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AMC's "Breaking Bad" Comes Crawling Back -- And It's Terrific
March 19, 2010  | By David Bianculli
breaking-bad-10-top.jpgThe opening, pre-credits sequence of Sunday's third-season premiere of AMC's Breaking Badis a wordless marvel. It begins with a shot of a beautiful landscape, then pans down to reveal one man crawling. Then another, then many more, like human ants following some invisible, humbling trail. Where? Why?

What matters is that Breaking Bad is back -- and announcing once again, without saying a word, just how daringly different a TV series it is...

Season three of Breaking Bad begins Sunday night at 10 ET on AMC, and begins right where season two left off. Everyone is still reeling from the midair crash of two planes over Albuquerque, a crash caused, indirectly, by events traceable to science teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul).


When the series began two years ago, Walter was diagnosed as having terminal lung cancer, and decided to provide his pregnant wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn), with a nest egg by secretly manufacturing crystal meth, and deputizing Jesse to sell it. Now, at this point in the narrative, Walter's cancer is in remission, but nothing else is going well. His wife has thrown him out of the house. Jesse's girlfriend, a junkie, choked on her own vomit and died, sending Jesse into rehab. And drug dealers Walter crossed in the past have dispatched enforcers to find and kill him.


Welcome to season three.

At Walter's high school, where he's resumed his teaching duties, he attends a grief counseling rally, and tries to soothe the students by putting the airline disaster into statistical perspective -- but it's all figures, no feeling, and it's hardly a successful pep talk.


And around a rehab-house campfire, prodded by a counselor (guest star Jere Burns) to open up, Jesse has problems verbalizing his feelings, too. But when the counselor shares his own tale of addiction and grief, Jesse pays rapt attention.

So will viewers.

I've seen the first three episodes of this new season, and my excitement over their contents is matched only by my impatience at wanting to see more. Series creator Vince Gilligan and his writing and production staff have laid out the starting framework for another edge-of-the-seat thriller, and this season, every cast member gets to stretch and impress early and often.

Dean Norris as Walter's brother-in-law gets increasingly stressed -- and, at the same time, increasingly close to tracking down Walter as the mysterious local drug lord. RJ Mitte, as Walter and Skyler's son, gets to react, and act out, as his parents separate.


Also in the mix, in all this, are several attention-commanding recurring featured players, including Bob Odenkirk as shady lawyer Saul, Jonathan Banks as ruthless "cleaner" Mike, and Giancarlo Esposito as fast food franchise owner and secret drug kingpin Gus. Those three alone are from Mr. Show, Wiseguy and Homicide: Life on the Street, respectively -- quite a lineage.

And Breaking Bad, no less than ever, is quite a program. You can read and hear my NPR Fresh Air with Terry Gross review of Breaking Bad, along with several other new and returning cable series, by clicking HERE. And you can also listen to a replay of my 2008 interview with Bryan Cranston, which Fresh Air repeated Friday, by clicking HERE.

Meanwhile, and most important, mark your calendars and set your recorders for Sunday. Breaking Bad, one of TV's best current dramas, is back.




Greg Kibitz said:

Though it is the most beautiful day outside, one like no other before it yet this spring (or this year, with spring being but only few hours in the making), a totally freakish full sunshine, no breeze and in the mid-60's in the middle of March, which in Maine is practically unheard of, I still have to spend some dreaded time indoors catching the last little bit of last season to refresh my memory so I can hit the ground running tomorrow night. And I just found out that AMC is doing a full marathon today. If only it were nasty, cold, rainy or snowing, like it usually does in March in Maine, so that I could have plopped down and watched it all again. Instead I will simply have to settle for the last couple episodes a bit before the sun starts to wane. If only I had the technology to watch while I'm outside enjoying this bit of false spring (which in Maine usully does not come until late April, if not mid-May or even June 1). Oh wait, gotta cHeck On-Demand. Cool! The entire last season is there! Now I can delay and watch it all again tomorrow afternoon while it will be quite predictably overcast, rainy and cold again. Yea!!!!

ERGO: Mr. Cranston, I cannot wait to be pleased!

Comment posted on March 20, 2010 2:34 PM

Angela said:

It seems like I have been waiting forever for this show to start the new season! I hope more people will be watching it this time around even if it is dark, as there is so much more to it than that. This show is right up there for me with Deadwood and 6 Feet Under. Not that they are the same, except for their unusualness. But Vince Gillagan takes more risks.

I really enjoyed your Fresh Air interview with Vince Gilligan and look forward to the others!

Comment posted on March 21, 2010 7:41 PM
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