Halt and Catch Fire 1×10 ‘1984’: To the future

Halt and Catch Fire 1x10 Cover

Endings are more important than people let on.  They have to make a statement, they have to be satisfying, they have to wrap up the story, they have to leave it open-ended enough.  Just look at the ending of The Sopranos, the infamous cut to black that left millions of people horrified that their beloved drama could end without the closure they desired (even though the point of that ending was the inevitability of life’s end).  In the case of Halt and Catch Fire, a show just beginning to stand on its own two feet, the pressure of an ending could easily become too much to handle.

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Source: AMC

And it was.  There were a lot of great ideas in “1984”, a lot of ideas that could have been more poignant and meaningful if the episode wasn’t full of moments that didn’t amount to much.  Because it’s the big moments that always doom Halt and Catch Fire to wallowing in mediocrity, just like our man Joe.  It’s moments like Cameron starting her own company or Joe burning a truck full of Cardiff Giants or Gordon getting his car stolen that just drive any semblance of coherence into the dust.  Because the writers of Halt and Catch Fire realize that a lot of television’s most lucrative shows are ones that indulge in “the moment”, that understand that viewers watch these shows to see specific scenes.  Just look at Game of Thrones, where everybody would wait through en entire episode just to see a six-minute scene like the Mountain vs. the Viper or the Red Wedding.

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Source: AMC

But those scenes have tons of build-up to make them work, and they function within the story in meaningful ways.  Nobody even reacts to Joe burning the shipment, and Gordon’s carjacking just seems to come out of nowhere.  I understand that burning the shipment is supposed to be this huge moment where Joe turns on his empty life.  And I get that Gordon’s carjacking is supposed to echo the emptiness of money.  But there’s always something keeping these big moments from really landing.  Halt and Catch Fire works best when the characters are allowed to just talk to one another, because it’s in those conversations that the show elevates itself to something bigger than its often convoluted plotting.

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Source: AMC

So it’s like I said.  The ideas in “1984” were far more interesting than the often ridiculous plotting.  In Halt and Catch Fire, there’s always the continual clash between the future and the present, and it’s that clashing that reminds us that the show is essentially about legacy, about becoming a part of the future and making a mark on history.  Joe wants to make a mark on history, but he doesn’t have the skills to really do so.  It’s why he resorted to being a fraud, an empty suit, in order to make progress.  Because relying on his skills doesn’t do much for him.  It may be so obvious within the episode because it’s beaten into the viewer’s head, but at least it’s an idea interesting enough to hold onto.  The same goes for Gordon and how empty he feels as CEO of Cardiff Electric.  Again, the show makes this idea too obvious by using stupid delivery vehicles like the carjacking, but at least the writers are recognizing that it’s a strong direction to move towards.

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Source: AMC

The most interesting facet of the episode, however, is the idea that the women (Cameron and Donna) hold the key to the future, as they both are essentially predicting online gaming.  The issue with this, though, is that Mutiny doesn’t appear to be feasible as a company.  It’s not run with any real structure, and “Up Helly Aa” already established that there’s constantly tension between innovation and reality.  Sure, Cameron’s company has some great ideas, but how are they going to last when there’s reality looming overhead with such a bold presence?  Halt and Catch Fire recognizes that there are those who hold the key to innovation (Macintosh, for one), but it also says that those who hold the key rarely have the chance to do much with it.  There’s so much against them that it’s easier just to give up.  Of course, as Cameron knows, you have to be persistent.

Ultimately, Halt and Catch Fire could be a great show.  It has the ideas to do something really fascinating.  And maybe a second season would work to hammer out the kinks.  But this first season didn’t work as well as it could have, with more mediocre episodes than good ones and ratings that don’t look like they’ll pull a second season.  But, at the very least, we were treated to a show that had some strong ideas about what it means to leave a legacy.  Because, even if we don’t have what it takes to change the future in a meaningful way, we all have a vision.  And all is takes is a vision, along with the drive to take action, to make the impact we dream of.

So what did you think of this first season of Halt and Catch Fire?  Do you want to see a second 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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