‘Breaking Bad’ off to thrilling start in what’s shaping up to be a sprint finish

SHARE ‘Breaking Bad’ off to thrilling start in what’s shaping up to be a sprint finish

Spoiler alert: Stop reading if you haven’t seen Sunday’s midseason premiere of “Breaking Bad.”

Who would have thought that a descending garage door could be so exciting?

This game-changer of a moment in the home stretch of “Breaking Bad’s” flawlessly-executed “Blood Money” episode Sunday surely sent viewers’ jaws dropping.

The cat had finally cornered the mouse; Hank had his Heisenberg.

“In the writers’ room, we thought about drawing that out a little longer,” creator Vince Gilligan told me earlier this month at the Television Critics Association awards ceremony, where “Breaking Bad” nabbed top honors as Program of the Year. “But then we realized: We only have eight episodes left.”

It’s shaping up to be an all-out sprint to the finish line Sept. 29.

“Blood Money’s” mano-a-mano in Hank’s garage — bound to go down as one of the best TV moments of the year, if not of all time — launches the story into its thrilling final arc.

Hank knows for sure it’s Walt.

Walt knows Hank knows.

It’s on like Donkey Kong.

“Tread lightly,” Hank is warned by Walt, who is, after all, The One Who Knocks.

Directed by Bryan Cranston, the expertly-paced episode opened with a chilling flash-forward. Walter White returned to his abandoned, boarded-up house to pick up his vial of ricin, the poisonous Chekhov’s gun that’s bound to be ingested by someone — maybe Walt himself — before “Breaking Bad” wraps for good.

Switching to the present, Walt is hanging with the family, working the car wash and seemingly committed to leaving his crystal meth-cooking days behind him.

“The past is the past,” Walt tells a despondent Jesse, who’s never been as skilled as Walt in the rationalization game. “Nothing can change what we’ve done. But now that’s over … There’s nothing left for us to do except to try to live ordinary, decent lives.”

Of course, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns for Walt. His cancer is back. And as he discovered with a fist to the face in Hank’s garage, his DEA brother-in-law finally knows the score.

While a key part of the story ended Sunday, the best part — learning Walter White’s ultimate fate — is just beginning.

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