Bryan Cranston's back and ‘Bad'

The final season of "Breaking Bad," which will air in two eight-episode installments, premiers Sunday with "Live Free or Die." Working with Jesse again, Walt puts Skyler in charge of his finances.
The final season of "Breaking Bad," which will air in two eight-episode installments, premiers Sunday with "Live Free or Die." Working with Jesse again, Walt puts Skyler in charge of his finances.
Posted: July 13, 2012

BREAKING BAD. 10 p.m. Sunday, AMC.

WHERE DO you go when you're responsible for one of the more indelible scenes of televised homicide in recent history? If you're Walt White (Bryan Cranston) of "Breaking Bad" and his creator, Vince Gilligan, you go right back to work.

Because winning, it turns out, isn't everything.

Yes, Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) is dead — please tell me no one's had lingering doubts about that — and Walt, the once mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher who struck it rich cooking meth after he was diagnosed with lung cancer in Season 1, is once again broke as Season 5 launches Sunday with an episode titled "Live Free or Die."

Remission or no remission, he's not going to live forever, and the decision to put his estranged wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) in charge of his finances has proved, um, problematic. Fortunately, there's still money to be made from other people's very bad habits.

He and his cooking partner Jesse (Aaron Paul) will work together again, but there are loose ends Walt needs to tie up. Plus, they have some cleaning to do.

There's some cool science involved and, as always, some moments that are shockingly funny, if only because they aren't happening to you or anyone you love.

And that's all I'll say about the first two episodes of a final season that AMC's breaking into two eight-episode parts, with the finale scheduled for next summer.

For maximum agony.

I love this series in a way I'm never going to love "Mad Men," which holds its audience at arm's length and sometimes forgets it's not a 200-level course in the language of symbols. Or a fashion show.

"Breaking Bad," a series about a world in which I'd never choose to live, is one long fashion don't (especially now that Gus is gone), but it has plenty to say about the things humans are capable of and, like most great series, it rewards the careful viewer.

But it also never forgets it's a TV show and that its chief job is to answer the question: What happens next? Don't be surprised if the answers grab you by the throat and don't let go.

Note to Dish satellite customers caught in the cross-fire of AMC's dispute with the provider: AMC is offering a live stream of Sunday's Season 5 premiere; details at AMCTV.com.

And if this latest bit of grandstanding doesn't end the dispute, the network will probably turn the whole matter over to Walt.

Contact Ellen Gray at 215-854-5950 or graye@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @elgray.

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