Breaking Bad: A Fly in the House of Walt

By Tim Surette

May 25, 2010

Breaking Bad took a break from its normal formula of family drama, cartel trouble, and methamphetamine trade in this week's "Fly" to focus solely on Jesse and Walter's awkward partnership/relationship. Nearly the entire episode took place in Walt's lab, making "The Fly" more important to the show's budget and schedule than it did to the overall arc of the third season. A show that takes place 99-percent on one set would normally turn off today's television's ADHD audience (of which I am a guilty member!), but in the hands of the Breaking Bad crew it showcased their ability to craft awesome television.

That's not to say the whole thing was perfect; far from it. There's only so much Keystone Kop-style humor I can take when watching two grown men chase a fly around a lab. I would have preferred the actual insect-hunt to end right after Jesse hit Walt on the head with the homemade flyswatter (by my count that was about 25 minutes into the hour-long episode), but instead it slid into two characters making some pretty ridiculous choices for drug dealers on a 200-pounds-of-meth-per-week schedule.

Before Walt locked Jesse out of the lab, before Jesse cut off power to the workplace, before Jesse drugged Walt with sleeping pills, that's when the man-vs-fly battle was its strongest. Because that's when Walt, in pursuit of the fly that was contaminating his lab and lifestyle, was—unbeknownst to him but known to the audience—talking about Jesse and the danger he poses to the operation. It was Jesse who was contaminating the process by skimming off the top. It was Jesse who was circling Walt, buzzing in his ear with a high-pitched whine. And it is Jesse who right now is Walt's pest and threatens everything Walt has built with Gus. Heck, Jesse even looked like a human fly with his gas-mask pulled up from his face, red filters looking like compound eyes.

Things picked up again with the final moments of tension, with Walt literally and figuratively about to send Jesse into a bad place by almost letting Jesse fall from a ladder and almost admitting the he was responsible for Jane's death. I was nervously biting my nails with every step Walt took as he inched closer to coming out with it. That admission has to come soon, and Jesse will NOT be happy.

But the thing that stood out to me most in this episode was the technical achievement of the crew. There's only so much that can be done on one set (a box, no less), yet the director of photography managed to squeeze everything out of the lab to keep the episode visually stunning even though we were in the same room the entire time. The entire time!

"The Fly" was this season's "4 Days Out," the excellent second-season episode that saw Walt and Jesse cook (and almost get cooked) in the desert for four days straight. But "4 Days Out" managed to make the tension more palpable and never lulled.

I may have learned more about television production than I did about Walter White in viewing "The Fly," but to me, that's just one of the things that makes Breaking Bad such a joy to watch.

Question: If Jesse is the "fly," do you think there's any significance in the fact that it was Jesse who finally killed the real fly, and not Walt? Is this a subtle way of showing that it's Jesse's actions—stealing from the boss—that will lead to him getting himself killed? Or was it a way of saying that Jesse, and only Jesse, can fix the problem?

Bonus! Check out this awesome video, submitted to me by user SharksFan69:


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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  • maw409 Jun 27, 2010

    This episode for me was especially brilliant. This show, unlike a lot of other shows, is great in that it doesn't forget what's happened to its characters. Instead of leaving the past in the past, events from before seem to stack and stack until they reach an unbearable breaking point. I think this episode almost reached that breaking point. I don't believe the fly represents Jesse. I think it represents Walt's guilt over what he's done to Jesse in the past and it is starting to drive him absolutely crazy. And if you recall, Jesse doesn't kill the fly--it follows Walt home, because Walt doesn't end up confessing to Jesse. We as an audience think there is some kind of a resolution with the two partners, but there isn't. There still exists those underlying secrets that will drive Walt into a darker, more obsessive place. Loved the episode! It was really refreshing to see such a creative risk being taken and for me it was pulled off beautifully.

  • bauer_rules2007 May 26, 2010

    Ha ha that video was great!

  • aondieki May 26, 2010

    This episode was definitely the calm before the storm. Things are about to get totally crazy and the season will end in style, as always!

  • vstherevolution May 26, 2010

    I actually fell asleep during this episode. Something about watching Walter getting tired after being slipped those sleeping pills got me yawning. And it also could've been that this was probably what I would consider the least entertaining episode of the series. The cinematography and acting were great but I don't think it was enough to carry the episode, the plot was too minimal. That video though, all kinds of awesome.

  • parhamkn May 26, 2010

    the polot progression wasn't awsome but the cinematogaphy was,

    hands down the next best (the first was the pilot)