No other TV show in recent memory has had the publicity build-up that “Breaking Bad” has had going into its final half season.
The tsunami of commentaries, predictions and interviews — with the show’s stars and creator Vince Gilligan — have been inescapable over the last few weeks, accelerating in these days just before the series’ long-awaited return Sunday night (Aug. 11) at 9/8c on AMC.
It’s the beginning of the end: Eight episodes that will complete the series’ fifth season and finish it off with a finale that will likely air on Sunday, Sept. 29.
So, whenever a hard-boiled crime show such as “Breaking Bad” (or, back in 2007, “The Sopranos”) approaches the end of its run, it seems appropriate to ask which characters, if any, will make it to the final episode, and which ones will not.
On “Breaking Bad,” the fate of nearly everyone rests in the bloody hands of Walter White (Bryan Cranston), the school teacher who morphed into Scarface (to paraphrase the series’ creator’s concise description of the show and its lead character). As anyone knows who has followed “Breaking Bad,” Walt’s not averse to killing.
And that means at least two key characters — both close to Walt — may be in danger going into the show’s final episodes:
Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul): This character has undergone a fascinating transformation since the series began — a transformation opposite from Walt’s. Back in the beginning, Jesse was the tough one — a young gangster-wannabe. His former high school chemistry teacher — Walt — was the reluctant one in need of schooling. Now, Jesse’s checking out of the gangster life — ridden with guilt over his role in several deaths — and Walt’s the stone-cold gangster. As the new season begins, Jesse’s running around Albuquerque with duffle bags filled with millions of dollars, and trying to get rid of it. He’s a loose cannon who’s drawing far too much attention to himself. Walt just may have to get rid of him.
Hank Schrader (Dean Norris): The reason for eliminating brother-in-law Hank is pretty simple: When the first half of Season Five ended, we learned that Hank had figured out that the unidentified meth kingpin he’s been pursuing for so long has been his seemingly mild-mannered brother-in-law Walt all along. So it should come as no surprise that the two are poised for a face-off. Killing Hank would represent the most heinous crime yet for Walt, but we have no doubt he’s capable of it.
And then there’s Walt: Will the main character get killed off by the time the series ends? That really can’t be reliably predicted, especially because the opening scene in Sunday night’s episode — the details of which we won’t reveal here — seems designed specifically to confuse and muddle the final chapter of the “Breaking Bad” story to such an extent that predicting Walt’s fate, at least this soon, is simply impossible.
With a show such as “Breaking Bad,” it’s inevitable to wonder if this show, or any show, can live up to all the hype that now comes to an end with the midseason premiere close at hand.
We’ve seen Sunday night’s episode, thanks to AMC, and we don’t intend on spoiling the experience of watching it by telling you what happens.
As for determining whether it lives up to all the build-up, we’ll leave that to you. We suspect “Breaking Bad” fans will lap it up. For those of you who are just now thinking of taking up the “Bad” habit for the first time, Sunday night’s episode will be much less accessible unless, like so many others, you’ve been binge-watching the show’s first four-and-a-half seasons.
The final half-season of “Breaking Bad” premieres Sunday night (Aug. 11) at 9/8c on AMC.