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Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad is a drama about Walter White, a chemistry professor who is diagnosed with lung cancer. He enlists the help of his former student Jesse Pinkman to manufacture and sell methamphetamine. AMC 2008-???


Episode 10 - Fly

24 June 2013

Credit AMC

Synopsis: Walt becomes obsessed by a fly trapped in the lab. Jesse is worried by Walt’s behaviour and puts sleeping pills in his coffee. But as Walt’s mind drifts he pinpoints the exact moment when he wished he had died and apologises for what happened to Jane.

The Good: This episode feels like a defiant attempt to turn a budget-saving bottle episode into a physical demonstration of the struggle inside Walt’s mind. There were one or two moments where this dragged but for the majority of the episode it was an intimate character study filled with tension.

The choice of the Fly in the lab feels appropriate for multiple reasons.

- It fits the plot dynamics really well. It’s a moving target which can allow for Walt’s spectacular pratfall and Jesse’s tense climb up the shaky ladder.

- It’s intrusive enough to be a plausible “contamination” while also being harmless enough to make Walt seem foolish to Jesse.

- “A fly in the ointment” is also another saying which captures a running motif in Walt’s life. When he is overwhelmed by his situation he focuses on a small imperfection that he can obsess on instead. When he received his cancer diagnosis (101) he responded to the Doctor’s dire warning by pointing out a mustard stain on his shirt. Recently we have seen him spend time cutting sandwiches, skimming pools (302) or fixing tables (307). Now apparently he wishes he was dead and not having to fret over being under threat from Gus so he fixates on the fly.

- It also reminds me of him cutting rot out of his house (210). Back then his remission upset his carefully planned death and left him not knowing what to do with himself. What dragged him from that funk was being Heisenberg but that path has now led him to the beautiful cage he finds himself in. He has the perfect meth operation where Gus carries all the risk and he can just cook. However the destruction of Hank and the Cousins leaves him in little doubt that his life is in danger. The empowering feeling of being the bad guy has now been replaced by the fear that he isn’t remotely bad enough to get out of this situation if things turn sour.

- So the Fly ends up being both Walt and Gus. It’s Walt because he feels like a tiny insect rattling around Gus’ lab waiting to be squashed. But in an unguarded moment he admits to Jesse that Gus is the real threat. And if he can’t kill a fly then how will he ever overcome Gus should he need to?

Into this richly written scenario we also have the lullaby which accompanied the fly in the series’ most oblique teaser to date. That choice was later revealed to be the moment when Walt wishes that he could have died. He had just made enough money to leave his family a legacy and would have disappeared before watching Jane die, seeing her father drag down more souls onto his ledger and see Hank shot to pieces in his place. It’s Jane’s death that weighs most heavily on him though and he genuinely apologises to Jesse for the loss he was in part responsible for. It definitely became tense when it seemed like Walt might reveal the whole truth. A revelation which would have combined with Jesse’s precarious perch on top of the ladders to lead to some horrible accident.

Instead Walt wakes up to find that Jesse had made a bed for him and done the cook without him. Once more he remembers the goodness in Jesse and warns him of the dangers of stealing meth from Gus (another detail he was obsessing on before the fly appeared). The distance between the two men has not yet been bridged though as Jesse angrily rebukes him for suggesting that he was stealing. We know Jesse is angry to have been found out and shown to not be as smart as he thought he was. But under the surface is still the pain of what happened to Jane. It’s the guilt over that act which prompts Walt to offer Jesse this kindness and its Jesse’s anger at the world over her death which makes him slap away the olive branch. It’s an excellent piece of writing, selling the consequences of that act a season later.

It was telling that Walt still thinks if he could find the right combination of words he could convince Skyler that what he’s done is right. He can’t reconcile her moral outrage with his conviction that life had wronged him. Similarly he admits that he had tried to calculate the odds of running into Donald at the bar. Yet another detail he’d attempted to turn into a scientific rationalisation. I liked the added admission that Walt would never just go to a bar to have a beer.

Amidst the regret and sweetness we got some nice comedy. Jesse smacking Walt in the face with his fly swatter was appropriate revenge while Walt’s initial tumble was a moment waiting to happen.

The Bad: There were moments in the first half of the episode where the argument over “contamination” felt a little repetitive.

The Unknown: Shouldn’t Jesse have broken those pills up before dropping them in the coffee? If that’s still Gale’s special brew then maybe it masks all.

When Walt says “It’s all contaminated” at the end does he mean the fly’s presence has affected the batch but it doesn’t matter? Or does he mean that its meth and therefore it is the poison Jesse called it?

Best Moment: Jesse up on the ladder and Walt nearly at the point of both sleep and admitting that he stood by while Jane choked.

The Bottom Line: A fascinating episode which gave hardcore fans a huge amount to chew on. I think it could make for hard work for someone not as invested in the show. It’s not filled with new revelations which feel significant either. It’s more a crystallisation of Walt’s state of mind and for me very satisfying.



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  • Count me amongst the rabid fans of this episode. I agree with what Kelly said below, and her comparison with Lady Macbeth is particularly apt. This episode re-humanizes Walt somewhat by showing him in a rare state of self-awareness and regret, and is one of the rare post-season-2 episodes to completely (albeit briefly) swing my reaction to Walt from anger back to pity. The reflexive nature of the episode makes it stand out, but it also marks it as a kind of episode that would be impossible without the steady plot progression of most of the show. So it is very different from and at the same time dependent on the rest of the show, which kept me from rating it even higher. Nevertheless, it would get my vote for the most gorgeous, most heartbreaking, and best written episode of the show to date. Bravo to writers Sam Catlin and Moira Walley-Beckett and director Rian Johnson. (I've seen his feature films "Looper" and "Brothers Bloom," and this episode is his best work.)

