"Breaking Bad" doesn't dither around: If you're looking for answers after last season's jittery cliff-hanger, you'll get lots of them Sunday night.
The third season of television's best show* ended with chemistry-teacher-turned-meth manufacturer Walter White (Emmy winner Bryan Cranston) on the brink of death.
Walt's drug kingpin employer, Gus (Giancarlo Esposito), had sent his unflappable enforcer, Mike (Jonathan Banks), to kill him.
Gus, in his coldly cunning way, had learned everything Walt knew about crystal meth creation by appointing an assistant, Gale, who watched and copied Walt's cooking techniques. With Gale (David Costabile) confident in his skills, Gus decided to terminate his business relationship with Walt — and Walt with it.
But Walt had another idea. He sent Jesse (Emmy winner Aaron Paul) to shoot Gale — an Italian-tune-singing, tea-sipping, lovable nebbish of a meth-maker — to make himself literally irreplaceable.
The ending left questions as big and open as the show's New Mexico skies. But the premiere answers several of them quickly. Here are five questions the premiere answers — though we would never deprive you the fun of finding out what those answers are.
1. Is Gale still alive? Though we saw Jesse pull the trigger, we never saw Gale die, and an odd camera angle seemed to raise doubts about whether Jesse hit him. (The show's creator and the director of the episode, Vince Gilligan, later said he didn't mean to be ambiguous — but viewers wondered if he was exhibiting Walt-like caginess to set us up for a later surprise.)
The premiere resolves whether Gale is dead or alive. But the opening scene will leave you awfully confused for a minute.
2. Will Gus let this stand? By "this," we're referring to Jesse going after Gale — not saying whether Gale lives or dies. You might think Walt's relationship with his boss couldn't get any more tense after Gus tried to have him killed. But Walt and Jesse's fate becomes apparent in a sequence as nerve-wracking as anything on television since — well, since the episode last season when Hank battled the cousins.
3. Speaking of Hank, how's he doing? Walt's DEA brother-in-law (Dean Norris) lost the use of his legs after his breathtaking shootout with the machete-wiedling cousins. In Walt's perfect world, Hank would be bedridden for life, unable to figure out that the Southwest's most potent meth is the product of his own in-law.
The premiere gives us some insight into what threat Hank still poses to Walt. Remember that at one point last season, only an RV door kept him from learning all Walt's secrets.
4. Has Walt no remorse? "Breaking Bad" doesn't muck around with a lot of precious symbolism. In fact, it may have exactly one symbol — a small piece of detritis that seems to call out to Walt, "IKNOWWHATYOUDID." It's the kind of thing most people would throw away. Not Walt.
5. Who's responsible for building Gus' insanely sophisticated meth lab? If you're like us, you've never even thought about this before. But the answer might make you watch last season all over again, with a completely different perspective.
"Breaking Bad" returns to AMC Sunday at 10/9c.
*[Editor's note: These things are subjective]