Breaking Bad – “Fly” – Review

While the world watched ABC to find out that the Lost island was actually located in a retarded kid’s snow globe, AMC put up an episode of Breaking Bad that will probably win this year’s Peabody.  “Fly” was part chamber piece, part slapstick comedy and completely fucking kick ass.  It was also one of the more hyper-stylistic episodes of the show, no doubt due to director Rian Johnson, the guy behind the kiddie film noir Brick and quirktastic con man movie Brothers Bloom.  Though I thought those two films reached diabetes-inducing levels of cute, after the strength of this episode I have gained some respect for the man, might even catch his next movie.

The bookends of the episode dealt with Walt first discovering that they’re missing a couple of ounces of meth, then at the end of the episode kindly warning off Jesse from stealing meth and Jesse, of course, telling Walt to go fuck himself.  But in the twenty-four hours between those two scenes we got Walt, and at the start of the next shift Walt and Jesse, trying to kill a fly (or as Walt would say, a “contaminant”) that is loose in the lab.  That’s fucking it as far as actual events in “Fly,” but what happens between our two main characters in the episode is revealing, powerful and extremely suspenseful.

The episode teases us with many possible explanations for why Walt is losing his shit over an insect.  At first it seems just like plain-old Walt determination, the type of shit we see evidence of in every episode (remember the episode where he attacked the mold in his house?).  After he falls (brutally, awesomely falls), it seems like maybe he hit his head and something got fucked up in there.  When Jesse shows up the next morning for work and Walt is still there working on the fly situation, it just seems like he needs rest.  After a bit Jesse asks if Walt is using the product, but that would be very much out of character.  Then Walt says a line to Jesse that implies that the danger and stress of working under Gus has given him a nervous breakdown.  Later, after he has drugged Walt in hopes that he’ll pass out so Jesse can start cooking, Jesse tells a story about his late aunt losing her shit about an opossum (Jesse’s ramblings on the shift from “possum” to the decidedly irish “opossum” was good shit) that turned out to be delusions brought on by brain cancer.  Walt assures Jesse that his cancer is still in remission, that he just saw his oncologist last week.

What it turns out is really bothering Walt, what the fly really represents is his loss of control.  In a brilliant monologue, Walt talks about how it wasn’t supposed to be this way, how he was supposed to die months back, not live and watch himself and his family life implode.  He was supposed to die and be remembered fondly as a provider and good man, but instead he lives on and continues to make meth, to be hated by his wife.  He even says he sometimes feels like Skyler would get it, that she would come back to him if he could just explain his criminal activities “one certain way,”  which in the current situation is kind of like saying “If I could just catch that damn fly…”

But then things turn when he says he knows when he should have died: the night Jane died.  It’s a harrowing scene, Walt’s drugged state making it possible that at any time he could let slip that he watched Jane die, that he could have saved her.  Instead he just says that he talked with Jane’s dad that night in a bar, that they talked about their kids, water on Mars.  We’d already seen Jesse discovering one of her old cigarette butts earlier in the episode in his car ashtray and this further mention of Jane endears him to Walt’s lost cause.  He’s standing up on that rickety fucking ladder, swinging away at the fly, and Walt is holding onto the base, barely able to keep awake and telling him it’s hopeless, and then he’s fucking apologizing for Jane – I damn near shit my pants.  Luckily he doesn’t give it away and, what do you know, Jesse is able to kill the fly already.  Too bad Walt passed out and missed it.  Though you’d think that this moment regarding Jane they share together would improve their as-of-late rocky relationship, Walt gently telling Jesse not to rip off Gus only enrages Jesse, brings them seemingly right back to square one.

But in addition to all this seriousness and thematic shit, there were a ton of huge laughs in this episode, from Jesse’s non-stop small talk (“Gatorade me, bitch!”) to Jesse gladly swinging at the fly on Walt’s face, “Fly” was a chucklefest (my lameness levels are dangerously fucking high).  I’m thinking these next three episodes that close out the season will be pretty action-packed, though I’m still not entirely clear on what the main threat will be other than Jesse’s side-dealing stupidity at this point.  But as ever, I could be totally wrong.  After all, who would have thought that two dudes trying to catch a fly would yield a great hour of TV?

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Nerd of Noir

I love crime/noir fiction, comics and movies. I think my opinions are web-worthy. Then again, what asshole doesn't think that their opinions deserve a blog?

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12 comments for “Breaking Bad – “Fly” – Review

  1. May 24, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Your analysis is all true, but the episode didn’t resonate for me. Too stylistic and slow. Ham-fisted symbolism in the ladder scene. I didn’t think it was in character for Walter to go off about that fly, but you mentioned the mold episode, which gives Walter’s actions context. Jesse still absolves Walter of his guilt over Jane,even though Jesse doesn’t know Walter’s involvement, when he says something like, “We would have ended up killing ourselves eventually, two meth-heads with all that cash.” Walter, go in peace. Role reversal in Jesse showing himself as a responsible worker, anxious to make their quota, while Walter is the nitwit. Still, yet, I found the episode annoying. Might think differently when I see it again.

