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Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad is a drama about Walter White, a chemistry professor who is diagnosed with lung cancer. He enlists the help of his former student Jesse Pinkman to manufacture and sell methamphetamine. AMC 2008-???


Episode 1 - No Mas

10 April 2013

Credit AMC

Synopsis: The aftermath of the plane crash has leant Walt some extra time at home. However he soon has to move out and is shocked when Skyler presents him with divorce papers. She has figured out that he dealt drugs but has told no one else. Jesse goes through rehab and accepts that he is a bad guy. Walt is filled with denial and is then offered three million dollars by Gus. Two brothers make their slow way across the border determined to kill Heisenberg.

The Good: A terrific season opener which focussed on character emotions in a believable, consistent and emotive way.

I felt most for Skyler in this scenario. Viewers who are unsympathetic to her may not be imagining a world where you had no one to talk to. To not be able to share the most important thing in your life, particularly something that has wronged you and now poisons your relationship with your son would be desperately frustrating. Flynn was excellent as he directed his venom against his mother for breaking up their happy family without explaining why. Understandably Hank assumes things can be put back together while Marie digs for dirt. Typically the writers show that Skyler is no fool and has worked out that drug dealing with Jesse is the obvious answer to her many questions. I like the way the meth aspect of it arrived to make things worse than she could even imagine.

Jesse's time at rehab was pretty sad too. His councillor's story sent goosebumps up my arm as it was delivered with pitch perfect long-chewed-over-sincerity. Jesse clearly responds and accepts that his behaviour led to both Jane's death and the plane crashes. He is a bad guy, a criminal. It's not clear where that revelation leads but it's crystal clear that Walt is not in the same place. In fact he explicitly says to Gus "I am not a criminal." Walt is in some turmoil about what to do, setting his cash on fire before instantly regretting it. He definitely wants his family back but when Gus offers him millions for another three months he instantly begins doing mental calculations (a terrific scene for facial acting from the transparent Walt and the immutable Gus who seems amused by the resignation). The reality is though that Walt doesn't think he's done anything wrong. When he tells Jesse that his new home is temporary and that his marriage is reparable he clearly believes it.

The scene in the high school gym matched last season's television interview for piling guilt on the squirming Walt. Again he is applauded for battling cancer while the community suffers nightmares caused indirectly by him. He is armed with facts and equivocations for every scenario. He managed to make everyone at school uncomfortable by talking in detail about the mitigating factors which make this disaster slightly less horrific than others. Later he is convinced that Skyler would forgive him if she knew the details of his actions (when really they make things worse) and then tells Jesse that there are "many factors at play." It's all self justifying stuff and clearly Walt has no intention of accepting responsibility for anything.

Meanwhile the new bad guys in the picture make slow but beautifully shot progress toward New Mexico. The tease sequence was typically inventive with the Mexican worship of Santa Muerte used to tell us that Walt will soon be targeted. Their next two scenes as they prepare to cross the border were shot in Tarantino-esque expectations of violence and so it came to pass. The brothers are recognised by a loud mouth mechanic and slaughter a bunch of migrant workers. The explosion which follows was amazingly shot and seemed to almost consume them.

The news reel montage which told us about the consequences of the plane crash was terrifically put together. You had to smile at Skyler's lawyer saying "You'd be amazed at what I've seen partners hide from one another." We got nice callbacks to Walt throwing matches into the pool (101) and the murder of Crazy Eight (103) when Walt cuts the crusts off his sandwich. Walt's desire to get credit for all he's accomplished still gnaws at him as he tells Hank a heavy bag contains "half a million in cash." I really liked that the gymnasium scene included a kid trying to wrangle an A grade from the tragedy. By presenting someone else being selfish the scene felt less manipulative than it obviously had to be.  

The Bad: Nothing.

The Unknown: This was not the subtlest episode it should be noted. The two brothers are practically comic book villains and Walt's justifications are hammered home repeatedly.

Best Moment: Although Jesse's rehab sequence has the most visceral effect on me, I will go with Flynn yelling at Skyler in front of Marie. So sad and so relatable. The writing of the family dynamics has been so strong throughout Breaking Bad's run.

The Bottom Line: A very good season opener which puts the characters in their emotional contexts while deepening the drug world in the background.



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  • I am still not understanding the "Skyler's definitely justified" perspective apparently being taken by some. She doesn't try to look at the situation from her husband's perspective at all. All she knows at this point is that Walt made money selling drugs, and didn't make her a part of that. Ok, that's more than enough for me to believe that she needs to deal with the situation, but why does she have no need to try to empathize with Walt? If she thinks Walt is such a good husband and father to begin with (and they seemingly are trying to portray her as being very highly offended by rule-breaking and lying), why not try to work it out? She wants nothing to do with Walt or even to hear his attempt to explain. Why forgive Marie for lying, and allow her another chance, but totally stonewall Walt? My overall point is, I suppose, that I find Skylers actions TO THIS POINT to be as mechanical as the Cousins; very much a vehicle for not allowing Skyler to progress too quickly. Very much in the same way that Walt was not made to intentionally murder Jane--it may very well have been breaking bad too quickly, and like I said before, I get that Walt is not "correct", it's just that I don't think it is explained why Skyler seems more offended by Walt's indiscretions IMMEDIATELY than she is by her sister stealing or ex-boss acting innapropriately towards her. Perhaps if they'd explained that Skyler had a childhood ruined by a parent selling drugs, or anything to that effect, it'd make more sense.

    Posted by Matt E., 06/04/2013 6:41pm (7 years ago)

  • I must confess that the early episodes of S3 are among my least favourite of Breaking Bad's run. I think there are two main reasons for this. Firstly, the Terminator Twins are by far the weakest villains of the show. While I like the fact that Tuco's death had these delayed unforeseen repercussions, the Cousins portrayal as super cool mute murderers just never rang true for me. My second reason for not loving early S3 episodes is the lack of Walt & Jesse interaction. While it's logical for Walt and Jesse to have largely separate narratives during this time, the show is just always more engaging for me when it is driven by the Walt & Jesse partnership. It's a shame they didn't have Jesse sleeping on Walt's couch a little longer since it would have allowed more opportunity for Cranston and Paul to act together.

    That said, 'No Mas' is still a very strong season opener and Skyler's development is the highlight of early S3 for me. I can't really understand how some fans fail to sympathize with Skyler. She is trapped in an impossibly situation where she must either turn her family life upside-down by reporting Walt to the police or keep Walt's terrible secret and become an accessory to his criminal life. Going to the police would not only destroy Junior's idealized view of his father but it could also ruin Hank's career putting strain on Skyler's relationship with her sister. I honestly don't know what I'd do in Skyler's position and I feel for her as she tries to fight her way out of her marriage to Walt.

    I look forward to the rest of your S3 reviews and podcasts. This rewatch has been a great way to count down to the final episodes of S5.

    Viewer score: 70 / 100

    Posted by Kelly, 05/04/2013 4:07pm (7 years ago)

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