tv review – AMC’s Halt And Catch Fire, episode 1.10

Halt And Catch Fire‘s finale ‘1984’ was a solid conclusion to the show’s first season and, hopefully, an interesting jumping-off point for the next one if the series gets renewed (as it should). The episode spanned a longer period of time than most outings before it, which took some getting used to, but, in the end, that decision really payed off: it allowed Halt And Catch Fire to really explore the aftermath of ‘Up Helly Aa’ and of some of the finale’s events, without viewers having to wait for a season 2 to discover the payoff. By the end of ‘1984’ the show had put its characters in some very interesting positions that beg to be explored later, while also giving us a satisfying ending to the characters’ arcs that have been established throughout this outstanding first season.

What was immediately surprising was how early on in the episode Gordon and Joe managed to convince Nathan Cardiff not only to go through with the Giant, but also to let them both run the company. Because of the way the scene was written and structured, and because of the marvelous acting by all involved, it was an immensely satisfying moment that really took advantage of the new Joe and Gordon dynamic. That this development was not used as the season finale’s last moment but as one of its first scenes, once again showed the creativity and out-of-the-box thinking of Halt And Catch Fire‘s writers: it would’ve been a logical final note to the first run of the show, but now it was an event that made sure viewers weren’t able to predict what would happen next during the series’ tenth episode. It’s a stroke of genius to take such a risk and it definitely yielded the desired results.

Much like it, it was also quite surprising how Donna and Gordon’s arc developed during ‘1984’. We learned that, to prove a point, Gordon had been sleeping on the couch for three weeks, but when a stern Donna demanded he’d come back to bed, the two smoothed things out quickly. Their experiences together had made conversations and growth possible and, as a result, ‘1984’ gave us the best version of the Clarks we have seen thus far. Both characters acknowledged their own mistakes and each other’s strengths and it brought them closer together, culminating in a beautiful moment in which Gordon gave Donna the decoder ring and the couple pledged their love and loyalty to each other. Donna also quit her job, because, by then, Gordon made enough money to support the family. She didn’t remain a housewife for long, though: after Gordon and Donna were thrown out of their expensive new car by a couple of carjackers, Donna withered away at home, which is why Gordon ultimately discussed the possibility with her of offering her a job at Cardiff. She declined, but agreed that she should start working again. Enter: Cameron.

After the events of ‘Up Helly Aa’ Cameron had quit Cardiff and had come up with her own idea for a company: a subscription-based software distribution service. After she had founded her own business, called Mutiny, she contacted her buddies at Cardiff who then quit their jobs there to work with her. Not for her because, as she put it, everyone at Mutiny has equal status. It’s a very idealistic idea, but it’s also one that’s not all that likely to grant the company a very long lifespan: money has to be made and without someone in charge things could run off the rails very quickly. Fortunately Donna wound up joining Mutiny’s ranks: she had declined at first despite being flattered by Cameron’s offer, but after the events described above Donna realized that working with Cameron could really offer her some interesting new experiences and possibilities.

Out of all the plot strands, Joe’s was the hardest to watch by far. After his decision to ignore Cameron’s wishes last week, she had distanced herself from Joe and when he turned up on her doorstep, admitting his mistake and desperately trying to get her back, she shot him down. She told Joe that she didn’t want him anymore, that he was still that little boy that fell from the roof, that he hadn’t changed and hadn’t become what he thought he had become. It was a heartwrenching moment that shook Joe to his core, but it was also a hard truth that he needed to hear. Because of Cameron’s harsh words Joe finally managed to make a change and as a result his story ended on an uplifting note: Joe literally went on a journey of (self-) exploration, after having burned down a truck full of Giants and his suit jacket. This was an act of severance: before coming to Dallas he had flooded an IBM data center to sever the ties with his father, and now he burned his own creation and fabricated persona to distance himself from the man he had become, to start anew. Throughout the season we’ve seen Joe in expensive suits, driving an expensive car, but in the finale’s last moments he was wearing functional attire and driving an old but perfectly serviceable car. It signified his change of heart: Joe’s no longer concerned with his appearance and impressing others, but with finally finding out who he is and what he really wants. Despite all of his actions this season, Joe was a reactionary character driven by past experiences. Now he’s a phoenix rising from the ashes, a man reborn.

Halt And Catch Fire‘s ‘1984’ was an outstanding finale that truly showed us the evolution of each and every character. It made for a satisfying conclusion to the show’s marvelous first season, but also whetted the appetite for a season 2. Let’s hope we get it, because AMC’s Halt And Catch Fire truly is one of the best shows around. 9/10


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