Sunday, March 21, 2010

Breaking Bad, "No Mas": Say hi to the bad guy

"Breaking Bad," one of the best dramas on TV, is back. I reviewed the new season generally in Friday's column, and I have a spoiler-y review of the season premiere coming up just as soon as I give my car keys to a goat...
"People move on. They just move on. And we will move on. We will get past this. Because that is what human beings do. We survive. We survive and we overcome." -Walt

"You either run from things, or you face them, Mr. White... I learned it in rehab, it's all about accepting who you really are. I accept who I am." -Jesse
"And who are you?" -Walt
"I'm the bad guy." -Jesse

"You're a drug dealer." -Skyler
Season two of "Breaking Bad" opened on a bit of macabre imagery (the eyeball floating in the pool) that we needed the whole season to fully understand. Season three's premiere (once again directed by Bryan Cranston, with the usual brilliant assistance from director of photography Michael Slovis) begins with another arresting image, only this time its meaning is apparent within minutes.

We head south of the border again to see an old Mexican man crawling desperately through the dirt. Is he injured? Dying of thirst? And why on earth won't anyone in this small village stop to help him, or even notice him? But then our angle changes, and we see that the old man is just one of many people crawling. (What. The. Hell? Is going on here? I asked myself as I watched this.) They're soon joined by two dangerous-looking men in shiny suits with skulls on their boots, who without comment get down on their bellys and inch their way towards a shrine in the desert, where they say a prayer and pin up a totem of the object of their prayer: a rough pencil sketch of the man the cartel knows as Heisenberg, and that we know as Walter White.

Many of you kept expecting the cartel to be responsible for the carnage at Walt's house and were surprised (and/or disappointed) when the plane crash was revealed. But it turns out the cartel was only delayed, and there is no way this can end especially well for Walt.

But up in Albuquerque, Walt has no idea these two fearsome men (referred to in the scripts as "the Cousins") are on their way. Instead, he and Jesse and Skyler are all grappling with the events from the end of last season: Jane's death, the crash it ultimately caused, and Skyler's astute decision to banish Walt from her life.

One hundred and sixty-seven people died in that crash, to be added to the butcher's bill after Jane, and Combo, and Spooge, and Tuco, and Krazy 8 and Emilio, and all the victims of the blue meth we never see. So many dead, so much pain caused, nearly all of it traced back to Walt's decision to enter the drug trade...

... and Walt still doesn't get it. He stands in front of that school assembly (in a scene that's just unbearable to get through, for all the right reasons) and makes everyone there feel horrible just to alleviate his own guilt. He tells Jesse to blame the government.

Even when he's not lying to others, he's lying to himself. In the riveting scene where Skyler confronts Walt about the drug-dealing - which, in that "Breaking Bad" way, becomes simultaneously hilarious because of how she keeps underestimating the depth of the situation (and because Bryan Cranston's reactions are priceless) - Walt has no choice but to finally lay everything out for her. But at the end of the confession, he assumes the honesty will finally start to repair things between them, when in fact it's only made things worse.

Jesse gets it. He comes out of rehab having accepted that he's the bad guy: that Jane would still be alive if she'd never crossed his path, and that in turn the planes wouldn't have crashed. And if he can't forgive himself, he can at least take the rehab counselor's advice to be "good enough to be okay with who and what you are." But Jesse can do this because he's never had Walt's capacity for self-deception, nor the obsessive pride that keeps Walt from opening up emotionally to others. Walt could never have the conversation that Jesse has with the counselor, nor could he have ever accepted the man's advice. His only method of coping is to deny and power through - to survive and overcome, no matter the emotional cost to those around him.

And if Walt's trying to escape his drug-dealing past (even refusing a "Godfather"-level offer Gus Frings couldn't have expected him to refuse), something tells me the Cousins (and whoever sent them) won't let him. And then survival becomes a very, very open question.

Some other thoughts on "No Mas":

• Vince Gilligan, who wrote this one, gave Cranston plenty of cool material to shoot with the Cousins (who very much come off like a silent pair of Anton Chigurhs from "No Country For Old Men"): not just the opening crawl, but them silently stealing the farmer's clothes (which surprisingly fit them, since they both look bigger than him), and then blowing up the coyote truck because that one poor bastard recognized what the skulls on their boots meant (and could therefore identify them later to law-enforcement). And speaking of which...

• The Cousins are played, in fact, by a pair of brothers, only one of whom had any acting experience: Luis Moncada (the actor) and his brother Daniel (the rookie). Basically, they loved Luis's audition and asked if he had any relatives who looked like him. Both have screen presence to burn, as well as the self-possession to not flinch when the truck blew up. I asked Gilligan about that scene, just to confirm my assumption that it was a practical special effect and not something created later by computers. Vince wrote:
No CG! That was definitely a practical effect, Alan -- the two Cousins were sixty feet from the truck when it blew up (although it looks like they were even closer than that due to the long lens which was used on the camera). All that flaming stuff you see raining down around them -- and even in FRONT of them, if you look closely enough -- was truly there, and not added in afterwards. I'm so proud of Luis and Daniel Moncada for the way they pulled that off. Bryan Cranston, their director, told them we'd get only one take at it, so they'd better not flinch... and by God, they didn't!
• Between the matches Walt likes to light and then toss, the teddy bear and other airplane debris, and now the barbecue full of burning drug money, it seems like there's always something flaming landing in the White family pool, isn't there? Walt's guilt-ridden attempt to burn the money was one of his few moments of non-denial in the hour, but of course he wimped out, because burning the money would mean everything he did was for nothing.

• Loved Skyler's reaction when her new divorce lawyer tells her that spouses are adept at hiding all kinds of insane things from each other. If she only knew...

• Because Walt was so convincingly established at the start of this series as this milquetoast guy that no one would ever suspect of being a drug lord, we can have those occasional comic moments when he tells the absolute truth about himself to someone else (in this case, telling Hank that the duffel bag is full of cash) and have the other person laugh it off as Walt making a funny.

• Because this show is shot on a modest cable budget, I'm always amazed at the scope the directors and Slovis are able to create. I don't know if the school assembly scene was full of real students/extras, or if most of them were computer-generated, but it effectively conveyed how many people were affected by the airplane tragedy.

