Break out the beakers and start cooking! (Don’t really do that.) “Breaking Bad” is officially back in action with its fifth season premiere tonight (July 14), marking the beginning of Walter White’s final 16-episode free-fall from grace. Will the cancer-stricken science teacher turned ruthless drug kingpin find redemption? Or is he beyond saving? We’ll start to get the scope of Walt’s ultimate fate as early as the first scene of the season premiere, we promise you that.
Before the new season begins, however, it would be wise to look at the past. A lot happened during the epic chess match that was season four, so much that it would be easy to forget it all. With that in mind, keep on reading for everything that happened to the artist known as Heisenberg in season four!
» Gus Fring, lord and master of Pollos Hermanos and an elaborate crystal meth empire, was ready to pull the trigger on troublesome cooks Walter White and Jesse Pinkman when season three drew to a close. But his plan to kill and replace them with soulful scientist Gale Bedeker backfired when Walt had Jesse seek out and assassinate Gale. In retaliation, Gus ruthlessly murdered one of his own employees right in front of Walt and Jesse, sending out a decisive message: you do not f— with the Fring.
» Jesse and Walt reacted to Gus’ actions in very different ways. Walt embraced the lethal game of chess and became obsessed with finding new, increasingly inventive ways to kill Gus and save his hide. Jesse, on the other hand, coped with what he did to Gale by throwing raging parties and keeping himself on emotional lockdown. For Gus’ part, he moved forward by completely shutting Walt out and installing monitors in the lab to keep tabs on his cooks. Eventually, he drove a further wedge between Walt and Jesse by essentially absolving the younger of the pair and putting him to work, empowering Jesse in a way no one had ever previously done.
» Meanwhile, Hank Schraeder, still impossibly messed up from his run-in with the Cousins, abandoned his DEA instincts in favor of pursuing a mineral collecting hobby. Like Jesse, he shut himself off to the world, pushing away his wife Marie to the point that she returned to her kleptomania habit. After bailing her out of big trouble, Hank was courted once again by the DEA to look over materials recovered at Gale’s home. With the help of a very drunk and way-too-proud Walt, Hank found himself back on the hunt for the elusive Heisenberg, with all signs pointing towards one man: Gustavo Fring.
» The meticulous life of Mr. Fring began unraveling throughout season four. Walt was a massive thorn in his side, yes, but he had bigger fish to fry, including Hank and the DEA, and the Mexican drug lord Don Eladio south of the border. Eladio was the man who killed one of Gus’ business partners several years earlier, and his comeuppance finally came in season four when Fring took Mike and Jesse down to Mexico and slaughtered the entire cartel. Mike took a bullet to the gut and had to stay in Mexico to recover, while Gus returned to the U.S. with more power than ever before, Mr. Pinkman right behind him.
» In a further move to remove Walt from the game, Gus tried to convince Jesse that he could graduate from sous chef to main meth cook. But Jesse wouldn’t take on the job if that meant the murder of Walter White — a strong testament to Jesse’s character, considering that he and Walt got into a partnership-ending fist fight just a few episodes earlier. To preserve Jesse’s loyalty, Gus agreed not to kill Walt. Instead, he put a hit out on Hank, whose investigation into the crystal meth case was getting way too close to Gus for comfort.
» With his back against the wall and his family’s safety on the line, Walt took a now-or-never stance in his war against Gus Fring. He was able to convince Jesse to join his cause once again after the son of Jesse’s girlfriend, Brock, was found badly poisoned, with all signs pointing to Fring as the poisoner. After their initial attempt to assassinate Gus failed, Walt turned to the enemy of his enemy, the wheelchair-bound and bell-ringing Hector Salamanca, the last of Gus’ nemeses from the Eladio days. Hector visited the DEA, communicated some obscenities, and returned to his nursing home — all part of a ruse to lure Gus out into the open. Fring took the bait and paid Hector a visit, lethal injection in hand. But it was Hector (and Walt) who had the last laugh as he rang his iconic bell with maniacal fury, triggering a bomb that blew Gus Fring straight to hell .
» The war was over. Gus lost, and Walter White won. But at what cost? In the closing moments of season four, it was revealed that Walt was the one who poisoned young Brock, all in an attempt to get Jesse back on his side. It was yet another sign that after all that he’s been through, Walter is no longer breaking bad — he is officially broken.
Are you watching “Breaking Bad” tonight? Let us know in the comments section below or hit me up on Twitter @roundhoward!