By Dan Snierson
March 21, 2010 at 12:00 PM EDT

Image Credit: Ben Luener/AMCAll hail the return of the kingpin: Sunday at 10 p.m. on AMC, we begin the third season of the critically acclaimed drama Breaking Bad, which promises a whole new set of twisted twists for Walter White, a.k.a. Heisenberg, the terminally ill chemistry teacher who began moonlighting as a meth chef to support his family. Bryan Cranston, who has won two Emmys for his role as White, gives the goods on Bad‘s new season. [Your SPOILER ALERT begins here.]

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What’s the overriding theme this year?

BRYAN CRANSTON: The first season was about the decision that he’s made. The second season was a study of the ramifications of that decision — all the things that he underestimated, which were far and wide, and how it was starting to unravel his life. And the third season really capsulizes his adapting to his new life. How he is changing as a person in order to function, to stay alive, and to back up what he’s already done. And he’s gone so far down the road that if he turned around, he wouldn’t even see anything recognizable. He’s so far down, he has to keep going. In some ways, he’s starting to accept the seductive powers that this has had on him. He has started to learn about himself, and that any person can succumb to greed or avarice or lust of power. He’s been seduced by this situation, and it’s not unlike a sexual relationship where you just get seduced by a certain situation and you can’t get out of it. I’m not saying that he’s Tiger Woods—I’m not saying that he’s not Tiger Woods either. [Laughs]

The legend of Heisenberg seems only to be growing. How big does this thing get?

It gets very big. He’s entered into a world that he has no skill set for and he’s unaccustomed to it. He doesn’t know the depths that it can go to, and this season he’s starting to learn. He’s absolutely certain that he won’t be doing this anymore, and then he’s given an offer he couldn’t refuse. And I think it’s very honest and very real. That’s what money does. It skews your morality. It plays havoc with your senses. And it blurs. It makes you dizzy and you tend to forget who you are. All of the sudden he’s unclear about his motives: Who am I really doing this for?  How do I accomplish this?

At the beginning of the season, we see two scary men from a Mexican drug cartel headed north to find Walt. What can you share about this situation?

Walt thinks of himself as a small player—an independent contractor—but what he doesn’t realize is you can’t make that big a splash and not have the ripple effect touch other people. So he’s starting to realize that butterfly effect, and it’s come back to haunt him because he’s stepped on some toes that he didn’t even know he was stepping on…. The cartel has sent these guys to straighten things out, and they’re just cold-blooded killers. They have no emotion connected to it all. All they’re interested in is keeping the family business in order. And blood runs deep, so they’re going to come into contact with people who are related or who have connections that will either help them or hinder their progress in what they want to do throughout the season. And it gets very webby. It’s like a big maze. It spreads out, I think, for the specific reason of showing the audience and Walt just how big this thing is, and how many people and families are connected and dependent on this business.

The marriage of Walt and Sklyer (Anna Gunn) is crumbling. Any hints about what will happen with those two?

The conceit that Walt was hanging onto was: I have to keep [the meth business] as a secret from my family. If she finds out, game’s over. I’ve lost. Because the whole reason I’m doing this is to provide for my family, but if I don’t have my family, there’s no one to provide for. And what was really brave of the writers and [series creator] Vince Gilligan…  in that first episode, she finds out. Now they’ve put themselves in a corner and have to find a way to get out of that corner. And that’s always compelling to watch: Everything we thought and believed to be true is changing again. There’s going to be some new truth that’s created. So Walt has to figure out: Is this the end with Skyler? Obviously and rightfully she’s disgusted and nauseous by what she finds out. So he’s lost. But he hasn’t lost his children. He has a legal right and an emotional right to them, so he’ll be maintaining that relationship with them. And it puts Skyler in a very difficult position, which is always good to watch.

Meanwhile, Jesse [Aaron Paul] has been in rehab. How is he different now?

He’s gone through a transformation. He’s lost someone that he loved [Jane, played by Krysten Ritter] and that’s another secret that Walt can’t reveal — that he had anything to do with that. But some of that slips during the season and Jesse starts to wonder and tries to put some pieces together….  This season is about adjusting to your new life. You’ve made this decision, you’ve been slugged in the face, and now you’re starting to slowly understand how it works, and what you need to do to survive, and I think both of them are in a metamorphosis this season.