What's the deeper meaning behind Breaking Bad's season 3 episode, "Fly"? The tenth episode of season 3 only featured two characters, Walter White and Jesse Pinkman (Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul). Some Breaking Bad viewers criticized the episode for being too slow while lacking any plot development while others, including many critics, praised the episode.
"Fly" primarily focused on Walt and Jesse working in the superlab under Gus Fring's industrial laundromat. Walt already lost sleep after staring at a fly on the ceiling above his bed. His day got worse when their calculations resulted in a short supply of meth. After a day of work, Jesse left but Walt stayed behind to kill a fly buzzing around the lab. He worried that it would contaminate the meth so he did everything in his power to kill the bug. At one point, Walt even fell off of the catwalk trying to swat at the fly. He was found the next morning by Jesse and the two spent the day talking and trying to kill the fly.
Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan explained that "Fly" was a bottle episode, meaning that it was contained to one location. The reason was that the series was over the budget during the production and they couldn't film in other locations. The episode was directed by Rian Johnson and many have accredited the cinematography in the episode as being the best throughout Breaking Bad's run. Those with negative responses to Fly felt as though the pacing was off and that it added nothing to the plot. But the episode, more specifically, the fly, had a much deeper meaning as it was a representation of Walt's guilt.
At the start of "Fly", Walt watches a fly on his ceiling as it hindered his ability to sleep. The same thing happened at the end of the episode, bringing the events full circle. People who suffer from guilt often have trouble sleeping as they suffer from insomnia, just like Walt. While trapped in the lab with Jesse, Walt brought up Jane's death. Jesse was still unaware of Walt's involvement in Jane's death but overwhelming guilt almost forced Walt to spill the truth.
The fly could also be a symbol for Walt's obsession and need to be in control, a recurring theme across Breaking Bad. He feared as though the fly would contaminate the lab so he didn't let up until it was dead. Walt even locked Jesse out of the lab for a time so he could take care of the issue himself. That power struggle for control also plagued Walt's life in other aspects. Whether it was his family, his health, or his colleagues, Walt needed to be calling the shots. If not, his obsessive behavior would take over.
Another fly was shown in Breaking Bad season 5 after Walt killed Mike Ehrmantraut. This added more speculation that the insect's appearance was directly connected to Walt's guilt for taking another life. Gilligan was a master at adding hidden themes and motifs throughout the series. It will be interesting to see if he continues the trend with the sequel film, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, hitting Netflix in October.