‘Breaking Bad’ brilliant again as it heads toward finale

By Rich Heldenfels
Beacon Journal popular culture writer

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This image released by AMC shows Bryan Cranston as Walter White, left, and Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman in a scene from "Breaking Bad." (AP Photo/AMC, Frank Ockenfels )

A little more than midway through Sunday’s telecast of Breaking Bad, teacher-turned-meth-dealer Walt White tries to argue that “the darkness” in his past can be put aside. He has given up his criminal enterprise and wants instead to try to live an ordinary and decent life.

But whether he can is the question hanging over Breaking Bad as it resumes its fifth season at 9 p.m. Sunday on AMC. The first half of the season aired some time ago. At the end of those eight episodes, we saw White — played so brilliantly by Bryan Cranston — believing that he was finally able to walk away from his criminal enterprises. At the same time, though, his DEA-agent brother-in-law Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) stumbles upon a clue that Walt is actually the notorious drug dealer Heisenberg. And it was unlikely that the bulldog Hank would let that clue go.

Now the show is back for the rest of the fifth season. (I know, you’re thinking that a recent DVD and Blu-ray set was called “the fifth season.” But, unlike previous releases, it wasn’t called the complete season, was it?) The fifth season began with a scene in the future with a bearded Walt before picking up the previous narrative; Sunday’s episode continues from that future moment, showing us more of where Walt was headed, before taking us back to just after Hank recognizes the clue.

I don’t want to say much more than that because there are so many terrific moments that I don’t want to spoil in that first episode. There were times when I was so caught up, I had to make sure I was still breathing. The tension is incredible, the pain considerable and the acting marvelous. It’s not just Cranston who stands out, either. Aaron Paul, as Walt’s longtime associate Jesse Pinkman, remains remarkable, especially in scenes with Cranston. Norris — whom you may also know as Big Jim on CBS’ summer series Under the Dome — also impresses. And you know there’s more coming for Walt’s wife Skyler (Anna Gunn).

I have been hot and cold about this series almost from the beginning, but this final season has been as dazzling as Walt has been terrifying. After seeing Sunday’s breathtaking episode, I wished there was a companion to those lists of best series premieres and finales: a best eighth-from-the-last episode list, just so Breaking Bad could be at the top.

Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com.


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