Out of Breaking Bad‘s 62 total episodes, season 3’s “Fly” received the lowest rating from viewers of the AMC series. The episode served as the tenth episode in season 3 and was written by Sam Catlin and Moira Walley-Beckett. Most notable, however, was the fact that Rian Johnson directed the episode, his first of three throughout Breaking Bad’s run. Here’s why “Fly” was received poorly and why it’s actually one of the best episodes in the series.
“Fly” served as a bottle episode, primarily focusing on Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) in the secret superlab under Gus Fring’s industrial laundromat. After a day of cooking, Jesse left for the day but Walt noticed a fly buzzing around. Seeing as the bug could contaminate the lab, Walt refused to go home until he caught the fly. After swatting at it, Walt fell off of the catwalk and was forced to remain in the lab overnight. Jesse found him there the next morning and had no choice but to help find the fly before the pair could continue the meth-making process. They then spent hunting the fly and talking about their lives.
According to IMDb, “Fly” sits on the bottom of the totem pole in terms of reception with a 7.8/10 rating from viewers. The episode was the only one in the series to fall below 8.0, revealing how highly regarded the show became over the course of its five seasons. Most of the criticism for “Fly” stemmed from the episode’s slow pace and lack of high stake interactions. Chasing a bug didn’t win over a segment of viewers, nor did the heavy amount of dialogue. Interestingly enough, “Fly” was received very differently from critics, some considering it a highlight from the series.
Rian Johnson’s “Fly” Didn’t Deserve The Criticism
“Fly” was initially created because Breaking Bad was over budget. The series needed to come up with a bottle episode due to the budgetary restrictions. Considering Johnson and the writers didn’t have a ton of wiggle room, they worked with what they were given. The cinematography was some of the best within the entire series starting from the first sequence with Walt staring at the fly in his bedroom. The episode may have only feature Walt and Jesse but it succeeded in developing another layer of their complicated relationship.
Series creator Vince Gilligan was a master at injecting deeper meanings into Breaking Bad and “Fly” was a perfect example. It was believed that the fly was a symbol of Walt’s guilt, which was why it first appeared when he was suffering from insomnia. It was also noteworthy that the fly appeared when Walt was struggling with the fact that he let Jane die. In addition, there was evidence that the fly connected to Walt’s obsession with control. He wouldn’t stop until he killed the fly to the point where he became obsessive. The same type of power struggle and obsessive behavior was often in display in other aspects of Walt’s life. The deeper messages alone prove that “Fly” deserves more respect.