Monday, November 25, 2013

Emotional complexity

Another quick post today.

There was a great scene in the home stretch of Breaking Bad's final run (too many to count really) where Walt calls Skyler and unloads on her as the cops are listening. It's a masterfully written, directed, and acted scene. I was stunned by the emotional complexity of it. It was so complex and subtle that, even to this day, some folks have misinterpreted it. The key to the scene is understanding that more was going on under the surface. That what was really going on was the opposite of what was happening on the surface. By unloading on her and saying all of those vile things about her he was actually telling her that he loved her. It was that depth that drowned some people.

Such a great scene. I actually tried finding a clip of it but everyone seems fixated on only three words ("you stupid bitch") from it instead of the whole thing.

It got me thinking about other emotionally complex scenes.

Like when Rawls comforted McNulty:

This scene is great because Rawls fucking HATES McNulty (and he says so here to his face) but still realizes that McNulty needs to be consoled.

Or when when Bolander comforts Meldrick in Homicide:

These two characters are not enemies in the way that Rawls and McNulty are in The Wire but that have been against each other for this entire episode after the apparent suicide of Crosetti (Meldrick's partner). When Meldrick falls, overcome by grief, it's the one guy who he thought would be glad to see him hit the ground that holds him up.

Here's a great small scene from The West Wing:

In the middle of a national tragedy, which is a very personal one for these characters, Toby actually has some good news to announce, that his children have been born. He feels genuine happiness at this event but at the same time feels very guilty about feeling happy. There's a quick moment where it looks like he's going to throw up that is perfect in this scene.

I have many favorite moments in these shows (and others) but it's usually these emotionally complex scenes that stick with me the longest. Perhaps because they are the most human, perhaps because the are the most like us. 

How about you. Any favorite scenes that fit the bill?


John McFetridge said...

Good post. I can't think of any others off hand, but I appreciate all of these...

Dana King said...

The Rawls-McNulty scene is one of my handful of favorites from THE WIRE, brilliant for the reasons you noted. I would have picked that one if you hadn't.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Ditto what John said. I will work on it.

Ray Garraty said...

I'd add another scene from Homicide (I think, 4th season) where Kellerman plans to commit suicide on boat and Lewis asks him not to. It may be the best scene from Homicide ever.