    This episode also features my single favorite image from the show: the close-up silhouette of the fly on the hellish red-orange light of the smoke alarm. It's the very last shot of "Fly." So haunting. It illustrates perfectly Walt's admission that "everything's contaminated." I think if I forgot the whole rest of the show I would remember that shot.

    Viewer score: 94 / 100

    Posted by dfault, 23/06/2013 5:50pm (7 years ago)

  • This must be the most controversial episode of Breaking Bad! I read a comment somewhere which I always remember when discussing this episode: `Breaking Bad fans can be divided into two groups, those who liked Fly and those who didn`t`. It seems this episode either people loved and understood what the writers were trying to do or hated and just thought it was a waste of time.

    I hardly ever rewatch this episode because the most interesting part comes from that one scene where Walt confesses. That scene was wonderful as Walt virtually does confess what he`s done and Jesse doesn`t know the extent of what he`s talking about. The writers are consistent here as well as we know that Walt volunteers too much information under the influence of drugs. The symbolism of the contamination of Walter White was done in a very original way and I also really liked the way Walt made the perfect moment speech, it is very clear that he had no intention of living this long and turning into Heisenberg. I guess this episode is one of the last times we see Walter White and not Heisenberg. I`m glad they made this episode as it is very original but I found it a bit frustrating as there was not a lot of plot.

    I am very curious as are most fans to see if we will get any more resolution on Jane`s death. I wonder if this is the confession and no more will come of it or if it will come out in the last 8 episodes, along with the poisoning of Brock.

    Viewer score: 67 / 100

    Posted by Kay, 16/06/2013 11:01am (7 years ago)

  • Fly is an episode I find so moving and captivating I feel like it could have been written for me. The Walt & Jesse relationship has always been at the core of my Breaking Bad obsession and Fly is a mesmerizing character study of their tragic bond. I love Fly's hauntingly long scenes and its lack of music which reminded of Buffy's 'The Body'. Mostly Fly reminds me of a piece of surreal philosophical theater with hints of Beckett and (yes) Kafka. And who wouldn't want to watch a two man play performed by Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul?

    I think Fly is a lot more significant than it gets credit for. If the purpose of this whole show is to transform a good man into a bad man then Walt's "perfect moment" speech is a huge milestone in that transition; a moment when Walt mourns for the loss of his own humanity and his missed chance at redemption. To my mind, when Walt says "It's all contaminated" at the end, he is referring to his own life. It's Walt realizing that all his relationships, all his aspirations, his principles, his soul - they have all become irreversibly corrupted. To me, Walt's fly is like the blood on Lady Macbeth's hands which will never be clean again.

    This episode also has several precious moments where Walt and Jesse come close to expressing how they feel about each other. For two men who'll go to great lengths to protect each other, they have never been very good at actually saying that they care. But in Fly, Jesse shares his memories of his Aunt's cancer and openly shows the same concern for Walt, worrying over his sanity and tenderly putting him to bed. Walt in turn tells Jesse about the time he had a drink with Jane's dad and how he took his advice never to give up on family. When Walt says "family" here, he means not giving up on Jesse when he was a heroin addict. Sadly Jesse does not know this and Walt cannot fully explain without also confessing that he let Jane die that night. Walt can't tell Jesse truth without hurting him more; a dilemma that is brilliantly illustrated by having Jesse balanced dangerously on the ladder, likely to fall and break his neck if Walt were to admit to his role in Jane's death. Walt desperately wants to save Jesse, who has become like an adoptive son to him, but Walt is also aware of how much he himself has contributed to Jesse's new self destructive mentality.

    You have said the rating system should reflect your emotional response and personally no episode of Breaking Bad makes me laugh, cry and shiver like Fly does. So I'm rating it 99% pure like the show's blue meth.

    Viewer score: 99 / 100

    Posted by Kelly, 13/06/2013 10:51pm (7 years ago)

  • I starting watching Breaking Bad a few months after the third season ended, during my first viewing I read numerous positive reviews of the third season including this episode. Lots of people were talking about how they loved the dialogue driven direction of "Fly".

    So as I watched this episode, I laughed a bit at Walt running around the lab and Jesse getting annoyed, through this 40 minute period I waited and waited but continued to be underwhelmed. I kept waiting for the writing to grip me, but nothing really stood out. I just didn't feel any of Walt's dialogue went far enough to be particularly interesting.

    I never believed that Breaking Bad had to have wacky hijinks and action scenes to be great television, I really gave this episode an honest chance, but it didn't work out.

    Viewer score: 45 / 100

    Posted by Ben F., 13/06/2013 3:55am (7 years ago)

  • The title, "The Fly" brings the movie by the same name to mind. The monster within reveals itself slowly, innocuously.

    The Story of a scientist flaunting ethics and taking shortcuts.

    A Fly: Such a tiny thing, representing a minor miscalculation. Walter's awareness of the true nature of his choices is only beginning to manifest here. But in true mad-scientist form he twists and writhes and eventually wiggles away to the dark side once again.

    Viewer score: 74 / 100

    Posted by Yogabon, 13/06/2013 2:12am (7 years ago)

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