• That was Jere Burns as the rehab counselor. He's best-known as a sitcom actor. but like many comedy types, he can pretty easily make the transition to drama (see also the fella with two Emmys on his shelf for playing Walter White). The monologue about how he killed his daughter while hungry for cocaine was a very nice moment, and a reminder that Walt and Jesse aren't the only characters in this world to have caused pain, suffering and death for others.

• As Walt tried to tell Skyler, then Jesse, how complicated certain scenarios were ("there were many factors at play"), I got a real "Big Lebowski" vibe: "This is a very complicated case, Maude. You know, a lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-yous."

What did everybody else think?

104 comments:

Steve said...

Walter's self-denial is staggering. The school speech was something else, and when he started talking about other air disasters, I wondered if he'd mention the last time a significant mid-air collision occurred over US soil: The Cerritos, CA crash of 1986 between a DC-9 and a small plane. Like that crash, controller error was the culprit. The controller's name?

Walter White.

http://tinyurl.com/ykvsrvy

Anonymous said...

I wonder if anybody in Hollywood or otherwise has ever tried throwing a cigarette/cigar into a pool of gasoline.

GersonK said...

If you go back to the first few eps of season 2, the name given to the mysterious strangers is kind of spoilery. But then, that's pretty much who I figured they were.

Robert Cervantes said...

I think The Cousins would have destroyed the truck even if the guy didn't even mention the boots. These Mexican drug lords and their henchmen leave no witnesses whatsoever.

I'm having a little trouble understanding the beginning scene. Or are we going to find out more as the show moves forward?

DH said...

Overall, I was disappointed in this episode. The plane crash played like a great literary device at the end of last season, but very clunky as an integral part of the plot to start this one. The Cousins scenes were trying too hard to be cool and ominous. That the action picks up right where last season left off, yet all the actors look older and quite different, really put me off for some reason (look how old Walt Jr. looks!) I don't know...the whole thing just seemed off to me.

JanieJones said...

I'm simply blown away by "No Mas." I need to see it again. The imagery, symbolism, textures, the writing, the acting...
I feel like a kid before her first day of school.
Alan, I had several "Old Country.." moments upon the my first view.

MikeS said...

What a great show overall! I am glad to have it back.

I liked Walter's tortured statements in the gymnasium and his conversation at the apartment with Jesse...it shows the inner workings of his brain, how he rationalizes his actions, allows himself to remain the good guy in his own story.

All in all, it is a good intro to the upcoming season. All sorts of new avenues are open...how the Cousins will track down Walt, and what becomes of it, how Skyler reacts to Hank and Marie now that she knows (some of) the inside story. And even though Walter says he's out, he probably will find himself with Jesse in the back of that RV sooner than later, especially with Jesse accepting his role as the bad guy.

And yet again, I loved Hank, a good cop by all accounts, but unable to see Walt's suspicious behavior, even after what turns out to be a partial confession!

Good stuff!

Anonymous said...

To better understand the scene at the beginning, read about Santa Muerte here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Muerte

Fantastic start to the new season.

Tony said...

Two comments

*First time I've seen Ashley Banfield since 2002. I didn't miss her much

*Did SNL do a skit about blowing things up and not looking back? If anyone has the link, this could be added to the montage

Great episode - I'm excited it's back

Russell Lucas said...

The opening crawl to the shrine was tense, inscrutable and absolutely fantastic, but I thought the Evil Bald Twins, with their synchronized movements and pregnant nods and glances, were laughably bad, like villains from some Van Damme film. I hope they get better as the weeks go on.

I loved that Skyler guessed Walt's secret and spared us the sight of more denial/stammering from Heisenberg.

Robert Cervantes said...

Another thing:

Why do I get the feeling that there might be a turf war later this season with Walt caught in the middle. You got Gus who wants to hire Walk for 3 months and now you got the Mexican Cartel looking for Walt. I think we are looking at two different teams over here waiting to fight it out.

This will get messy

Juan said...

The Cousins were badass, I just hope this isnt the last of Gus(I alway love his scene).

Anonymous said...

rather than The Cousins (yeah, that does give it away, hm?), I was hoping the on-line crowd would start calling them "Los Hermanos Pollos".

[If this *is* just a fake-out, then they're probably being sent to protect Walt for something.]

Anonymous said...

also, a question - isn't Gus's offer really low? Walter made $1.2 million worth in 4 days -- 3 months should be ten times the offer Gus made.

MikeS said...

@Steve - Love that point about the air traffic controller!

Anonymous said...

oh, okay, one more now that I've read the whole thing.

"I don't know if the school assembly scene was full of real students/extras, or if most of them were computer-generated"

To my eye, they looked CGI in the wider shots -- but I also assumed the fire shot was CGI (more for safety issues than anything else).

Also wanted to point out, Jere Burns is not the first actor from 'Dear John' to appear on this show as a therapist/psychiatrist sort, and I'm assuming that isn't a coincidence, since there's only been the one other one.

Anonymous said...

"a rough pencil sketch of the man the cartel knows as Heisenberg, and that we know as Walter White."

The cartel could know Walter's name; Tuco said it out loud in front of Tio (followed by "I thought your name was Heisenberg?"). Tio could communicate it somehow, even if he can't write (which I'm not sure of).

Angie said...

First off, your review needs to say "bellies" instead of "bellys".

Other than that, great review and excellent episode. Big Love writers need to take a page from this show.

Any thoughts on why the scenes with the Cousins were colored in such an orange tint? Was it just my TV?

Mark said...

Tony, you're thinking of "Cool Guys Don't Look at Explosions", from last year's MTV Movie Awards (hosted by Andy Samberg).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sqz5dbs5zmo

I really enjoyed this episode. The writing, acting, and photography are fantastic. Season 2 was phenominal, so the bar's been set pretty high!

Robert Cervantes said...

Angie:

I would think it's the sun along with the reflection from the sand/dirt. But also, to give it maybe that wild west looks. Something grimy and evil looking.

Andrew said...

