Halt and Catch Fire 1×05 ‘Adventure’: Tethered

Halt and Catch Fire 1x05 Cover

Halt and Catch Fire is improving, however slow that process may be.  There’s still a reliance on out-of-nowhere twists and over-obvious symbolism, but the character development is becoming more potent.  And, in a show where reliance on plot is dragging it down, creating potent character development by slowing down the plot is never a bad idea.  Because, for a show that aims to evoke shades of Mad Men, it forgets that Mad Men was never a show with a heavy reliance on plot.  In fact, many of the episodes were stand-alone entries that simply set out to build character with regard to theme.  Even plot was secondary in that aspect.

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Source: AMC

To a degree, Halt and Catch Fire realizes this.  There are many attempts at symbolism to tease out the idea of control, how characters look for control over their own lives as well as the lives around them.  Just look at the final scene, where Joe asserts his masculinity over John by beating the Japanese car with a sledgehammer.  Sure, it makes sense, but it is a little obvious, and the complexity of the symbol isn’t enough to overcome its obvious nature.  Because, while Halt and Catch Fire is a show about control, it doesn’t say enough about control to masterfully resonate with the characters.

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Source: AMC

However, the show is saying more about control.  Cameron is learning how to take control when she sees the opportunity; her coup at the end of the episode shows how everybody underestimates her, and what results from their failure to gauge how dangerous she can be.  Gordon is grasping at straws to maintain any semblance of control, as he gets too drunk at the meeting with the Japanese businessmen and has to beg his father-in-law to help secure the deal.  And Joe is realizing that he doesn’t always have ultimate control over the things going on around him, as his attempt to swoop in and save the day proves pointless once Gordon reveals that he already secured the deal.  Everybody is looking for control, but there’s always something in the way of achieving that control.  For Cameron, it’s her gender.  For Gordon, it’s his lack of business savvy.  And for Joe, it’s his overconfidence.  Cameron at least knows what is in her way; Gordon often becomes too self-loathing to understand his failure and Joe simply doesn’t want to deal with it.

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Source: AMC

This episode also deals quite a bit with parenthood, an idea that resonated through the last episode with the way Donna attempted to call Cameron out on her behavior.  Joe spends the episode avoiding his father, focusing so intently on what he is capable of that he doesn’t want to attribute any of his success to his father.  He only talks well of his father when he’s trying to salvage his business deal with the Japanese, and even then, it’s just garbage meant to manipulate them into taking the deal.  What we see is Joe running away from not only the physical presence of his father, but the fact that he is just like him.  Cameron realizes this when she speaks with Joe’s father and comes to the conclusion that he’s just as manipulative as Joe.  It’s easy to run away from a person, but you can never run away from what a person has done to you.

Halt and Catch Fire 1x05-4

Source: AMC

Gordon experiences this parental influence in a similar manner.  However, instead of running away from it, he clings to it for dear life.  His lack of confidence, paired with how “in over his head” he is, makes it so that he has to cling to his father-in-law’s influence because he doesn’t understand the world that Joe has thrust him into.  But, even though he and Joe experience the pitfalls of domineering father figures in different manners, they’re both tethered to them in ways that can’t be severed.  Their pasts are forever linked to them, and while they help to inform how they came to be the people that they are, they also help to inform how difficult it is to achieve what it is they want.  What happens when Cardiff Electric creates the computer that they’ve set out to create?  Is Joe really going to be fulfilled by his work?  Is Gordon going to find the courage he’s always set out to find?  Neither of them understand how the search for the best computer isn’t going to help either of them.  Only Cameron is beginning to realize her potential, and if she can force out her manager, she can reach even higher than that.

Halt and Catch Fire, now that it has hit the halfway point, needs to continue to step up its game in order to salvage the season.  So far, this improvement has been present, as the character development has been far stronger now than it was in “FUD” and “High Plains Hardware”.  However, Joe still needs to be further grounded as a human character in order to be the center of the story like the show makes him out to be.  Cameron needs to be fleshed out as to why she feels so powerless.  And Gordon’s relationship with Donna needs to be far more complex.  Halt and Catch Fire is moving in the right direction, but it’s possible it simply isn’t moving fast enough.

Now that Halt and Catch Fire has reached the halfway point, what do you think of the series?  Do you think it is going to get any better than “Adventure”?  Do you think it will be renewed for another season?  Let me know in the comments!

Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

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