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Breaking Bad: Fly

"We kill the fly, or we're dead."

This episode is brilliant. I was sort of dreading it, but it was even better than I remembered.

On the surface, this episode might be the funniest of the series. Walt stalking the fly with his homemade, aluminum-wrapped flyswatter? It's just not something you see every day. Tossing his clipboard, throwing his shoe up and having it get caught in the light fixture, Jesse whacking Walt in the head in an attempt to take down the fly, an entire lab full of dangling fly paper — it would be hilarious if it weren't so disturbing. Walt actually fell off the catwalk and ricocheted off the machinery, landing on the floor in the midst of a bunch of broken glass. Jesse asked him, did you hit your head? Did you maybe try our product?

Beneath the surface, it was so obvious that there was a fly in the ointment of Walt's perfect job situation with Gus. The fly actually appeared for the first time on the paper where Walt's calculations had come up with the missing product that Jesse was taking. Walt referred to the fly as "he," as if it were his actual adversary, and he told Jesse that they have to kill the fly or the two of them will be dead. The fly is Gus, of course.

After Jesse put Sominex in Walt's coffee (again with the dirty water theme), Walt was so stoned that he talked out loud about what he was thinking. It was moving, hearing Walt ramble drunkenly about when he lost control of the situation, the moment, the turning point when things turned to shit, and finally concluding that it was the night Jane died. Walt needed to confess what he did, and I kept thinking that that was exactly what he would do. But I couldn't imagine what Jesse's reaction would have been to the revelation that Walt had stood there and watched Jane die.

It's interesting how Walt and Jesse exchanged roles during this episode. Jesse was at first very much the immature teenager, defiant, angry and unwilling to listen to Walt. As the episode progressed, Jesse worried that the batch would spoil and realized that there was more going on than Walt being irrational about a fly. Jesse mentioned how his aunt's obsession with an opossum under her house was what alerted his family to her terminal illness; her cancer had spread to her brain.

I was relieved when Jesse killed the fly and Walt finally passed out without completing his confession, because the two of them are in serious danger and they truly do still need each other. If Walt had told him, Jesse would have left him for good — if he didn't kill him. The coda told us what Walt had been thinking: that Gus will find out about the shortfall, and Walt won't be able to protect Jesse from Gus. And of course, the fly on the smoke detector in Walt's bedroom at the end of the episode meant that Walt was not leaving his Gus problem at the "office," even though he was pretending that was the case.


-- Yes, stating the obvious: The Fly is a famous sci-fi movie about a brilliant scientist whose experiment turns him into a monster. Couldn't get more obvious with the reference than that.

-- Walt's alarm clock has bright blue digits. I'm sure that's no accident; I noticed it before. And the fence outside of the laundromat looked like prison bars.

-- Jesse, who appears to like the Discovery Channel, mentioned hyenas literally licking the boss's ass.

-- Broken glass again.

And pieces:

-- Jesse found a cigarette butt in his car that had lipstick on it. A little bit of Jane.

-- Walt told Jesse that he saw the doctor recently and that he's still in remission.


Jesse: "Dude, you scared the shit out of me! Contamination? I'm thinking, like, an Ebola leak or something!"
Walt: (scoffing) "Ebola?"
Jesse: "Yeah, it's a disease on the Discovery Channel where all your intestines sort of just slip out of your butt."

Jesse: "So you're chasing around a fly, and in your world, I'm the idiot."

Walt: (checking the fly carcass) "This is a raisin."

Jesse: (about the fly) "Oh, man, he's got some skills."

Walt: "There is no room for error. Not with these people."

Jesse: "Since when did they change it to 'opossum'? What's up with that? When I was coming up, it was just 'possum'. Opossum makes it sound like it's Irish or something."

Four out of four ... you thought I was going to say 'flies', huh? Four out of four lipstick-stained cigarette butts,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. Definitely a fantastic and wonderfully tense episode. It had me emotionally all over the place, and absolutely sick with dread when Jesse was up on that jury-rigged scaffolding while Walt was about to confess. I shudder to think what learning that truth would do to Jesse, and what he would then do to Walt. But you're right that Walt's remembrance of his last good moment was also somehow strangely touching.

    Aaron Paul is absolutely mesmerizing when he gets a good monologue. I remember being spellbound in the last episode by his wooden box story, and again in this episode when he was talking about his aunt and the opossum. Isn't it amazing how a guy just talking and telling a story can be so captivating? Or, likewise, a story about two guys trapped in a lab and chasing a fly?

    It is utterly fascinating to me that Vince Gilligan and crew can wring the same degree of tension out of Walt drunkenly telling a story as they can out of Hank's climactic confrontation with the Cousins. This show is really something else.

