In which I attempt to better understand the art of scene writing through a close reading of Breaking Bad, one scene at a time.
EXT. VELVET-TOUCH CAR WASH - AFTERNOON
This is one of those 60s Googie-style structures -- faded space-age futuristic. Young Mexicans dry the cars by hand.
INT. VELVET-TOUCH - OFFICE - AFTERNOON
Walt’s afternoon part-time job. He works the cash register.
WALT: -- Eight, nine, ten, and ten makes twenty. Thank you. Come again.
The CUSTOMER wanders off, re-counting his change.
I LOVE that the customer re-counts their change. Walt can’t get a break.
Note the gradual lowering of Walt’s status:
From basically a Nobel laureate knocked down to emasculated pater familias.
Then from would-be brilliant teacher down to disrespected old hack.
Add to that a de-sexualized “champ” in the eyes of Margaret.
And now, carwash cashier. He’s not done with his downward trajectory.
Walt closes his drawer and busies himself with record keeping. AMIR, the middle-aged Persian owner, argues on the phone.
Amir's name was changed to Bogdan.
AMIR: No. Not -- that is not what I said. What I said to you
Amir switches to FARSI. The conversation grows more heated. Finally, he barks something and hangs up. He turns to Walt.
AMIR: My sister’s worthless son--piece of shit! Shit! Fired for good this time! (sighs; shrugs) I’ll run the register.
WALT: Amir, no. We talked about this. Inside only. And only till six.
AMIR: I’m short-handed, Walter. WhatamItodo? WhatamItodo?
Pissed, Walt unclips his tie, shoves it in his breast pocket.
Walt’s WANT here doesn’t become obvious until it’s diverted: it was to get through the work-day without being abused. The OBSTACLE is twofold, outer and inner: Amir’s assertiveness versus Walt’s lack thereof.
If Amir were terribly short-handed and he actually respected Walt, Amir would get his ass out there and wash cars himself instead. But Walt gives in.
Set against the classroom scene where Walt’s want is demoted from inspiring awe to earning mere respect, Walt’s want is here demoted from earning mere respect to keeping his (second) job.
And he’s got just a bit further to fall.