Halt and Catch Fire 1×08 ‘The 214s’: Chasing dreams

Halt and Catch Fire 1x08 Cover

It’s fascinating how television shows can bounce back from a string of terrible episodes.  Audiences tend to have a short memory span, where a show can produce an absolutely awful episode of television, but a great new episode can erase the bad taste of that awful entry.  Of course, there’s no way to completely erase a bad episode of television, as serialized art is immortalized as it is made, a bad episode being a part of a show’s history.  But it’s possible to come back from a bad run, just like it’s possible for a person to change their own future.  The restitution just has to match the magnitude of the failure.

Halt and Catch Fire 1x08-1

Source: AMC

“The 214s” is, by far, the best episode that Halt and Catch Fire has produced thus far.  It’s not an amazing episode of television, but it completely outshines every other episode the show has put out.  This isn’t to say that it isn’t without its shortcomings, but those shortcomings are mostly a result of past failures, bad characterization making the end result of some of these plotlines a little convoluted.  I’m still fairly surprised that Bosworth’s exit was as poignant as it was, as his character has fluttered between angry man fighting for control and compassionate father figure.  Obviously, it’s possible for these two characterizations to exist within one character, but the issue is that the show has always Bosworth as having these two sides coexisting apart from the other.  And that doesn’t really work when Bosworth seems like two different people.  So I was glad to see that “The 214s” took a stand on just who Bosworth is, as he becomes a martyr for the company, taking the fall for funneling money from Cardiff’s account into the company’s.  The show also takes a stand on Donna, another storyline that always felt convoluted.  Instead of running away with her boss, or running away with the kids, she ends up going with Gordon to COMDEX.  It’s great in that it ties up all the bad plotlines that Donna has been a part of and pushes her into the third act with almost a clean slate.

Halt and Catch Fire 1x08-3

Source: AMC

As for the rest of the episode, it’s all about bringing Joe, Cameron, and Gordon together so they can go to COMDEX a team.  After the company is forced to shut down and Gordon steals the computer so they can take it with them, Halt and Catch Fire takes on an energy that I haven’t seen since its pilot.  With Cameron and Gordon breaking the law to make their computer, and Joe running in circles in order to find his balance, the show becomes legitimately tense, shaking the debilitating sense of predictability that has stricken it for the majority of its run.  As for the episode after Bosworth’s arrest and Gordon’s theft, it continues to impress.  Some of the show’s best scenes have involved two characters just talking over drinks, and Gordon and Cameron talking in Joe’s apartment was a great way to expose one to the other and vice versa.  Gordon and Cameron have never really gotten to know each other, and hearing about Cameron’s family life and Gordon’s escapades with Donna solidified them both as three-dimensional people.

Halt and Catch Fire 1x08-4

Source: AMC

I was most impressed with how Joe’s character was brought together and grounded in the scene with his father.  Joe really has been a character that was hell bent on acquiring control, and while it wasn’t really clear throughout most of the season, “The 214s” makes it abundantly clear.  After he loses control of the project when the company closes down, he runs off to his father to ask for help.  But the most enlightening part of the scene was when Joe spoke about his mother.  While Joe defends his mother, the same mother who let him fall from the rooftop when he was a child, by calling her a dreamer, his father calls her lost.  And it’s there that we see what Joe is really about.  He’s a dreamer, always has been, but he’s been too scared to act on those feelings.  He’d rather pretend that he’s in control, live with his fancy clothes and car in order to create an image of what his life should be.  But Gordon tells him in the episode’s ending that taking his father’s offer of a return to IBM would be going back on everything he stands for.  And it’s true.  Returning to IBM would be running away from his problems and his dreams.  So when we see Joe sell his Porsche for money to take everybody to COMDEX, it feels like it matters.  It turns Joe from the one-dimensional husk of a character into something more.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Halt and Catch Fire.  I’ve never even really cared about what happens to Joe, Cameron, Gordon, or Bosworth.  But “The 214s” did something that I didn’t think Halt and Catch Fire was going to do.  It took a storyline that wasn’t really going anywhere, characters that were mostly one-dimensional, and writing that was fairly convoluted, and it turned things around enough to make me care.  I’m not going to hold my breath for an awesome finale.  But I am legitimately excited for what happens next.  I actually care.

So what did you think of “The 214s”?  Was it as impressive as I think it was?  Are you excited for what happens next?  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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