In which I attempt to better understand the art of scene writing through a close reading of Breaking Bad, one scene at a time.
“The learning principle is to plunge into the detailed mystery of the micro in order to understand what makes the macro tick.” — Josh Waitzkin, The Art of Learning
If anyone cares to read along and discuss, I’d love your input.
EXT. VELVET-TOUCH CAR WASH - AFTERNOON
The sun’s sinking low. Walt – master’s degree, Inland Empire Science Educator of the Year for ‘92, ‘95, and ‘01 – is towel-drying cars alongside the teenage vatos. His slacks and shoes are spotted with soapy water. He’s grim.
See!? Humiliation! A VG wastes no time in getting us there.
Walt is at work on an anthracite BMW 3-Series. As he hunkers down to Armor-All the tires, we hear:
CHAD: (O.S.) Hey, you missed a spot.
You piece of shit!
Walt looks up to see handsome CHAD smirking down at him. Young master Chad is tickled pink. This is his Beemer, by the way. Chad’s girlfriend stands in b.g., giggling into her cell phone. Whispering just loud enough to be heard.
GIRLFRIEND: (into phone) Ohmigod. Oh–my–God. You are not going to believe…
She cups a hand over her mouth, turns away. Walt says nothing. He needs this job. Off him, scrubbing harder…
Ack, he scrubs HARDER! This man’s only means of expressing anger is to clean a car more vigorously!
Much like the last scene, Walt just WANTS this job. He NEEDS the money to not have this job. He NEEDS both self-respect and the respect of others.
The OBSTACLE is money. The OBSTACLE is Chad and his bullshit girlfriend and Chad’s bullshit rich-ass dad who bought him a sweet car for no reason. This is Walt at the breaking point. He’s wanted his due respect all day and never gotten it. He’s ready to crack.
His COMPLETION, however, is just to sink back into himself and continue down his Donald Doormat day.
This is the bottom, for Walt, well-indicated by the fact that he’s on his hands and knees, scrubbing. Not to mention he’s doing this for this kid who’s supposed to be his pupil.