Script Analysis: “Hell or High Water” — Part 3: Character
Scott Myers
14

Melinda, I’m going to offer a somewhat different take on the characters. If we look at the story through the eyes of Toby as Protagonist, I see Marcus and Alberto as the Nemesis characters. They are chasing Toby and Tanner, and represent the law which is what T&T are breaking, thus opposition and threat.

Attractor: Toby’s family. He engages in robbery FOR them. He wants to break the chain of relative poverty they have experienced for generations.

I’m not sure there’s a full blown Mentor figure. One of the themes in the story can be summed up by the title of the Bruce Hornsby song “That’s Just the Way It Is”. The banks screw people. The system screws people. And nothing can change that. The Waitress has a moment in which she says something to convey that point:

“I’ve been working here for 44 years. Ain’t nobody ever ordered nothing but a T-Bone steak and baked potato. Except one time, this asshole from New York ordered a trout, back in 1987. We ain’t got no goddamned trout.”

T-Bone steak and baked potato. Same damn thing for 44 years. Well, Toby determines that things are going to change. So I guess in a way we could look at The System as a kind of Negative Mentor, one which Toby is hell-bent to prove wrong.

Trickster: That feels like Tanner to me. Some times he is Toby’s ally in that they are in sync with their plans. Other times Tanner goes cockeyed. He’s got a different motivation. He thinks robbing is cool, fun. He ENJOYS it. So we have the enemy-ally / ally-enemy shapeshifting dynamic going on. Plus he’s acting more out of his own ego needs rather than Toby who steals out of selflessness — doing something for his family.

As I say, archetypes are up to interpretation, no right or wrong. My take helped me understand more fully the underlying relationships in the story.

BTW because of the parallel storylines — T&T / Marcus & Alberto — it’s helpful to look at the story through Marcus’ eyes as a Protagonist.

P: Marcus
N: Tanner
A: Alberto
M: The Law
T: Toby

He’s got Tanner figured out. And Tanner kills Alberto, Marcus’ partner, which leads to their confrontation. But Toby? He can’t figure him out, he’s a slippery fellow, a good guy doing bad things. A shapeshifter in M’s experience.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.