Halt and Catch Fire 1×06 ‘Landfall’: Having a soul

Halt and Catch Fire 1x06 Cover

There’s not a whole lot to be said that I haven’t said yet.  Halt and Catch Fire is a show that tries too hard to be something that it’s not.  It doesn’t know how to utilize its characters in a way that resonates both emotionally and thematically.  Its plot meanders and never keeps the stakes up in any meaningful way.  It uses over-obvious symbolism in order to drive its point into us again and again.  But, at the very least, “Landfill” brings the plot to a near-standstill to give us some more insight as to exactly who these people are.

Halt and Catch Fire 1x06-3

Source: AMC

Take, for example, Joe’s morning ritual of waking up in his empty apartment before dressing in his expensive suit.  It’s a ritual in place to convince him that he’s worth something, that the charismatic man inside the suit is actually a contribution to anything but himself.  It’s a meaningful scene, one that, when juxtaposed with his treatment of Gordon and the way that Cameron beats him down, shows just why he treats other people the way that he does.  It shows why people would rather push others away and reduce relationships until they’re simple exercises in power imbalance.  It’s not perfectly executed, but it is interesting stuff, and it grounds Joe in a way that hasn’t really been done yet.  And, with Joe being one of the biggest issues for the show thus far, this is a huge deal.

Halt and Catch Fire 1x06-4

Source: AMC

His relationship with Cameron is probably the facet of the show that I buy the least, simply because they have almost no chemistry and have no real reason to care for each other in the way that they do.  But the way that John talks with her and the way she interacts with computers in this episode reveals a little more about why she loves computers with the magnitude that she does.  There isn’t enough backstory to really back up her motivations, but at least Halt and Catch Fire is giving her motivations.  Her desire to give the computer “a soul” is born from the desire to create something and interact with something that you can feel an emotional response from, and that humanizes her a little bit.  But it still comes as dialogue, and no matter what the show does for her, she’s still the weakest drawn character of the series thus far (with maybe the exception of John).

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Source: AMC

Even Gordon gets his moments in this episode, where we see how brutally difficult it is for him to balance every facet of his life.  Not only does he have to deal with a work environment where he’s being shot down on all sides by Joe, Cameron, and the rest of the staff, but he also has to take care of his children and live up to his ambitious wife’s standards.  While the hunt for a Cabbage Patch doll doesn’t provide the high stakes needed to make his plight seem like it’s going to crush him, “Landfall” does a pretty good job showing us just how desperate Gordon is.  He has one thing that he’s created that he can call his own, a genius computer that is called “a work of art” on more than one occasion.  And even that is possibly being taken from him to satisfy Cameron’s desires.

Halt and Catch Fire 1x06-1

Source: AMC

That isn’t to say that this episode is really a step up from “Adventure”.  Two moments are particularly cringe-worthy, such as the moment that Gordon stumbles across the dead body after stealing the Cabbage Patch kid from the store.  Where it’s apparent that Gordon sees himself in that dead man, somebody who just stumbled too close to danger and was killed for it, it’s such an “out of nowhere” metaphor that it feels more bizarre than resonant.  The same goes for Joe’s big moment at the end of the episode where he takes the flashlights out into the storm.  It’s supposed to be a big deal that Joe has come to reach this epiphany of sorts, but it comes off as ham-fisted and a little ridiculous.  It drains the impact from a final scene that looks like it was supposed to be a huge deal for Joe’s character.

As we approach Halt and Catch Fire’s first season endgame, the characters are going to have to be defined enough to make the plotting resonate at all.  And, at the very least, the middle section of the season has worked well enough to at least do something to the characters.  Cameron isn’t necessarily just an angry punk kid (even though her montages set to punk music are becoming unbearable).  Gordon isn’t just a sad-sack who can’t do anything right.  And Joe isn’t just a mysterious jerk that we’re supposed to love because he’s the main character anti-hero.  Heading into the final stretch, these central characters at least have something to offer.  Let’s see if it’s enough.

So do you think that Halt and Catch Fire will step up its game for the final episodes of the season?  Do you think that this show will improve any more?  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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