Posts Tagged ‘halt and catch fire’

“Halt and Catch Fire” thoughts, Season Four, Episodes Nine and Ten: “Search” and “Ten of Swords”

October 16, 2017

Halt and Catch Fire is one of the best shows ever made. Judging from the reaction to its two-part series finale this weekend, that’s uncontroversial now, which is an amazing thing to contemplate. From its rough start in Season One to its skin-of-the-teeth renewals for each subsequent year to its status as a critics’ darling that far too few people other than critics were talking about (and even critics let down the side a bit at the beginning of this season), it felt like the Little Engine That Almost Could. But there’s never been a show like it: generous of spirit toward its characters, yet always ruthless about their shortcomings and never sappy in its optimism that they might overcome them. Rooted in genuine moral dilemmas—not black and white choices, not even the shades of gray “I know it’s not the right thing but kinda I want to” stuff of the best antihero shows, but legitimately difficult choices between two strong options, neither of which is a sure thing. The sense that for all its focus on transformative technological advances and for all its temporal and geographical sweep (its four short seasons began in Texas 1981 and ended in California 1994), it all could have taken place in a single room between five characters. Co-creators Christopher Cantwell & Christopher C. Rogers and actors Kerry Bishé, Mackenzie Davis, Toby Huss, Scoot McNairy, and Lee Pace did what their characters could never quite do but never stopped dreaming of doing: They built something that will last.

[…]

I had another TV dream. They don’t happen frequently, but when they do they’re usually about a show that’s got me on the edge of my seat with anticipation for its next episode—a season finale, say, or the next installment in a particularly momentous stretch of the story. When they happen, my brain will conjure up an entire imaginary episode from the ether and play it for me, start to finish, as I “watch.” This has happened to me with shows I loved: The Sopranos, Mad Men, Battlestar Galactica, Lost. It’s happened with shows I didn’t love, too: True DetectiveSeason One was never one of my favorites, but I dreamed not one but two separate terrifying season finales in a single night, so it must have done something right.

But this one was unlike the others. It happened after I’d watched “Search” and “Ten of Swords,” the two-part series finale of Halt and Catch Fire. I went to bed late that night—early that morning, really—and dreamed I was at a cafeteria in midtown Manhattan. I was getting lunch with old friends, beloved coworkers from a job I had ten years ago, who were in town for a convention. Our awful old boss was there too, I guess because we couldn’t think of a way to get rid of him.

Suddenly I feel a tap on the shoulder and hear a cheerful greeting, I turn to my left and see Scoot McNairy and Lee Pace from Halt and Catch Fire sitting down to join me. It’s after the finale aired, and they’re all smiles. They just wanted to thank me for my writing about the show over the years. I turn to hug Scoot and congratulate him on the work they’d all done, then reach across him to shake Lee’s hand; the handshake gets weirdly botched and we joke about it as we try again. Turning to my coworkers (and studiously avoiding my old awful boss) I gesture to the two actors. “These are my friends,” I say.

Then I woke up.

I reviewed the series finale of Halt and Catch Fire, one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, for Decider. Writing about this show for the past four years has been one of the great pleasures of my career. I’m so grateful to everyone who made it possible.

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

October 9, 2017

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.

“Halt and Catch Fire” thoughts, Season Four, Episode Seven: “Who Needs a Guy”

October 2, 2017

SPOILER ALERT

Extraordinary even by the series’ own elevated standards, “Who Needs a Guy” provided the crushing payoff for four years of Halt and Catch Fire. It’s not the first time the show has tugged on its many strings until they all either knotted or came apart in a single scene; the conference-room battle between Cameron and Donna last year comes to mind just for starters. Nor is it the first time the show has handled a character’s death with sensitivity but without sentimentality; again, it did so last season with the suicide of Joe’s apprentice Ryan. But it is the first time these two strengths have been combined, and the effect is stunning, like getting hit with a feather and, somehow, being knocked clear across the room. Written by Lisa Albert and directed by Tricia Brock — both of whom effectively abdicate the episode’s awful final minutes to the show’s surviving core cast, about the smartest thing a writer and director could do — it’s one of the hours we’ll turn to when we want to make the case that Halt and Catch Fire is one of the finest dramas of the prestige-TV era. It left me a wreck for hours. I’m still gutted. I loved it.

