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POP A RECAP: AMC’S HALT AND CATCH FIRE – EPISODE 8 ‘The 214s’

Desperate times called for desperate measures in The 214s as Cardiff Electric prepared to take their PC, The Giant, to COMDEX (Computer Dealers’ Exhibition, a real event that ran from 1979-2003) in Las Vegas.  Sadly, the company got busted by the FBI before they could pack their bags because the boss man used hackers to steal money from a bank to fund the cash strapped PC project.  Cardiff Electric’s self-destruction was a reminder of what Halt and Catch Fire is all about; the pursuit of an idea no matter what the cost. The 214s was a major payoff for the hard work of the series so far, through the good and bad, and it’s a solid setup heading into the penultimate episode.

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While the FBI is seizing evidence at Cardiff Electric, Gordon goes into the room where the completed Giant is being kept and dismantles it so the Feds just thinks it’s junk not worth taking.  Meanwhile, Joe is pissed because he had no idea about the hacking but Cameron did because she was one of the hackers.  The fear of jail time spooks Cameron but Gordon acts as a motivational speaker in The 214s and vows to get the Giant to COMDEX.  Gordon shows his commitment by breaking into Cardiff Electric at night and stealing the Giant.  It’s great to see the series finally showing these characters taking risks and showing their passion for the project beyond yelling at each other across cubicles each week.

At home Gordon assembles the Giant but his wife Donna begs him to stop because she’s on the verge of leaving him.  Gordon begs Donna, “be crazy with me”, and he apologies for all the mistakes he made with the failed PC they built together that has been referenced throughout the series as the cause of their money woes and Gordon’s malaise.  We get to see the device and it’s a strange hybrid of a computer and a keyboard.  Gordon smashes it to the ground and proclaims the Giant as the real deal in a superb outpouring of optimism.  The 214s starts building excellent momentum and you can’t help but get sucked into the mission to get the Giant to COMDEX.

Gordon has wooed Donna once more and her fears are squashed when she turns on the Giant to see the computer is the real deal and Cameron’s operating system is intuitive and clever.  She turns to fix the smashed computer/keyboard hybrid and while looking in a draw for tools she discovers a tiny box that makes her weep.  Cut to Gordon and Cameron waiting in Joe’s swanky apartment (he has gone missing), sharing computer tales from their past.  Gordon reveals that he used to exchange love notes with Donna that were written in a special code they both developed.  Gordon reminisces (Scoot McNairy again in excellent form) about an engagement ring he bought Donna that she pawned to buy him a computer building kit.  Gordon says that he vowed to get the ring back but it never happened because they ran out of money with their doomed PC.  The explanation for Donna’s box weeping is revealed when Gordon explains that he had the ring remade and plans on giving it to Donna once the Giant is sold at COMDEX.  In this scene the stakes a raised in the most charming way possible for a show about computers.

Meanwhile, Joe’s desperation results in him confronting his father and asking for a job with IBM because they are working on a portable PC project; Joe is out to save his skin.  Joe’s dad agrees to try to work out a deal but they get into a fight about Joe’s mother who was institutionalised without Joe knowing, he always assumed she abandoned him, and only learned the truth when she was on her deathbed.  The father and son clash was a great way to bring a little closure to the mystery around Joe’s past but I suspect there’s still more to come.

Finally, Joe shows up to his apartment to find Gordon and Cameron and they detail their plan to get to COMDEX using Joe’s wealth.  Joe confesses to having no money and most of his yuppie posturing isn’t supported by any cash.  Cameron points out that Joe still drives a Porsche and a nice edit to Joe with a cheque in hand puts them on the path to COMDEX.  Also, Donna decides not to leave Gordon and joins them on the quest to Las Vegas.

A lot of people are going to say that Halt and Catch Fire “just got good” with The 214s but we’ve seen flashes of brilliance throughout the series so far.  The eighth episode showed the culmination of sparse elements into something substantial, finally the characters came to their senses and started fighting for their ideals and the people they love.  Halt and Catch Fire was injected with passion this week and I hope the dose lasts for the final two episodes of the season.

Cameron Williams – follow Cam on Twitter here: @MrCamW

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