Reflection On Breaking Bad: Opinion Essay
Today I want to share my thoughts about an episode from the series Breaking Bad. This episode has been the focal point for criticism in an otherwise widespread critically acclaimed show. Ever since its air date back in May of 2010. Season 3’s episode 10 ‘Fly’, is a heavily debated part of the series amongst viewers for its seeming lack of purpose. But I would like to take a deep dive into the episode as it is to my belief that it should be seen as a series highlight. The key elements of what makes the show so great are at an all-time high within Fly. The brilliant cinematography and dialogue are some of the shows best here. Which talents led to defining moments of character development from the two main casts.
The overwhelming majority of the common viewer base often discard fly. Suggesting it as an easily skippable episode, since it is so distinctively different from what they came to expect. Even suggesting its mere existence challenges the perceivable stature of the entire season. I argue the polar opposite, that this is a must-watch piece of television history that set the standard amongst the industry. The negativity possibly stems from the production process the episode went through. AMC was facing a short-term budget dilemma and as a result showrunner, Vince Gilligan was persuaded enough to produce what’s called a bottle episode. Bottle episodes are episodes set out to be produced cheaply by restricting the number of actors and locations. Doing this greatly reduces the cost, this one specifically only utilized a single onset location so moving cost wasn’t a factor. The other factor being cast and crew cost were also significantly cut down to just two main cast members. I couldn’t find the production cost for this episode but the usual budget allowed for $3 million.
In the case of the fly, these restrictions and sacrifices made didn’t holt the crew from making what I believe to be one of Breaking Bads pinnacle episodes. It’s a true testament to film making the accomplishments fly achieved with such limited venture opportunity at hand. But I’m glad it happened as its one of my favorite character studies I’ve partaken in and witnessed within modern media. Whether that type of content is entertaining to you or not I feel it is determined by your engagement with the material. It’s easy to miss fly’s ingenious imagery, visual metaphors, and the very apparent focus on how repeated actions lead to consequences upon first viewing. But once you come back to the episode it’s a whole another story with how well it deeply captivates all Breaking Bads core elements into this wonderful 47 minutes of the now nostalgic film.
The plot is as follows, Walt discovers that a fly has entered the lab and becomes obsessive. Wanting to kill it at all cost as he sees it as possible contamination to the batch. All the while his partner Jesse trying to urge him against this unreasonable obsession. That’s it, subplots and massive action sequences are non- existent. At most, you get some comedic relief that is seen when the two are attempting to kill the fly. Sounds a bit boring right? Well if you watch the episode, you’ll quickly come to realize that the story is never about the fly, but the two men Walter and Jesse trying to find meaning in it. The fly is capable of many different interpretations. From Walt’s guilt for the death of Jesse’s girlfriend to the loss of power over his operation from Gus Fring’s influence. He is becoming unhinged and this is shown throughout the episode by his obsessive behavior over the things he can’t control in hopes to gain back power. He is well aware that even the smallest details can have a major impact on his life if he isn’t careful.
As the series progressed, Walt became more ruthless and less sympathetic in his actions. I believe Fly foreshadows the dramatic choices Walt makes later in the season. The desire to kill the fly comes from his inept ability to control his situation. A characteristic of Walt’s shown throughout the show is his thirst for power. After he discovered his capability of making an impact through his intellectual strengths, he becomes an addict. Wanting more and more stroking his already egotistical pride. So not being in control scares him, Fly shows the lengths he’s willing to go to regain what he perceives as control. This mirrors his actions towards relationships within the show. He will wipe out anything or anyone that isn’t a part of his plan. His disgust for Imperfection can be seen from the very first episode, so when one occurs, he begins to psychologically fall apart. This combined with his overwhelming guilt leads to a great amount of emotional intensity in Fly.
The dialogue in the episode highlights how the two perceive one another. In retrospect, we got to see what I think is the two greatest monologues of the entire series. One sad but telling one from Jesse about his aunts struggle with cancer. Out of concern suggests that Walt is going through a hallucination. As Jesse was yet to see the fly, he believes Walt has manifested the fly of something else. Whereas Walter’s monologue is solely coming from a place of regret. Fly starts with Walt staring into the depths of his ceiling, distracted by a fly, unable to sleep. The episode concludes the same way bringing events full circle. Walt is suffering from guilt which is hinted via his insomnia. He is feeling an overwhelming amount of guilt due to his involvement in Jesse’s girlfriend’s death. He contemplates death with Jesses, expressing what he thought would have been the perfect moment. He concludes that the night Jane died would have been it. Just after his conversation with her father Donald. It came apparent that he already had these thoughts about death in the past. Notes that once he tried calculating the odds of that scenario happening but found the odds were too astronomical.
Later, in the episode, Jesse manages to slip sleeping pills into Walt’s coffee to try and ease his mind to sleep which would allow him to finish off the batch. As Walter was dozing off his guilt almost forced him to spill the truth about Jane. Jesse not understanding the nature of his advances accepts his apologies, reinforcing his belief that it wasn’t anyone’s fault. At that point, Walt was out cold and Jesse put him in the restroom, unaware of his desire to confess. We get a great sense of what the two characters desire from each other. Jesse urns for a sense of connection, while Walt wants a chance at redemption. Scenes like this go to show how brilliant the writing team is and what a great tool it can be for entertaining television.
Vince Gilligan and the writers took a moment to explore these two characters in an otherwise chaotic season. Simply visualizing how these two approach problems develop a further understanding of how these characters interact with one another. Walt uses his advanced knowledge in science and his logic to solve complications. While Jesse tends to act instinctively, reluctantly helping Walt without fully understanding the weight of his actions. It’s a stark difference in how their characters behave, which due to Walt’s ego results in constant conflict. We see how toxic their relationship is, how they are unable to accomplish a simple task without relentless abuse. But they need to feed off each other as they are fighting internal conflict which desires comfort. They have a long history of this seen throughout the show and the same is seen in Fly. The issue is only resolved once Walt’s resentment is put to rest, Jesse left to work on his own is finally able to perform without judgment. Walt unaware or in this case unconscious acknowledgment of events he has caused. This is often the case on Breaking Bad, Jesse left or told to deal with the dirty deeds till while we wait to see it come back to haunt them.
Astonishingly, the writers of breaking bad managed to do all this with just a fly. The shows entire plot summed up in just this one episode. Walt’s obsessive nature somehow convincing Jesse to reluctantly follow him no matter what even if it causes him a lot of harm. Jesse wants to feel relevant somehow, he desires purpose, he excels when given a goal and positive reinforcement. Walt knows this and willing manipulates jesses to the benefit of himself. Constantly putting Jesse down all the while praising him when in need eventually tolls on Jesse. Throughout the series Jesses emotions towards Walt vary from anger and frustration to eventual resentment. This is especially evident in Fly however; Walt is sympathetic towards the end of the episode as he attempts to come to terms with how much he has hurt Jesse. As seen, it’s never resolved within the actual episode and Jesse doesn’t learn the truth of Jane’s death till late season 5. What is seen is Jesse’s emotions toyed with yet again by a man slipping ever so slightly into insanity. In the end, everyone is more damaged than when they began.