Those who like unicorns, rainbows and happy endings won't find much comfort in AMC's ingenious tragicomedy about a meth-dealing chemistry teacher with cancer.
But Breaking Bad is hilarious—and shocking, scary and heartbreaking. And the third season, which premieres tonight, "is bigger and badder than any season that's come before it," show runner Vince Gilligan tells us exclusively.
Bigger and badder than season two's tragic events? (Season-two spoiler alert: Bryan Cranston's Walt tries to rationalize the disaster to Aaron Paul's devastated Jesse in the video clip above.) Oh yes, Gilligan and the award-winning cast insisted to us. Read on for more exclusive scoop, spoilers and a video introduction of two pivotal new characters.
"Death to the Enemy": Tonight's premiere (directed by the Emmy-winning star Bryan Cranston) definitely brings the crazy: In the opening scene, a group of Mexicans, including two superscary hit men (Daniel and Luis Moncada, featured in the video clip above), crawl on the dirt toward a shrine, where they post a drawing of Heisenberg/Walt. Say what? Show runner Vince Gilligan explains that this is a ritual of "hardcore adherents to the Santa Muerte religion" (favored by drug dealers and gangers), and placing Walt's likeness among the skeletal figures proclaims him as their target.
But Walt's decision to continue working with Pollos kingpin Gus might actually save his life. As Bryan Cranston told us at the Paley TV Fest, "Walt has to now embrace who he really is. He has to start learning to be a criminal. Because that's who he is. He can't fake it anymore—he can't say, 'I'm doing this just for my family.' He's been seduced by the power."
Partners in Crime: Sadly, Jesse (Aaron Paul) and Walt go their separate ways at the beginning of the season. Aaron told us, "Jesse blames himself and his drug for killing his girl. He wants to give it a strong valiant effort to stay clean and sober, go down the straight and narrow—but we all know how that turns out." Ruh-roh. Until Jesse and Walt restore what Bryan Cranston calls their "natural polarity," Walt will have a new partner in Gale, played by David Constable (Damages and Flight of the Conchords). Gale, says Gilligan, "is a brilliant chemist in his own right and loves chemistry—knows it inside and out—and he's a lover of the arts, poetry and classical music. He's kind of everything Jesse is not."
Dr. Frankenstein: Walt has essentially made a monster out of naive Jesse, says Gilligan: "[At the beginning of the series], even though Jesse is a meth dealer, he's actually a pretty sweet, innocent guy, with kind of a moral compass that works more accurately than Walt's does. But you gotta figure a guy who's been around Walter White as much as Jesse has been may indeed inadvertently find himself becoming a darker individual because of that." Adds Aaron Paul: "Jesse truly believes he's the bad guy" in season three: "There's no love in his life anymore," he told us.
Fatal Attraction? What about a rebound romance for Jesse? "Possibly," hints Aaron. "All I will say is that this season is much darker and much more intense. There is some seduction that comes into play this season, that is for sure." Hmmm...sounds kind of sexy, no?
Post-Traumatic Mess: DEA Agent Hank has a "big strong character arc" this season, Dean Norris told us, dealing specifically with his PTSD. In episode three, "We'll really start to get into the dark, murky psyche of Hank and how it then affects his ability to chase this bad guy [i.e., Walt]...But interestingly, Hank's on the trail. He's hot on the trail. He comes within literally inches, but nobody believes him. Only the audience sees that Hank is right"—even though he hasn't identified Heisenberg.
Looks like at least Walt won't be arrested this season. Whew! But wait: "We're going to keep it real," says show runner Gilligan. "We have not forgotten Walt has cancer."
OK, that's pretty dark.
Breaking Bad airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on AMC.
Follow Kristin Dos Santos on Twitter, @kristinalert.