Even considering that The Pacific and Life are also on Sunday nights, Breaking Bad may still be the best looking show on television and may be the best at establishing iconic characters. Is any character better matched with a car than Walter White and the Aztec?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Jere Burns is not the first actor from 'Dear John' to appear on this show as a therapist/psychiatrist sort, and I'm assuming that isn't a coincidence, since there's only been the one other one.

Huh. That hadn't occurred to me, mainly because Harry Groener's post-Dear John career (Broadway, Buffy, etc.) has superceded any memory I had of him on that show. Whereas whenever I see Jere Burns, even 20 years later, the first role I think of is Kirk.

Hutch said...

The show seemed somewhat off to me as well. Some of the actors looked different. Walt Jr, for instance, logically looked older, Anna Gunn, perhaps not so logically. looked younger. I found myself becoming distracted and impatient at times. I think that the pacing and tone were uneven, not the usual seamless work of art I have come to expect from a show of this calibre. I am in no way giving up on the show, only hoping that it finds it's land legs again.

Anonymous said...

Cranston in a bathrobe: shades of Tony Soprano?

Anonymous said...

Alan - I just watched season two last week, and when I saw Harry Groener, I thought, "Hey, that's Jere Burns from Dear John. No, wait, that's not his name, it's that other guy." So then, when this episode started, I said, "Oh, maybe I was wrong, maybe that *was* Jere Burns the last time. Odd.

I didn't know Groener was as respected as he apparently is until I saw responses to that ep on-line.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful, visually stunning, show. I hope we'll get AMC in HD soon, DirecTV.

The gymnasium scene was such a great illustration of how Walter White, mild-mannered high school teacher, became meth kingpin Heisenberg. Although Skyler's not giving him a bye any more, it seems like his colleagues might be excusing some of his odd behavior with his cancer.

I appreciate the comparisons that the show draws between all of these (self-professed or not) criminals, from Walt's denial to Jesse's acceptance, to Gus' methodical integration. I hope we'll see more of Gus - I'm assuming that he'll have something to do with the Cousins, maybe leaving Walt indebted to him?

Anonymous said...

the other thought I had, if Walt isn't willing to work for Gus, won't that make him a loose end for ultra-private, ultra-secretive Gus?

In fact, as great as Esposito is on the show, I don't think it's realistic that that character would ever deal directly with Walt again. He's now directly interacting with a man who manufactures crystal meth without any middleman at all? That's not very secretive.

Max said...

"the opening crawl"

I laughed.

Dave F said...

1. I agree Steve's comment about the controller being Walter White was great sleuthing!

2. The counselor was hungry for vodka not cocaine- (he already bought cocaine for himself as a birthday present).

3. I was surprised Walt told the truth to Skyler. It seems out of character for him...especially when he is still clearly lying to himself...I feel like he could have made up a story. She wants Walter "out of their lives"...How would she explain that to her grieving son?

Anyway, thanks for the speedy recap, Alan!

AuntiePam said...

Too much thinking sorta ruins the scenes with the Cousins. They didn't need to kill anyone. So the kid recognizes them -- who's he gonna tell? And the thing with the clothes -- what if it hadn't been wash day? What if the clothes didn't fit? It was fun to watch, dramatically, trying to figure out what they were doing (and the car keys on the goat was cool), but it didn't make sense. Other than that, I enjoyed every minute, especially Walt in the gym.

Anonymous said...

Dave - I thought Alan made a good point; his self-delusion continues in that scene because he's convinced himself that telling Skyler will fix the marriage.

Dan said...

From the promos I was under the impression the silent cliched Baddies were blowing up the Meth RV. But I guess that was what I was supposed to think.

groovekiller said...

A few notes...

1) Bryan Cranston is a great director - he always seems to find the most interesting way to shoot a scene or frame a shot

2) At first, when I saw the folks crawling, I thought it was people practicing for crossing the border

3) Can anyone remind me how Skyler found out about Walt dealing drugs in the last episode? I remember the 2nd cell phone from early in the season but can't remember the coup de grace...

4) The walking away without looking at the explosion was the only part I didn't like. Even with point 1 above, I don't think any newbie director can help him/herself from filming one of those scenes.

Anonymous said...

"Can anyone remind me how Skyler found out about Walt dealing drugs in the last episode?"

She didn't figure out about the drugs in the last episode (explicitly, anyway). She went through a bunch of his lies, explaining that she had figured out he didn't get the money from his former partners, and he didn't get it from his mother, and he hadn't even visited her and told her he had cancer, thus having had a second multi-day unexplained absence.

She said she didn't want to know where the money came from, because she was afraid. Obviously, with a little time to think about it, she connected the money with the drug dealer who was suddenly in contact with her husband. When she mentioned Jesse's name, it was kind of obvious how bad he had really hidden it.

I love the contrast between Walter, who always has loose ends lying around, and the Mexicans, who kill all those people and burn the truck.

Mark B said...

Money talks, Mr. Cash sings.

I fell in to a burning ring of fire.
I went down, down, down and the flames went higher.
And it burns, burns, burns, the ring of fire, the ring of fire.

Excellent opening to season three. Walt is still the middle class chumbolone thinking he can manage the blowback of his dalliance in the drug trade. His supreme self confidence is beautiful armor as he withstands Skyler’s amputation, Jesse’s blunt truth and Gus Fring’s formal conversational facade. The Don Quixote persona always feels safe in beautiful armor and the righteousness of the personal quest. Beside, it is always good to be well dressed in case cousins from out of town unexpectedly drop by.

tribalism said...

I can't tell you how happy I am that Skyler has woken up to everything that's been going on with Walt. It's still heartbreaking, though. If she didn't still love him, there's no way she'd make him the offer of a clean divorce in exchange for her silence.

It was also great of the writers to emphasize the fact that Jesse and Walt have effectively alienated themselves from everyone but each other. With Jesse's new sense of self-acceptance and Walter's pervasive self-denial, I don't see this turning out to be quite as harmonious as Bert and Ernie.

If anyone is interested, more of my thoughts on this episode are available on my blog where I go into detail about what I believe Walter's season three character arc will entail. Click my username for the link.

Anonymous said...

