Breaking Down Breaking Bad: Pilot, Scene 15
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. VELVET-TOUCH CAR WASH – OFFICE – EVENING
Same clothes, same day — Walt came to work straight from getting his terrible news. He’s on autopilot, standing behind the cash register. The BUZZ is back in his head.
Amir is in the b.g., arguing on the phone in sound is muted. We can barely hear him. We he’s yelling about anyway — it’s pointless, We’re on Walt, who simply stares into space.
Farsi. The don’t know what doesn’t matter.
No customers. Walt suddenly jerks, like a tiny zap of electricity goes through him. He steps out from behind the counter and exits. Amir doesn’t notice him leave.
As seen through the windows, Walt pads along like a zombie and nearly gets run over by a car. The vatos all watch, confused, as Walt climbs in his Nissan and drives away.
I don’t think those typos are mine, since I copied and pasted the script into a Scrivener doc that I’m working from. Whatever.
This scene was changed for the better, like all the scenes that were tweaked from the original pilot, because VG refined his characters and his vision for Breaking Bad.
If you were to give either version of this scene a title it might be something like: WALT FINALLY BREAKS FREE.
But the original is quiet. It’s ponderous. It’s existential and it illustrates an internal conflict. But while is indeed having a internal conflict, he’s also in conflict with the world around him. And as a reader/audience member, we want him to butt heads with the bulls who’ve been running him down.
So then we get one of the most famous scenes from the pilot. Walt snaps. Bogdon (called Amir in the script) once again tells Walt to get his ass outside and scrub hubcaps, but he’s even less delicate than before.
Bodgon has already coaxed Walt into washing cars before; now he can just bitch-slap him because Walt has let himself be bitch-slapped. Where Bogdon was apologetic, he’s now impatient.
With the addition of this exchange, we see the anger and the righteous indignation that will soon fuel Walt-as-Heisenberg. Without it, we might just be a fair amount less convinced.
Plus this scene is just far more entertaining.