TV Analysis: The final pages of “Breaking Bad”
On September 29th this year, one of the greatest shows to ever hit television (both critically and personally) aired its final episode.
I have been outspoken regarding my admiration for this series’ direction, design, editing, acting and its overall perfectionism in the art of film-making. Last week the final two pages of “Felina” (the shows final episode) were leaked online.
One day we may see more original screenplays leaked to the public for this show, but for now we have these two pages and they alone are worth dissecting and analyzing.
*Click on the picture to enlarge it.
We begin with Jesse’s escape from the compound. A common misconception is that a screenwriter (or director) is on the inside of every ambiguity written. Nolan likely didn’t have an answer to the ending of “Inception,” and Gilligan likely doesn’t have an answer to Jesse’s fate.
Instead he writes “I like to call it “something better” and leave it at that.” Writing this one-sentence input can help indicate the direction of the escape better during production, to guide the ambiguity in a positive manner.
Generally in creative writing, it is good to leave specificity behind when trying to be descriptive. Were the sirens literally deafening? No, but this gives the reader (or editor in this case) a good idea of how to interpret the situation. Of course it wouldn’t have been as effective if it read: “the sirens than reached a level of 200 decibels.”
Gilligan uses terms like “POLICE OFFICERS approach now — four, six, eight of them. At this critical point in the story this detail is not important and it also gives them flexibility in production.
Even though a screenplay will be translated in the director’s image, it is not the job of the screenwriter to map out each angle/sound/edit. A screenplay works as a guide that focuses on setting, characters and dialogue. Quentin Tarantino once said (paraphrasing) that he wrote his scripts as if they were novels or epics. Figurative language can help the cast and crew translate better to their imagination or limitations based on production logistics.
Vince Gilligan was the writer and the director for “Felina” which is a key reason why there is so much direction in the screenplay. These pages often use terms like “WIDER” or “CRANE UP, UP and AWAY..” which isn’t something an outside writer would normally add, this being the decision of the director.
Sometimes, in later drafts, a shooting script is compiled that specifies these things; this could be a case of that.
Beyond screenwriting there is, of course, examples of good creative writing. “They’re two late he got away.” A figurative remark on Walt’s personal, internal victory. He did it again, his plan worked perfectly, he won.
A screenplay can end with “FADE TO BLACK” or “ROLL CREDITS,” I personally love seeing the “END SERIES” tag at the end, which I’m sure Gilligan had an emotional time writing those final words.
“Breaking Bad” holds the #3 spot on our greatest shows of all-time list. Where it has been battling close with “Lost.” This list will be updated this month and it may move up a spot.