I was surprised Walt told the truth to Skyler. It seems out of character for him...especially when he is still clearly lying to himself.

While in an interview on Fresh Air it seems the actor himself shares this idea of his character's self-deception it isn't the only interpretation. Not everyone shares the broad notion of collective responsibility that "should" cause Walter to feel himself responsible for the airline accident, or even for the various afflictions suffered by the addicts in the show.

Moreover, while it's a cliche in plays and film that the protagonist will feel angst over killing before and after the event. In reality, not everyone shares this anxiety. The truly wicked find they enjoy it. So if we accept that there is a certain degree of "plasticity" to human inclinations, then Walter's actions need not be understood as simply flowing from self-deception and narcissism. It's just as likely a consequence of a more scientific rationalist perspective on responsibility and judgement. To be sure, whatever your interpretive framework, telling his wife was probably a mistake.
anonymoose

Phil said...

anyone else starting to see a bit of vic mackey in walt as the series progresses? the nearly conscious self deception of walt this episode was played with such a great sort of restrained panic by cranston the whole time. great way to come back.

Brian said...

I'm sorry, can someone explain what the hell is the meaning of the crawling in the cold open? And who "the cousins" are supposed to be? I feel like I'm missing something obvious here...

Weird BE said...

One of the things I most loved about "The X-Files," the series where Gilligan cut his bones, was how its pre-credits teasers almost never featured its main or even supporting cast members, and would often take place in distant lands, in media res, and it would take a while to figure out exactly where you were and why. Its season premieres were often the best examples of this, particularly "Herrenvolk".

It's good to see Gilligan has continued that tradition in his own show; one of the drawbacks of so many series, particularly HBO programs (with the obvious exception being "The Wire") doing away with teasers is you lose the excitement that comes with featuring a story, or simple imagery, that may not be paid off until the end of the episode, or even end of a season. It can be completely disjointed, and never referenced, because the teasers exist in an almost separate universe than the rest of the story. Last season was a good example, especially with the payoff being so completely different than what was supposed.

Also, I guess I'm in the minority here about the gym speech; I just thought it was hilarious. Oh, and "Can we just keep it secular, honey?" - I'm going to add that on my BlackBerry email signature.

Brian said...

Addendum to previous comment: OK, I guess the "cousins" are just Mexican drug lords out to destroy the competition (Walt). But I still don't understand what the crawling was about in the cold open. Some sort of weird religious thing? Can someone clarify?

Anonymous said...

Another post above provided this helpful link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Muerte

However, skimming through it I don't find any reference to crawling toward the shrine. So not sure if that's an actual ritual or dramatic augmentation.
-anonymoose

Jick said...

I got my Lebowski vibe from "Your windshield's broken."

Thank you, Donny!

shma said...

"However, skimming through it I don't find any reference to crawling toward the shrine. So not sure if that's an actual ritual or dramatic augmentation."

It's a real ritual.

http://www.photography-news.com/2010/02/santa-muerte-photo-essay-by-jeffrey.html

Woman with Child arriving on her knees at the entrance to altar, many crawl the length of the street as repentance, at Santa Muerte Altar of Señora Doña Queta. Calle Alfarería, Barrio de Tepito, México D.F

Lisa said...

One of the things I find most amazing about this show is its depiction of the drug hell that's swallowing Mexico. I think most Americans are in denial about what goes on just south of our porous borders. I think everyone in this country should watch "Breaking Bad" so they can finally get it. The sense of fear and dread Gilligan & Co. create are absolutely heart-stopping.

And though the laurels are starting to pile up, every episode, I can't wait to see what Cranston is going to do. It's a reminder what so many journeymen actors have inside them. Of course, if he and Vince hadn't come together over the XF episode "Drive," one wonders what sitcom Cranston would be guesting on today. And on top of that, what a terrific director he's becoming!

Extraordinary show.

vortexgods said...

Brian: In the old timey Catholic Faith, there was a tradition called "Crawling to the Cross." In this tradition, the pious Catholic would crawl to the crucifix on hands and knees.

This particular ritual is apparently part of the modern Santa Muerte faith, if Breaking Bad is accurate. The two assassins were asking Santa Muerte for her favor in their quest, and what we saw was their ritual to gain the favor of this holy saint.

Anonymous said...

@ Brian
Read the eigth comment

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but how did anyone take the Cousin story line serious? It was incredibly over the top and corny. It's two over the top model looking characters crawling around, stealing clothing but not shoes, and then blowing up a truck. OH BOY! They sure do mean business. It's just a really poor way to introduce the characters. Seriously it felt like something from Desperado.

On the other hand the scenes with Walt were really hit or miss. The gymanism was well played but the situation between the wife felt rushed.

Additionally, Jesse's final journey into the darkside was underwhelming.

:(

Anonymous said...

Tony said... First time I've seen Ashley Banfield since 2002. I didn't miss her much
Tony- I'm going to risk Alan's 'no attacking each other' wrath because I had a li'il crush on AB back in the day . . . so them's fightin' words buddy! Cheers.

Did anyone else think that the news montage was a little odd? Can't quite put my finger on it - maybe the opening newscast felt slightly '90s-style or maybe the whole sequence went a little long overall. Were the local newscasters actual local personalities from the NM area or just actors?
-anonymoose

Brian said...

Thanks for clarification on the crawling ritual, guys. I loved the premiere, but like some others here I have reservations about the scenes w/ the cousins--largely due to the cheesy "cool guys don't look at explosions" ending. Maybe it's just the Samberg bit, but I really would have thought the Breaking Bad writers were above using cliches like that.

SK Rollins said...

Incredibly shot, chillingly brilliant premiere. I love how it's becoming clearer and clearer how Walt really is, in Jesse's words, "the bad guy"; the plot this episode seems to foreshadow reinforces the overall tragedy structure of this show. Echoing the "No Country for Old Men" vibe I got, not just from the Cousins themselves but combined with the way this episode was shot. Some of walt's justifications for himself do seem somewhat similar to the rhetoric of Anton Chigurh in their own ways.

Kensington said...

I appreciated how, on a show as dark and sardonic as Breaking Bad, even drug rehab only seems to bring out the sociopath in Jesse.

