Last year, about this time, I begged you people to start watching "Breaking Bad" on AMC. If you ignored me then, I'm sorry for you because you missed a truly excellent bit of television. (For the record, I'm convinced the only reason this show doesn't get as much love as "Mad Men" is because the people in it aren't as pretty.)
In Season Two of "Breaking Bad," we watched high school chemistry teacher-turned-crystal meth cooker Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston, who has won two Emmys for this role) sink deeper into desperation as he battled cancer while trying to cook and sell enough drugs to leave behind a plump nest egg for his family.
The pitiable suburban family man we felt empathy for in Season One adopted a steely resolve in season two to do anything -- anything -- for the sake of his brood, including coldly watching his partner Jesse's volatile girlfriend choke to death, because he knew his own chances for survival were better with her gone.
Viewers had sensed before that moment Walt's transformation from "good guy in a bad situation" into "not-so-good guy in a bad situation," but afterwards, there was no doubt: Walter White, though initially well-intentioned, was a very bad man who did very bad things, and we no longer really cared about the "why."
Walt has destroyed his own family and many other families by dealing drugs; He has taken the goofy, small-time drug dealer Jesse (Aaron Paul) and completely wrecked the boy's life; And Jane's death (and make no mistake, Walt is responsible for her death) set into motion a chain of events that cost the lives of hundreds of innocent people.
Can he ever come back from that?
Season Three picks up in the aftermath of the awful plane crash in last season's finale. In the opening episode, which is directed by Cranston and airs tonight on FX, Walt is racked with guilt over the crash but steeped just as deeply in efforts at rationalizing his complicity and minimizing the severity of the tragedy.
After watching the first three episodes, I can't say I have a ton of confidence about the state of Walt's soul, but then you can never really tell where this show is going.
Oh, and for good measure, there's some freaky "No Country For Old Men" vibe this season involving some scary-as-hell hitmen for a Mexican drug cartel. The opening scene of the first episode will have your eyes bugging out of your head. If you figure out what that's about, please let me know.
"Breaking Bad" airs on Sunday nights at 10pm on AMC.