From Vince Gilligan

Breaking Bad – Season 3, Episode 1: “No Más”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 3, Episode 1: “No Más”
Directed by Bryan Cranston
Written by Vince Gilligan

* For a review of the Season 2 finale, “ABQ” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Caballo sin Nombre” – click here
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In a Mexican village people crawl along the ground, as others walk and some drive.
Then two twin brothers, scary and intimidating, exit their nice Mercedes Benz. They too start crawling along the desert ground. It’s clear they’re cartel, as they wear boots with little silver skulls on them.
Seems this crawling is a type of ritual. Everybody reaches a small shack where inside people leave blessings around a Grim Reaper-esque statue. The brothers place a picture of none other than Heisenberg a.k.a Walter White (Bryan Cranston) drawn on paper next to the statue. A death curse of some sort? Likely. Either way it spells intent for the cartel. They’re hunting him down.
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Now we’re back to the double plane crash in mid-air caused by Donald Margolis (John de Lancie) after his daughter Jane’s death. I love how they led up to that in Season 2. Kept lots of suspense going right up until that finale. Crafty, excellent writing.
So this season is dealing with that aftermath. The trail of destruction Walt leaves in his wake is extraordinary. Plus, Walt and Skyler (Anna Gunn) are also separated. He’s busy at home deciding on whether to burn his money. He does, and then decides against it. A hilarious, sort of sad moment. At the same time Skyler is beginning the divorce proceedings wanting it all to be over. Well there’s gonna be some issues with all that. A messy one, indeed.
Hank (Dean Norris) heads over to help Walt with his stuff. An excellent bit comes when Hank tries to take the bag with the money for him, and they have this brief little stand-off before Hank asks what he has in there: “Half million in cash,” he replies to an ironic laugh. If only Schrader knew.
Jesse (Aaron Paul) is taking to rehab, for the most part. He gets to plant some flowers, relax in a quiet space. He goes to group discussions with others. Except the lies he’s been fed have him hating himself. There’s no telling how he’ll get through that, being deceived consistently and constantly by Walt. That’s one toxic relationship.


Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) isn’t taking well to the separation. Naturally, his mother does her best, but he has no clue as to the extent of his parents problems. Already life is tough, now it gets tougher for Walt. He’s left caring for himself, and that’s not something he knows how to do – not in the sense for himself, more so in the way that he’s used to having FAMILY to care for and not just being on his own. However, he gets a message to head over to Los Pollos Hermanos. More business is on the rise. Also, of interest is how Walt cuts his sandwich – he slowly whittles away at it, until it’s a little square: exactly like the sandwich he once made for Krazy-8. Maybe nothing, but maybe it’s that lingering memory of his that keeps those type of things in the back of his mind.
At school when there’s an assembly about the plane crashes, Walt ends up giving an awkward speech. It partly speaks to his emotional and personal troubles, clouding his thought and judgement. It also is partly him trying to rationalize the entire thing, knowing that Jane’s death – one he did nothing to help prevent – is what precipitated the disaster. Essentially, Walt knows he’s at fault for Donald and his mental state. And so the awkward speech makes sense, though is no less awful.

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The two cartel brothers head elsewhere in their Benz. They arrive at a small farm where they trade their nice suits for some clothes off the line. How rude! At least they stole no underwear. Everyone recognizes there’s something evil about these two, not daring to interrupt them. Of course, those boots are significant. People know about those boots, what the skulls signify. And with that the Brothers Grim head out into the desert, leaving behind the key to their car. The family at the farm is glad to see them go, just about relieved for their very lives.
Marie (Betsy Brandt) ends up seeing Walt Jr flip on his mother, so the whole White-Schrader family is just off balance. For her part, Marie tries to get things out of her sister. She has no idea what’s been happening. Nobody does, only Skyler and Walt.
At the rehab retreat, whatever you wanna call it, Jesse talks to his group, goaded into it by the one leading things (Jere Burns). When Jesse asks if he’s ever really hurt another person, the man tells him about how he killed his own daughter by accident, drunk as hell and high on cocaine. Whoa. A powerful little speech from him illuminates things for Jesse, showing him there is a way out of grief. Somehow. Some way. Got to say, Burns being in the show as a character briefly is a solid appearance on his part, he’s a good actor but man does he ever show it in this episode particularly.


