Summer TV Club: Breaking Bad: "Fly"
This week Jef, Pete and I decided to celebrate the mid-season premiere of Breaking Bad by rewatching one of the best episodes of the entire series, Season Three's "The Fly."
The first time I saw it, I remember being blown away. It is one of those episodes that stick with you, maybe even haunt you.
The episode finds a sleep-deprived and emotional wreck Walt (Bryan Cranston) becoming increasingly obsessed with the fact that a fly has found its way into his and Jesse's (Aaron Paul) hyper-clean, technologically advanced meth lab. The majority of the episode then follows Walt try and catch this fly, and in the process, he and Jesse reach a new level to their relationship. And that's basically the episode. There is a whole ton of background information about why the tension is so high and why Walt is quickly unraveling, but if you don't know about all that, you probably haven't watched the show and you should stop reading this and go forth and watch post haste!
ABBY: This is my favorite episode of Breaking Bad. It's so beautifully done, simple yet incredibly effective. Nothing really happens, yet everything happens at the same time. What did you guys think of it?
JEF: I'm a big fan of bottle episodes where everything more or less takes place in the same location and all the action is character driven. They need to be few and far between, but not only do Walt and Jesse get some fantastic progress in their relationships to each other, it helps the lab itself become almost a living being. Part of the draw is protecting the lab, and the attack of the fly personalizes what is otherwise just sterile metal.
PETE: I like the way it builds. You start with this miniscule annoyance that -- through the course of the episode -- expands to encapsulate everything that's taken place in the series to that point. By the end, you're almost as exhausted as Walter.
ABBY: Walt really begins to lose it in this episode. The fly is obviously a metaphor for the situation and how Walt perceives the situation. What is the metaphor for you?
JEF: I don't think it's a metaphor, I think it's an avatar. When you spend your life day in and day out under a crushing fear of failure and a sense of regret, you assign traits to things. If I can just kill this fly, it will all be alright. I do the same thing with video games. If I can just kill this boss, if I can just get 100 percent completion, then somehow the rest will work out.
PETE: Jesse's line about Walter not being his boss gets to the heart of the issue. Walter knows things have gotten out of hand, largely due to his actions, and holding up the cook is the only way he can fool himself into thinking he has any control left.
ABBY: Jesse tells this story about his aunt dying of cancer and that she starts to lose it, similar to what Walt is doing. Walt then tells him that he's in remission and it's not that. Do you think Jesse is perceptive, or perhaps has enough insight, about why Walt might be freaking out?
JEF: Yes I do. He's not smart enough to realize his "subtlety" is about as subtle as a tuba concerto, but he knows there's a connection.
PETE: I love Jesse, and I normally wouldn't have given him credit for such insight except Vince Gilligan is a goddamned genius.
ABBY: The monologue Walt gives about the day he thinks he should have died is touching and then crazy. If Walt had to die at some point throughout this show, knowing it well enough, when would you say he should have died? I think, actually, it may have been somewhat apropos if he died in his pool when the plane crashed. But then we wouldn't have had two more seasons!
JEF: This is my first episode, but I did a little back reading and I think it would have been the moment Skyler told him to leave... it just seems like that's a good moment to drop it all.
PETE: For me, I'd have been fine with him dying after it was revealed that he poisoned Andrea's kid.
ABBY: Yes, Pete! Do you think Walt saying he should have died that night (the night Jesse's girlfriend, Jane, choked on her own heroin-induced vomit and he just watched) because this was when Skyler finally caught him and his second cell phone or because he had past the point of no return by watching someone die and being alright with it?