Halt and Catch Fire 3×05 ‘Yerba Buena’: Down into the abyss

Source: AMC

This season has been dealing intently with the notion of fear, how taking chances causes excitement as well as terror, how progress is inevitable but instills fear that those who have made waves are vulnerable to being outdated. But it’s dealing with more than just fear. It’s dealing with what people are afraid of as well as what people are afraid of losing. Because when you lose somebody or something, that fear keeps on getting stronger. And we never really know how best to get rid of it, really because there isn’t one way to do it. We wander aimlessly, hoping for relief, holding onto what we have for fear of losing more.

Source: AMC

Source: AMC

What’s interesting is how this particular episode, “Yerba Buena”, deals with relationships and family, highlighting just what the people on this show have to lose and how easy it is to lose it. It’s the best episode of the season so far, maybe the best of the entire series, and really the first episode of the show that evoked Mad Men as much as it wanted to. During the run of the show, Halt and Catch Fire has tried so hard to become the next Mad Men, creating Joe as a mysterious figure like Don Draper. The issue, though, is that Joe isn’t Don Draper. He’s not as interesting, and he’s not as complicated. The show wanted him to be, with his scars and his bravado, but he never quite rose to the occasion. Really, it’s not because Joe is a bad character; he’s fantastic in this episode. He’s just not Don Draper, and he’s not supposed to be.

Source: AMC

Source: AMC

“Yerba Buena” does a terrific job weaving three absolutely fantastic storylines together: Gordon and Donna’s romantic weekend, Bosworth and Cameron searching for connection on a trip to Dallas, Joe silently suffering a terrible loss while Brian lingers in the background. Joe’s character has been terrific this season in that it highlights his drive for success while also highlighting how afraid he is to fail. He knows that his company is bleeding money, and he knows that his next big idea needs to be good enough to make money so the company can live. But more than that, he sees the abyss that is under him. He sees how San Francisco has the capacity to swallow a person whole, as it did his mother, and he sees how one of his partners is diagnosed with HIV, making him worry that he has it as well. One of my favorite moments of the episode is when he sits crying on the edge of his bed, worried about his own health but also horrified at the notion that his friend is dying. Joe’s character this season has been brilliant, and watching him stare into the abyss below him is chilling.

Source: AMC

Source: AMC

Gordon and Donna have a weekend in, celebrating, drinking, having sex, and simply enjoying spending time together, and it’s great to see the two of the connecting. The two of them, along with their kids, are a family, and their family is a fortress unto itself, connection that keeps out the pain inflicted by the rest of the world. But even in that blissful weekend, Gordon finds something wrong, something that is damaging that connection. Donna is still somewhat unable to see the impact of Gordon’s condition, and Gordon is afraid that his condition is slowly destroying him, destroying his family. So he retreats into himself, skipping the romantic brunch that he and Donna had planned, playing around with his radio instead. He needs to retreat from the connection he has with his family, as it’s tainted with the fear associated with losing it.

Source: AMC

Source: AMC

Cameron, more than anybody else this season (except for maybe Joe), has been afraid that something bad is coming. Back in Texas, she reconnects with her old boyfriend Tom, but is unable to really connect because she’s so worried about herself that she can’t let him know she cares about him. The same goes for her and Bosworth. Bosworth has been trying to become something better than who he was, trying to become a good father for his child and grandchild, but is unable to overcome the failures of his past. He’s always seen Cameron as a daughter of sorts, and she’s always seen him as a surrogate father, but when he tries to push her, she lashes out at him, telling him that he’s no father to her. Maybe Bosworth crossed a line, but seeing the pain in his eyes when she snaps at him is one of the most heartbreaking moments of the series, and it severs another connection that Cameron had. She wants to succeed, she wants Mutiny to be great, and she cares about Donna and her family, but she’s so terrified of her baby being ruined by something else that she is destroying the relationships she has with everybody around her. It’s truly heartbreaking to watch.

But the fight between Donna and Cameron near the end of the episode is what this season is really about. These people care about each other, but their personal fears, their personal damage, slowly erodes that caring. It festers into anger and pain, into more fear, and that all snowballs into some irreversible, something wholly damaging. The episode ends with Cameron curled up in a ball, having a panic episode, feeling the weight of her fear crushing her. And like her, we all experience that same fear, trying to make it go away, just hoping and praying that it doesn’t get any worse.

What did you think of this episode of Halt and Catch Fire? Do you think Cameron is going to be cut out of Mutiny? 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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