Over at Walt’s place Skyler arrives with divorce papers. This blind sides him. He expected to work things out. He confesses his love, laying it all on the table. She still doesn’t know the full extent of things, and it’s probably better off because it’d only be worse if she did. Is Walt going to concoct another lie? Will he manage to scam his way back into their marriage and their family? She believes it’s all marijuana, that he’s been selling weed to get all kinds of cash for cancer treatments.
Then he comes clean about the meth, manufacturing and the like. It’s clearly too much for her to understand. It doesn’t make sense other than economically, not morally. Skyler is terrified. She promises not to say a word, as long as he divorces her. Yowzahs. Not at all how Walt envisioned that one going. He claims there’s a lot of “angles” to his side of the story – a.k.a bullshit.
Later, Jesse gets a lift out of rehab from Walt. Thus begins his transition into the real world again. He says he’s done using. Walt claims it’s a wake up call for them, but I know that’s bullshit, too. This brings about one of the saddest moments of Jesse Pinkman yet. Kills me to think Walt lets him go on believing so many lies.
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Jesse: “Its all about accepting who you really are. I accept who I am.”
Walt: “And who are you?”
Jesse: “Im the bad guy
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Walt goes to Los Pollos Hermanos to tell Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) he’s out of the game. That’s it. No more, after his family has started tearing apart. However, an offer too sweet might change all that: $3-million for 90 days work. Walt refuses, though I’m sure he’s going to backslide.
In a truck crossing in Texas, the two cartel brothers get closer and closer to Heisenberg by the second. A young man talking to them eventually goes quiet after he notices the skull-headed boots; a sign of the cartel, the death squad. And then everybody has to die. This scene already shows us that the two brothers – Marco and Leonel Salamanca (Luis & Daniel Moncada), cousins of Tuco mentioned back in Season 2 – are not to be fucked with, not now, not ever. They burn the truck and let the bodies go with it.
Further, to Heisenberg.
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This was a proper season opener. Can’t wait to watch the next episode, “Caballo sin Nombre” again.

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Breaking Bad – Season 2, Episode 13: “ABQ”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 2, Episode 13: “ABQ”
Directed by Adam Bernstein
Written by Vince Gilligan

* For a review of the previous episode, “Phoenix” – click here
* For a review of the Season 3 premier, “No Más” – click here
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Again, the black-and-white, the eyeball, the pink teddy bear in the pool missing one eye. The ominous openings will give us their meaning here in the Season 2 finale. The familiar images work towards colour, now we see helicopters in the air, police everywhere. Smoke and fire in the distance.
What’s gone on around the White residence?
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Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) wakes to find Jane (Krysten Ritter) dead in bed next to him. Frantically he pumps her chest to try and revive her. But no such luck. Heartbreaking to watch this scene. Now, he’s got to figure out what to do next. You know who he calls: Walter White (Bryan Cranston). As one young girl dies, he cradles his newborn daughter. Jesse frantically tells Walt what’s gone on, as if the latter didn’t already know. So they set about cleaning things up. Walt says he knows who to call.
At Jesse’s place, Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) arrives on request of Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk). He’s a fixer. Inside, he starts getting things organized. All the drugs and the paraphernalia get tossed in a bag. Mike is clearly an ex-cop, he knows all the rights things to do. Or a career criminal. We’ll figure that out as things go on. Either way, he irons Pinkman’s house out. He also tells Jesse only to say a couple brief things. He sets the story straight.
Living a supposedly normal life, Walt, Skyler (Anna Gunn) and Junior (RJ Mitte) – I mean, Flynn – sit and eat breakfast together. Like a happy family. However, the obvious strain of letting someone’s daughter die is wearing on him. The SaveWalterWhite.com funds are rolling in now. It doesn’t do much to assuage Walter’s feelings of emptying manhood, unable to be given credit for his money, the funds he raised illegally to support his own cancer treatment. Instead the cash and his fate are seemingly attributed to the kindness of strangers. Does not sit well with Walt, amongst all the other things that don’t sit right in his gut.
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Worst of all, Donald Margolis (John de Lancie) shows up to find Jane dead. This is so unbelievably devastating. He doesn’t even have to go inside. He knows what’s happened. And this is an event that will have further reaching consequences than anybody could ever imagine.
At the DEA office, Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) puts out a collection jar for his brother-in-law. Meanwhile, he’s on the case of Combo being murdered. This leads into the Heisenberg meth, though – “blue sky,” Steve Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) calls it. Of course Hank doesn’t buy Jimmy being pinched as being Heisenberg. He thinks the man himself is actually upping his distribution. The blue stuff’s been moving outside of New Mexico, everywhere around it specifically. So now Hank thinks there’s a bigger operation happening behind the scenes. And boy is he right, just nobody else knows it yet.
Mike has tracked down Jesse after Walt’s been looking for him. He finds the poor young dude in a drug house in a rough neighbourhood. So Walt has Mike bring him down there, he wants to go inside and find his partner. He is responsible for it all, not helping Jane as she choked on her vomit. Now this is part of his delusional redemption, in his eyes anyway. Going in Walt finds all kinds of characters skulking in the shadowy, run down corners of the building. He tracks Jesse down and eventually manages to pull him out of that hideous place. After Jesse weeps in his arms a moment. It’s more tragic for the fact of Walt having stood by and watched Jane die, especially since Jesse weeps: “I killed her.”
In this scene, Aaron Paul broke my heart to pieces. I genuinely cried a bit. Some detractors have said he isn’t as good as people say. To me, that’s bullshit. In this and his latest series, The Path, Paul proves his chops for dramatic roles. He’s got raw, emotional talent.
Sadder still is when father Donald has to pick out the clothes for his dead daughter, which is impressively juxtaposed with a follow-up cut to Walter, changing his newborn daughter’s diaper. This is a wonderful moment of editing and writing together, which shows off Vince Gilligan and his abilities. Subtle, brief moment that means so much.


