In which I attempt to better understand the art of scene writing through a close reading of Breaking Bad, one scene at a time.
This scene, as far as I can remember, though I’m just re-watching scene-by-scene as I go, didn’t make the cut in the final edit.
INT. HIGH SCHOOL - FACULTY WORKROOM - DAY
Last period. Wide on Walt in the background, who sits alone in this deserted room. Head down, he grades tests while he eats a sandwich from home. It’s a lonesome tableau.
I take that back. That’s where the scene ends. No Margaret.
A physics teacher, MARGARET, enters. She’s 30s, redhead, attractive without being pretty. Sexy, more like.
MARGARET: Heya, Walt.
WALT: Hey, Margaret.
Margaret feeds the soda machine a dollar. Walt stares at her back a little too long. We feel his interest.
Margaret gets her Diet Coke and turns his way. Walt lowers his eyes. Margaret joins him at the table, checks her watch.
WALT: Happy Birthday.
So Walt WANTS her physically, but he also wants her attention. He wants the time of day in a way that isn’t reminding him to mow the lawn or take his echinacea. But it’s incredibly sad how he goes about it and her response.
MARGARET: (surprised) How’d you know?
Walt shrugs. Smiles. Margaret does, too.
In this draft he knew because he’s obsessed with her. In this draft it wasn’t his birthday. If this had made the cut, it would’ve been incredibly sad (or pathetic?) that they shared a birthday and he was the only one to remember.
She fumbles in her purse, comes up with a cigarette and lighter. She notices Walt’s surprised glance.
MARGARET: Be a champ, wouldja? Don’t narc.
WALT: (amused by the word) My lips are sealed.
His want is to be intimate, to be friendly at least. His obstacle is his own shyness and dorkiness…
Margaret lights up and sucks deep. Ohhh yeah. She blows smoke toward the ceiling, gives it a wave with Walt’s papers.
…Especially next to her movie-magic coolness, stereotypically evoked by smoking an illicit cigarette.
MARGARET: Walt, you are my hero.
Which is actually what he wants. To be an alpha male. To smoke a cigarette with her. And to fuck her, hard.
Walt glances up at her once more. She catches him doing it, smiles back and holds his look. He drops his eyes first.
WALT: Those things’ll kill you, you know.
FORESHADOW ALERT! Despite being a nonsmoker, Walt has terminal lung cancer.
Margaret shrugs, exhales.
MARGARET: Something always does.
A good case for the fact of this scene being cut: We, the audience, need to be on Walt’s side when he decides to make meth for the future of his family. It’s also nice to believe that his libido is at an all-time low.
The fact of Margaret actually creates a compelling future for Walt and what he’ll do with his new zest for life.