Anonymous said...

Those complaining about how unbelievable the Cousins are need to remember that Brother Mounzone from The Wire was even more implausible as a character, yet remained popular among viewers. Quit it with your double-standards, and enjoy the best show on TV this Spring.

-Red Medicine

Anonymous said...

I knew right away that the explosion wasn't CGI. That rolling smoke, swirl of debris, and the sunlight tumbling though the shadows… simply gorgeous.

Watching How to Make It in America directly after this is an interesting exercise in contrasts.

Anonymous said...

Rule number 1 of the meth trade: Walt is not out. He told Gus the problem (I'm out) and provided the solution (my family). Cousins may be coming for Hank.

chaesonian said...

My 3 day binge of catching up with this great series finally pays off with being able to post on an active review. Yay me, think I'll celebrate by smoking some blue crystal....

Was a beautifully shot opening that really gave the impression the following action was happening on almost an alien foreign planet. People crawling on the ground for unknown reasons, an expensive luxury car appearing in the middle of a poor area, skeleton god idols and Vin Diesel understudies in Italian suits robotically moving about the area. Which in some ways is even more illuminating since the hardcore violent drug trade world is very much an alien territory for most viewers.

I too found the gym scene almost unbearable but fortunately there were many shots of the most gorgeous principal ever to not get fully enveloped in the crazy awkwardness in the gym.

There are a few things I've wanted to say about this show that I wasn't able to do previously. First, as a biochem major, I can absolutely attest to the self centered personality traits of chemistry professors and those in that field of study that Walter embodies. His personality and almost idiotic levels of arrogance begetting denial is absolutely spot on. Secondly, I'm sorry but in the classroom scenes from season one and two, there is no high school chemistry teacher in America that teaches organic chemistry. Clearly concepts of stereochemistry are involved for exposition and foreshadowing, not as parts of a normal, even AP level, chemistry curriculum.

Anyhow, great start to the season. Small note @Brian from a few posts above repeatedly asking about the crawling sequence in the beginning. Tisk, tisk, someone clearly has not read Alan's golden rules for commenting. May god have mercy on your soul. With that, I'm out.

Anonymous said...

Overall, I loved the episode and am so happy that season 3 has begun. Also liked the symmetry of two scenes in the second half hour: first, Walt telling a horrified Skyler about his meth manufacturing that "there are a lot of angles to this - it's complicated" and then in a later scene to a still shellshocked Jesse that "there are a lot of aspects" to how the plane crash came about.

Valiant attempt by Walt to dilute his own culpability - either direct or indirect - to a loss of his wife's trust and of 167 lives, but no one was buying it. Just as none of the students at school felt reassured by his surreal comments at the assembly.

Finally, a nitpick: The folder that Skyler handed Walt that supposedly contained a Dissolution of Marriage agreement was obviously empty (you could see right through it when he held it up). Things like that - and obviously empty coffee cups used as props - just bother me.

Meh said...

I appreciated how, on a show as dark and sardonic as Breaking Bad, even drug rehab only seems to bring out the sociopath in Jesse.

I'm going to be a Jesse apologist. But if he was to recover, then this was best case scenario. He's already shown he's not cut out for 9-5 work and with Mr. White he's got an "easy" road with loads of money. He's being honest with himself, I agree with the folks above, but it's also a denial of it: I'm the bad guy, this is my life.

He can say no to drugs personally but not professionally because, what does he have to say yes to?

Andrew said...

Great episodes. Not much left to say that hasn't been said.

Only thing I wish was that this show could bring back a little bit more of the funny.

Anonymous said...

I liked it a lot. This can go in a number of directions, and as usual I couldn't possibly say which one. I love it.

Walt admitting to Skyler that he cooks meth was just insane! That scene was just amazing. "I'm not a dealer.. per se."

sandra said...

Not a bad start to the season. I was OK with “the cousins” but I could have done without the explosion, which I found over the top and cliché.

Being from Virginia, I enjoyed the counselor scene. People really do rush to the ABC store before it closes.

So, are Jesse & Walt living together? That should be fun.

Jon said...

I was disappointed by the opener. Way too much setup, and I had the same feeling about the drawn-out intro Cousins - "these are bad guys, I get it." The thing I like about the writing in BB is that when you expect it to go one way, it goes another. Not so much this episode.

The scene with Jesse in rehab, at the fire, was outstanding. As was the Walt/Skyler confrontation (although I also saw that the folder was empty, that was sloppy!).

Re: Walt in the gym. I can't think of too many high school chemistry teachers that are known for their stellar speaking abilities. This speaks to Walt's social awkwardness and I thought it was very much in character.

Dex Quire said...

Why were all the people crawling on their bellies to the shrine?

Ron Epstein said...

“I’m the Bad Guy”

Originally a one note joke (yo), Jessie has gone from being the ridiculous Cap’n Cook to reluctant drug kingpin. Of all the characters on the show, Jessie has proven to have the most human qualities. He took care of his dying aunt, he played peek-a-boo with the child of two murderous meth-heads, and grieved for the loss of his true love, Jane. Jessie is a tragic character, and was never meant to be such a major player in Heisenberg’s drug empire. He’s not very bright, and took whatever drugs he can get his hands on. His tattoos are meaningless; just another iteration of his wannabe “blowfish” image. Regardless, he is a drug dealer and user. He deserves no sympathy. Through a Rube Goldberg machine-esque series of events, he has the blood of two crashed planes on his hands. But still, you wonder where someone like him went so wrong (break bad), and where is he heading.

more to come...

Bobman said...

I hope we'll get AMC in HD soon, DirecTV.

I kid you not, I considered getting DirecTV, and the lack of AMC-HD was one of the biggest reasons I didn't make the switch. Two of the most visually stunning shows on television - Breaking Bad and Mad Men - without HD is just ridiculous.

DonBoy said...

You'd think that if the Cousins (identical Cousins all the way!) were so concerned about being identified by their highly distinctive boots, they'd consider not wearing them.

Hyde said...

Only thing I wish was that this show could bring back a little bit more of the funny.

I thought the school assembly was the longest funny scene Breaking Bad has ever had. Absolutely brilliant.