I love that Hank still has the little statuette on his desk that he was given while on the Juarez task force. It was something he almost mocked when first seeing it there. But most importantly at the DEA arrive a few businessmen who raise funds for community programs, et cetera. One of whom is Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). Ironic, funny moment when Hank mentions the scourge of meth, which Fring says is “terrible” while shaking his head. Most intense is when Gus notices the donation jar for Walter White. Now he knows the relation between Hank and Walt, as well as Walt’s cancerous affliction. This could mean a number of awful things. Let’s watch this unfold dramatically, shall we?
At the same time, Walt is dropping Jesse off at a very beautiful, New Age-looking spa where the younger of the two will receive rehab treatments. Poor Jesse, even physically he looks depressed and drained of any proper emotion. “I deserve this,” he repeats to Walt; the same thing Walt said in the desert. Yet really, Walt did deserve that, or more. Jesse deserves none of this. He deserves someone better than Walt.
Back at his place Walt finds the camera crew from a local news station there to do a story on his philanthropic son raising money for his treatment. Joy and splendour! Mr. White is non too pleased, though he placates his wife and son by going along. You can just see his pride and ego being battered by the second, merely from the look on his face. Worst of all his son is praising him as being an amazing person, a “good man” and everything. Deep down, Walt knows the difference. All too well.


Walt Jr (re: his father): “And he always does the right thing
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As Walt prepares now to go under the knife for surgery, something happens he didn’t expect. The drugs he’s given loosen him up. Too much. After Skyler asks about his cellphone, he druggily replies: “Which one?” And in that moment, she realizes his lies never end. What a potent moment of writing again, Mr. Gilligan. Love how these little plot pieces come apart and come together and fit into puzzle pieces. Testament to the quality of this series.
When Walt comes out, he’s doing well. Except for his relationship with his wife. That may be fractured completely. She and the baby are going to Hank and Marie’s for the weekend, after which she expects Walt to move. They’re separating. To Walt and his oblivious surprise. She tells him about the loopy, drugged confession, and now things are about to get very messy. Turns out Skyler also talked with Gretchen, and she found out there’s been no money coming from them at all. Uh oh, Walter. Things are falling apart QUITE fast. Skyler also figured out Walt never went to see his mother. So where did he go? Man. It all unravelled in one hard tug.
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Donald Margolis isn’t doing so well. He’s back at work, but life is not the same that his daughter is gone. He prefers to get back into the routine again. However, that might be a little too early. His job as an air traffic controller is stressful. Finally the black-and-white flashes at the beginning of several episodes this season begin making sense. The grief and horror of losing his daughter has melted into the exterior world, affecting all kinds of horror on two planes that crash into one another mid-air.
Sitting alone at home in his backyard, Walter wears a shirt the same colour as the pink teddy bear from those flash forwards. In the sky, the planes crash and explode, debris falling to the ground all around Walt’s neighbourhood. This is the symbolic destruction of Walt and his actions. They have far reaching consequences, which spread out and infect everything and everyone around him. This is the metaphorical chaos he exerts over the lives of others.
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An amazing, terrifying finale that has a ton of development. I loved Season 2, perhaps one of my favourites in a series that’s marked by high quality. Continue on with me soon as I dive deep into Season 3 for another watch.