Television Review: "Breaking Bad" Season Three, Episode One: "No Mas"

3/23/2010 Posted by Admin

Television Review

"Breaking Bad" Season Three, Episode One: "No Mas"

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

The second season finale of "Breaking Bad" left us with some really hectic stuff--Walt and Skylar got in an argument that resulted in her walking out on him, Jesse was in rehab and, most memorably, the grief caused by his daughter's death led air traffic controller Donald to accidentally cause a mid-air collision over Albeqerque, coincidentally over Walt's neighborhood. The third season could have given us a smashing and crazy start, but instead creator/writer Vince Gilligan does his thing and pulls back, taking the chaos that was the last half of season two and pulling it back a bit, reintroducing us to our characters and the struggles they've encountered since that fateful plane crash. As such, it's not one of the most memorable episodes of the series, but it's a very promising start to the season.

Some spoilers herein.

Like most episodes, "No Mas" (which is Spanish for "no more") begins with an enigmatic and bizarre cold open. In a small Mexico village, men and women are crawling across the dirt to a shrine at the end of a road. A car appears from the distance, stopping in the middle of the crowd of squirming people, and out of it come two sharply dressed, sunglasses-clad men who join the crawl toward the shrine. Once there they rise and enter, and just before the credits roll, we see a piece of paper nailed to the wall alongside numerous other decorations and jewelry--a hand-drawn picture of Walter White, in his Heisenberg guise.

We join these two supposed gangsters a multiple of times throughout the episode as they seemingly make their way through small villages in Mexico and end up at the other side of the Texas border. Season two hinted at Mexican drug cartels coming out of the woodwork to hunt down their mysterious competitor, but the season ended without any of that developing very far. Here we see that Gilligan may have been saving the real terror for this season, and the few moments we have, we see that these two men are very tense and uneasy. They're filmed differently from the other scenes--tinted with a dirty red and containing little or no dialogue. Their steady, quiet but extremely threatening demeanor makes one thing certain--Tuco was nothing. These are the real bad guys.

The majority of the episode, though, follows Walt as he deals with the aftermath of his confrontation with Skylar. He's been forced to move out of the house and into a hotel, she's threatening him with divorce, and it appears as though all the effort he put in to save money for his family was for naught. Walt is in a very different position here than in the last third or so of season two. With the loss of his family and his responsibility for Jesse's downward spiral and the plane crash, he has lost the power he once felt, and he's realized he doesn't want to be the bad man he's made himself into. It doesn't help that he's incapable of admitting to himself that he's responsible for the deaths of so many, and a couple scenes really convey this outlook.

The first scene, one of the most unsettling in the episode, involves Walter's return to school after the separation and the crash. The school is holding an assembly for the students to help cope with the tragedy, and when Walt is asked to say something, he just rambles about plane crashes that were more tragic than the one he had a hand in causing. It accomplishes so much with so little, and we get a really great handle on what's going on in Walt's head. The second comes near the end of the episode, where Walt brings Jesse home from rehab and, while Jesse is willing to accept the blame for the plane crash (still tragically unaware of Walt's responsibility for Jane's death), Walt tries to convince him it was anybody's fault but his. The most effective line from Walt here is surely this: "I blame the government." Yeah, anyone but yourself, Walt. Like so many of the show's greatest moments, these two scenes are subtle but more indicative of the nature of the characters than any of the more straightforward dialogue scenes.

We also see effect of Walt and Skylar's separation on Walt Jr., who resents his mother for not explaining why the two separated. I can already see Walt Jr. becoming a more crucial catalyst for conflict than he was in previous seasons.

Perhaps the biggest moment of the episode is one between Skylar and Walt, where she confronts him with the divorce paper, but also finally reveals that she knows he's a drug dealer. She wasn't entirely certain, of course--her reasoning is simply that "there's no other way he could have that kind of money"--but Walt completely reveals his identity as a drug manufacturer in this scene, putting to rest one of the most major aspects of the show and creating a whole lot of new ones. Skylar gives Walt the ultimatum that Walt will sign the divorce papers, or she'll turn him in.

"No Mas" may seem like an odd change in tone compared to last year, but I definitely think it was a good idea to slow stuff down a bit again to regroup, especially when the villainous duo promise to make quite an explosive entrance into the picture later on. It's not a brilliant episode, but it's definitely a very good one, and it's a perfect way to get things started. Surely there is a lot of greatness to look forward to this season.

Grade: B

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  1. Edward29 said...

    The intro was very weird.
    I thought Heisenberg was having a nightmare dream sequence.
    I still don't know what the crawling was about maybe that will be revealed later.
    Maybe they were worshiping some Mayan god of Assassins.
    I didn't get a good look at the alter in the shack because I was fixated on the Heisenberg sketch on the wall.
    I'm a little disappointed we didn't see Q or whatever Jane's dad's name was again except for the opening recap.
    As for Skylar I am glad she is gone.
    Hopefully we will see less from her after the divorce is final.