Photos: Richard DuCree / AMC

You Really Gordoned Things Up

Everyone on Halt And Catch Fire who didn't horribly bungle things on this week's episode, take one step forward. Not so fast, Gordon!

You know, in our short time together, we've had some fun at Gordon's expense. We've pointed out Gordon's every failing -- his Schleprock-esque demeanor, his assorted business misadventures, the fact that he manages to suck even the devil-may-care thrill-seeking out of surreptitious cocaine use. This is probably unfair. Then again, in our defense, Gordon is the absolute worst. And if you doubt that, just watch him in action during this week's episode.

Gordon has taken it upon himself to develop a program that will quantify the size of Mutiny's network. He calls its "Sonaris," which coupled with his name choice of Giant for the Cardiff Electrics computer suggests that Gordon should not be allowed to name anything ever. Gordon also says "Sonaris" like he's the voice-over announcer in a Calvin Klein ad. In truth, that's one of the few things he does that's actually endearing, but still, try and drive the sound of Gordon drawing out the "r" in "Sonaris" out of your mind and, in the meantime, come join me in hell.

But none of this is even the worst of Gordon's many crimes against humanity this week. No, that would be when he uploads Sonarrrrrrris to Mutiny's servers without permission, and without telling anyone, least of all Donna. That turns out to be a mistake, though not nearly as big a mistake as not debugging the software, because in short order it soon infects all of Mutiny's systems, destroying both Mutiny's games and the computers owned by all of its subscribers. But the good news is that Cameron and Donna draw on their mutual respect for one another and their solid working relationship to overcome this Gordon-induced setback to their fortunes.

Nah, just kidding. They're barely speaking to each other by episode's end.


Things are so fraught this week that only Joe -- JOE! -- is on an upward trajectory, spotting critical information in the data he's digitizing that has him promoted to overseeing a joint data collection and analytics division at his would-be father-in-law's oil company. And Joe manages to do this without leaving a human pyramid of skulls in his wake, which for him is a bit of a breakthrough.

Halt And Catch Fire-ish Element Present?
Business Crisis of the Week I'll be honest: sometimes, I get tired of the whole Crisis Of The Week framing device, where Ol' Man Trouble rears his head and the Halt And Catch Fire characters spend the next half-hour or so running around like plate spinners trying to keep all the dishes from crashing down around them only to pull things out of the fire by the the time the credits roll. But this week's crisis is an actual crisis. A lot of Mutiny's games are gone, devoured by Gordon's rogue software. Mutiny is going to face a multitude of angry customers -- assuming they still have any customers left -- who are going to expect to be compensated with money Mutiny doesn't have. Cameron is reduced to having honest-to-God panic attacks while Tom the dickish dude hired in the last episode, of all people, has to talk her down. Even better, there's no deus ex machina popping on the scene in the final moment to set things right -- no backup files that are flown down from heaven clenched in the beak of a dove; no Yo-Yo revealing that he's actually a crazy-rich venture capitalist who's going to wipe all the problems away with an oversized network check; no Bosworth walking in with a bikini-clad model on each arm yelling "Let's party, dudes" as something from Journey blasts over the freeze frame. The problem remains unresolved by episode's end. Mutiny is in very serious peril. How they sort this out will actually be interesting, unless it turns out that Gordon is just having a really bad dream.

I mean, that would be so Gordon, you know.

