TV

A Heartbreaking Narrative Turn Sets Up the Final Episodes of 'Halt and Catch Fire'

(AMC)

Gordon's death offers character moments certain to resonate through the rest of the series.


Halt and Catch Fire

Airtime: Saturdays, 9pm
Cast: Lee Pace, Scoot McNairy, Mackenzie Davis
Subtitle: Season 4, Episode 7 - "Who Needs a Guy"
Network: AMC
Air date: 2017-09-30
Amazon

Coming on the heels of Halt and Catch Fire's most hopeful episode of the season, this week's, "Who Needs a Guy", is both one of saddest, and one of its best. A lot of changes happen simultaneously: Donna (Kerry Bishé) gets pulled off of Rover, Bos (Toby Huss) and Diane’s (Annabeth Gish) get married, and a re-launch is being planned for Comet. By the end of the episode, however, they’re all rendered insignificant in comparison to Gordon’s (Scoot McNairy) sudden death.

There's a momentum that's been building all season; it rapidly comes to a stop when Gordon is found dead by Katie (Anna Chlumsky). The almost completely silent ways in which the news is spread from Katie to Donna to Joe (Lee Pace) to Cameron (Mackenzie Davis) to Diane and Bos mirrors the immobilizing shock to both the characters and the audience. Gordon’s health problems have often been a specter hanging over the series ever since he was diagnosed with toxic encephalopathy -- an untreatable condition resulting in brain damage -- in season two. Its effects were conveyed through Gordon's hallucinations, disassociations, and odd behavior, but had been fairly well managed recently.

It was only two episodes ago that Gordon burned his journals, where he'd meticulously monitored his mental state since his diagnosis. Just prior to his death, Gordon had been hallucinating Donna -- along with Joanie (Morgan Hinkleman) and Haley (Susanna Skaggs) -- in various moments throughout the family’s life together. As Gordon and Donna have been slowly rebuilding their friendship, they’ve reaffirmed the importance of each other’s place in their lives. Where the first few episodes of the season had them alternately ignoring the other or at each other's throats, the gradual thawing of their relationship has been one of the unexpected joys of the season.

In addition to Gordon’s relationship with Donna, the recent stumbles he's had with Haley were also on the road to repair. Between struggling to be a good parent and wanting to support Haley's passion for their work -- and further complicated by his suspicions about Haley's sexuality -- Gordon's been trying to find a way to reconnect with his daughter. His unexpected death not only leaves things unresolved for the two, but it also exemplifies the fragility of all of these characters' fraught relationships. The ups and downs they've been through, both together and individually, have resulted in some major chasms over the years, but things were finally moving forward, if in different ways than they would've initially imagined. Gordon's death brings that to a standstill.

In the moments before Donna and Joe find out about Gordon, they have a confrontation that's been building for a long time. Donna's offhanded remarks about Rover's numbers besting Comet puts Gordon on a different path, one that Joe is instantly suspicious of once he discovers it came from Donna. Joe makes it clear to Donna that he doesn't trust her, even when she insists that she's not out to hurt Comet. They yell at and insult one another, and Donna eventually admits that they won: Joe, Gordon, Cameron, and even Haley are all together and still creating, working together; even Cameron's pointed non-involvement keeps her more connected than Donna. It's a moment that feels important not just because it acknowledges Donna's inherent unhappiness (reinforced by her drinking), but it also clearly links her dissatisfaction to being separated from the people she had the most fun working with.

What could've just been a scene filled with high emotions and no resolution shifts when Donna angrily slams the door in Joe's face and accidentally hurts his hand. What follows is a tentative truce between the two. He comes in to ice his hand, she genuinely apologizes, and they finally see one another as real people and not just the enemy. Because they've been at odds with one another for so long, they've never had the chance to recognize or acknowledge the fact that they're more similar than they'd like to admit. Gordon's death may be the catalyst to bring that point home in a way that's productive, rather than antagonistic.

Meanwhile, even as Cameron is given free rein to pursue her gift of world building, separate from Comet or Rover, she's no longer isolated. Partly because of her relationship with Joe, but also because she's been surrounded by people who know and understand her better than she probably ever thought they did, especially in contrast to her short-lived marriage to Tom and their time in Japan. Gordon's friendship, in particular, has played a major part in helping to make her feel understood and connected; it's a relationship of real depth and feeling, even if the characters express very little.

How Gordon's death will ultimately affect these core characters, and the remaining story to be told in the final three episodes of the series, is uncertain, but it appears more likely than ever that Donna, Joe, and Cameron may come together again as a team. Halt and Catch Fire took a significant leap in killing off one of its main characters with three episodes to go. Thankfully, the series has proven over four seasons that it doesn't take anything lightly. There's an intrinsic thoughtfulness to how the show lays out each season, and it never wastes a minute of an episode. "Who Needs a Guy" sets a course that can't be undone, but there's little doubt it's the right choice.

9

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image