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‘Breaking Bad’ Season 5 Premiere: The Beginning of How It All Ends

After last season’s finale — the Gus head and the flower pot reveal — how could the Breaking Bad season five opener (Sunday, AMC, 10PM ET) possibly live up to the expectations fans have for the final season of one of the best (the best, I’d argue) TV dramas of all time?

Yet, the first two episodes rate a five out of five stars, two thumbs up, 10 on a scale of one to 10 … by whatever rating system you use, the season premiere is flawless, picking up where season four left off and offering a hint into what I think is going to be Walter White’s downfall.

In short: his ego. Walt (Bryan Cranston) was feeling super badass after pulling off his Gus plot, but he’s not satisfied with being able to tell wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) that he won. Nor is he going to be satisfied with the fact that he did win. Without any major spoilers, there’s a moment in the season five premiere — the episode’s called “Live Free or Die” — where Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte) tells his dad that Hank (Dean Norris) is going to be hailed as a hero for being the only person to have been onto Gus’ real activities.

Walt’s reaction is priceless, and so telling. He bristles ever so slightly at the thought of Hank as a hero, or more specifically at the fact that Walt Jr. sees his uncle as one, and it’s not because Walt knows Hank’s ongoing investigation of Gus threatens to expose Walt’s own misdeeds.

It’s because Walt wants his son to know what a tough guy he is (or thinks he is). And more than wanting his son to know how tough he is, the things he’s gotten away with and the people who fear him, Walt wants Hank to know.

Hank, who’s been vulnerable and insecure himself since his shooting, spent years poking fun at Walt and his meek high school chemistry teacher persona. And now that Walt’s Mr. Chips-to-Scarface transformation — as Cranston and BB creator Vince Gilligan frequently refer to Walt’s journey — is near completion, Walt wants Hank to know he’s no longer the schlubby teacher.

Despite what it would mean if Hank (DEA officer Hank) found out, Walt is dying for him to know what he’s done, what he’s doing and who he’s doing it to/for/with/against.

And that, I’m guessing, is going to ultimately be the specific cause of Walt’s downfall (and no spoiler there, because Cranston and Gilligan have often said Walt is not going to get away with his bad works).

Speaking of … if you still had any smidgen of sympathy left for Walt after his plot with the ricin and kiddie Brock, a scene in the season premiere between an ever more manipulative Walt and a still too trusting Jesse (Aaron Paul) should take care of that.

There are a couple of little surprises in the first two episodes of the new season (“Live Free or Die” and “Madrigal” are the eps AMC provided for review), and a couple of much-welcome moments of levity (two words: truck and magnet), but the most chilling scene is the one in which Walt utters the words “I forgive you.”

Because he doesn’t, and the person he says it to is very aware of what that could mean.

And if that isn’t enough to get you jazzed for the new season, check out these Breaking Bad goodies:

The Hollywood Reporter‘s cover story on BB, with tidbits like the network that rudely rejected the show and the actors AMC initially wanted to cast as Walter White (John Cusack?!?!).

— Though he’s gone (and how), Gus Fring (Emmy-deserving Giancarlo Esposito) will certainly not be forgotten, and he continues to play a big role in BB events. In honor of his exit, AMC has a fun little “Go Fring Yourself” game, in which you put your head on Gus’ body and, well, a few “ding ding dings” later, you’re, ahem, facing off with Tio (RIP).

— The New York Daily News has an interview with the underrated Dean Norris, who plays Walt’s brother-in-law Hank. Norris, a Harvard grad, says playing the moral character isn’t as fun as playing the bad guy, and is often overlooked come Emmy time, but he’s giving a standout performance in a cast where there isn’t a bad performance.

— Dish subscribers who are freaking out about being AMC-less for Sunday night’s premiere can sign up to watch the episode live at AMCTV.com.

— You will love Aaron Paul even more than you already do after reading GQ‘s interview with him.

Bryan Cranston picks his 13 favorite Breaking Bad moments at The Daily Beast.com.

— The 27 best Breaking Bad memes (numbers 16 and 19 crack me up).

— 25 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Breaking Bad from Buzzfeed.com.

Aaron Paul in a Corn Pops commercial.

— A Breaking Bad A to Z feature I wrote for AOL before season 4 (so yes, it’s in serious need of an update, but still fun).

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