Assuming that Skyler continues living with her sister and Hank, I think she's in for a crisis of conscience once Hank begins dropping work-related comments around the dinner table about the misdeeds of Heisenberg, and Skyler starts to connect this new meth manufacturer in town with her estranged husband.

belinda said...

Which is why I have been (or will be) buying those two shows in bluray. Both shows have such a different aesthetic, but both are absolutely stunning.

Does anyone know if the rehab building (I guess from this episode and last seaon) is an actual building? (or, is it just some structure they built/CGIed?)

I WAS surprised that Walt was able to reject Pollo's offer. I was so sure he would accept, just as I was so sure he wouldn't let that money burn. But, more story for later, I guess!

Mostly beacuse of the 'swoosh' sound effect of one of the Cousin throwing his little cigar/cigarette to the truck, I thought the fire bit was a bit overdone whereas I was fine with the first scene.

As for high school chemistry teachers, while I'm not one, when I was in high school a while back, my chem teacher did teach organic chemistry to us - or at least the fundamentals of Ochem to us. So, some high school do teach it.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if the rehab building (I guess from this episode and last seaon) is an actual building? (or, is it just some structure they built/CGIed?)

It's a real building.
It is a part of an Indian Casino. They talk about it in the Blu-ray/DVD commentary.

JT said...

Hank's comment about the heavy bag irked me. A half million dollars in $100s only weighs around 10 lbs.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if anybody in Hollywood or otherwise has ever tried throwing a cigarette/cigar into a pool of gasoline.

Yeah, Mythbusters busted this a few years back. I was hoping they would be savvy enough light the straw, that would make sense, but they had to go with the cliche big boom. Disappointing.

Still, the scene between Walt & Skyler was worth it.

Anonymous said...

At least they avoided the mistake of making the gas tank blow up when the cousin shot it twice. Both Mythbusters and Burn Notice dispelled that old cliche.

Danny Cohen said...

The guilt that Walt felt was wonderful to see in his burning of the money, all the newspapers he had, the way he learned all about it to justify to himself that it wasn't as bad. It all felt very human. (Although, I would've love to see him come to the realization that the guy who caused it was the same one he met at the bar... and then learn that it was his daughter that he let die)

I am very curious to learn more how Jesse is going to be moving forward.

I love how Walt Jr. is so angry.

There's no way that Walt doesn't take the Pollos offer, come on, right? It's interesting that they didn't have him burn the money all up thus making it easy for him to take that offer.

The decision of signing the divorce papers is such a good one. Go to jail or lose your family, but you're going to lose your family either way, but at least this doesn't seem as selfish.

Anonymous said...

Go to jail or lose your family, but you're going to lose your family either way, but at least this doesn't seem as selfish.

That's a good point. I actually see Skyler somehow coming around and embracing the dark side of Walt at some point. A la Carmela on the Sopranos.

berkowit28 said...

"I actually see Skyler somehow coming around and embracing the dark side of Walt at some point. A la Carmela on the Sopranos."

To begin with, is she going to take her divorce lawyer's advice and ask for her share of *all* his money - i.e. his ill-begotten drug-manufacturer cash? Surely not, it's (partly) why she's leaving him. Then again...she might claim all the rest, meaning she is blackmailin him, and so it goes...

rdbrown27 said...

I was about to make a comparison to Skylar and Mrs. Soprano too... except I see Skylar as never becoming Carmela, and I think that is the point. She is never going to accept what Walt is doing, she is not going to keep quiet about it forever, and she is not going to look the other way just because Walt provides for her and the kids.

And because of that, Walt is going to have to consider something that Tony never would have done if he had a reason to consider it - getting rid of his wife.

Walt says he isn't a bad guy and isn't cut out for crime, but we all know already that that is not true. Walt doesn't have any outside forces or upbringing that instill a sense of a Code like Tony had. It is going to come down to survival and Walt has shown time and again that his own survival is his number one concern.

Anonymous said...

Here's a question for those who've been watching this for a while now, I watched the first 2 seasons of this show in 2 viewings, both when they came out on dvd so there was no break between episodes of each series. Should I continue like this or is it worth watching episode by episode? I watch Mad Men by the season and definitely prefer it that way but Breaking Bad might be different.

Thoughts?

Alan Sepinwall said...

It is going to come down to survival and Walt has shown time and again that his own survival is his number one concern.

I don't know. I'd say his survival is one of his top concerns, but no matter how far gone he is, I just can't see him going after his wife and/or kids if they somehow threatened his freedom. Not only do I believe he loves them too much for that, but all of his self-justification is wrapped up in the "I'm doing it for them" lie.

rdbrown27 said...

But that is the thing - it is a lie. I don't think Walt was ever doing it for the reason we were given - that he wanted to provide for his family when he was gone. He was looking at the end of his life and he had amounted to nothing. His successful friends had made it without him, doing what he was supposed to be doing.

He saw an opening in a field he knew he could excel in - he could be the best meth cooker out there. He has taken every opportunity to assert himself as the alpha male, something he had failed in previously in his life.

Does he love Skylar so much he would sacrifice himself for her? I highly doubt it. At this point he is a full on sociopath is he not? He didn't love her or his daughter so much that he put them over getting to his drug deal on time.

And let's not forget that he did survive the cancer. He could have given up on that at any time, but he didn't... you could even argue that the money factor was more him needing to pay for his own treatments than for leaving his family in good financial standing.

Bill C said...

If you're in Canada on Rogers, you can watch "Breaking Bad" in HD if you don't mind waiting 'til Monday morning, when it shows up free on demand. Just an FYI for Canuck fans of the show--it really is a different animal in HiDef.

Anonymous said...

Love the show. Season 3 is off to great start. But I hate Hank! He is so annoying. Why doesn't he ever shut up? He seriously needs to not talk so incessantly.

Anonymous said...

The scene where Hank was helping Walt move out of the house and he was just chatting so incessantly reminded me of how a speed freak might talk when they're high. I don't know if I'm reading too much into that or not, but that would put a new wrinkle into the dynamic between Walt and Hank, no?

Anonymous said...

