Brilliant and bleak, "Breaking Bad" starts it unrelenting march toward a nasty end this weekend.
The AMC series returns at 9 p.m. Sunday with the first of its final eight episodes. It's clear that the story will end horribly for Walt White (Bryan Cranston), the dying teacher who became a ruthless gangster.
But the episode is a reminder that "Bad" is far more than Cranston's showcase. Walt's main sidekick, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), has turned so despondent and remote that he tosses his drug money away. Walt's wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn),displays stunning fierceness.
Walt's brother-in-law, DEA agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris),suffers revulsion at learning terrible truths. Norris gives a haunting, furious performance. It may be the actor's finest hour on "Breaking Bad."
AMC starts "Talking Bad," a live discussion, at 11 p.m. Sunday to study the concluding episodes. Chris Hardwick hosts -- he performs a similar function for the "Walking Dead" talk show -- and the conversation will help because it's going to take a lot to get over "Breaking Bad."
Series creator Vince Gilligan is steering a harsh course deftly. "Bad" is so good. This is the drama event of the summer.