This is my first project other than some of the starter projects. I am trying to flash the firmware onto an ESP8266 wifi module using and arduino uno. It would be nice to know if anything is wrong/redundant in the picture below (I was looking at a few different diagrams to try and figure out what was right). I have found some tutorials saying that TX should go to RX instead of TX to TX so that is what I am doing. I am trying to use the level shifter to go from 5v to 3.3v because I wasn't sure if I had enough current going to the ESP8266 when just directly hooked up to 3.3v on arduino (I read in a few places that the arduino doesn't have a strong enough current to operate the wifi module). I found some tutorials which use a voltage regulator, I tried doing that but had the same results I am getting now. I have also read that you don't need a level shifter or voltage regulator but it might harm the components so I haven't tried that way yet.
I am the point where I plug it into my computer via USB, open the Arduino IDE > Tools > Serial Monitor.
I type the command 'AT' and there is no response - I tried every baud setting. Sometimes it randomly outputs a question mark or two.
Other things of note: When I plug it in, the ESP8266 blue light flashes once. When I was modding the header pins of the ESP8266 I kind of fumbled it a lot - could that have broken some aspect of the chip? Also while modding the header pins, I pushed them all in to make them longer and bent them on the other side, so it would work with the breadboard - I'm wondering if the soldering connections need to be stronger (you can kind of see in the picture).
This is the schematic for what I was trying to achieve basically, while also using the level shifter:
Any advice with regards to anything you see here would be great, I am new to the world of circuits.
Note: there is a ground wire that is not in the frame of the picture connecting one side of the breadboard to the other, that part of this is one thing I was wondering about.