tv review – AMC’s Halt And Catch Fire, episode 1.8

‘The 214s’Halt And Catch Fire‘s latest episode, was an eventful entry that was mesmerizing from start to finish. At first it seemed to be all about Cardiff getting ready for COMDEX, but early on the rug was pulled out from under both the show’s characters and its viewers. Following Bosworth’s decision to hack Cardiff’s bank account to secure funds for the development of the Giant, Cardiff was shut down and Bosworth himself was arrested. But, because of some quick thinking from Gordon, the machine itself wasn’t confiscated: Gordon dismantled the Giant and, subsequently, the FBI didn’t recognize the Giant’s separate parts as important and therefor did not consider those evidence. This enabled Gordon to break in later when the Cardiff offices were closed to take the Giant with him and come up with a crazy plan: to appear at COMDEX anyway.

While it was surprising to see Gordon back on his feet again after what happened during ‘Giant’, the show did manage to effectively explain it away without using any on-the-nose dialogue. It came up naturally that Gordon had taken a week off and the episode also showed us that he was utterly aware of the danger that comes with stress; his meditation tapes were a clear sign of his struggle to keep it together, even though this method proved to be an unsuccessful one. What’s even more important though, is that ‘The 214s’ was something of a redemption episode for Gordon: he stood up and proved to be industrial to whatever will end up happening with the Giant. Gordon took it upon himself to make the best out of a bad situation and, after his first reaction had been to lash out at Cameron (who had done the hacking for Bosworth) and Joe (because he’s Joe), he sought them out to bring the team together and tell them they needed to go to COMDEX to use the publicity this scandal had generated to their advantage. After many episodes in which Gordon’s unsympathetic behavior and unstable mental health were at the forefront, ‘The 214s’ showed us Gordon as a passionate man who was willing to take a chance and as someone who was big enough to admit his mistakes. While it could’ve come off as a convenient and unbelievable turn for the character, here it all made sense: his determination and passion came from the same place as his disturbed behavior we witnessed earlier. Gordon, to some extent, is crazy, but he can use that unique way of thinking in multiple ways. It made for a refreshing portrayal and we finally saw what Donna used to see in her husband. Which… also made her not leave him.

Scoot McNairy did another fantastic job as Gordon and conveyed the complexities of his character beautifully, aided by the solid writing. We weren’t sure where exactly Gordon would end at the end of ‘The 214s’ because of what had happened over the course of the past episodes, but also because McNairy played Gordon’s boost of confidence and faith with the same manic energy as the character’s behavior in his more destructive moments. Because of it a tension remains: while everything turned out fine this episode, there’s still a fragility and instability to Gordon, a sense that his boost of energy could easily backfire if this plan doesn’t garner the desired results. But, in the meantime, Gordon has us rooting for him: it was immensely satisfying to see that, after all that’s happened, it’s this man that kept the Cardiff three together. The scene in Joe’s apartment also demonstrated, apart from Gordon’s passion, that Gordon had learned from Joe, when he effectively delivered a sales pitch to the salesman. It was a fantastic moment that illustrated character growth, while also conveying the mutual respect these three very different people have for each other. It’s this type of top-notch writing combined with top-shelf acting that makes Halt And Catch Fire one of the best shows currently airing. That being said, Paul Haslinger’s score also added a lot of atmosphere to the scene: its pulsating and swelling synths underlined the monumentality of the moment.

That the scene didn’t stand out much says a lot about Halt And Catch Fire‘s overall quality. ‘The 214s’ had many great scenes to offer viewers: Gordon’s conversation with Cameron about the decoder ring he had bought for Donna, Joe’s talk with his father about how lies from the past, Donna’s moment with her mother, and the list goes on. The few scenes with Bosworth were especially gripping: Huss conveyed the earnestness, kindness and desperation of a man who was willing to sacrifice himself for something he believed in and for someone he believed in. The Bosworth-Cameron relationship is a beautifully tender one, which has never been more apparent than in the scene in which she visited him at home before leaving for COMDEX with Gordon, Joe and Donna. It was incredibly sweet and touching, a testament to how much we’ve come to care about these characters over the course of eight episodes.

‘The 214s’ was another fantastic Halt And Catch Fire offering. Once again the intelligent writing and layered characters kept viewers on the edge of their seats. 9/10

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