I reviewed this weekend’s absolutely stunning episode of Halt and Catch Fire for Decider.

“Halt and Catch Fire” thoughts, Season Four, Episode Six: “A Connection Is Made”

September 27, 2017

This weekend I was tweeting excitedly about how good Halt and Catch Fire is. A friend, no stranger to the world of TV drama, replied, “It’s back???” This speaks poorly of how the critical community is covering Halt and Catch Fire. As of this week’s episode, “A Connection Is Made,” it’s one of the richest, loveliest, most unsparing, most humane dramas of the year. And think about the year of dramas we’ve had! We should never, ever shut up about this thing.

I wrote about this weekend’s sumptuous Halt and Catch Fire for Decider.

“Halt and Catch Fire” thoughts, Season Four, Episode Five: “Nowhere Man”

September 24, 2017

In the closing montage, Donna loads up Cameron’s infamously difficult video game, while Gordon digs up the painstakingly maintained journals he’d been keeping of his deteriorative brain condition’s progress. Donna cracks the code that had thwarted so many players: Instead of trying to choose a path forward, you move upward instead, beginning a beautiful journey that leads you back home. As she does this, Gordon takes his journals and throws them into the fireplace, seemingly determined to live in the now and stop worrying about the future altogether. The accompaniment for the sequence is PJ Harvey’s “Rid of Me,” a song in which Harvey simultaneously brags about how she’s so irresistible her ex will never want to be free of her, but will wish he never met her all the while. Sound familiar?

I reviewed last week’s episode of Halt and Catch Fire for Decider. This week’s review coming soon.

“Halt and Catch Fire” thoughts, Season Four, Episode Four: “Tonya and Nancy”

September 11, 2017

Can’t any of these people ever do anything that isn’t in some way designed or defined by each other?

Well, no, of course not. That’s the point. That’s the resonance and relevance of Tonya and Nancy — two athletes forever linked by the former’s attack on the latter, and the latter’s response. You can’t tell the story of one without telling the story of the other.

I reviewed yet another lovely episode of Halt and Catch Fire for Decider.

“Halt and Catch Fire” thoughts, Season Four, Episode Three: “Miscellaneous”

August 31, 2017

David Lynch, who as the co-creator, co-writer, and director of Twin Peaks is currently airing the best show in the history of television, says “Cinema is sound and picture, flowing together in time.” By that metric, the opening sequence for this week’s Halt and Catch Fire (“Miscellaneous”) is the definition of cinema. The sounds: the dripping of two faucets in two apartments, accompanied by a piece from Paul Haslinger’s score that’s as lovely an ambient composition as I’ve heard in years. The picture: the faucets (one of them flowing upside-down as we rotate into its spacetime location), the apartments, the woman inhabiting them—Cameron Howe—and, in one of them, the man—Tom Rendon (the always welcome Mark O’Brien)—whose heart she’s just broken. The time: the present, in which Cameron is wandering around her past and present lover Joe MacMillan’s apartment alone, investigating the life he built for himself, and the past, in which Cameron painfully explains to her then-husband Tom that despite having a one-night stand with Joe, she does not love him. “There’s no loving Joe,” she says, teary-eyed. “He’s impossible to love. He’s empty, and he just becomes whatever circumstances need him to be.” We hear these words even as this past flows together with the present, in which she’s reunited with Joe, and quite in love. “Who are you?” Tom replies. It’s an open question. Cinema is sound and picture, flowing together in time.