Just a little thing, but I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere. When Skyler confronts Walt with the divorce papers, he says "you're punishing me. This is punitive!" At first I thought nobody in real life would say "punitive" in that situation. Then I thought, no, that's exactly the kind of thing Walt would say---he really is that kind of person. Donna Bowman, in her AV Club review, said something to the effect of Walt trying to control through his use of language. I think that's right on, and his use of "punitive" in that scene is a great example.

Anonymous said...

Because Walt the character is well written he is complicated. Hence, it's at once true he went into drug dealing for his family and then found the lure of it's success addictive. Its feeding his dreams unfulfilled. Now he continues to ignore the obvious reason at to why he continues to be in the drug and trade. He deludes himself with the original reason he got into it. There's no reason to believe he didn't go into drug dealing for any other reason. Show me where it's hinted at that he did?

I'm not denying he's an egomaniac and that his actions are innocent or even justified. I'm simply saying his original intent was to watch out for his family and not because of anything else.

Dan Jardine said...

Anonymous: I use the word "punitive" all the time...should I be worried about myself?

RichC said...

Hank's comment about the heavy bag irked me. A half million dollars in $100s only weighs around 10 lbs.

It was probably all still soaked from being in the pool.

Most of the scenes with the Cousins just didn't seem right to me. I loved the rest of the episode. Hopefully I'll grow to like the Cousins.

PanAm53 said...

"Assuming that Skyler continues living with her sister and Hank"

Skylar is not living with her sister and Hank, she is living in her and Walter's home. Walter moved out and is living in an apartment.

Patrick said...

"To begin with, is she going to take her divorce lawyer's advice and ask for her share of *all* his money - i.e. his ill-begotten drug-manufacturer cash? Surely not, it's (partly) why she's leaving him. Then again...she might claim all the rest, meaning she is blackmailin him, and so it goes..."

Things didn't end too well for the last woman who threatened to blackmail Walt.

digamma said...

"If you go back to the first few eps of season 2, the name given to the mysterious strangers is kind of spoilery."

I'd like to know what this means. Did Tuco or Tortuga mention "the cousins" or something?

Mark B said...

Gracias for all the analysis of the Cousins walking away from the exploding coyote truck but, in my humble opinion, it was awesomely beautiful.

To those who would call a flagrant cliché foul, I can only counter by pointing out that techniques achieve cliché status in entertainment only when they become time tested proven audience pleasers. In show business, whatever other “goals” are desired, pleasing the attentive eyeballs is an essential factor. Sparkly works. It’s why glitter is still in makeup and sequins continue to adorn costumes. More to the point, it why billions of people still turn out to watch fireworks even if the big sky filling, night illuminating, big orange burning fireball is the same as from the last Fourth of July. This is not to say that some incarnations of pyrotechnics are weaker than others but this scene, in the immortal words of Leelo, was one magnificent Big Badda Boom!!!.

Anonymous said...

"Did Tuco or Tortuga mention "the cousins" or something?"

I believe people generally accept that "The Cousins" are related to "Tio" which is Spanish for uncle. However, I've also heard it said Tuco was explicitly waiting for his cousins / the cousins; I haven't re-checked the line myself.

cgeye said...

First, I think the Cousins aren't coming just to kill Walt; they'll be used as muscle to back Frings' three-month deal. Like someone said above, $3 million's too little money for the amount of cooking Walt can do on his own -- I bet he'll be forced to reveal his I.P., on pain of his family's death. They can pay him after that, or kill him, but he won't have a future as an Alpha male, after that. He'll live the "your money or your wife" question, and we'll be on the edge of our seats seeing him think it over.

As for Skyler, well, every dime Walt spent on the house after he started business could make the house part of an asset forfeiture -- he's already tainted her life so much that she could be thrown in jail just for Walt to prove his impartiality (viz. DAMAGES' sister dilemma, this week). Skyler, if she really wanted to break free, should have insisted on knowing nothing, go through the divorce telling Walt she wants to know as little as possible, then pack up and make a new life. Even that one sentence -- "No, methamphetamines" -- makes her involved. She can't dance around with this, and she can't ask anyone for advice.

cgeye said...

(just for Skyler's BIL to prove his impartiality... sorry.)

Matthew L said...

I'm surprised by the number of people puzzled by the opening, simply because (as someone with absolutely no knowledge of Mexican religions) I thought it was fairly self-explanatory. They're crawling to what is clearly a shrine, so one assumes that the crawling is a part of their worship or ceremony. The shrine has a statue of a skeletal figure, so presumably it's some kind of death figure or god. And the guys had a picture of Heisenberg, so one can assume that they are seeking assistance in their mission to kill Walt. In fact, I was impressed with how clearly they communicated that, and without dialogue at that, given my complete lack of familiarity with what I now learn is called Santa Muerte.

I was a bit bothered in the school assembly scene, just because it seemed like there were only ten or so staff members - I couldn't see any obvious adults in the seats, so it seemed like the whole faculty was on the court, and that's really not enough teachers for that many students.
That said, Walt's speech was exceptional. The thing I liked was that everything he was saying was absolutely right - it could have been so much worse, we'll move on - but it was so wrong in the context.

The other thing I liked was that it almost at times seemed to be a rebuttal to those people that criticised the 737 last season as being too remote from Walt. In that scene where Walt was coming up for reasons why Jesse wasn't responsible - collision alarms failed, 1960s technology, it's the Government's fault - it's that distance that allows Walt to say "It's not my fault", blind to the fact that none of this would have happened had Walt not started cooking meth.

Martin said...

I was a bit bothered in the school assembly scene, just because it seemed like there were only ten or so staff members - I couldn't see any obvious adults in the seats, so it seemed like the whole faculty was on the court, and that's really not enough teachers for that many students.

I noticed teachers at the bottoms of all the stairs on the upper levels

Hollywoodaholic said...

"Automatic A." Hysterical. (The comment from the student who thinks they all deserve A's for the tragedy because that's what they give a student when his or her dorm roommate kills commits suicide). This show is so disturbingly funny.

The crawling tradition is very real. I once visited a shrine in Mexico where people were crawling distances to it in direct proportion to how big a miracle they were praying for. Some arrived with bloody hands and knees.

