tv review – AMC’s Halt And Catch Fire, episode 1.4

Halt And Catch Fire‘s fourth outing ‘Close To The Metal’ expertly went about subverting viewers’ expectations. It started us off with the familiar: with a breakthrough regarding the PC clone, with a rousing speech by Joe MacMillan to motivate those working under him and to, once again, upstage John Bosworth, and with Gordon and Cameron working their asses off following Joe’s lead. It’s what we’ve come to expect from the series and from most underdog stories: that the troubled but enigmatic lead takes point and comes out unscathed. Not this week: where the first three entries made it look like the only danger to Joe was Joe himself, at the end of ‘Close To The Metal’ we were left with the feeling that, maybe, Joe’s in over his head and that he’s made some powerful enemies that can and will take him down when he goes too far. Because of it the episode raised the stakes going forward, quite a feat given the fact that the stakes have been high since the very first episode.

So, let’s start with this entry’s biggest moment: driving home from work Joe was pulled over by two cops, dragged out of his car and then he received an enormous beating. When Bosworth picked him up later, Joe could barely walk and he was visibly shaken by this defeat he hadn’t seen coming. Bosworth, on the other hand, was clearly feeling pretty great about himself and he had used his connections to put one over on Joe and deliver his first real blow back after MacMillan’s schemes and insults. Especially after last week’s moments in which Bosworth acted almost fatherly toward Cameron, his resort to violence, after being bullied and humiliated by his higher-ups and by Joe, came as a shocking surprise. It was a nice way to add some extra layers to a character that, before, seemed rather spineless, all-talk and bravado, and a shift in dynamics seems to be the next logical step. Which doesn’t mean Joe’s been scared off; it likely means he’ll just stop underestimating Bosworth and will be more careful about his revenge.

Because Joe’s no saint. He even went as far this week as to set up Cameron in order to give a journalist an exciting story, which had big consequences for everyone but him. Gordon Clark once again resorted to asking his wife to get him (and Cardiff) out of this mess and because of it Donna was sent on leave at the end of the episode, an especially rough turn because she’s clearly brilliant but she couldn’t even take credit for coming up with a brilliant idea to save the idea in front of the journalist, because Joe and Gordon had her lie for them. Donna even figured out Joe’s plan before anyone else and was clearly bothered by it. Her husband… not so much. When she told him about Joe’s ploy Gordon just asked if it had worked and if there would indeed be an article about Cardiff’s new PC. Donna was not amused. Additionally Joe’s scheme almost pushed the already fragile Cameron over the edge and, mixed with some stabs from the Clarks, almost led her to burn down their house. A chance meeting with last week’s Brian, who came off as completely enraged and deranged now, kept her from doing so, though. Ultimately it was Mackenzie Davis who really got her chance to shine this episode via her portrayal of a young woman who can barely hold herself together. Despite her strong and aggressive exterior Cameron’s actually a very vulnerable person and, despite her reservations, she tried to open up during ‘Close To The Metal’. When that didn’t work out her desperation and anger-coated pain was palpable, played expertly by the actress.

‘Close To The Metal’ was a surprising episode that kept you glued to the screen. Halt And Catch Fire keeps you guessing what’s going to happen next, which is no small achievement at all. 9/10

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