AMC continues to bring harrowing dramas set as period pieces. Their latest is Halt and Catch Fire, a fictional take on the personal computer boom of the 1980’s. Why watch? Think Steve Jobs mixed with Jordan Belfort and you might be right at home here. Here’s our latest look at the series.
“The 214s” brought about with it a lot of revelations, giving more depth to certain characters while also having turnabout moments for others receiving new more interesting information. While a lot of progress was made this episode, the same progress could have been spread out better across this season. Keeping this episode thematically even, it comes at the cost of shortchanging numerous elements and scenes from earlier episodes, but we’ll get to that later.
As we return to the Cardiff computer development team after last week’s dust-up, the group is gearing up to exhibit at the annual industry computer show, COMDEX, the real-world exhibition where the big power players in the tech industry had come together to showcase their new wares at the time. With the internal architecture finally meshing with the external designs, the team seemed fully ready to present their new product, The Giant. Looking to make a big splash and draw some jaws, Cardiff was ready to spare no expense in making their names known. Or so it seemed.
the issue of representation for Comdex, where Joe (Lee Pace) had planned to attend on his own, unbeknownst to the easily angered Gordon. Thought to be more of a liability than an asset because of an often foreshadowed, but as yet unseen past with the conference, the hardware director nonetheless fought tooth and nail to find his way into ensuring his attendance.
Never Quite So Easy
Further complicating things were Cardiff’s financial issues, which finally came home to roost in “The 214s.” John Bosworth (Toby Huss), who had fretted since the beginning about their operating budget, is suddenly arrested on embezzlement charges, stealing large swathes of money out of the company proper, hoping to pay it back later down the line, expecting the Giant to be a success. His plan would not come to fruition, however, with his scheme being caught even before the team would get to showcase their new product. Though he would take the fall for the failed plan, he was not alone in taking the money. Indeed, to be able to hack the Cardiff’s bank account, John enlisted Cameron’s aid as well. It would seem that his close friendship with Cameron had leant for him much more than a partner to guide him through text adventure games in off-hours.
As the hammer falls on Cardiff, our three heroes go their separate ways, disillusioned by the prospects of having all of their hopes dashed so abruptly. Joe looking to land on his feet, learns from his father of all people that Cardiff is not the only tech company working on a mobile computing solution. Indeed, IBM will also be unveiling their own in time, though not as soon as Cardiff, but there is ample room for him back into their fold. Along his journey, we discover here why Joe has shunned his father so. Because of the actions of his mother, first alluded to a few episodes back, Joe’s father had actually sent the woman away for some time, in his mind his father’s way of punishing the young man, when in reality it was to protect the boy from his drug using mother.
Sadly, Cameron faded yet again in the background a bit in this episode. Mackenzie Davis really didn’t have much to do with her character here except to sulk in her naiveté, yet again, for taking the bad route in being the accomplice to John’s crimes, though she was in the clear. With so few episodes left in the season, it seems pretty sad that most of the principal cast seems to outshine what should be the most interesting character.
The One To Find Them
For once, Gordon was self-tasked with putting the band back together and it was great to see just how far the character has come since the series got off the ground. The once defeated man saw the guiding light within their project and did the work to keep everyone together as well as his marriage, going so far as breaking into the locked down Cardiff offices to steal their prototype. For all the attention Gordon has given toward the Giant, his hope for the machine reached beyond sheer ambition, with him linking it more fervently to his family’s success and future. To mirror Gordon’s change, Scoot McNairy has done a spectacular job this season, reforming the once reclusive character into this new assertive man. As he says to Joe, “You made us all crazy,” you feel his dire need for the Giant to become a success for a man who’s lost so many battles beforehand.
As a companion to Gordon’s resurgence, it was pretty magnificent to see Kerry Bishe’s Donna teetering on the fence when it came to the case of Gordon; should she stay and risk her well-being or should she take the girls and go, tearing their family apart? The writers and direction also did well in showcasing her swaying opinions step by step. Less life threatening than say Skyler’s decisions when it came to Walt in Breaking Bad, but nonetheless thought provoking.
All-in-all, this episode finally brought the urgency after I was looking for weeks ago and it played very well for the crew. Tension between the time remaining, yet another possible federal crime committed, and the simmering grudges the Cardiff three had for one another coming to the surface really made all the drama quite palpable.
As a double-edged sword, however, “The 214s” was used as a means to tie up several plot points expediently together without allowing much of the situations to organically work themselves out. Several story threads and situations are brought up and resolved within this one episode (embezzlement, Donna’s decision, putting the team back together) that begs retrospective questions as to why the earlier parts of this season seemed overly drawn out and these, though chockfull of relevant events, seems so mashed together. With only two episodes left in the season, I understand the increased pace, but tidying every single thing up at the home base before leaving for the big climactic conclusion smacks of convenience.
On The Road to COMDEX
Regardless, the momentum continues to build as we move into the penultimate episode this season. Now as a united front, at least as united as they will ever be, our three protagonists will take on the world at COMDEX. If this season has taught me anything, I’ve at least learned that it won’t be easy for this ragtag group of misfits.