The cast and crew of AMC's hit drama Breaking Bad repeatedly have likened the final season of the Emmy Award-winning series to a "freight train."
The first of the final episodes of the series, which follows television's favorite chemistry-teacher-turned-drug kingpin Walter White, aired Sunday, and it has received glowing reviews from TV critics.
The Hollywood Reporter's Tim Goodman calls the newest episode, entitled "Blood Money," a "superbly powerful, brilliantly executed return to the small screen."
Goodman goes on to write: "All we know -- and we need to be careful not to overthink it -- is that we're at the beginning of the end. And the first glimpse was just that. Magnificent, but just a glimpse. And next Sunday can't come soon enough."
Read what other critics have to say about Breaking Bad's season opener below:
Mary McNamara of The Los Angeles Times writes: "The narrative … moves back, to the moments just following the end of last season, when Hank (Dean Norris), Walter's cop brother-in-law, finally realizes that the drug lord he seeks is sitting just outside at a picnic table, drinking a beer. Hank's reaction to this sudden awful burst of knowledge fuels this first episode, reflecting more powerfully than any broken mirror ever could the terrifying chasm between perception and reality."
TV Guide's Matt Roush calls Bryan Cranston's performance as White "astonishing as ever."
Rousch adds: "Breaking Bad remains a powerful parable of irreparable moral rot, once again finding grim metaphorical resonance in Walt's recurring cancer. No matter how you look at it, things appear to be breaking bad for TV's most lethal anti-hero. Bad for him, good for us."
The Washington Post's Hank Stuever writes about Sunday night's episode: "Of Breaking Bad's many defining moments, it all seemed to be leading to this Sunday's episode, when we get to see Hank's reaction, as well as his next move. Even better? The moment Walt realizes the book [Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass] is missing. It's remarkable how far this one episode brings out the landing gear for the entire saga; it also indicates just how much needs to be accomplished to get us to the point of a couple of spooky flash-forward scenes that have hinted at the scope of the disasters to come."
James Poniewozik of Time praises the cable drama for continuing its fast-paced narrative.
"If you were worried that the final run of Breaking Bad episodes would be lackadaisical in ramping up the drama and advancing the story as the finale approached: well, you can stop worrying. The return, 'Blood Money,' meant business," he writes.
Sean T. Collins of The Rolling Stone applauds the show for its ability to remain humorous in spite of its heavy-handed subject matter, writing, "Like most of the genuinely Great TV Dramas (as opposed to their relentlessly dour imitators), Breaking Bad remains a very funny show."
He adds, "There's a certain technique Breaking Bad employs for laughs that speaks to a larger virtue of the show – that ability to root us in the present moment and force us to constantly evaluate what's gone before, based on new information."
In his four-star review, The New York Post's Michael Starr writes that the season opener "sets the stage for what promises to be a hyperactive, full-throttle ride over the next seven weeks."