Well, actually, I watched it a few days ago and I really just watched “Live Free or Die,” the first episode of Season Five. But, screw it, this is my blog and today we’re going to talk about why I love this episode.
Oh, uh. Spoilers. Of course.
The question that I have to ask you guys is: are you yae or nay “Fly”? I’ve seen it be a rather divisive episode, with plenty of people loving it, and plenty of others seeing it as the worst in the show. As I’ve already said, I’m all for the Fly episode, so I thought hey, I’m in a Breaking Bad mood. I’ll talk about why I like this episode.
“Fly” is an episode with a simple plot: Walt realises that a fly has found its way inside the lab, and he has to get rid of it. It’s a contaminant. In time, Jesse shows up to help, but he’s far more reluctant than Walt to put so much time into searching for and killing a fly. As they search, they talk about their lives, bonding and all that.
That’s it. That’s the episode.
Compared to the rest of the show, which is generally quite fast paced, this episode has the slower pace characteristic of an episode of Better Call Saul, as it focuses entirely on the search for the fly and the conversation between Walt and Jesse. I think this might be a large part of what puts people off the episode, as the show’s fast pace is what’s usual, and part of the attraction—Breaking Bad is often exciting, edge of your seat stuff. A lot of people have the same problem with Better Call Saul, which has a far slower pace than Breaking Bad.
I think the slow pace is a good thing. “Fly” is the tenth episode of season three, which has thirteen episodes. The season is gearing up to a pretty dramatic—and stressful—finale at this point, and my personal second favourite finale of the show. (Knock knock.) This episode is taking a step back, slowing things down, before hurling us into this dramatic chain of events.
You might not realise it in the moment, but slower moments like this allow us to take a break. If there’s no break, your audience will burn out. If they burn out, they might not pay attention, or even stick through the whole thing. No creator wants to exhaust their audience to the point that they give up or stop focusing on what’s going on. This is particularly important in a show like Breaking Bad, in which everything was set up long ago, and as things slowly fall into place it’s often the audience who is left to figure out how.
Obviously Breaking Bad isn’t the only piece of fiction to do this. Lots of movies and shows use moments of quiet, or moments of humour, to give the audience a chance to breathe. The Marvel Cinematic Universe even uses whole movies to achieve this. Think about the placement of Ant-Man compared to Civil War. And, more recently, the very comical (but dramatically comic) Ragnarok lined up so close to Infinity War.
Breaking Bad chose to give the audience an entire episode to breathe, take a break, which a) stops us from burning out and b) makes the final three episodes even more dramatic in comparison, as we’ve just come from that break.
The episode has another positive effect on the season—and series overall. In this episode, Walt and Jesse have a very in depth conversation about their lives. Walt even reaches the point of lamenting the fact that he’s still alive, and realising the exact moment that he wishes he had died. Meanwhile, Jesse comforts him and lies him on the couch, removing his shoes, after he falls asleep.
One of the running aspects of the show is that Walt and Jesse have each other’s backs. Even when they’ve fallen out, neither one is ready to let the other get killed. This episode is a calmer, softer way of showing that, as Jesse takes care of Walt by putting him to bed instead of saving his life from a drug dealer. The introspective conversations also allow the audience an entire episode to get extra connected to the characters—something which Breaking Bad needs to work hard at, given how unsympathetic so many of their actions are—so that we extra extra don’t want them to get killed when all the shit goes down in the season finale.
There’s also another aspect to what this episode achieves—actually, this show is so masterful that I could go on forever, as I haven’t even gone into the cold open with Skyler singing to Holly.
This episode is probably the most introspective episode of the show. In a show like Breaking Bad, that’s invaluable. Breaking Bad has a man doing bad things for an arguably good reason, and asks: How far can you justify going? What is it okay to do in order to protect yourself and your loved ones? Moral questions like this mean that the show needs to examine its characters. For example, I think that Jesse is a good guy, while Walt is the biggest dick known to man. And I think that’s what the show was going for. While most of the time the show does an excellent job of being introspective in the middle of all the action, episodes like “Fly” allow a real glimpse into the characters hearts.
And, as always with Walt, allow us to ask “Just how much of this is bullshit?”
And all of that is why I like the fly episode. But I’d love to hear what you think.
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