I reviewed last weekend’s luscious episode of Halt and Catch Fire for Decider. What a show.

“Halt and Catch Fire” thoughts, Season Four, Episodes One and Two: “So It Goes” and “Signal to Noise”

August 21, 2017

Many viewers may be too young to remember, but I’ve never seen a show capture the almost literally intoxicating nature of an hours-long phone call with a person you’re falling for the way this does. A staple of the personal and romantic lives of pretty much everyone who came of age in the ‘80s or ‘90s, it’s now been supplanted by texts and DMs, but good god do those memories remain. (Does it help that Lee Pace and Mackenzie Davis, like Kerry Bishé, have never looked more beautiful? Frankly, yes!)

So many shows coast on cheap nostalgia — some clothes, some music cues, some funny fonts, boom, collect your paycheck. Halt is certainly not above peppering these episodes with Clinton-era pop-culture ephemera: Zima, Mario Kart, the Blue Man Group, AOL floppy-disk promos, James’s “Laid.” But it’s incredibly satisfying, even moving, to see one attempt and succeed in recreating something you can’t simply ape from watching an I Love the ‘90s special. I never knew how much I missed falling into that lovestruck telephone k-hole until Halt reminded me. That’s the power of a show rooted so deeply in the truth of human interaction. It can remind you how it feels to be human.

I reviewed the fourth and final season premiere of Halt and Catch Fire for Decider, where I’ll be covering this marvelous show all season.

The Satisfying Smallness of “Halt and Catch Fire”

August 19, 2017

It all comes down to the alternately competing and converging needs and desires of the characters — and because they’re so consistently depicted, season after season, we know these needs and desires like we know our own, and empathize with every decision, good or bad. Every episode feels like Bronn facing down Daenerys’s dragon with that gigantic crossbow: Against all odds, you want everyone to succeed, you want every decision to be the right one, though you know it can’t be. Of course, no one’s going to be burned alive or shot down from the sky in this show, but that does nothing to lessen the sense of enormous personal stakes. Halt and Catch Fire‘s smaller playing field makes each move matter. It’s why I’m so excited to press play on the new season, and why I’ll be so sad nine weeks from now, when it’s Game Over.

Halt and Catch Fire returns to AMC for its fourth and final season tonight. It’s a chest of wonders. I wrote about why you should watch it for Decider. My personal recommendation: Start with Season Two. You’ll get up to speed rapidly enough. Once you’ve finished the season you can backfill with Season One, then move on to Season Three. Just one man’s opinion, but I think it’ll do you right.

“Ozark” thoughts, Season One, Episode Ten: “The Toll”

August 14, 2017

Marty himself still feels odd. I think Jason Bateman (who directed the finale) has done fine work with the character, particularly during moments of rage; it’s hard to articulate, but Marty gets angry the way real people get angry, in concentrated but random bursts. Yet overall, Byrde reminds me of another business-whiz antihero whose show took a while to figure him out: Joe MacMillan, Lee Pace’s character from Halt and Catch Fire. During Halt‘s first season Joe felt more like a series of gestures in the direction of a person than an actual person. The comparison isn’t perfect — Joe was designed to be a larger-than-life, master-of-the-universe type whose secrets and foibles were just as grandiose as his ego and successes, and Marty is a much more low-key figure. On Halt, the supporting characters carried the weight until Joe could catch up, or more accurately until the writers figured him out. The powerful scenes in this episode involving Ruth and Wyatt dealing with Russ’s death, Charlotte and Jonah struggling with the idea of forming new lives under new identities without their father, and Agent Petty doing his best Michael Shannon in Boardwalk Empire as he explodes with rage after the failure to arrest Del, remind me of that dynamic.

I reviewed the season finale of Ozark, and wrote out some thoughts on the season as a whole, for Decider. In the end, despite problems like the one above, I found there was more to enjoy than not. I’m glad I watched it.

The 10 Best Musical TV Moments of 2016

December 20, 2016

Vinyl: “Wild Safari” by Barrabás
“Think back to the first time you heard a song that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up,” Richie Finestra bellows at his record-label employees. “Made you want to dance, or fuck, or go out and kick somebody’s ass! That’s what I want!” Vinyl showrunner Terence Winter had similar goals, but virtually none of the musical elements of his period drama clicked. This despite the imprimatur of co-creators Mick Jagger and Martin Scorsese, who know a thing or two about making magic with music, and supervisors Randall Poster and Meghan Currier, whose previous collaborations with Winter and Scorsese on Boardwalk Empire and The Wolf of Wall Street were all killer, no filler.

There was one grand and glorious exception, and it had nothing to do with Jagger swagger. Rather, it was the result of an unlikely alliance between demoted A&R doofus Clark Morelle (Jack Quaid) and his mail-room buddy Jorge (Christian Navarro). When the latter takes Clark to an underground dance club, they enter in slow motion to the ecstatic sounds of the 1972 proto-disco song “Wild Safari” by Barrabás. The killer clothes, the fabulous dancing, the beatific smiles on the faces of beautiful people, the irresistible rhythm, the rapturous “WHOA-OH-OH” of the chorus, the sense that an entire world of incredible music has existed right under his nose — you can feel it all hit Clark right in the serotonin receptors, and damn if it doesn’t hit you, too. Perhaps my favorite two minutes of TV this year, this sequence demonstrates the life-affirming power and pleasure of music.

I wrote about major musical moments in The Americans, Atlanta, Better Call Saul, Game of Thrones, Halt and Catch Fire, Horace and Pete, Luke Cage, Mr. Robot, The People v. O.J. Simpson, and (yes) Vinyl in my list of 2016′s 10 Best Musical TV Moments for Vulture.

“Westworld,” and When TV Uses Pop Music to Do Its Emotional Heavy Lifting

November 7, 2016

Maeve’s walk through the Westworld theme park’s behind-the-scenes house of horrors is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. It’s the instant in which one of Westworld’s unfortunate, unwitting robots receives undeniable, unforgettable confirmation that their life is a lie. It’s a crushing concept all on its own, and the guided-tour-of-hell structure of the scene adds to the pathos. By rights it should stand alone as one of the series’ most powerful moments.

And yet, Westworld’s treatment of it falls flat. Like park technicians fiddling with a host’s intelligence or empathy on their control panels, the show’s filmmakers artificially increase the sequence’s tear-jerking levels by soundtracking it with a chamber-music version of the closing track on one of the most acclaimed albums of all time: “Motion Picture Soundtrack,” the achingly sad conclusion of Radiohead’s electronic-music breakthrough Kid A. It’s not the first time the hyperactively overscored series has relied on the band, having previously gone to the Radiohead well with their suburban-ennui anthem “No Surprises.” Hell, it’s not the first time it did so in this episode, which opens with a similarly heavy-handed accompaniment by a player-piano version of the band’s ode to falseness, “Fake Plastic Trees.” But it is the show’s most egregious example yet of using a song with preexisting cultural clout to do its emotional work — a syndrome we’re seeing, or hearing, with increasing frequency as Peak TV prestige dramas attempt to cut through the clutter and grab viewers, or listeners, by the heartstrings.

Rather than let the power of the scene emerge on its own, Westworld leans on a preexisting work of art to doing the heavy lifting for it. It’s a cheat, a shortcut to resonance. That particular work of art has far more cultural purchase, impact, and history than a first-season TV show. Even if you don’t rate Radiohead, substitute the gut-wrenching classic-album closer of your choice — “Purple Rain” or “Little Earthquakes” or, to cite an artist Westworld’s already employed to dubious effect in that over-the-top orgy scene last week, “Hurt”— and you’ll get the point.

