Review: AMC's 'Breaking Bad'

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If you missed Bryan Cranston's surprising Emmy-winning best actor turn last season, your shot at redemption begins Sunday.
But after screening the first two episodes of the sophomore campaign of Breaking Bad - the story picks up where the initial seven left off because the first season lost two episodes to the writers' strike - Cranston's Walt White may be losing his.
For those who missed AMC's first class, here's a cheat sheet on White's periodic table. A mild-mannered everyman, White's a high-school chemistry teacher struggling to make ends meet for his pregnant wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) and Walt Jr. (R.J. Mitte), a teenager with cerebral palsy. The father's midlife crisis hits new depths upon discovering he has inoperable lung cancer, news of which he tried to hide from Skyler. But his life begins to "break bad," after he realizes from brother-in-law and DEA agent Hank (Dean Norris) the kind of money available from drugs.
You see, Walt's knowledge in the lab makes him a top crystal meth chef in the Albuquerque area (the series is shot on location in New Mexico) and he teams with former student Jesse "Cap'n Cook" Pinkman, (the wonderful Aaron Paul) in the trade as a means to fund his family's financial future before his own funeral.
The series seems darker and more violent, with less humor and little of the conflicted humanity that White initially exhibited, but that may have to do with the hyped-up plotlines of these installments.
The first 15 minutes are especially riveting, with the scenes featuring lunatic drug-snorting kingpin Tuco (Raymond Cruz) and his still-not-fully-clued-in wife equally unsettling.
But unless Skyler's going to approve of Walt's new line, it's hard to see the story not burning out quickly, like those who engage in the drug at its center.

The second season of Breaking Bad premieres on AMC Sunday, March 8 at 10 p.m.

For Mary McNamara's review of the first episode in 'TV Crush,' click here.

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