Well that was certainly a strange finale to a slow season. It was fitting that a show about a man ripping off a widely popular computer company would never amount to more than a Mad Men-light. However, the last few episodes of the season showed real promise to build up to something more. Halt and Catch Fire never should have been a slow building show. It should have started with the strong beats and relatable instead of praying that the audience would stick around for it to get there. Still, a second season would be welcomed, especially if the writers take what the learned from the second half of the season and apply it to the show moving forward. Here are the highlights from “1984:”
Joe and Gordon try to convince Cardiff to entrust his company under their care. Joe promises that The Giant will net the company more money than they’ve ever seen. “I’m 60 years old. Why would I want 40 million dollars when I can have 5?” Cardiff asks. He can sell the company now that The Giant has earned some positive press. Joe puts his smooth talking abilities to good use and discusses Cardiff’s name and the legacy he’ll leave behind if their company is a success. That little speech earns him 8% of the company.
Cardiff Electric gets a test shipment of 100 computers to ensure that there are no bugs when they go out to market. One computer crashes a lot, so the team freaks out that they could have a massive manufacturing issue.
Joe watches this commercial and gets inspired:
It’s clear from the very beginning that Joe has messed with the test computer so that he can push back the market date and add something inspiring to The Giant. He tries to get the software designers to think up an app that they can send out with every computer, but they only come up with lame ideas like a moon face calendar and a bee keeping simulator. Joe wants them to think bigger, which leads one of the nerds to call him out for having no ideas.
Gordon about Joe: “He can’t live in reality. He’s always chasing some fantasy.”
Donna quits Texas Instruments in the most epic way possible. During a performance review she gives honest answers about her messy performance, emotional affair, and unsanctioned Vegas vacation. “We could give you two weeks,” her boss says. Donna answers: “Actually I’d prefer if today was my last day.”
Donna: “I got fired.” Gordon: “Congratulations.”
Cameron goes to work for a phone company. She figures out that they are purposefully making their speeds slower (sound familiar?) and fixes it in the modems. But the boss doesn’t like it so she quits.
Cameron finally gives Joe the kick in the gut he so richly deserves. Among the ruthless things she says to him are: “You’re not the future. You’re a footnote.” “It wasn’t a heartbeat. It was an echo.” “I loved you because you recited my ideas back to me and pretended they were your own.” And then she dealt the deadliest blow. “You are exactly the person you were when your mom let you fall off that roof. Just a sad little boy with wasted potential.”
Gordon: “What is Joe’s Achilles’ heel?” Donna: “Casual wear.”
Gordon and Donna come up with a plan to get Joe to quit Cardiff Electric. They want to threaten to turn Cameron into the feds for stealing the bank’s money. It’s understandable that they want to get rid of Joe, but heartless to do to Cameron.
All of Cardiff Electric’s software designers leave for Mutiny, Cameron’s new company. She wants to use what she learned at the phone company to create a worldwide gaming community. Cameron invites Donna to join the team, but Donna doesn’t want to be used in a revenge scheme.
Gordon shaves. That’s his most riveting character development yet.
Actually that’s not exactly true. Gordon finally gives Donna exactly what she wants. After giving her the cypher engagement ring that she once sold to make his dreams come true, he encourages her to do the same. He finally asks her to join Cardiff Electric as head engineer, but she wants to join Mutiny. Donna and Cameron working together is worth a second season alone.
Cameron: “A lot of people want us to fail. But that’s because we’re the future.”
The second half of the episode is filled with suspense over what the hell Joe was going to do to mess everything up. The moment his sad puppy eyes agreed to put The Giant to market without a fight or anymore fiddling, it was clear that he was going to do something wild. He sets the truck full of Giants on fire (!!!) and then goes into woods to stargaze, like his mentally unbalanced mother. He’ll be back to mess Gordon’s life up in a different way, but if the show is cancelled, let’s just say he was eaten by bears.
What We Want From Season 2 (If there is a season 2):
Have more fun with the decade. The 80s was such a ridiculous time, it’s time to be a little less serious. With all the music, movies, and technology that popped up in the 80s, there’s plenty of opportunities to poke fun at the decade.
No more Super Serious Joe Revelations. We get it. Joe has a mysterious past. Do we need to be reminded every single episode with a new past surprise?
More Donna. She was often the best character on the show and subverted the nagging wife trope with grace. Plus, it didn’t hurt that she was one of the few to call Gordon out on his obnoxious, destructive qualities.
Meaningful interactions between Donna and Cameron. These are two strong female characters dominating in a male-centered industry. Whether they’re adversaries or allies, give these ladies more to do than follow Gordon and Joe around. Working together at Mutiny will give them plenty to butt heads over.
Slow down production. Show more of the day to day hardships. Every episode of season 1 jumped from major creation detail to detail (i.e. software design to case design.) Not every issue they deal with has to be about something massive.