Breaking Bad
Credit: Ursula Coyote/AMC

Forty-seven days from now, things are going to get bad again. In a good way. On July 17, AMC’s Breaking Bad returns for a fourth season, and if this cunning drug-world drama went out with a bang last season — as Jesse appeared to have shot Gale per Walt’s instruction — one can only imagine what nefarious misdeeds are in store for us now. Says series creator Vince Gilligan: “We try very hard to make this show as exciting and as nail-biting as possible, and I think in season 4 we’ve done some of our best work yet along those lines. There are going to be twists and turns that people will be talking about for a while to come, I believe.” To get yourself ready, check out these character-by-character teases, courtesy of Gilligan and series stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. (And for those who need a SPOILER ALERT, consider yourself warned….)

Walt (Bryan Cranston) Our chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-maker manages to get himself in even more trouble, if that’s even a mathematical possibility. “Walt will find himself less enchanted with the world of meth production than he currently does,” says Gilligan. “He journeys deeper into this criminal underworld, and then much of season 4 is Walt’s effort to get out from under and overcome in a very dangerous battle of wills.” In other words, brace yourself for an epic struggle between Walt and Gus (Giancarlo Esposito).

“In many ways [Walt and Gus] have great admiration and respect for each other, for their specific abilities, and yet they’re adversaries,” says Cranston. “As much as they attempted to become a union, they’re too much at odds, which is interesting because they’re very similar in many ways and yet in a few key ways, they’re very different. It’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out, and it is a match of wits all the way through the season.”

Skyler (Anna Gunn) Walt’s relationship with his wife, Skyler, which has been in a downward spiral, will move in new directions this season. “Oddly enough, as his professional life gets darker, he and Skyler will come to some sort of an understanding,” says Gilligan. “We’ll see them partnered in a business, which will bring them together — and also cause a lot of friction. And the way they procure this business is a lot of fun…. It’s interesting that Walt has long felt that what he does, he does for his family, and in that sense he and Skyler share a trait. We will grow to, if not agree with many of her choices this season, respect her more this season for her mental toughness and pragmatism and desire to do right by her family.”

Adds Cranston: “Skyler sees capabilities in [Walt] that she’s never realized, and it changes her outlook. For the first time, she’s seeing her husband as a dangerous man — an intimidating, powerful man. And she gets involved, and she has some very good ideas and surprising ideas to Walt. So they become closer in at least one way.”

Jesse (Aaron Paul) Whatever happened when Walt’s partner, Jesse, fired his gun will have a profound impact on him. “It definitely echoes throughout the season,” says Paul. “Just him going up to that door and pulling the trigger, whether he killed Gayle or not, I see as definitely crossing that bridge, and now he’s living in a whole other world of just turmoil. All of last season, he was dealing with the loss of his girlfriend — he blamed himself, he had no idea that Walt had anything to do with it. So now Jesse is morphing into yet another person within himself, just struggling with his inner demons. It’s pretty intense.”

One way that manifests itself: Jesse distracts himself with debauchery. “Jesse’s going to have the party to end all parties,” says Gilligan. “We’re going to find out Jesse has some pretty amazing Hugh Hefner-ish genes, and he’s going to have the parties of all parties this season, but probably not one you would want to attend. Not after the first few days anyway.” He also finds himself with a new partner in crime in the form of a familiar face. “It’s a budding romance in the drug world,” hints Paul cryptically. “It’s a beautiful thing, and I know people will like it.”

Hank (Dean Norris) Everybody’s favorite DEA agent will unhappily embark on a difficult rehabilitation process after taking a few bullets in that chilling shootout. “Hank definitely has a very long road to recovery,” says Gilligan. “[But] even though things look pretty dire in the early going, he will get his mojo back as the season progresses in some fashion, although probably not in the fashion that you’d expect.”

Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) “People are going to have nightmares about Gus Fring,” declares Gilligan. Get set to see the full power of this drug lord in his battle with Walt and learn more about his empire and past. “This is a very interesting and complex character who is also very smart, and even when he scares us, we’ll always find ourselves respecting his intelligence and his will and his great ability to do the things that he does,” notes Gilligan.

Saul (Bob Odenkirk) Walt’s sleazy lawyer will be “pulled deeper and further into places he doesn’t want to go,” and he’ll work with a couple of new characters whom “we’re going to enjoy being around,” notes Gilligan. One is his new bodyguard, who is “exactly the kind of bodyguard you would expect Saul to hire.” And, of course, Mr. Goodman won’t disappoint in the fashion department. “We can expect more in the way of amazing, flamboyant and eye-piercing sartorial choices,” quips Gilligan. “Saul’s wardrobe could take the paint off of a fence.”

Marie (Betsy Brandt) Skyler’s klepto-sis may wind up stealing your heart this year. “She’s got her quirks and her peccadilloes, and we love her for that, but this season we’ll really respect her for personality traits that she had previously not revealed to us,” says Gilligan. “She works very hard to nurse her husband, whom she loves very much, back to health. And [through] that struggle, we’re going to appreciate her more because she’s a much more substantial person than some of us might have thought.”

Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte) Walt’s son turns the big 1-6, which means only one thing: He’s getting a car. “I’m looking forward to people seeing the car that he gets from his loving dad,” chuckles Gilligan. “It’s going to be one of the highlights this season.”

To read more about Breaking Bad’s fourth season, pick up a copy of EW’s Best of Summer issue, on newsstands now.

(Twitter: @dansnierson)

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Breaking Bad

Walter White descends into the criminal underworld.

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