‘Breaking Bad’: The Fly Episode Is Far More Important and Complex Than Critics Think

If you called Breaking Bad the greatest show in the history of television, it would be hard to argue with the claim. Following the adventures of antiheroes Walter White and Jesse Pinkman truly thrilled viewers for the show’s entire run. That said, it begs the question: did the show ever have any down episodes? Some fans seem to think so. There’s a specific episode called “Fly” that some fans rated worse than the other ones in the run. Let’s take a closer look at that episode and see why its critics might have been wrong.

(L-R) Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston smiling in yellow suits
(L-R) Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston | Mark Davis/Getty Images

What was the fly episode of ‘Breaking Bad?’

According to Screen Rant, the episode titled “Fly” is what’s known as a “bottle episode,” meaning the entire run takes place in one location. As Jesse and Walt are cooking meth in Gus Fring’s lab, they notice a fly. Walt thinks that the fly could potentially compromise the integrity of the lab and hunts it obsessively. Walt ends up spending the night, and the next morning when Jesse finds him, they attempt to find the fly again. They also spend time talking about their predicaments and lives in general with each other. 

Screen Rant reported the episode has a 7.8 rating on IMDb, which makes it one of the few entries of the show to fall below an eight. Unlike episodes like the universally acclaimed “Ozymandias,” fans looked at this in their eyes as one of the show’s worst.

The criticism behind the fly episode of ‘Breaking Bad’

The reasons some fans don’t like this episode are fairly simple. Here’s why some fans thought the episode was weaker than others: 

  • The episode was heavy on dialogue, light on action. 
  • The stakes in the episode couldn’t be lower. It focuses on Walt and Jesse attempting to catch a fly. For a show that featured drug deals, shoot outs, and heart-pounding scenes, this represented quite a departure. 
  • It seemed like it took place in one location as a cost-cutting measure, so the show wouldn’t overspend on production costs. 

While many fans of the show didn’t care for the episode, many critics took a different tack. They actually thought it was one of the show’s better episodes. So why is there such a disparity between the two opinions? 

Why the fly episode was more important and complex than its detractors think


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“Fly” got hate from some detractors because, on its face, the criticism of the episode is accurate. Yes, Jesse and Walt spend time on an inconsequential issue. Yes, it all takes place in one setting. But this doesn’t take away from what does happen in the show: character development. 

By allowing the viewers to observe Walt and Jesse in a “slice of life” moment not fraught with the usual life or death consequences they’re used to, it gave them a chance to see them as real people. The show had excellent direction and cinematography as well.

If you look at the fly as just a fly, then it’s true that it shouldn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things. In the best dramas, however, the subtext is key. The fly could serve as a symbol of Walt’s guilt for his actions. Or it could serve as a symbol for what he’s trying to accomplish with his meth cooking. He won’t rest until he finds the fly — or achieves what he’s setting out to do.

Much like the Seinfeld episode “The Chinese Restaurant,” “Fly” represented a change of pace for the series that turned the typical TV show format on its head to explore what made its characters tick. Like most episodes of the show, it was ultimately successful.