I’m breaking (as it were) with precedent and offering a preview-review of tonight’s Breaking Bad, because it’s so good, I’d be shocked if both Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul don’t use the episode for Emmy consideration. There’s more on TV tonight than Lost, folks.
The pre-credits begin with a super-close-up of a fly. The episode’s title? “Fly.” The hour is basically a three-character piece: Walt, Jesse, and a fly buzzing around the humans’ new meth lab. Walt, exhausted and nearing a breakdown in juggling his work-load and family problems, becomes obsessed with a stray fly as a “contaminant” — a literal fly in the ointment of their meth product.
The first 20 minutes or so play out like a live-action Roadrunner-Coyote cartoon, with Walt chasing the fly all over the lab. He swats it, he throws his shoe at it, he gets himself in precarious positions trying to reach it, he falls.
Jesse arrives on the scene, groks what’s taking place, and offers one of those infrequent moments of Jesse Clarity. Trying to dissuade Walt from chasing the fly further, he says, “We make poison for people who don’t care. We probably have the most un-picky customers in the world.” Yo.
As the hour progresses, however, Jesse joins in the hunt for the fly. The results are both extremely funny and extremely poignant, since they’re not merely chasing a fly — they’re chasing everything that’s eluding them in life: order, justice, and ultimately, happiness. Walt accidentally reveals one thing in the back of his mind as he keeps one eye on the fly when he says, “It will ruin our batch… There’s no room for error, not with these people” — and we’re immediately made aware of the drug world outside this hermetic lab that is exerting deadly pressure on these men.
While remaining almost entirely in one setting, this Breaking Bad opens up to become an opportunity for Walt and Jesse to explain more fully the sadnesses and regrets they have over everything from the lies Walt felt he had to tell to “leave enough [money] behind” should he die of cancer, while Jesse mourns the death of his girlfriend Jane in a newly raw, unguarded manner.
And behind it all, we know from last week’s episode that there’s yet another layer to this week’s hour: That Jesse is ripping off Walter, skimming a little bit of meth for his own purposes with each new batch. How that plays into the final scenes in “Fly” is something I’ll leave to you to discover.
As I said at the top: This is must-viewing. I’ll understand if you want to see Lost in real-time, but you’ve got to watch Breaking Bad this week, either in AMC’s replays, or by recording and watching later. You’ll be glad you did.
You’ll learn how heartbreaking it can be when someone says, “I’ve lived too long.”