Screenwriting heroes 1: Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad)

Breaking Bad characters
Breaking Bad Season 3

I’ve been catching up on my favourite TV series, “Breaking Bad”, and have just watched first two episodes of season 3.

Once again, truly wonderful. But, more than anything else, I have to say how staggered I am by the brilliance of Vince Gilligan’s script writing. His characters are very real, his storyline worryingly plausible, and each episode puts my heart in my mouth with stress. “Breaking Bad” also funny, in a blackly comic way. And what’s more, fantastically surreal – I mean what’s with the Mexicans crawling on the ground in episode 1? And what the hell is going on with that toy eye in the swimming pool. Creepy, very, very creepy.

There are so many great things to say about Gilligan’s scripts. First, they sometimes go out of their way to frustrate expectations, or give you a startling image at the start, and fail to explain it until the end of a series (namely, those Mexicans I mentioned, and the toy bear in the pool in season 1). Second, just when you think things can’t get worse for your favourite characters, they get worse. Much, much worse. Third, the juxtaposition of comedy with dark deeds and edge-of-the-seat thrills, works brilliantly well.

If you haven’t get checked out this series, I highly recommend you do. But don’t drop into the middle. You really need to start at the beginning, otherwise you will have even less of a clue than Gilligan plans for you to have in his puzzlebox scripts.