25 May

Even the worst situations can produce something good. Take Heroes, a show with one above-average season and then three more so atrocious I’d rather eat a bag of my own hair than so much as read a plot summary ever again. That show produced exactly one (1) excellent episode. Entitled ‘Company Man’, the episode switched between flashbacks exploring the then-mysterious HRG and his allegiance with “The Company”, and a tense hostage situation with his wife and children under threat of death.  Writer Bryan Fuller (Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies) got more out of those characters than anyone else, and independent of the show’s overarching plot it’s a great piece of television. It worked so well partly because it abandoned the shows dogged persistence on having every character move one step forward each week, and instead focused on a small group of central characters fighting against outside influence.

‘Fly’ is a classic example of the ‘bottle episode’ a term coined by Star Trek fans for an episode that has minimal or no guest stars and takes place in a limited area- like one room or the course of a single day. If you’re not into science fiction the Seinfeld episode ‘The Chinese Restaurant’ is another good example. They usually appear because of budgetary constraints, but the best ones use that limitation as an opportunity to explore the characters. The plot could be summarised as ‘Walt and Jesse attempt to kill a fly’, but it’s about so much more than that.

Few shows have the confidence to do something so outright bizarre as ‘Fly’, and Breaking Bad gets away with it because of all the time they’ve spent building such compelling characters. Guest director Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom) brings a lot of fancy stylistic tricks to proceedings, given the episode an almost otherworldly feel. Occasionally it was a little too obvious, one or two dramatic swings to point out the focus of the scene were unnecessary but apart from that it worked well.

The key scenes come right at the end, where Walt comes so close to telling Jesse that he watched Jane die, but he can barely get the word out. While he’s nowhere near admitting fault of everything that’s happened he knows now that he’s ‘lived too long’, and it’s beginning to take its toll. With three episodes left of the season, Walt’s greatest threat could be himself.


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