  2. Glen
    May 24, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Are you stoned? That was the most God-Forsaken crap they have ever made. The worst episode by a VERY long margin.

    I know they were trying to be all clever by playing of the drama of them accepting the consequences of their action and learning to live with their BLAH BLAH BLAH…….

    By toying us with the possibility that Walt might reveal the events that occured on the night Jane died, but then wimping out at the last minute only made it more frustrating.

    Anyway you cut it it was just an hour of two guys chasing a fly around a lab. More importantly it highlights the fact that Breaking Bad, which I love, is circling the drain.

  3. May 24, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    I figured this one would be divisive. It was very much a “very special episode,” Peabody bait, but even if it didn’t fully resonate I don’t understand how it could totally enrage. I mean, it was funny, it had a mystery, and I thought the last half was very suspenseful. It’s kind of a moment out of time, an interesting way to give Walt a legit excuse to say what’s on his mind these days.

    Yes, it pussed out by not having Walt admit that he was there when Jane died, but that’s the way every episode goes. You think this will be the moment the other shoe drops, but then it doesn’t. If a shoe does drop, it will be in an unexpected way that yields different results than you first expected (think of Skyler figuring out that Walt is a drug dealer, or Walt figuring out that Gus was behind Hank’s shooting). Basically, I think suspense sequences will pay off with a puss out until, you know, we’re in the home stretch of the show (which I hope they announce soon). I’ve come to accept that, but I can see why you might think they show was “circling the drain.”

    Also, I don’t really know that Walt does feel absolved of killing Jane, just tired, physically and emotionally. Shit, I don’t think either of them are better off after this experience. Jesse is shown to still be a dick when they leave the lab at the end, most likely having learned nothing. Walt might be able to move on from his culpability in the death of dozens of people, but because he realizes he has no control over anything, not necessarily because of Jesse’s unwitting absolution. “Fly” was a moment, arguably a disposable (my most hated word in television!) one, but to my thinking a brilliant, exciting one.

  4. John
    May 24, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    I watched the first 30 minutes this morning and I was not impressed. This, for me, may go down as the worst episode ever but I will watch how the rest of the episode unfolds.

  5. John
    May 25, 2010 at 7:10 am

    So I watched the rest of the episode and I think this is the worst episode in BB’s history. Did we really need to spend one hour with these two chasing a fly? We could have had at least two other storylines going on in this episode.

  6. Gallant
    May 25, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    This episode was just great. It highlighted the acting skills and chemistry between Walt (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse (Aaron Paul). Both characters delivered stunning monologues. It felt like I was watching a great theatrical performance to be honest. And the tension was intense. I enjoy your insights NerdofNoir and am glad you thought highly of it too. This episode will be divisive one, obviously, from seeing the comments so far. This episode actually reminded me of an episode last season where they were stuck in the desert with a dead battery trying to figure it out in the RV. I think that episode was just pure Walt and Jesse too.

  7. Richie
    May 27, 2010 at 5:38 am

    There was so much about the inner life of the 2 characters and the relationship between them going on in that episode, plus some of the best funny moments the show has produced in ages.. if you think the whole thing was just “2 guys chasing a fly for an hour” and bemoan the lack of plot advancement then I think you’re watching the wrong series.

  8. May 29, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    When I first watched “Fly” I too thought it was just a “filler” episode, but reading all the comments, you guys have swayed my opinion.

  9. May 29, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Glad to see some other readers agree with me about this episode. Nice reference to the dead battery episode, Gallant.

  10. butterflyeffect
    October 20, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    I found this episode to be more artistic and theatrical and it was nice to have an unexpected change of pace-a few episodes before the finale. Just as the climax builds it’s a clever ploy to throw in this episode. It was fresh and different and I am truly appreciative of the level of genius that went into its making. It brings Walt and Jesse to life- showing them as ‘real’ people at just another ‘day-at-work’. Life does consist of these mundane every day nuisances… so why not depict them here? being true to the whole show in general and the fact that the characters are human and relatable.Not everything need be action packed and suspense filled. In addition the monologues provided an insight into the minds of both the main characters. i agree with both Nerd of Noir and Gallant(and I loved the dead battery epsiode for the same reasons)

  11. Don't know
    October 31, 2010 at 11:40 am

    I’m not really sure, but I equate the fly with The Lord of The Flies. A sort of metaphore for an evil nature or morality. Especially when Walt had Jesse help him kill it. Anyone notice the giant flies painted on the chemical canisters used to help make meth? Also, with Walt seeing or imagining the fly at the end and the fact that it was still there, whether real or perceived, and the fear he seemed to show as he saw it. Just my thougts.

  12. Chad
    November 22, 2010 at 5:08 am

    As someone who thinks Breaking Bad is amazing, like watching a movie each week rather than a TV series, I still have to say ‘Fly’ was awful. I appreciate all the insightful comments in your review, but it did not make for good TV and I cannot imagine myself ever watching that episode again – it was the sort of episode that sends warning signals to the Network that not all is well in the creative department. More episodes like that and I fear for the future of the show.

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