Fly (Breaking Bad)
|Breaking Bad episode|
|Episode no.||Season 3|
|Directed by||Rian Johnson|
|Written by||Sam Catlin|
|Produced by||Thomas Schnauz, George Mastras, Peter Gould, Melissa Bernstein, Stewart A. Lyons|
|Featured music||Dave Porter|
|Cinematography by||Michael Slovis|
|Editing by||Kelley Dixon|
|Original air date||May 23, 2010|
|Running time||47 minutes|
"Fly" is the tenth episode of the third season of American television drama series Breaking Bad, and the 30th overall episode of the series. Written by Sam Catlin and Moira Walley-Beckett and directed by Rian Johnson, it aired on AMC in the United States and Canada on May 23, 2010.
"Fly" has been described as "arguably the most polarizing episode in Breaking Bad history", differing from most others in its slow pacing and relative lack of action. A few critics have considered it to be one of the greatest episodes of the series.
Walt, suffering from insomnia, stares up at his smoke detector's flashing light while trying to get back to sleep. Later, he arrives with Jesse at the superlab, where they begin making another batch of meth. At the end of the day, Walt calculates that their yield, while above what they are required to produce, falls short of what he expects. Jesse suggests it may be from other losses from spillage, but Walt insists there is another reason.
After Jesse leaves for the day, Walt sees a housefly in the lab which he fears could contaminate the meth-making process. He tries numerous means to swat it, even dangling precariously from the lab's catwalk, from which he slips and falls to the floor. When Jesse returns the next day, he finds Walt still in pain from the fall and demanding that they cannot start cooking until they get rid of the fly. Jesse worries about Walt's lack of sleep and suggests they go outside to figure it out. However, when Jesse leaves, Walt locks him out of the lab and goes back to find the fly. When Jesse disconnects the main power to the lab, Walt lets him back in so they can work together. Jesse gets some flypaper which they hang around the lab, as well as some sleeping pills that he secretly puts into Walt's coffee. He then recounts a story about his late aunt, who experienced auditory hallucinations as a result of her cancer spreading to her brain. Walt asserts that he is still in remission.
As they wait to catch the fly, the two talk about their families. Walt expresses that he should have died already and tries to think of the perfect moment to have done so: after he had enough money, after Holly was born, before his surgery and before Skyler knew what he'd been doing. He finally decides the perfect moment to die would have been the night Jane died, telling Jesse of his conversation with her father Donald. He tries to calculate the chances of meeting both father and daughter in different scenarios on the same night despite having never met either beforehand, but finds the odds too astronomical to calculate. Jesse is distracted when he sees the fly near the ceiling. As he tries to use a step-ladder to reach the fly, an increasingly-sleepy Walt seems poised to confess to Jesse about his role in Jane's death. Jesse tells him Jane's death was nobody's fault, but he still misses her. Jesse climbs back down and, seeing the fly land on the ladder, swats and kills it.
Jesse takes a sleeping Walt to a couch while he cleans up the superlab and prepares for their next batch. They later leave together, but Walt warns Jesse that if he has been skimming from their product, he will not be able to protect him if Gus finds out. Jesse denies taking anything and states that he isn't asking anyone to protect him. That night, Walt is again unable to fall asleep, and sees a fly landing on the smoke detector's flashing light.
"Fly" was produced as a result of the series' considerable budgetary restrictions and being unable to afford the $25,000–$35,000 needed to move the production trucks to a new location. Series creator Vince Gilligan remarked: "We were hopelessly over budget ... And we needed to come up with what is called a bottle episode, set in one location." The episode was written by Sam Catlin and Moira Walley-Beckett, and directed by Rian Johnson; it aired on AMC in the United States and Canada on May 23, 2010.
Along with extras in the laundromat, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul are the only two actors who appear in the episode. Series regulars Dean Norris (Hank), Betsy Brandt (Marie), and RJ Mitte (Walt, Jr.) are credited, but do not appear. Anna Gunn (Skyler)'s voice is heard in the episode, but it is reused audio from the second season episode "Phoenix".
Gilligan noted that the limited setting and cast allowed for a slower pace and deeper exploration of character traits and motives:
Even if financial realities didn't enter into it, I feel as a showrunner that there should be a certain shape and pace to each season, and the really high highs that you try to get to at the end of a season — the big dramatic moments of action and violence, the big operatic moments you're striving for — I don't think would land as hard if you didn't have the moments of quiet that came before them. The quiet episodes make the tenser, more dramatic episodes pop even more than they usually would just by their contrast.
The episode's original broadcast was viewed by 1.20 million people, which was a decrease from the 1.62 million of the previous episode, "Kafkaesque". It has the second-lowest number of viewers on its original broadcast of any season three episode, just ahead of "Half Measures" (1.19 million).
While not a favorite among audiences, "Fly" has been widely acclaimed by critics, particularly for its cinematography and its method of developing the relationship between Walter and Jesse. Donna Bowman of The A.V. Club gave "Fly" an A grade, praising Rian Johnson's direction and remarking that the episode "would have been stellar even with more conventional direction, but with the unhinged images and bold juxtapositions Johnson provides, it's one of the most distinctive hours of television we're likely to see this year." In TIME, James Poniewozik called it "the most unusual and very possibly best episode of Breaking Bad so far", comparing it favorably to The Sopranos' "Pine Barrens". In Entertainment Weekly, Ken Tucker said he would be "shocked if both Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul don’t use the episode for Emmy consideration", and lauded it for "[opening] up to become an opportunity for Walt and Jesse to explain more fully the sadnesses and regrets they have over everything". Alan Sepinwall, writing for HitFix, speculated that "Fly" may be "the best bottle show ever" and remarked in the subtitle of his review that the budget-saving approach ended up leading to "an instant classic". Emma Dibdin of Digital Spy, Kathryn Kernohan of Junkee, and Kaitlin Thomas of TV.com have all ranked it among the show's best episodes. In 2013, Matt Zoller Seitz, writing for Vulture, named "Fly" the greatest episode of the entire series, calling it a "perfect Breaking Bad episode and a perfect hour of television." The same year, it was ranked fifth in Entertainment Weekly's ranking of all 62 episodes from best-to-worst, with Darren Franich writing, "Some people despise 'Fly' for its artsy pretensions and its go-nowhere plot arc. Others frankly think it belongs much higher on this list. But we can all agree that "Fly" is one of the great bottle episodes of the new golden age of TV."
Negative reception toward "Fly" is primarily in the form of arguments that the episode is devoid of plot development and action. An unfavorable Tasha Robinson, however, also argued in The A.V. Club that the episode presents "a vision of Walt that did not in any way coincide with the mental image I’d built of him over the course of the series, as a self-justifying, angry man who could be a real badass when required: Instead, we have to see him as irrational and petty to the point of rank stupidity, taking moronic action after action that clearly risks his safety and well-being… all to catch a fly." Robinson "hated it", writing about the episode for an article in which numerous writers for the site discussed what they thought were the weakest episodes of great shows.
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