Halt and Catch Fire 2×09 ‘Kali’: Destroyer of worlds

Halt and Catch Fire 2x09 Cover

Halt and Catch Fire has been getting better and better with every episode this season.  There were a couple in the middle of the season that sagged a little bit, but these last three have been fantastic, better than anything AMC has put out since Breaking Bad and Mad Men.  And it’s not just that it’s getting better; it’s getting more complex as well.  The theme that held up the first season in its weakest moments is running full force here, as we see the existential drive for purpose pervading and defeating every character here.  Even Cameron, after taking down all of her enemies, only really has herself at the end of it all.  The quest for relevance mutes all else, burning away relationships and other important facets of life in its wake. 

Halt and Catch Fire 2x09-1

Source: AMC

It’s easy to cheer when we see Cameron win.  She takes down WestNet with Gordon’s destructive software, Sonaris, virtually crippling Westgroup.  She sells Extract and Defend to Nintendo, which we know will come to benefit Mutiny greatly.  She makes $50,000 off of her game deal, enough to purchase Mutiny’s own network and pay her employees.  But at the episode, after everybody leaves her, after Tom rides away and Joe’s life collapses and Bosworth moves on to another company, Cameron is essentially alone.  She’s successful and willing to move forward with the company’s new direction, but there isn’t anybody really by her side.  It’s just an empty victory.

Halt and Catch Fire 2x09-2

Source: AMC

Emptiness pervades “Kali”, the penultimate episode of this absolutely excellent season of Halt and Catch Fire.  Gordon is sinking further into his condition, though we learn that it’s not his toxic encephalopathy, but a psychotic condition that’s being exacerbated by stress.  He ends up unable to find his car in a parking garage, stranded for hours, until he calls and breaks his leg, only rescued later by a man passing by who calls an ambulance.  Nothing we see of his storyline in “Kali” is particularly new, but merely the next phase in a condition that is robbing him of everything that he is.  It’s the ultimate metaphor for what happens to innovators like Joe, Donna, and Cameron.  You’re relevant at one point, but then you eventually fade away, your accomplishments meaning less and less until you’re just a vague point in history.

Halt and Catch Fire 2x09-3

Source: AMC

We see emptiness in Joe’s journey as well, as he continually tries to find his identity, his purpose in the world, but is constantly beaten down by something.  He and Cameron finally kiss, and we can see Joe wanting to latch himself onto the one person that has the vision that he has always wanted for himself.  Or, rather, she has the clarity of vision, while his is obscured in a way he doesn’t know how to focus.  When he asserts at Westgroup’s press conference that Cameron was the vision of WestNet, he’s trying to honor the one thing he reveres above all else: innovation.  Joe wants to be a part of innovation, but when he tries, something constantly pushes him back down.  And here, when Cameron uses Sonaris to eviscerate WestNet, Joe finds himself looking foolish, finds Sara furious with him.  But Sara isn’t furious simply because of Joe’s speech.  She knows that he loves Cameron, something that is absolutely apparent when Joe yells at Sara, only his echo filling the house.  Joe’s relationship is built on nothing, a lie, just like his life in Season 1.  Season 2 has done a brilliant job transforming Joe into a tragic character, and here, when his marriage falls apart, we can see how he still has a ways to go until he completely understands how to be truly himself in the world.

“Kali” is a fantastic penultimate episode, and it focuses the show by eliminating the antagonist and funneling the finale down to character interaction.  There are still unresolved issues between Donna and Gordon, between Joe and Cameron, and if the finale focuses intently on them, then it is bound to be really something.  At this point, I’m really hoping that we see Halt and Catch Fire come back for a third season, because it’s apparent that the show has finally found its groove and really understands how to meld together the characters, the plotting, and the thematic elements at play.  But even if it doesn’t come back, these final episodes would be one great way to go out.

So what did you think of “Kali”?  What is going to happen in the finale?  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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