Fly (Breaking Bad)

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"Fly"
Breaking Bad episode
Walter+Fly.jpg
Walter prepares to remove possible contamination from the lab by killing a fly that has gotten in.
Episode no. Season 3
Episode 10
Directed by Rian Johnson
Written by Sam Catlin
Moira Walley-Beckett
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 (2010-05-23)
Running time 47 minutes
Episode chronology
← Previous
"Kafkaesque"
Next →
"Abiquiu"
Breaking Bad (season 3)
List of Breaking Bad episodes

"Fly" is the tenth episode of the third season of the 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 polarising episode in Breaking Bad history". Differing from most others in its relative lack of action and slow pacing, it is considered by some critics to be one of the best episodes of the series.

Plot[edit]

Walt (Bryan Cranston) is suffering from insomnia, staring from his bed at the smoke detector's flashing light while trying to get back to sleep.

Later, he arrives with Jesse (Aaron Paul) at the meth lab concealed under Gus' industrial laundry service. 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 disagrees believing there is another reason.

With the product delivered, Jesse leaves for the day. Walt, while finishing up, sees a house fly in the lab which he fears could contaminate the 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 remains somewhat unsure, and worries about Walt's lack of sleep. Jesse suggests they go outside to get some fresh air and figure out a solution. However, when Jesse leaves, Walt locks him out of the lab and returns to try to get the fly. Jesse gets Walt's attention by disconnecting the main power to the lab, and Walt lets him back in so they can work together. Jesse goes out to get flypaper which they hang around the lab, as well as some sleeping pills that he secretly adds to Walt's coffee. He then recounts a story about his late aunt, who experienced auditory hallucinations of possums under her floorboards as a result of her cancer spreading to her brain. Walt asserts that he is still in remission.

As they wait for the fly to land on the flypaper, 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. Walt then tells Jesse of his bar conversation with Donald Margolis, Jane's father, on the day that she died. 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, who is unaware of Walt's direct involvement in Jane's death, is surprised to hear this, but before he can ask more, he sees the fly up near the ceiling. He constructs a make-shift support for a step-ladder, asking Walt to hold it steady while he reaches for it. Walt, nearly asleep, begs Jesse to not hurt himself getting the fly. For a moment, it appears that Walt in his sleepy state is about to confess to Jesse how he stood by while Jane choked to death, but he stops at apologizing for Jane's death. Jesse tells him Jane's death was nobody's fault, but he still misses her. As Jesse begins wildly swatting at the fly, a sobbing Walt falls asleep. Jesse fails to get the fly and with Walt asleep, starts to climbs back down, but sees the fly land on the ladder. He swats and kills it.

Jesse takes Walt to a couch in the lab to sleep while he cleans up 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 unable to fall asleep, and this time, a fly lands on the smoke detector's flashing light as Walt stares up at it.

Production[edit]

"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.[1] 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."[1] 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."

Reception[edit]

Viewership[edit]

The episode's original broadcast was viewed by 1.20 million people,[3] 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).[3]

Reviews[edit]

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."[4] 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".[5] 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".[6] 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".[7] Emma Dibdin of Digital Spy,[8] Kathryn Kernohan of Junkee,[9] and Kaitlin Thomas of TV.com have all ranked it among the show's best episodes.[10] 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."[11] 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."[12]

Negative reception toward "Fly" is primarily in the form of accusations that it features too little plot development and action. Tasha Robinson, a rare unfavorable critic, wrote in The A.V. Club that she "hated it" as part of an article in which numerous writers for the site discussed what they thought was the "worst episode" of a great show.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Vineyard, Jennifer (July 29, 2013). "Vince Gilligan at Breaking Bad Museum Exhibit: 'That's a Bit of a Spoiler'". New York City: Vulture. Archived from the original on August 1, 2013. Retrieved March 16, 2015. 
  2. ^ Murray, Noel (13 June 2010). "Vince Gilligan - Interview". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 31 July 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Julia (April 7, 2010). "Breaking Bad Season 3 Ratings". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved November 10, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Breaking Bad: "Fly"". The A.V. Club. May 23, 2010. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 
  5. ^ Poniewozik, James (May 23, 2010). "Breaking Bad Watch: Buzzkill". TIME. Retrieved January 10, 2017. 
  6. ^ Tucker, Ken (May 23, 2010). "Review of tonight's 'Breaking Bad': I know it's 'Lost' Night, but watch or record this episode, please". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 10, 2017. 
  7. ^ "'Breaking Bad' - 'Fly': The best bottle show ever?". HitFix. May 23, 2010. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 
  8. ^ Dibdin, Emma (November 25, 2013). "'Breaking Bad': 15 greatest episodes from the award-winning drama". Hearst Magazines UK. Retrieved January 10, 2017. 
  9. ^ Kernohan, Kathryn (September 30, 2013). "Breaking Bad’s Five Greatest Episodes". Junkee Media. Retrieved January 10, 2017. 
  10. ^ Thomas, Kaitlin (September 27, 2013). "Breaking Bad: Ranking the Series' 10 Best Episodes". CBS. Retrieved January 10, 2017. 
  11. ^ "Matt Zoller Seitz on the 11 Breaking Bad Episodes He Can’t Shake". Vulture. September 25, 2013. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 
  12. ^ "'Breaking Bad': We Rank Every Episode". Entertainment Weekly. September 30, 2013. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 
  13. ^ "Best TV show, worst episode". The A.V. Club. September 2, 2011. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 

External links[edit]