Oh, and David Lynch called. He wants some of his weird, moody and disturbing imagery back. (But this show doesn't seem to need any equally weird music to back it up).

Kevin said...

I didn't occur to me until afterwards just how Mephistophelian Walt looks with the new goatee (which actually had its debut in the final ep. of season 2, the first time we see him after he watched Jane die).

The physical transformation of Walt is a sneakily expressive element of the show.

Adam the Killer said...

1st off all the people asking about what the crawling was need to stop. Its annoying, obviously its a death worship thing.

2nd. Jesse and Walt are not done cooking, I like the idea that the cousins are coming to kill Walt but end up killing Hank, or better yet, Skyler as she is the only 1 besides Gus and Saul who knows whats up. I think if Skyler is killed, nobody would be sad. At least i wouldnt, i mean, Walt is trying to get his paper up so his kids can go to college, have clothes, food, etc. Hes not doing this just to have extra loot laying around, he is about to check out! I hate skyler for this, my wife's mother was left w a mountain of debt after her husband died. But I digress...

Jesse - Love his down w being the bad guy, hes good with it, and Walt is good w cookin meth, Jesse is the dealer, he is the supplier, it works. I think we will see Jesse impress Walt and bring them closer. I hope we see more Gus.

Hank - Looks fatter somehow, dude needs to lose weight, and he does look like Black Francis from the pixies (google search) I want to see him catch the Cousins in a gun battle, but that is too much like Tuco.

Cousins - whats up w them? kinda lame about the whole "so bad ass they dont need to speak" angle, but I liked when the kid noticed the skull on their boot he signed his own death certificate. Why are they called the Cousins? Cousins of who, Tuco? I get they are from the cartel. Loved the goat symbolism which nobody picked up on as the goat being the Mexican symbol of satan.

Skyler - hope she gets capped

Flynn - loves his daddy more now that his mom is being mean to him, dad has got CANCER! Mom, on the surface seems mean.

Saul - wheres he at? He will be a motivator to get Walt back in the game. Maybe we will see him as his divorce lawyer? Divorce counsel?

Gus - that gangster is not done yet.

berkowit28 said...

What I meant by "blackmail" was: if, say, Skyler doesn't totally ignore Walt's new earnings that she knows he has, if she asks for all marital assets - the house, bank account, etc - she would be not only recognizing that he has other sources of income, which she knows to be illegal, but counting on him to acquiesce in these demands of hers on pain of her giving him up to the authorities.

It's not very far from what she already told him: "I won't tell Hank, or the kids, or anyone, if you give me a divorce." That's a sort of blackmail.

Eric said...

Were the local newscasters actual local personalities from the NM area or just actors?

I live in Albuquerque. The newscasters in this episode were not real local newscasters.

However, the TV station letters (KOB) referenced are real, and the Albuquerque Journal is the local paper, with exactly the same layout and fonts as seen in the show.

During the newscast section of the show, as I was watching it in my Albuquerque living room, several times I had to remind myself that it wasn't a real local newscast. They put a black box around the newscast picture, but otherwise it looked like a news broadcast. They kept saying "here in Albuquerque" and "here on KOBTV", etc.

Rufus said...

I'm a Canadian who doesn't get Rogers so I put off Breaking Bad until last week when I got both seasons on Blu ray. If you're one who doesn't like to suffer through waiting each week to find out what happens next maybe the DVD's are the way to go but I guess I'm fine with agonizing over each week's episode and what will happen next. I place this series right up there with Mad Men as some of the best TV has to offer.

Season three started with that crawling man who I felt real dread for as I thought he was trying to get away from something and that scene is paid off with one of the last scenes of the episode where the truck driver is the crawing man who IS crawling for his life.

Walter is this character who breaks bad after years of not getting the life he thinks he deserves. His cancer allowed him to slip conventions and allow him to consider the manufacture of drugs as a way to pay for his family his treatment. I wasn't surprised that he saved the burning money as I don't believe he can ever return to that timid teacher who everyone takes for granted. He has tasted real power for the first time and that is just as much his drug of choice as the money is. His speech to the kids in the school puts on display his way of thinking his way out of guilt and responsibility for his actions. I'm sure they just thought he was rambling on and was off because of his illness.

As a crook Walter has bumbled through to a way to make money and he doesn't know the life he is trying to make a place for himself in. I'm wondering when he will back hand Hank and walk away with no explanations. I'm sure Hank would chalk it up to stress.

Love the series can't wait for episode 3.02.

Anonymous said...

Love the show. Been watching it since day one. Loved the season three opener. High profile drug lords who still crawl on their hands and knees in their $6000 suits And $7000 boots to reAch the shrine. Very cool that even guys lime that respect someone or the idea of a god or saint.

What's with the silver skulls on the boots? Is there a meaniing to that or just that they look cool?

Oh yeah and i'm getting really tired of Skyler. She's so bitchy and boring And all that time wasted on her and her affair with her boss or whatever that was... Who cares. Get rid of her. Walk jr can help package the meth or something haha.

So anyways the mexicans are prob coming to either kill walter becAuse of tuco or they are there to kidnap him to force him to cook for them. What about gus at Pollos? You think that might be a setup thinking that walt might be working for the DEA after Gus saw walts pic in the police station by hanks office??? Interesting to see whAt happens

asterisk8 said...

I disagree with everyone saying that Jesse has embraced being a bad guy and will live up to it. That's not at all what's happening. He's accepted that he's done bad things, and he feels like a bad guy right now, but as the counselor said, acceptance is the first step toward change. The way I see it, Breaking Bad will turn a good guy into a bad guy (Walt) and a bad guy into a good guy (Jesse). Jesse saying "I'm the bad guy" is a big step in that change.

Tyler said...

alan- something that i found so interesting (sorry if this has already been said) is the scene with walt cutting the crust off his sandwich and obviously remembering krazy-8 and his experience. there were just spots all over the place in this episode with walt's past crimes creeping into his life. another great moment for me was the one in the hotel room with him holding the eyeball of the teddy bear- as if he could not escape the weight of what he had caused.