AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 3, Episode 10: “Fly”
Directed by Rian Johnson
Written by Sam Catlin & Moira Walley-Beckett
* For a review of the previous episode, “Kafkaesque” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Abiquiu” – click here
Walt (Bryan Cranston) isn’t getting much sleep lately. Doesn’t help when it comes to working at the factory. He and Jesse (Aaron Paul) are busy cleaning the equipment, as the latter talks about animal stuff he watched on TV and complains about their work conditions, lamenting a lack of “equipment maintainer guys.”
Later, Walt finds a discrepancy in the counts of their batches. It’s nearly half a pound off. Certainly the younger of the cooks won’t admit to siphoning off meth for his own purposes. It’s only a matter of time before Mr. White figures it out, he’s too keen. After Pinkman leaves for the night, Walt remains behind to finish up.
This is when he’s confronted with a fly in the lab, just as the latest batch is set to cook. He becomes obsessed with trying to kill it, the fly’s too fast. Walt chases after it with his clipboard, doing nothing except make a racket. He turns to using a shoe when the fly goes too high for him, resulting in shattered glass, as well as a trapped shoe. Walt gets out on the railing trying to loosen his shoe, only to slip and fall when he tries killing the fly, too. He tumbles into one of the vats, then spills onto the floor below like a Wile E. Coyote gag.
When Jesse returns to the lab – after discovering an old cigarette butt belonging to Jane (Krysten Ritter) in his car’s ashtray – he finds his partner using “positive pressure” to try solving his fly problem. Walt’s worried about contamination in their product. He tells Jesse about the house fly. The younger of the two doesn’t see the problem. Mr. White doesn’t want to risk any problems with their new batch of meth. It’s part extremely careful practice by a scientist, part man with insomnia’s brain running out of control.
Jesse wants to get cooking. He can’t manage to do anything left at the whims of Walt, who refuses to do anything before the contaminant is cleared. They each wind up whacking each other with Walt’s homemade fly swatter, in a slapstick gag worthy of Abbott and Costello or the Three Stooges.
The pair take a break for a moment to regroup. This is when Jesse shuts down the breakers, right at the same time Walt’s teeing up to kill the fly. This gets Walt’s attention for a bit so that Jesse has time to bring back a bunch of bug killing gear. They hang flypaper all over the lab, then have coffee. Jesse slips sleeping pills in Walt’s cup. As he waits, he chats away endlessly about a possum in his aunt’s house. Basically he wonders if Walt has a brain tumour like his aunt, though Mr. White assures he’s “still in remission.”
“We make poison for people who don’t care”
This time together in close quarters reveals a lot about these two— yes, they have their troubles, but they’re also close, they care about one another in a way. The insomnia state Walt is in might have him revealing a bit too much. He talks about his original plan for cooking meth, wanting to leave his family with lots of money before he figuratively walked off into the sunset. He feels terrible about how things have gone with his wife. Walt also talks of the night Jane died, when he went to the bar where he wound up next to her father, Donald (John de Lancie). There’s a guilt in him wanting to reveal what he actually did that night. Instead, he tells Jesse about “the astronomical odds” of meeting Donald and their chat about family. Not long after the drugs kick in and Walt’s near ready for sleep. Lucky for him, seeing as how he was on the verge of confessing he allowed Jane to overdose.
Before Walt passes out he watches Jesse climb up a precarious ladder situation to try killing the fly when it buzzes near the ceiling. The chemist apologises “about Jane” while fading away. Jesse doesn’t realise it was literally Walt’s fault while he tries telling him it wasn’t, and the irony’s devastating.
About to give up on the fly, Jesse manages to crush it once and for all. This means they’re able to get cooking again. Walt’s finally dozed off to dreamland, so it leaves Pinkman to get the job done on his own. When Walt wakes their batch is finished. Likely skimmed some more by the younger cook, making things worse for him. Mr. White’s already concerned it’s happening, too.
At home, a fly hounds Walt in bed. The fly works as great symbolism— that nagging, buzzing thing that will not go away, that cannot be ignored, just like all those little things, such as his suspicions about the skimming. Works in many ways, and it was a great piece of writing.
A lot of people shit on this episode. It’s actually one of the best, in Father Gore’s opinion! Rian Johnson does great stuff. Not only that, it’s a showcase of Cranston and Paul’s talents together as a pair. Just really fascinating character study episode.
“Abiquiu” is next time.