Over at Vulture, I went long on how shows like Westworld, Stranger Things, and even The Americans have used preexisting pop music as a cheat code to score emotional points they haven’t earned. I also talked about shows that have done pop music cues right, from The Sopranos and The Wire to Lost to Halt and Catch Fire and The People v. O.J. Simpson. It’s basically a prose version of what Chris Ott and I talked about on his Shallow Rewards podcast a few weeks ago. I quite liked writing this piece and I hope you enjoy it.

Q&A: ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ Showrunners Are Ready to Level Up

October 13, 2016

OBSERVER: How quickly did you find out that the show was gonna be renewed for a final season?

Chris Cantwell: We found out that afternoon, actually. The network called us and said, “Are you available for a conference call in four minutes?” They couldn’t find Chris, so I actually had to call Chris’s wife, which I try to never do for work. We got him on the phone, and they gave us they news, and they told us to call the cast, so we had to quickly call all the cast, and then they put the press release out like 45 minutes after that. They run a tight ship at AMC! They do it quickly.

This may be a stupid question, but how did that feel?

Chris Rogers: I mean, we were elated to get to do another season of the show. Somehow there’s gonna be 40 of these! You catch us on a nostalgic morning when we’re looking back on when we wrote this, and when it got picked up — when we thought it would never get picked up…To say there’s gonna be 40 episodes would’ve been beyond a dream at that time. You immediately register that, and the elation of getting to go back to Atlanta with this family we’ve built: the cast, the crew, the editors. We know their kids’ names, you know? So that is a thrill.

On another level, it’s bittersweet to see the end in sight. But it’s also kind of a creative gift, just to know that that’s what you’re writing to. We try to end each season like it could be the end of the series, but this year is gonna be different. Maybe it gives us the ammunition to top this third season, which frankly we kinda put everything we could into. So, a lot of emotions. We’re feeling all the feelings tonight.

I interviewed Halt and Catch Fire co-creators and showrunners Chris Cantwell and Chris Rogers about the end of Season 3 and the “gift” of Season 4 for the New York Observer.

“Halt and Catch Fire” thoughts, Season Three, Episodes Nine and Ten: “Nim” and “NeXT”

October 12, 2016

“I’m so sick of hearing about the future,” says Cameron Howe-Rendon. “What isthat? The future is just another crappy version of the present. It’s some…it’s some bribe people offer you to make you do what they want instead of what you want.”

“This future can be different,” Joe MacMillan.

For Halt and Catch Fire, the future is now. Leaping forward into the ‘90s for the final two episodes of its masterful third season, “NIM” and “NeXT,” Halt pulled the time jump from the prestige-TV toolkit and utilized it as well as any show since Battlestar Galactica and Lost, the two series that pioneered the practice, and Mad Men, its direct precursor and the show to which it has more than earned direct comparison this season. Mad Men incorporated time jumps directly into its architecture, with the time frame of each new season and the status-quo shifts that took place between every finale and premiere becoming one of its main attractions and driving concerns. Halt took a different, more unpredictable tact: It fast-forwarded into the era of the World Wide Web in the middle of its most tumultuous, dramatically engaging, and all-around excellent episodes to date. The move makes sense for audience engagement, sure: “www,” “http,” and “html” are far more recognizable tech terms than anything on which the show had been focused so far. But it could easily have backfired in every other conceivable way — cutting off the mounting tension between the characters at the knees, setting them adrift and forcing us to find them again at a moment when they’d never been quite so individualized, so recognizable, so real. That the time jump not only worked, but worked spectacularly, is a testament to what showrunners Chris Cantwell and Chris Rogers and their cast and crew have accomplished together this season. We may have skipped forward into a new decade, a new age, a new period in the lives of our heroes, a new alignment of the relationships between them. But they remain the people we’ve come to know, and their story remains the one we’ve come to eagerly anticipate each week as among the very best being told on television today.

I reviewed the bold, beautiful two-part season finale of Halt and Catch Fire, at this point one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, for the New York Observer.

“Halt and Catch Fire” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Eight: “You Are Not Safe”

October 6, 2016

It took a while, longer perhaps than for any other character, but Halt and Catch Firef ound a voice for Joe MacMillan. That voice is soft, sincere, thoughtful, emotionally direct. Actor Lee Pace gives that voice a tone that could be used to read bedtime stories to children, or to communicate deeply held beliefs or long-hidden secrets to a loved one who can be trusted with them. It’s a voice that sounds like Joe himself now looks: eyes made owlish by round Lennonesque glasses, face softened by a brown beard, hair lush and loose, clothes selected for autumnal comfort rather than boardroom barbarity. One of the many tragedies of “You Are Not Safe,” this week’s quietly shocking episode, is that this voice does him no good. He can’t use it to help his friend Gordon move forward with their grand plans. He can’t use it to save his friend Ryan’s life. He’s finally the man he truly is deep down, and it doesn’t matter. Everything turns to shit around him anyway.

I reviewed this week’s very sad Halt and Catch Fire for the New York Observer.

“Halt and Catch Fire” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Seven: “The Threshold”

September 29, 2016

A confession: I use Halt and Catch Fire reviews as a chance to show off. Because I like the show so much, because I feel it excels at, basically, everything a drama can and should excel at — casting, acting, cinematography, set design, soundtrack, screenwriting, you name it — I kind of see it as a chance to stunt, you know what I mean? The episode sets an emotional tone, and I try to maintain that tone in my writing. The phrase I come back to is “wax rhapsodic.” Or as I put it to my therapist last week, “If the show sings, then goddammit, the review’s gotta sing too.”

What to do, then, with “The Threshold”? What to do with an episode so good, so intelligently written, so beautifully filmed, so thoughtfully scored, so movingly acted, so cathartically plotted, that it stops me dead in my tracks? What to do with an episode that pays off fully three years of relationships, storylines, individual growth in a series of apocalyptic emotional confrontations? What to do with an episode that feels like a Mad Men Season Five–level culmination of form and function?

Man, your guess is as good as mine.

All I can really do is report to you how I felt while I watched this thing. I felt breathless, like someone was socking me in the gut. I felt like I was watching one relationship I’d invested in after another topple and crumble, like a perverse game of interpersonal dominos.

This week’s Halt and Catch Fire was a Mad Men Season 5–level masterpiece; I just can’t get over how good it was. I reviewed it for the New York Observer.

Shallow Rewards – The Song Remains the Shame: Mr. Robot and Stranger Things

September 26, 2016

I was delighted to become (I think) the first ever recurring guest on Shallow Rewards, the enormously insightful podcast from music criticism’s adulte terrible Chris Ott, to discuss the use of standout pop songs on the soundtracks of prestige television shows. We focus on Mr. Robot and Stranger Things (so watch out for spoilers) but touch on Halt and Catch Fire, The Sopranos, and The Wonder Years, with plenty of digressions into film soundtracks and film in general (Cameron Crowe, Martin Scorsese, SLC Punk, Under the Skin) as well. Chris is one of my favorite critics of any kind and it’s a pleasure talking to him. I hope you enjoy the results!

“Halt and Catch Fire” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Six: “And She Was”

September 22, 2016

And think of how these people look! The physical energy between Gordon and Cameron is thick and inviting enough to eat like a pastry. Both of them wear comfortable white shirts — Gordon’s a tee, Cam’s a tank — that make you want to reach out and feel the firmness of their shoulders. Joe and Ryan make a point of getting the finest suits they can to impress their prospective business partners; they are just radiantly confident and handsome in them. John and Diane’s now-easy chemistry is displayed while they’re framed against the brick wall of the gay bar they escape to for drinks; you can all but feel the cool air the bricks retain even as things heat up for the people sitting near them. (This makes the evening’s eventual souring, when John fucks things up by passing on going back to her place after they’ve fooled around in his car, feel like an almost physical affront to how things ought to be.) Donna, finally, is so taken by the opulence of her new surroundings that she literally takes off all her clothes to wear it all like an expensive sweater, or slip into it like a bath. And she was drifting through the backyard, and she was taking off her dress. Our princess, in another castle.

