Writing a Bottle Episode. “Fly”, from Breaking Bad
Amélie Chabrier and Yoann Hervey (University Paul Valery, Montpellier)
A series is a complex story composed of different narrative units – seasons and episodes – closely linked and at the same time having their own autonomy. Researchers in cinema and literature can see this hybrid object as a complex avatar of the film or the serialized novel. The writing, directing and broadcasting of a season are spread over a year. The latter depends on a precise remit and what matters most is respecting the number of episodes. The producer of the series Breaking bad, because he needed to respect the remit of the season 3 and not to spend more than the budget, had to ask his scriptwriters to write a “bottle episode” (episode 10, “Fly”), whose formal features entirely rely on a simple economic principle which is the drastic expenses cuts – decorations, casting, special effects must be reduced to the minimum. The construction of such an episode then relies on the ability of the scriptwriters to make up for these external constraints in order to avoid the “meaningless episode”, the pitfall of the narrative parenthesis. However, Breaking Bad is not the only series which has to produce this particular type of episode. All types of series, from dramas to comics, including Star Trek (which created the word) resort to it. Our paper is going to deal with the features of the sub-genre of the “bottle episode” in questioning its money constraints, its narrative construction and its exceptional status.
Yoann Hervey is a PhD student and teacher in films studies at University Paul Valery – Montpellier 3 in the south of France. He’s also qualified in philosophy. His thesis has for theme the characterization of link between these two disciplines and more exactly relationships between the concept and the film’s image.
Amélie Chabrier, is doctor in nineteenth French literature at the university Paul Valery – Montpellier. She is also qualified teacher in French literature and worked on relationships between press and literature.
Their works are interested by narrative forms in TV series. Recently, they work together on the successful TV drama Breaking Bad for the PhD student’s review A l’épreuve. They are also working on a future book on that TV show.