This week’s episode of Halt and Catch Fire, “High Plain Hardware,” opens and ends with a dying bird. The bird in some ways can be seen as a metaphor for Cardiff Electric possibly now clinging to life after IBM gobbled most of their clients, thus forcing the firing of a mass amount of staff members, and now the company is fully reliant on the success of the IBM clone.

It can also be seen as an example of the three main protagonists failing to complete the tasks put ahead of them. The bird shouldn’t have been left clinging to life for the duration of the episode as Gordon is given the responsibility to put it out of its misery or at least do something about the situation. Yet it was Donna left to solve the issue in the final scene by killing the bird and burying it in the garden.

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The New Gordon

This episode seems to foreshadow two things in Gordon’s future. The first being that clearly his marriage with Donna is about to get very tumultuous again. The second is he is going to shed away his shy personality and begin to stand up for himself.

Donna Stands Out

The most intriguing is the forthcoming clash with Donna. Kerry Bishe is fantastic in conveying subtle facials and body language as her character Donna not only tires out in supporting her family but also has to deal with crucial issues with her job while being under-appreciated by her husband. This episode ends up being the most effective in fleshing out Donna and allowing her to start having her own character arc.

Donna is left questioning the current state of her marriage after two key discussions. A talk with her boss makes her start pondering her past and possibly questioning if things could have turned out differently. A visit by her mom leads to a harmless comment about how Gordon should do the dishes sometimes, likely making Donna realize the inequality taking place in the home.

The kicker, of course, is that Donna has some reason to be upset. Gordon is banging his head at work along with his fellow minions in brainstorming how to make Joe’s idea about a portable computer work. It doesn’t have a chance until Donna gives him a few suggestions on how to reconfigure things. Of course, Gordon, desperately seeking attention and respect, presents the new idea without crediting his wife.

Gordon Won’t Be Pushed Around

This leads to the event that acts as the catalyst to a more determined Gordon who won’t be pushed around. Shortly after presenting the new design for the computer, his fellow employee and neighbor starts throwing out a giant roadblock of discouragement. He says that the manufacturers won’t be willing to change their motherboard just to assist a small computer company like Cardiff. Gordon doesn’t put up any fight and decides the idea isn’t feasible.

It just takes one car crash and proof that Brian the neighbor is far from infallible for Gordon to realize his mistake. As Brian tries to defend his rather lousy driving skills, Gordon fires him on the spot and ends any need to listen to his advice again. It should be assumed that Gordon is now going to be committed to creating the portable computer. The big challenge will be what effect this will have on his marriage and if that really matters to him anyway.

Joe Slimes His Way on Top Again

Joe continues to be in his eternal struggle with his boss, John Bosworth. After IBM purged the client list, the company desperately needs to get some new funding. It is clear Bosworth still isn’t truly committed to the clone idea. He wants to make it even clearer that he is still running the show, even if the company is totally steered in the direction of Joe’s vision.

It leads to an interesting game of mental chess when they attempt to woo an investor played by Jean Smart. It should be noted that Smart is wonderful here as a strong and powerful woman that is able to match Joe for charisma and strength. Joe doesn’t like the fact that she doesn’t seem to respect him, and throws a tantrum during dinner to convey he doesn’t want her as an investor. It partly comes from the fact that she wanted a healthy chunk of profits but also that she is more willing to listen to Bosworth.

Bosworth is able to close the deal and it looks like they have their wealthy investor. Of course, Joe needs things to go his way and would rather sabotage things than compromise. It will likely lead to a King Lear-ish fall at some point, or so it feels like that is what is being set up. This time around, Joe ends up winning, as he seduces and sleeps with the investor’s handsome boy toy. The move is enough to cancel the deal and make Bosworth even more infuriated at Joe.

Procrastinating is a Party

Cameron’s challenge is a rather nasty case of coding block. For most of the episode, she tries to solve it by spending very little time on her computer. She is busy stealing things from the freshly-fired employees, sharpening pencils until nothing is left and blowing her first pay check on a party in a hotel.

The hotel scene is interesting as a bunch of 20-something slackers dance around in their underwear and chug vodka. It is the epitome of the ambitionless and rebellious. It becomes clear that Cameron doesn’t fit with this crowd anymore. She quickly becomes obsessed again with figuring out the code and even messes up a clean mirror with lipstick to try to discover it. The stylistic choices of the blaring punk music and fast cut shots of the partiers add to the feeling that Cameron is lost.

Eviction Time

She also may be homeless. Bosworth ends up making it clear that he knows Cameron is sleeping at the office and she needs to find a place. The scene actually still has a tenderness too, and shows that Bosworth has a respect for Cameron. The scene makes it clear that he isn’t necessarily the villain in this series. Though it is rather fitting that, at the end of the episode, it is Bosworth who is sleeping on the couch in his office. The ultimatum might be the reason that Cameron ends up in Joe’s apartment, and it isn’t entirely clear if it is a late night booty call or an attempt for her to crash there.

None of the three characters completely finish their tasks. Gordon still needs to convince the rest of the staff that the new designs can work and he needs to step up as leader. Joe tries to convince Bosworth they don’t need investors at the moment, but this means things will remain tight. