“Halt and Catch Fire” thoughts, Season Four, Episode Eight: “Goodwill”

SPOILER ALERT

Halt and Catch Fire is, or was, a drama about the tech industry. Not this week, though. “Goodwill,” one of the most important and best episodes of the entire series, goes by with no tech talk whatsoever. The various enterprises that meant so much to the characters, that consumed so much of their lives, are mentioned, in passing, a grand total of three times. The Symphonic, the Giant, Comet — they each get a line or two, all of them vague allusions to something that once happened in the past or might happen in the future. In the end they were just a platform on which something much more important was built: life, and the connections the series’ main characters made during its course. For Gordon Clark, that life has run its course. That’s all his family, his friends, and the show that brought them to us care about anymore.

In that light, this epochal episode is a stunt on the order of one of Game of Thrones’ big battle setpieces or Breaking Bad’s action and suspense thrillers. Written by Zack Whedon and directed by series co-creator Christopher Cantwell, it’s a confident, courageous demonstration of the show’s strengths, which from around the end of Season One onward have been on display like a product at a computer-industry convention. The tech stuff served as the series’ hook, its anchor, and, in the sense that the characters had to navigate the same Scylla-and-Charybdis passage between creativity and commerce as its creators, its allegory. Now, at Halt’s deepest and darkest moment, it takes a back seat to the thing at which the show has always proven most adept: depicting the relationships between people who have no more of a straightforward story arc, and no greater supply of easy answers, than any of us watching it do.

I reviewed this week’s episode of Halt and Catch Fire, a major achievement and perhaps the show’s best, for Decider.

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