(If you have yet to see Breaking Bad Season 3, this article may contain spoilers. Read on at your own risk.)

Perhaps series star Bryan Cranston simply wanted time to let his hair grow out. Well, whatever the reason, AMC has set a firm date for the return of the highly praised drug drama Breaking Bad.

Season 3 aired its final episode on a massive cliffhanger – and since then fans have been clamoring for more of Walter White (Cranston) and his partner Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). Come July 17, however, audiences will finally learn the fate of not only Walter White, but also of too-good-to-be-true lab assistant Gale (David Costabile) – last seen staring down the barrel of Jesse Pinkman’s gun.

Beyond a nerve-racking climax, season 3 showed why Breaking Bad is one of the best programs on television. By developing a series of complex characters – each with their own distinct storylines – the show and its creators are to be commended for keeping a growing (but never cumbersome) cast coming back after such a long hiatus. Everyone from Walter’s wife Skyler (Anna Gunn), DEA brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris), to his potential nemesis Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) will be making a return. Even smarmy strip-mall lawyer Saul (Bob Odenkirk) will be back for more in the fourth season.

Critically speaking, Breaking Bad is the heir apparent to AMC’s first-born, Mad Men. Though Matthew Weiner’s sophisticated and stylish period drama steals much of the limelight, Vince Gilligan’s masterful birth-of-a-criminal saga has landed numerous accolades for its acting – earning Cranston three straight Emmys for best actor in a drama series and a best supporting actor win for Paul as well.

All that praise doesn’t mean Gilligan is resting on his laurels, however.  The series’ creator says Breaking Bad season 4 will be some of the best the show has delivered so far.

“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.”

Take a look at the trailer released by AMC.

AMC has begun to develop quite a reputation for not only some of the best-scripted programs on television (cable or otherwise) – but also for lengthy development periods between seasons. Though the reasons behind the recent delays in Breaking Bad may differ greatly from the gap in the Mad Men schedule, the network has gratefully never been accused of rushing what many consider to be perfection.

It is this respect for quality, and determination to (mostly) allow their creators to do as they see fit with their programs, which gives AMC arguably the most diverse, intelligent and entertaining line-up on television. Oh, and they have zombies, too.

Breaking Bad season 4 premieres on AMC July 17.

Source: Deadline