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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Walt White's wife has left him, his crystal meth partner in crime has gone into rehab, and his desperate double life as a chemistry teacher turned drug lord is in danger of unraveling.
But will he return to the straight and narrow? Don't bet on it when "Breaking Bad" returns for its third season on cable TV channel AMC on Sunday.
"The actions he took are starting to have consequences. The chickens are coming home to roost," said actor Bryan Cranston, who has won two Emmys for his performance as White in the darkly humorous drama series set in New Mexico.
"My character is turning from Mr. Chips into Scarface. He is starting to become a completely different person," he told TV reporters recently.
Season No. 3 picks up almost immediately after the end of its predecessor with an airplane collision over the White household. Walt's wife Skyler confronts her outwardly mild-mannered husband about his habitual lying, then decides to leave him.
The early focus of the new episodes shifts toward Skyler, played by Anna Gunn, as she begins to uncover the true nature of Walt's secret life as a major methamphetamine maker and dealer.
"You can't keep this character in the dark forever. She is no dummy," Gunn told TV critics at a recent panel presenting the new season of shows.
"You start to see the cracks in her character and the complexities underneath. It has been really interesting seeing her character go down that road in this season."
The title "Breaking Bad" comes from a southern U.S. saying to "break bad", which is used to describe people who have strayed from the right path.
In Walt White's case, he decided to use his chemistry skills to cook up and sell crystal meth to pay for his medical bills after being diagnosed with inoperable cancer.
If the cast give away few secrets about the plot, it's because they have little idea themselves of how their characters will develop until they receive scripts from creator and director Vince Gilligan.
"We are as much surprised as the viewers are," Cranston said. "You have a kind of anxiety and anticipation about what is going to happen. It is never boring."
AMC is running a "Breaking Bad" marathon starting on Friday featuring six of the best episodes in the run-up to Sunday's season 3 opener.
The cable TV network also has taken the show on a mobile theater truck tour to major U.S. cities in a bid to boost audience ratings for the critically-acclaimed but little seen drama. Although audiences have grown over the last two years, the show is regularly watched by less than two million people.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte