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Might Live Free, Might Die. The Last Season of ‘Breaking Bad’ Begins.

Might Live Free, Might Die. The Last Season of 'Breaking Bad' Begins.

Where do you go after you’ve blown off the face of your rival, the area’s biggest meth-lord? Really blown off his face, the way Walter White (Bryan Cranston) did at the end of last season’s ‘Breaking Bad,’ when he set a bomb and lured Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) to visit a supposed old rat in an assisted living community, so that Fring lurched out of the room like one of the zombies from ‘The Walking Dead,’ half his face a bloody red mask over a skeleton?  As you may have been reminded by teasers for the new season (which begins Sunday on AMC) Fring had threatened Walt with, “I will kill your infant daughter,”  so if anyone had it coming . . .  

Apparently, after all that you go to Denny’s.

Here’s what I can tell you about the new episode: at the start Walt seems to have grown hair, he  wears glasses and is sitting at a Denny’s counter pretending to be a guy from New Hampshire. When he leaves, the camera lingers on his car’s license plate, with the state slogan “Live Free or Die.” Either one of those options seems possible as we head into the first half of the series’ final season (eight episodes now, eight more next year).

Those details don’t ruin anything because  the effective tease of an opener quickly drops away and we’re back where we left Walt, soon after killing Fring. Suddenly all the fraught and basic questions the series tosses around so blithely – who lives or dies, what’s right or wrong – come circling back to that death. Does anyone have it coming, and does preemptive self-defense justify murder?

You can, and people have spent hours debating the moral or immoral – or maybe amoral – underpinnings of ‘ Breaking Bad,’ as its main character has morphed from a  mild-mannered high-school teacher diagnosed with cancer into a violent, power-hungry criminal.  Vince Gilligan, the show’s creator, didn’t even give Walt any superpowers, just a desperate motivation to make some money for his family and the brains to cook meth very, very well. And by now not only has he embraced his dark side, but his wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn) has discovered her own killer – or at least blackmailer – instincts.

But no one would have watched long enough to worry about the ethical questions if the vivid minor characters, and plots that kept Walt half a step ahead of disaster, hadn’t worked. All the surface flash of ‘Breaking Bad’ is there in the new episode, along with the wonderful Bob Odenkirk as Walt and Skyler’s slimy lawyer, and of course Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, Walt’s ultimate student.

Here’s a quick peek at Sunday’s episode, with Walt Jr. (RJ MItte) innocently tellling his father the news about Fring’s death. Don’t miss the look on Cranston’s face when Walt hears that his brother-in-law, the DEA agent, brought Walt Jr. to Fring’s restaurant and front.  

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