Halt and Catch Fire Season 1 Review “Up Helly Aa”

Halt and Catch Fire (AMC) Episode 9 Up Helly Aa (2)

On the latest episode of “Halt and Catch Fire,” it was Comic-Con COMDEX time, and it did not get off to a great start, and although things got better before they got worse, they didn’t end so well, either. Unless you consider a total compromise of everything the team worked so hard on for all this time to be a win. Either way, with the A.I.-twist gone, the best the team could hope for was to do decent business with their machine, anyway, after Hunt pulled the ultimate dick move and stole their thunder with a rip-off machine that Gordon’s a-hole next-door-neighbor Brian helped co-opt.

Even worse, it led to a cringe-inducing fight between Gordon and Donna that may not bode well for their future, though he did give her work a shout-out at the presentation, so maybe all hope is not lost. Hell, she knew he was crazy when she married him, apparently. And the whole Hunt thing was at least as much her fault as the Brian thing was Gordon’s, so it’s kind of a draw when you think about it. Sure, Donna kissed him, but that could have been a lot worse.

I think they should cut each other a little slack, given the enormous pressure everyone’s been under, but maybe that’s just me. One thing I do know, though: Gordon will never top Donna, in terms of the brains and beauty mother lode. If I were him, I would definitely be doing my best to work things out because the likelihood of him finding anyone that holds a candle to her is slim at best. Man up and work it out, dude, because you’re lucky you found someone willing to put up with your particular brand of crazy. If I were her, I’d have been gone the minute I saw his ass digging up the yard looking for the freaking Cardiff Giant.

Not faring much better was Joe and Cameron, whose own relationship hit the skids when she started chatting up some LA types (who I believe were Xerox reps), who encouraged her to pull up roots and move to California. She ended up staying out all night with them, much to Joe’s chagrin. They might have been okay, but then Joe opted to follow Gordon’s lead when he removed her A.I. software in order to bring down the price on their machine. But in doing so, it kind of removed the machine’s soul in the process, and Cam was definitely un-amused.

If all that wasn’t enough heartache for the COMDEX experience, the final blow was saved for the very end. After a decent presentation landed Joe and the team a potential deal with a Computer Land rep, Dennis, he was going for ice when he stumbled upon another demo, this one in a room with everyone hovering around a glowing machine: the Apple Macintosh desktop. Not only that, but this bad boy spoke, basically taking Cam’s A.I. gambit to the next level.

In all the cons and compromise and everything else, I guess it never occurred to Joe that someone else might actually be even further ahead than they were. I guess he definitely knows that now, though the laptop isn’t quite a thing yet, either, so there’s still some hope for the future. But damned if Cam wasn’t right: Gordon stole the magic from the machine. “It speaks,” Joe said, in wonder.

Some great touches throughout, as always: the usual fantastic soundtrack, but much more of it, given the Vegas party setting (Berlin, Human League, A Flock of Seagulls, and- be still my heart- the Violent Femmes, among others); the amusing nod to the fact that the porn convention takes place at the same time as the computer one- which still holds true to this day, BTW; Cam’s epically punk booth presentation/art installation (see above pic); Cam’s Hoover Dam souvenir, which served as a nice metaphorical nod to everything that’s happened, as did Joe’s opening spiel about the titular “Up Helly Aa” festival, which is indeed a thing, and likewise served as a nice analogy for the way their dreams all went up in flames.

Next week, we get the final episode of the season, and one imagines, deal with the aftermath of the Sadtech COMDEX experience. Will the team soldier on? Will Joe still land a deal for them? Will Gordon burn down his neighbor’s house? Will he and Donna work things out? Will Joe and Cam? Lots of details to discern, to be sure, so it will be interesting to see how everything pans out.

Hopefully, we’ll get a second season to find out in depth. Until that becomes the case, this season finale may well be the last. I certainly hope not, given the high quality of “Halt and Catch Fire” overall. Let me know what you thought of the episode below and see you for the big finale!