tv review – AMC’s Halt And Catch Fire, episode 1.6

Slowly but steadily Halt And Catch Fire is pulling back the curtains on its lead characters. With ‘Landfall’ we got to the latter half of the show’s first season and this latest episode gave us some great moments of character development for Joe MacMillan and Cameron Howe. Gordon Clark didn’t have as many interesting moments, but his quest to find a Cabbage Patch doll for his daughter was compelling television nonetheless. While Gordon’s subplot once again served up a lot of the same beats, there’s a purpose to it: we’re shown a man who’s so invested in his work that he can barely function as a husband and a father, a man who is rapidly unraveling under lasting pressure. When Gordon is under a lot of stress he starts drinking more and becomes more aggressive: he imposed himself on his sleeping wife, badmouthed Cameron toward coworkers and, ultimately, threw a brick through a toy store window to steal dolls for his daughter. While Joe and Cameron seem to be going up, Gordon is definitely going down, something that’s worsened by his behavior and other people’s responses to it: each time Gordon lashes out or tries to forcefully get what he wants, his attempts are shot down. Right now Gordon is a ticking time bomb, and it’s only a matter of time before something or someone sets him off; his wife’s impending affair perhaps?

Gordon is usually under a lot of stress but even more so this week because Cameron came up with a brilliant idea: she wants consumers to fall in love with Cardiff’s new computer and in order to do so she wanted to created an operating system with a personality, something that could also lure in people who are usually not even all that interested in computers. When Cameron told Gordon about the idea he immediately said it was silly and impossible because, in order to make Cameron’s idea possible the new Cardiff PC would have to undergo radical change. Joe on the other hand did see the promise, which sounded like impending doom to Gordon’s ears. His attempts to sway Joe didn’t come to fruition though; because of a storm and the Cabbage Patch doll hunt he didn’t make it to a dinner he set up at his place, which instead solidified the promise and importance of Cameron’s idea in Joe’s mind. When Joe was there he met Gordon’s daughters and, in a surprisingly warm and human turn, played a game with them to ward off the storm. The two little girls immediately named the flashlights Joe gave them, which made him see the importance of such a connection between consumer and the new Cardiff computer. But this moment accomplished much more: early on in the episode Cameron told Joe he was just an empty suit, that that’s attractive for a while but that it doesn’t keep people around. In the moment with Gordon’s wife and kids Cameron’s words clicked for Joe; he felt a connection and realized that he had no one in his life he could call when he would get lost in a storm. So, in the end, he showed up at Cameron’s doorstep and finally divulged why his body is covered in scars; because as a kid his mother, who was high on drugs at the time, let him fall off the roof and onto a fence, which caused the young Joe to spend the next two years in a hospital bed. This scene was beautifully acted by both Lee Pace and Mackenzie Davis, who really conveyed how special this moment was to both characters; it finally forged a real connection between the two.

Another wonderful moment was a talk between Cameron and John Bosworth, who is rapidly becoming a surrogate dad to her. After he had invited her into his office for a drink he asked her about how she first fell in love with computers and she told him that, as a kid in junior high, she had been alone and that she hid in an empty class room during breaks. When a teacher and other students came in for a computer class she pretended she was there for that specific course too and, despite the fact that was a lie, she found something there: she understood the code and a computer was finally something she could talk to. It was another fascinating insight into her background and really backed up both her loner mentality and passion for computers and innovation. Another moment, a conversation with Joe during which she compared the idea for her new operating system to how her father made her grow attached to her childhood doll, was also very sweet and touching. Despite relapsing into old habits on occasion, Cameron is not only developing an operating system at Cardiff, but she’s mostly developing herself and growing into a stronger woman. She’s still plenty feisty on occasion, but she isn’t entirely closed-off anymore, which is a significant but organic change in her demeanor. Character development is what Halt And Catch Fire does best and the this week’s themes of childhood and growth not only made perfect sense in that context, but also made ‘Landfall’ this season’s most uplifting episode to date.

‘Landfall’ again demonstrated Halt And Catch Fire‘s finesse in seamlessly blending both character and plot development, which made it another strong outing. 9/10


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