Okay, I’m looking forward to every show coming out on the fall 2021 TV schedule, but I want to revisit one of my favorite TV shows ever. Breaking Bad was a phenomenon for the time it was on television, showing the world what true storytelling, action, and character development was. It went on to win several Emmy awards, some for the Breaking Bad cast, and one for the writing for one of the best Breaking Bad episodes.
While there are so many amazing episodes of Breaking Bad, I wanted to go over one of the more polarizing ones that people either seem to love or hate – and that’s “Fly,” the tenth episode of Season 3 of Breaking Bad. And today, I’m going to express why I feel that this episode deserves way more praise – and should be considered a masterpiece in storytelling.
SPOILER WARNING FOR BREAKING BAD.
Some Of Its Moments Are Genuinely Funny - Something Breaking Bad Needs Sometimes
Look, I know that Breaking Bad is all about the drug business. We live for the drama with the families, the high stakes, and everything else. One big reason why some people might not love "Fly" is its lack of action. It’s just two guys trying to kill a fly in a lab.
But “Fly” is exactly what Breaking Bad needs sometimes. I can’t tell you how many times I have snorted laughing watching Walt fall down to the floor when he tries to kill the fly, and folds himself in two on one of his canisters in the lab. Even when Jesse joins in not that much later, there are still some hilarious moments between the two, creating a fun episode to watch.
Breaking Bad is a show caked in drama. That’s why it won Best Drama Series more than once at the Emmy’s. However, in a show that is as heavy as Breaking Bad, sometimes we need that break. We need to see a slice of life between two people, who are just trying to kill a fly to proceed on with their day. Others may not like the break in the action, but it’s something that shows that “hey, these guys might be running a whole meth operation, but they’re still human and deal with regular issues.” Which also creates some hysterical settings.
“Fly” Is A Character-Driven Episode That Focuses In On Both Walt and Jesse
When it comes to television, something that always gets me going is the characters. If there are good characters who change over time, you have me hooked, because I love watching their story. Another complaint some might have about “Fly” is that they feel it doesn’t add to the story – but I’m here to say that’s the complete opposite.
At the end of the day, some of them are right – the episode really is about two guys trying to chase down a fly in their meth lab. However, if you look beyond that, this episode is character-driven in a way that Breaking Bad doesn't often have time to do. It doesn’t need all the flashiness of the meth deals and the gunfights and the stakes. This episode is meant to further the characters of Jesse and Walt, and give them a deeper meaning than before.
On re-watching this show, I often relate “Fly” to the recent extra episodes that The Walking Dead did for their tenth season. Those episodes weren’t meant to drive any plot, only to advance the story on characters that needed to be told. There was no serious action or craziness – just amazing conversations between characters. And that’s what “Fly,” is all about.
It gives Walt and Jesse the chance to actually sit down and have a conversation, rather than running for their lives all the time, whether that be from Gus or Mike or anyone else.
It Establishes A Deeper Connection Between Walt And Jesse On Breaking Bad
As I said before, “Fly,” is a character-driven episode. No other main characters are viewed during it, and it is solely acted by the brilliant talents of Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. During this episode, we really get to see these two men not only as partners but as friends.
Jesse, at first, shows concern for Walt, hoping they can work out the problem outside, but after Walt says they cannot continue until the fly is gone, he decides to come in and try and help. Through a series of precarious and hilarious bits to kill the fly, they are unsuccessful for most of the day. They decide to put up a bunch of flypapers and hope that the fly heads into it, while Jesse, still concerned about Walt’s lack of sleep, slips sleeping pills into Walt’s coffee.
That’s where we truly start to see these characters open up to one another, as Jesse reveals his true worry – he thinks that Walt’s cancer might have returned because his late aunt experienced “auditory hallucinations” as a result of her cancer spreading to her brain. Walt reassures him that he is still in remission, but that doesn’t quite ease Jesse’s worries.
Afterward, they talk about their families, where Walt opens up, saying he thinks he should have died already. He reveals the perfect moment where he should have told his family about what he was doing, before his surgery, and says that it would have been the night Jesse’s former girlfriend, Jane, died, where he reveals to Jesse about his conversation with Jane’s father.
However, when Jesse finally sees the fly and is poised to catch it, it seems that Walt was ready to confess his role in Jane’s death. But even when Walt revealed he spoke to Jane’s father, Jesse says that Jane’s death was nobody’s fault, even if he still misses her, something that silences Walt.
This, to me, is one of the absolute best conversations the two ever have in the series. It's raw and revealing, showing that they trust each other with valuable information about their lives, stories from their past, and where Walt was even willing to admit what he did wrong, but Jesse reassures him of what he thinks before Walt can even say anything. That conversation establishes a deeper connection between the two that we had never seen before.
The Fly Can Be Seen As A Metaphor For The Guilt Walt Feels In Breaking Bad
And here we are, on one of the biggest reasons I love this episode so much. “Fly” is amazing because the titular fly represents the guilt Walt feels – about everything.
All throughout this episode, we see Walt deal with guilt, whether that’s guilt about letting the fly get into the facility, or guilt about not telling his family, or guilt about Jane’s death and keeping that from Jesse, it’s constantly there, just like that fly buzzing in his ear, no matter how hard he tries to get rid of it.
Even so, in the end, Jesse kills the fly, finally disposing of its corpse and the craziness it caused both of them, seemingly ending the problem. However, that same night, Walt wakes up to hear buzzing again and stares ominously up at the smoke detector’s flashing light in his apartment. There, on the light, the fly appears again, even though they had “killed it,” it still haunts him.
Whether the fly was actually there or not is left rather ambiguously, but the meaning is still evident. Just like the fly returning to Walt, he can’t escape his guilt. No matter how he tries to spin it, saying that maybe Jane’s death was for the greater good, or that keeping it from his family for so long was the right choice, he will never be able to outrun his guilt from the choices he had made - just like even though the fly was dead, he still couldn’t outrun the buzzing that it brought.
It’s a beautiful and yet depressing message for the series’ main lead, one that speaks volumes the more Breaking Bad goes on and the more horrible acts he continues to do. Even when Walt was near his death in “Felina,” you can tell he still felt guilt for all that Jesse had been put through and that all stems back to this episode, where Walt seems to want to come to terms with the things he has done.
While “Fly" may not be for everyone, to me, it will always be one of Breaking Bad’s best episodes. Maybe, after reading this, your mind might have changed too.
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Big nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. Will forever hate season eight. Superhero and horror geek. And please don't debate me on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!