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Halt and Catch Fire, Ep. 1.10, “1984” shuffles the deck

Halt and Catch Fire, Ep. 1.10, “1984” shuffles the deck

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Halt and Catch Fire, Season 1, Episode 10: “1984”
Directed by Juan José Campanella
Written by Christopher Cantwell & Christopher C. Rogers
Airs Sundays at 10pm EST on AMC

Halt and Catch Fire’s final episode probably aired last night, unless AMC has more faith in the show than its meager audience would suggest and renews it for a second season. I can’t say I’m heartbroken. The finale has all the frustrating aspects of a typical Halt and Catch Fire episode: overwritten speeches, inconsistent characters, disappearing stakes. And yet, as it has several times over the past ten weeks, the show shuffles the deck and sets itself up promisingly for the future. So, though I doubt we’ll get to see how Gordon handles being CEO of Cardiff, or how Cameron and Donna work together running their internet gaming startup, or if Joe reconnects with his absent mother who’s living in the woods (that’s what’s happening, right?), I would watch it. A second season would probably be just as much of a mess as the first season was, but maybe they’d pull it together once the Giant hits the shelves.

1984 conforms to the increasingly common trend of cable drama finales being setup for a (potential) future season rather than the climax of the current season. So, while a lot happens plot-wise to get the characters where they need to be, little of it makes much sense or carries much emotional weight. At the end of last week’s episode, Gordon and Donna said some vicious, hurtful things to each other, enough to think their marriage is in real trouble. But apparently a few nights on the couch and a half-hearted apology are enough to make their relationship stronger than ever, also curing Gordon’s manic-depressive tendencies and his bourgeoning alcoholism. Later, Donna accepts a job offer from the woman who left her husband’s company and poached all his programmers, and Gordon seems fine with it. This is a man who a few weeks ago barely wanted his wife to have a career at all. It’s great to see characters grow and change, but it helps to see some sort of justification for the change other than “this is what the plot dictates.”

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Cameron’s transformation from sullen, angry coder to confident start-up impresario is equally as jarring, but also a welcome relief. Mackenzie Davis has never been entirely convincing as a moody, lovelorn punk, but as Cameron becomes more assured in her ideas, the actress’s natural strength and presence comes through. Leaving a good job to work at a dial up video game company called Mutiny seems almost like a rational decision when persuaded by her. And finally, Cameron is over her terrible crush on Joe. Her speech to him when he comes to her door, like most Halt and Catch Fire speeches, is a bit on-the-nose (and way harsh), but if it means we never have to see another Joe/Cameron hookup montage I’m all for it.

Joe remains the most problematic character on a show full of problems. While his veneer of slick, cool visionary has totally been shed, the other characters (and the show) don’t seem to be able to decide if he’s a reptilian sociopath or a pathetic man-child. If the ambiguity is intentional, it’s not working. Mysteries are only engaging if their subject is interesting to begin with, and nothing about Joe McMillan or Lee Pace’s performance is the least bit interesting. Destroying property week after week does not make up for Joe’s inherent emptiness. So maybe it’s best if he finds his mother at the secret observatory and stays there. Let Gordon, Donna, and Cameron battle it out with Apple and IBM for the future.

Other thoughts:

What the hell was Cardiff complaining about? Didn’t Joe and Gordon pretty much save his company?

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“Oh Gordon, I don’t know how to test a computer!”  – But you do Debbie, you do.

Donna’s employee evaluation is priceless.

Sorry, that Porsche is ugly.

I usually like beards but Scoot McNairy is super hot clean-shaven. More of that.

Did Cameron invent the internet?

Thanks to all who stuck through Halt and Catch Fire with me! I’ll be back in the fall reviewing something.