Halt and Catch Fire Season 1 Review “Giant”

Halt and Catch Fire (AMC) Episode 7 Giant (2)

On the latest episode of “Halt and Catch Fire,” with the system itself on track, it was time to put the focus on the design of the proto-laptop the team has been working on, in “Giant.” Well, that, and the name they’re going to give it. However, the problem is, Cardiff is running low on funding and on the verge of bankruptcy, to the point that Cardiff himself is wanting to cut their losses and move on. Bosworth wasn’t having it, though, and even threatened to put his house on the line to help keep the project alive.

I love how, despite his overall anger with the team early on, Bosworth really does seem to believe in the project and his team, to the point that he’s putting them above his own well-being, including an impending divorce with his wife. I almost cheered when he hit that d-bag at the strip club that they were settling for to do the design when Joe’s guy seemingly fell through, and not because I thought he was standing up for the accusations the guy was leveling at Joe. I legitimately hope everything works out for the guy in the end, which is saying something since the Bos came off as such an ass early on. So, all praise to the Bos, and to the actor playing him, Toby Huss. Well done.

We got some essential back-story to Joe, as we discovered that his power move at the rich benefactor’s house with her boy toy wasn’t a fluke. Joe has been involved with men before- notably designer Simon Church (D.B. Woodside, who was one of the principals on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”). The two had a full-on affair back in the day, which Church walked away from because he told Joe he loved him and Joe didn’t say it back. He warned Cameron that Joe would do the same thing to her, but Joe went after her just the same, just barely salvaging a relationship that was already shaky to begin with.

Church was also Joe’s first choice for designing the laptop prototype, but that went to hell when Church got a load of Cam at her most off-putting best- or worst, depending on how you look at it. Thankfully, Joe was able to make a last-ditch effort to get him back after the strip club debacle and it seems to have worked. Though things ended on a sad note when Church revealed he was sick. Might it be an early case of HIV infection and the AIDS virus? Not to stereotype or whatever, just because he’s gay, but it seemed like the show’s subtle way of hinting at that without out-and-out saying it. After all, it was still early on into the discovery of the disease at the time. By all means correct me if you think I’m completely off the mark and reading too much into it.

Another alluded-to historical event was the bit with Cameron reading in Newsweek about the group of teens (aka the 414s) that hacked into various places, most notably the Los Alamos National Laboratory. De facto leader and cover boy Neal Patrick was reportedly a cause célèbre at the time, going on to testify before the House of Representatives about the dangers of hacking, which ultimately led to various bills concerning computer crime being introduced in 1983, which basically makes the 414s incident the first major cyber crime, even though it was seen as a bit of a goof on their part at the time, sort of a low-level “War Games”-type scenario.

Still, though the 414s may have been doing it just to do it, without any real malice, it did serve to alert higher-ups that it could be done in the first place, which meant that someone else could possibly do it, and with decidedly more sinister applications. It doesn’t surprise me that Cameron would be amused by this, or completely onboard with it, though. I was amused by Simon’s hilarious description of her as “Rainbow Brite”! My sister used to love that show when she was a kid, though I don’t recall ever seeing it myself.

The main historical reference this time around was the infamous, so-called “Cardiff Giant,” which tied in perfectly to all that was going on, leading me to believe the show’s writers intended it all along, in naming the company Cardiff in the first place. I know that I thought of it right away, when I heard the company was called Cardiff, but well played in waiting until it was relevant to bring it up. I won’t rehash the story again, as Gordon did a fine enough job in that himself, but if you want to know more, look here for more information. It is truly a fascinating story, and an appropriate one, given the stakes at hand.

Gordon went almost completely off-the-rails in this episode, starting it by dreaming he saw himself lying dead-instead of whoever that was in the last episode that was struck down by the storm- and then waking up screaming at full volume, scaring the kids out of their wits. Then Gordon jumped down Church’s throat about his proposed design, which is why he bolted in the first place. He followed that up with a drunken binge as he stayed behind with the kids after Donna went on a business trip with her boss, and ended the night digging a grave-type hole in the yard with his daughters to “find the giant.” Alrighty then! Someone’s been working a little too hard on the job at hand. It might be time for a time-out for poor Gordon, lest he send the wife and kids running.

As it stands, his relationship with Donna is a bit on the rocky side, as evidenced by her making a play for her boss, Hunt Whitmarsh. I thought for sure he was going to be the one to make a pass at her, but it was Donna, and much to my surprise, Whitmarsh took the high road and backed out of the situation, as gracefully as he could. And they say chivalry is dead. I’m really glad that was the case, because an affair would really send Gordon off the deep end- if he hasn’t already achieved that all on his own.

That was the gist of the episode, and I must say, it was another strong episode of the show which remarkably managed to sustain the excellence of the previous episode, with its exciting, storm-driven shenanigans. There were some great character-defining moments, like the Bos punching that guy and singing his divorce papers; Cam and Joe having some super-oddball foreplay involving shocking themselves; the big revelations about Joe’s past and his tense-but-tender scenes with Church; Cam’s unexpected falling apart after hearing the truth about Church and Joe’s relationship with him; Gordon’s nightmares and general loopy behavior; Whitmarsh’s sweet encouraging of Donna without intending to overstep bounds; and Donna’s out-of-character loosening up with her pianist alter ego, Susan Fairchild. In short, lots of good stuff here, and all of it impeccably acted.

About my only complaint was in having to wait until next week to see what the fallout from Gordon’s wacky behavior will be. Otherwise, this was first-rate stuff all around, with the usual fun soundtrack picks and visually interesting shots throughout. I kind of love this show, I must say, and I look forward to continuing to see how the Cardiff story dovetails with actual history at the time. I’ve learned a lot through my online research of the show’s many references, more so than anything besides “The Americans,” I must say. Who says TV rots your brain? Not these days, at least.

What did you think of the latest episode of “Halt and Catch Fire”? Were you surprised by Joe’s revelations? How about Cam’s breakdown? Or Gordon’s, for that matter? Do you think that Donna will tough it out with Gordon or fly the coop, kids in tow? Will the Bos put his livelihood on the line and continue to fund the team out of his own pocket? Sound off on this and anything else that strikes your fancy down below and see you next week!