Aaron Paul, left, and Bryan Cranston in "Breaking Bad." (Ursula Coyote / AMC )
For four seasons, Walter White has climbed to the top of the drug world and for "Breaking Bad's" final season, he's at the top of his game and at the top of the ratings. The fifth season premiere of the AMC series grabbed the show's biggest audience to date, with 2.9 million viewers.
That audience was up 14% from the previous season premiere and posted an impressive 34% increase in the coveted 18-49 demo. All told, the season premiere grabbed 3.5 million viewers, factoring in the encore airing later in the night.
The high rating is especially surprising considering that AMC was not carried by Dish Network on Sunday night due to a fee dispute. That was 14 million potential viewers without AMC. However, that doesn't necessarily mean they didn't see it. AMC streamed the season premiere online for Dish customers.
Though this is the final season for the Emmy-winning series, it doesn't mean it's going off the air soon. AMC has chosen to break the final season up into two segments airing nearly a year apart. After the current eight-episode airing, the last eight episodes will air in the summer of 2013.
At the San Diego Comic-Con International over the weekend, series creator Vince Gilligan revealed that the show's final season will take place partially in Hamburg, Germany, home of the multinational corporation that helped fund the drug empire of White's (now-deceased) rival Gus Fring.
Despite the impressive ratings, "Breaking Bad" isn't the highest-rated show on AMC. That honor still goes to "The Walking Dead," which drew a record 8.99 million viewers.
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