If you’ve watched Breaking Bad, then you’ll know that right as the tension is ramping up during season three and everything looks like it’s about to explode, there’s a really weird episode.
We come into the episode with plenty to unpack as Hank (Dean Norris) has almost been killed in a cartel hit, Jesse (Aaron Paul) is skimming meth from the lab to sell himself and events are in motion that will put Walt (Bryan Cranston) on a collision course with Gus (Giancarlo Esposito).
However, all of the drama grinds to a halt during episode 10 of season three, titled Fly, as all of the action focuses on Walt going stir-crazy in the meth lab when a fly is buzzing around.
In TV this is what’s known as a ‘bottle episode’, an episode which is quick to make and doesn’t cost much since it uses so few sets and actors.
They usually get done when there’s not much money left in the budget and an episode of something still needs making, so you concoct a scenario where some of your characters get stuck in one of the main sets for the duration.
According to IMDb, it’s the lowest rated episode out of the entire span of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, though a rating of 7.8 out of 10 is still nothing to be sniffed at.
Breaking Bad series creator Vince Gilligan revealed at the time why he decided to make the episode, addressing the controversy and backlash in an interview with AV.
Gilligan admitted there were ‘certain financial realities involved’ with making Fly, where all the action takes place inside the meth lab set while only Cranston and Paul appear.
However, he also wanted to stress that it wasn’t just about the money, and he thought Fly played an important role in the show.
He said: “I feel as a showrunner that there should be a certain shape and pace to each season, and the really high highs that you try to get to at the end of a season – the big dramatic moments of action and violence, the big operatic moments you’re striving for – I don’t think would land as hard if you didn’t have the moments of quiet that came before them.
“The quiet episodes make the tenser, more dramatic episodes pop even more than they usually would just by their contrast.”
Gilligan also said he feels ‘really good about that particular episode’ and liked that it prompted so much discussion.
In the same way that Jaws is not really a film about a shark, Fly is not an episode about catching a fly, it’s a chance for the action to pause so that Breaking Bad‘s two main characters can sit down and talk.
The episode’s critics say it’s a boring bottle episode that brings the action to a screeching halt so Walt can chase a fly around the lab without burning through the show’s budget.
Meanwhile, those who liked Fly think it’s a great bit of pacing which allows Breaking Bad to let the audience cool down a bit before things head towards the climax of season three.
By the way, this episode’s director was Rian Johnson, who would go on to direct a couple of other Breaking Bad episodes including the spectacular Ozymandias, as well as The Last Jedi and Knives Out.