Halt and Catch Fire Season 1 Review “The 214s”

Halt and Catch Fire (AMC) Episode 8 The 214s (1)

On the latest episode of “Halt and Catch Fire,” something good finally came from Gordon’s particular brand of crazy- or, at least, the potential for something good, in “The 214s.” I’m assuming that the title is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Texas area code that the “Halt” team works in, just as the “414s” hackers-collective referenced last week named themselves for the Milwaukee area code in which they lived in. That’s a pretty clever joke for a pretty clever show that really is one of the best things on TV right now, and proof positive that something intelligent can reside on television in the dog days of summer- which is not always a given, mind you.

Things have certainly changed in that regard. I can remember when summer TV was a wasteland of reruns and reality shows, with nothing new dramatic programming-wise in sight. Sure, you might get the occasional cast-off sitcom, but I’ve never been much for sitcoms. Nowadays, dramatic TV has never been better, though, and who’d have thought some of the best of the bunch would be shown in the summer?

Yet, we’ve got “Halt” and “Masters of Sex,” plus Netflix shows like “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black.” Yes, some of the summer stuff is silly- i.e. the nutty “Salem” and “The Strain”- but even they have their charms. Ditto a guilty pleasure like “Pretty Little Liars,” which is so successful they extended its run throughout the year for one of the rare full-length seasons out there for a summer show, over twenty episodes! Granted, the show extends into the beginning of the year, after a break towards Halloween, but you get my drift: summer shows, they’re not just for shut-ins anymore!

Back to “Halt.” As Gordon tried fruitlessly to meditate himself out of crazy-town, population him; the one-two punch of not being invited along to the impending COMDEX (or Computer Dealers’ Exhibition) to pitch and promote Cardiff’s portable prototype, coupled with the Bos getting arrested and the project effectively shut down sent him off the reservation yet again. Ah, but as one door closes, another can open, and in this case, it was Gordon that spear-headed the push into starting the project anew; this time as people selling a prototype to interested investors, in hopes of securing new funding for the portable computer they’ve all been working so hard on all this time.

He also put his well-being, if you can call it that, on the line, when he stashed the computer stuff when the cops arrived on the fly, then broke into the building after hours to retrieve it, in order to rescue their work. Interestingly, after alienating Donna to the point of her almost leaving with the kids to move back in with her parents, he won her back over on the strength of the rare sweeping romantic gesture of buying back the wedding ring she hocked to buy him his first computer, in a sort of pseudo-“Gift of the Magi”-type reverse twist. Now Donna’s firmly back on Team Gordon, and that’s a good thing because someone has to keep that guy grounded, and it isn’t going to be Cam or Joe, who have issues of their own to contend with.

Speaking of which, Cam finally got wind of -courtesy of Gordon- what Joe did to sabotage her work and clocked him good. Most women slap, but Cameron out-and-out punched Joe, who definitely had that coming, and it was glorious to see. Not so glorious was the fake chastening Bos gave Cam right before the ‘s’ hit the fan, in order to keep her out of it. I’m really glad she and Bos got to have that final moment to say their goodbyes on better terms, because she might not be seeing him anytime soon, given the charges at hand on his end. How adorable was it, hearing him recite coder-speak to show that he could sell to the cops that he was the real mastermind of the bank heist, not Cam? I feel bad for the guy, especially since I was really coming to like him as of late, but he did sort of bring upon himself, I suppose.

Some cute, very Whedon-esque lines throughout the episode: “Be crazy with me” (as Gordon said to Donna, who surprisingly opted to do just that) and “It’s like having your mother inside your computer” (as Gordon said to Cam, when he threatened to pitch the AI ideas Cam had if she wouldn’t) were amongst my favorites. I also liked Gordon’s reaction to Joe’s sparsely-decorated digs, when Cam said it was how Joe did things: “On purpose?” LOL.

Of course, that latter assessment wasn’t entirely true, as Joe confessed that all he had to his name was the apartment and his car- actually, scratch the car, as Cam had him sell it and downsize, so that they could all go to COMDEX. Hey, I guessed he owed her that much, after everything he put her through in general. Plus, they need this, not only with the Cardiff enterprise going DOA, but with IBM planning to have a portable on the market in about a year’s time.

Joe did get a little closure of his own, when he went an finally confronted his dad about his elusive past. As he figured, Joe’s father confirmed that his mother was indeed a junkie that almost killed him and that he had intentionally had her put away rather than risk her harming his son again, telling Joe she’d been dead for some 23 years before she actually was, thus robbing him of the chance to see her again. Needless to say, Joe wasn’t thrilled about it, but he did agree to come back to IBM, at least until Gordon and Cam convinced him otherwise.

Hidden meaning of the week: After last week’s inference that Joe’s ex boyfriend likely had AIDS before it was a common thing, this week, I got the distinct feeling that maybe Bos was gay as well. It would explain both why he never came on to Cam, and why he was so offended when that designer guy called Joe a queer that he felt compelled to punch him. Am I way off base on this? My gaydar has admittedly not been great over the years, as a straight guy, but that’s the feeling I got that the show was trying to infer, without out-and-out saying it.

If so, I like that. It kind of reminds me when “Lost” ended and there were a lot of people complaining that they left too many unanswered questions (which, to be fair, they did, but not as many as some claimed), when some of the answers were there, you just had to read between the lines for them. You have to read between the lines a bit on “Halt” too, sometimes, and that’s a good thing, IMHO.

I like a show that doesn’t insult the viewer’s inherent intelligence by spelling things too much out for them, you know? It’s like the writers assume someone wouldn’t be watching this if they were a complete idiot, and I do think that’s a safe assessment. This isn’t exactly a typical summer show, even by today’s standards, and thank God for that. And thank God for “Halt and Catch Fire.” It kind of rocks.

What did you think of “Halt and Catch Fire” this week? Looking forward to seeing what happens at COMDEX? Will the core Cardiff team rebound, or fall flat on their faces? Will Gordon err on the side of crazy, or keep it together? Did Donna make the right choice? Will Cam need to punch Joe in the face again? Make your predictions below and see you next time!