  2. I always love your exceptional comments, Jess. You add so much, and it's often things I meant to say, or wish I'd said. It really is amazing that Breaking Bad can get us going with a tense, brilliant shoot out *and* with two guys in a lab chasing a fly. It's why I had to review this show, no doubt about it.

    Thanks, Jess.

  3. This was easily one of my favorite episodes because it really showcased the depth of both characters and the talent of the actors. The fact that Walt is going nuts-o over the fly in the lab is an obvious parallel to the fact that everything else is so out of control. I don't like to analyze this show. I just like to sit back and watch it and enjoy it, but this one episode was one that was begging for interpretation. For what it's worth, I just discovered this show a few weeks ago and have now burned through the first four seasons waiting for the final one.

  4. Thanks, Billie. I'm really enjoying this chance to revisit the series, even though I don't have the time to watch right now. You're doing a great job of reminding me why I love the show so much.

  5. This might be the best episode of anything I've ever seen. I swear to God. Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston were both absolutely mesmerizing. Walt's stoned monologue about looking for the perfect moment was utterly captivating. In his drugged, sleep-deprived state, the little that's left of Walt's humanity is clearly on display.

    I too, was terrified for Jesse on that ladder (it doesn't help that I'm really not a ladder fan in real life). The men (if Jesse can be considered a man, which is debatable) look for their white whale. Walt's ability to let the fly go doubtlessly saves his partner if not from death, then from grievous injury.

    I like when Jesse gets to display his smarts. Here, he figures out cutting off Walt's electricity is the only way to get him to listen. I can't say I'm a fan of his drugging Walt. He's probably still on meds to keep him in remission and it's a really bad idea to mix sedatives with caffeine, which Jesse, well-versed in drugs as he is, ought to have known.

    Also, let's not forget that flies are known for hanging around and feeding off of death and decay.

    I also loved the scene outside the lab. After being so deep in each other's confidences, Walt tries to warn Jesse and Jesse brushes him off. The spell is broken.

    Jesse talks about finding out his aunt had cancer through her reaction to the possum (opossum? I get confused like Jesse). Does that mean he was living with her before she got sick? Why?

    In short, I love me an old fashioned bottle episode. I feel like, if Firefly had gotten more than a handful of episodes, Joss would've doubtlessly done an episode of a rat or something being stuck on the ship and everyone attempting to catch it. I miss Firefly. Maybe I should watch Firefly.

    Sorry (not really) for the long comment guys! :)

  6. Sunbunny, the trick to remembering the difference between possums and opossums is simple. Opossums are Irish. All other possums are jealous.

    This episode was directed by Rian Johnson, who also directed Looper. If you need a break from Breaking Bad and haven't seen that film, I strongly recommend it. JD reviewed it here.

  7. So those things that scuttle across my roof at three am just to piss me off are Irish? Maybe they should emigrate. The coyotes are bad enough. Yes, you can howl. Bravo. Shut up now. Looper's been on my Netflix queue since it was out in theaters! Maybe I should move it up... :)

  8. They might not be Irish. They might be roof rats.

    Not a real thing, you say?

    No, seriously: roof rats are a real thing. My parents' neighborhood (which is not in LA) has a serious roof-rat epidemic. Apparently roof rats are like regular rats, but the size of cats, and impossible to get rid of.

  9. Thanks to Billie, I am now obsessed with color and with water in the show. I never really noticed before how red (for danger) the lab is. Also, Jesse's red car, as compared to Walt's neutral-color car.

  10. sunbunny wondered why Jesse was living with his aunt before she died. My take on this is that he went to live with her because he could not live with his parents. (They may have booted him out for all we know.) Jesse seems to have loved his aunt and cared for her when she really got sick at the end. She left a provision in her will that Jesse could continue to live in her house when she had gone. (Jesse mistakenly thought she had left the house to him rather than to his parents.)

  11. This episode was like a stage play. Two characters on a stage facing off against each other. (It was almost like a continuous take; in any event, the takes were very long.) Amazing.

    Was Aaron really on that ladder (at least some of the time)? It sure did look like it and I am surprised it was allowed, what with insurance and all.

  12. This episode was stunning. It was as mesmerizing as Beckett. it was great theater, high Art, no pun intended. You had a simple conceit, a guy and a fly and an obsession.. You had two great actors in a room, almost a bare stage. What was so fascinating for me was how the dynamic shifted as the scene played through. Walt gave up his obsession with the fly, even as Jesse took it up. In some ways, they switched roles. I couldn't help but think of the great story of Don Quijote and Sancho Panza, his servant. Just when Don Quijote becomes disillusioned, Sancho, who has been the voice of reason, now takes on Don Quijote's dream and enchantment.


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