Halt and Catch Fire has hit its imperial phase. Everything is working. Goddamn, this show is good.

I reviewed this week’s gorgeous Halt and Catch Fire, playing off its Talking Heads and Super Mario Bros. references along the way, for the New York Observer.

“Halt and Catch Fire” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Five: “Yerba Buena”

September 14, 2016

Gordon and Donna Clark experience a similar discrepancy of desire, where Gordon, like Boz, learns he never had the relationship he though he had at all. Giving up on an overly taxing camping trip, the Clarks opt for a staycation; with the kids out of the house, this mainly means the chance to stay in and fuck all day. (“We haven’t had sex twice in one day since the Ford administration!”) Their chemistry is warm and sweet and sexy and wholly convincing…until the camping trip comes up again as pillow talk. To his unvoiced but readily apparent horror, Gordon learns from a laughing Donna that she found their annual outdoor excursions tolerable at best, “insanity” at worst. When she wakes the next morning, Gordon’s passive-aggressively cleaning the mess they made in the kitchen and unilaterally canceling the plans they’d made to continue the romantic weekend by going out for breakfast together. “Everything alright?” Donna asks, sensing that the answer may well be no. “Yeah,” Gordon lies. “Everything’s fantastic.” Suddenly their relationship seems doomed in a way that not even Gordon’s affair and hidden illness, Donna’s secret pregnancy and abortion, or their countless workplace clashes made plain.

I reviewed last night’s Halt and Catch Fire for the New York Observer. This show consistently surprises in the way real life surprises.

“Halt and Catch Fire” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Four: “Rules of Honorable Play”

September 6, 2016

And when people go under, they sink like stones. Brought to an everybody-who’s-anybody party for Silicon Valley movers and shakers by Diane, Boz appears to be in his element — cracking jokes, telling tales, and generally cranking up the Texas charm. Indeed, from calling an audible during the Swapmeet buyout and driving down its price by a small fortune to bantering with Donna and the boys in the office, it’s this ability to command a room that attracted Diane to him in the first place. But in an ugly exchange that perfectly reproduces the brittle civility of enemies pretending to make nice, Joe MacMillan takes Boz’s number, calling his affable-backslapper routine a “performance.” Just last week Joe referred to himself as the product he’s concerned with selling; apparently he recognizes some of this in the old Dallas salesman, too.

By the time Boz makes his way back to Diane, Joe’s words have clearly dug in deep, reinforcing doubts he’d already had about his role at Mutiny and his place in their world at large. Unfortunately for Diane, she unwittingly echoes Joe’s veiled insults in a failed attempt to praise her date. She compliments him for the way he naturally steals the show at the party, but what he hears is further evidence that he’s some kind of dancing monkey, trotted out there for everyone’s amusement. As Diane flirts, it at first seems like Boz is oblivious, but before long it’s clear he knows exactly what she’s up to and is simply rejecting it. “Somewhere along the line I lost my taste for tobacco,” he says when she offers him a smoke, then adds “And champagne. Parties.” His tone grows more pointed with every word, his bonhomie curdles visibly on his face, and the overall effect is like biting on tinfoil. Thus a potential romance storyline that seemed like such a delightful sure thing when it was first hinted at just last week is swept off the board, because, well, that’s how things happen sometimes. Cold as this is, there’s still something warm about watching the baffling rhythms of legit emotional reality play out on a TV show.

I reviewed tonight’s episode of Halt and Catch Fire for the New York Observer. The command this show and these actors have over human behavior is gobsmacking at times.