In which I attempt to better understand the art of scene writing through a close reading of Breaking Bad, one scene at a time.
INT. NISSAN SENTRA - DRIVING - EVENING
The speedometer vibrates at 86. Walt is alone in the car, speeding home. Tired and dirty. He’s swallowed a lot of anger today. It’s way down deep, but it glows inside him.
The needle creeps up to 91. Things rattle and shake. Walt’s eyes fix on something ahead.
Walt’s POV--through the windshield, it’s a straight shot down the freeway. A mile ahead of us is a TRIPLE OVERPASS.
It’s a graceful, swooping thing made of ribbons of white concrete. It rises up out of the flatlands as we approach, dwarfing everything for miles around.
Walt studies it. He lets off the gas a little.
Cars crawl the overpass, over and under each other. Endless strings of white headlights, red taillights. This giant structure routes them in every direction a person can travel.
Something about it distracts Walt. Occupies him.
Walt coasts underneath it all, staring up at it through his sunroof. Once he’s past it, he speeds up again. He eyes it in his rearview mirror, then leaves it behind.
This scene was replaced in the final shooting script. The above scene is beautiful but describes more an existential state of being without actually being dramatic in any way.
The new scene does both.
I keep being amazed at how well VG adds insult to injury to Walt’s dreary day.
In the new scene, Walt drives along empty suburban streets, the handicapped parking tag he uses to tote his son around hanging from his rearview mirror. He snatches it down. This act has tons of weight: Walt feels dragged down by his own pathetic life and he probably isn’t terribly happy that his son isn’t in perfect health. At least in a literary sense, his son’s disability seems to reflect on Walt.
He throws the tag in the glove compartment and shuts it with slam, but it won’t close. He toggles between eyes on the road and slamming the glove compartment that just won’t latch shut. Slam! Slam! Slam! Like the accusation of his own handicap can no longer be ignored.
Simple WANT + OBSTACLE = COMPLETION. The glovebox never does shut. His own inadequacies stare him down from the passenger side. It’s a heavy scene.