After the impressive ‘Landfall’ last week I was hoping Halt and Catch Fire would continue a hot streak with lucky number seven. The series cooled in quality a little as ‘Giant’ meandered between Cameron and Joe’s unconventional office romance but Gordon’s mental break allowed a little terror to seep into the drama.
At Cardiff Electric it’s time to name the PC and give it a skin. Gordon should be excited about this but he’s haunted by dreams about death that flashback to the dead body he discovered in the previous episode. In the beginning of the series it seemed as if Lee Pace’s Joe was going to be the scene stealer but Scoot McNairy has turned Gordon into an agitated ball of stress that’s captivating to watch as he has also done with characters with Argo, Frank and Killing Them Softly.
Joe informs Gordon that he’s hired an industrial designer, Simon Church, to design the casing for the PC. Gordon naturally hates everything about the designs because Church disregards the functionality of the internal engineering in favour of looks. Gordon also learns the name of the PC, The Contrail (like the vapour trail that follows an aircraft), that induces more anger from Gordon who suggests the name ‘The Giant’ while trying to scramble for a better idea. Joe doesn’t care because he has got more at stake, he used to be in a relationship with Church and there’s scorned lover passive aggressiveness in the air. Cameron gets a whiff and a bizarre love triangle forms. Church starts to get cold feet about working on the PC design and Joe pleads with him to stay like an over apologetic ex in pursuit of ‘friendship’.
After learning that he’s losing control of the PC project, Gordon arrives home to find his wife Donna is going on a business trip with her boss. The business trip part of Giant was a lame detour that only serviced a moment where Donna awkwardly kisses her boss after a successful meeting; this has been coming for weeks. Gordon goes a little crazy on the home front as he begins to assert control over the remaining elements of his life where he’s still king. McNairy is in terrific form during these scenes with a far off stare and impulsive behaviour that’s a little scary because he’s in charge of two children. The first sign that something is horribly wrong is when Gordon tell his children a bedtime story about the ‘Cardiff Giant’ (a famous American hoax about a giant buried underground) that’s a parallel between what’s happening between Gordon and Joe on the PC project. Shortly after, Gordon cuts his hand while trying to repair a dripping tap in the kitchen and things get a little hazy. From here it’s hard to tell is Gordon is asleep or awake but in one dreamlike scene he finds his daughters in the backyard digging a hole to find ‘the giant’.
Back at the passive aggressive pyramid of love, Cameron tracks down Church at an art exhibition to beg him to work on the design of the PC. Church gives Cameron the backstory on his relationship with Joe and it plants a seed of doubt in Cameron’s mind. Joe finally arrives at the art exhibition after failing to secure a sleazy backup designer at a strip club across town. Church agrees to work on the PC design and reveals that he didn’t come for the job, he really came to say goodbye to Joe because he’s sick. HIV/AIDS is heavily implied but never mentioned, Joe’s reaction says it all and Pace is elegantly emotional in this scene. Cameron watches the interaction from inside a waiting taxi but she demands the driver leave without Joe. Suddenly, Giant becomes like one of those running in the rain scenes from a bad romantic comedy as Joe chases down the taxi. A cheesy end to an impactful sequence.
Back at the home for unhinged fatherhood Donna shows up after cancelling her business trip following the boss kiss and his subsequent rebuttal of affections. Donna finds the house in the same state as Gordon’s psyche; dishevelled. Blood is splattered on the floor, the kitchen sink has been disembowelled and the kids are asleep on the living room floor. The search for Gordon begins and Donna finds him in the backyard digging a large hole that doubles as a large grave metaphor. Donna asks Gordon what the hell he is doing and he replies, “Looking for the giant”. McNairy takes the creepiest verbal bow to finish off Gordon’s descent into madness that was so well orchestrated across ‘Landfall’ and ‘Giant.’
There are three episodes left of the first season of Halt and Catch Fire and at this point it seems to be treading water. There are sparks of excellence in each episode but nothing is working cohesively to grasp onto besides the performances of Pace and McNairy. Maybe the eighth time will be the charm?
Cameron Williams – follow Cam on Twitter here: @MrCamW