Cameron Howe: Punk Rock Girl One can be forgiven for turning into a puddle of goo when one's livelihood appears to be destroyed by the husband of your business partner, but honestly, Cameron seems nearly as upset that Donna went and had dinner at Joe MacMillan's without telling her (or, more accurately, not signing on to her junior high-esque strategy of pretending that Joe is dead to her). Throw in a brainstorming session where a few pointed criticisms from Tom about the current version of Cameron's Parallax game throws her for a loop, and we are not exactly being treated to Joan Jett And The Blackhearts-style ferocity. Too often on this show, the writers seem to define Cameron by her reactions to the men in her life; it's an unfortunate trend, and it's on ample display this week.
Donna Clark: One Tough Mother Speaking of someone doing less kicking ass and next to no taking of names this week, let's cast a disappointed eye toward Donna, who is reduced to reacting to the events around her rather than grabbing hold of the chaos around her and riding it like a valkyrie screaming toward Ragnarok. Instead, it's more-like Screw-up Husband? Meh. Shell-shocked Business Partner? Tell me something I don't know. Dinner with someone you've dismissed as a "tall dark mannequin with delusions of grandeur"? Oh all right, I'll do it.
Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves For the second consecutive episode, one member of Team Mutiny has to lay down the law with the other one. This time around, it's Cameron, who has learned that Donna has been secretly paying some of the bills to keep Mutiny afloat -- a fact disclosed by Gordon in an effort to shift the spotlight of misery away from himself. (Hercules couldn't move that spotlight, buddy.) "If you ever put a dime of your own money into Mutiny again behind my back," Cameron tells Donna, "you're fired." It sounds like these two need to invest in a Successories poster that says something like "Teamwork" and features a bunch of kittens trying to row a scull or whatever those posters are supposed to depict.
Gordon Clark: Gloomy Sadsack I think we've established that when it comes to gloomy sadsacks, Gordon is the gloomiest and the sadsackiest.
Joe MacMillan: Super Genius After discovering some data discrepancies that could be mined for business intelligence, Joe calls a meeting with Jacob Wheeler, who is all too happy to put Joe in charge of a newly formed analytics division, provided that Joe fires everyone in the current departments and rebuilds it from scratch. And Joe is perfectly prepared to do that, right up until he notices that the mainframes at Jacob's oil company don't switch on until 9 AM each day. That means they're sitting idle for 16 hours, and while this episode is mum about the implications of that discovery, it suggests that Joe will be able to rise up the corporate ladder without having to ax anyone. That's good news, too, because it means Eugene, the enthusiastic head of the data-entry department, will stick around and we will get to learn more about his rich inner life, which includes collecting rare percussion instruments.

Anyhow, super-mysterious Joe is back, if you're into that sort of thing.

The Crumbling Clark Marriage I mean, Gordon basically torpedos the company Donna is working for. This kind of shit never happened on The Honeymooners.

How bad are things right now with Gordon and Donna? Let's ignore the multiple instances in this episode where Gordon tries to put the moves on his wife and Donna is all, "Ha ha ha ha ha ha, but seriously, I've got better things to focus on right now." Let's set aside the fact that when Joe invites the Clarks over for dinner, Donna's first reaction is "Oh, hell no," but that Gordon apparently talks her into suffering through an evening in Joe's vicinity. Instead, let's zero in on the end of the episode where Donna has suffered a serious professional setback and instead of seeking comfort from her sadsack soulmate, she instead curls up clutching a sheath of forum data print-outs. EVEN DOT-MATRIX PRINT-OUTS OFFER MORE COMFORT THAN GORDON.

Where in the World Is John Bosworth? On a bus, heading back from his kid's wedding rehearsal dinner.

If you, like me, think that much of Halt And Catch Fire's appeal lies in whatever it is that John Bosworth is doing, this episode offers some measure of encouragement that things are going to be set right. After retrieving his Ford Mustang, John reconnects with the former Mrs. Bosworth, now a flight attendant but still willing to give Boz one last final roll in the hay before informing him that she's selling the house and moving on. Boz is also reduced to sulking around his son's wedding, rather than participating as the paterfamilias. "An ex-con in the front pew? Your mother would combust, for God's sake," Boz tells his son, who seems ready to welcome his father back in to the fold. But the episode ends with Bosworth bequeathing the keys to his Mustang to his soon-to-be-married son, as he finally lets his past life go, presumably just in time to fix the current mess Mutiny has got itself into. At least, that's how my fan fiction tells it.

Texas Style So apparently, the only indication Halt And Catch Fire will offer that it takes place in Texas is to have characters randomly read off the names of assorted Texas towns. Waco! Galveston! One of these days, I half expect a scene where Gordon and Donna are thumbing through a Rand McNally atlas and reciting the names of cities just to remind you we're still in Texas. Gordon would likely mispronounce the city names in this scenario.

What I'm trying to say: would it kill this show to have someone eating a Frito Pie at any point?

That '80s Show Nightmare On Elm Street reference by Gordon? Check. Jarvik artificial heart reference by Sarah? Check. Jolt Cola product placement? Check, check, and check again. (What was Jolt? It was the Red Bull of its day. Ask your parents, unless the Jolt Cola killed them dead.) Adding to joy of the Jolt Cola product placement is that Gordon is unable to open it properly, having to use some sort of chisel to punch a hole in the can.

It is the most resourceful Gordon has been in some time.

6 / 10
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