James Hibberd
July 18, 2011 AT 05:11 PM EDT

AMC’s critical darling Breaking Bad returned Sunday night with a tense episode that delivered its highest ratings ever.

A total of 2.6 million viewers and 1.5 million adults 18-49 tuned into the premiere telecast, up a whopping 30 percent from its third season debut more than a year ago. That’s still down slightly from the fourth season debut of Mad Men, for those keeping score on that front, though edges out the Madison Ave. drama in the adult demo.

Breaking Bad has managed the rather improbable feat of growing in the ratings every season on AMC. (I mean, it’s only improbable when you look at how ratings normally behave, not if you’re a fan of the show.)

Read more:

‘Breaking Bad’ season premiere recap: Death By Box Cutter

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