that he'll see him at home, so Jr is independent enough to get a ride back.
If you want to get big-picture on this, as a meth cook, Walt does abandon his son in lieu of work life. But this scene is too forgettable to leave such an impression.
My final thought is that this is probably a scene that could’ve been cut to no great loss.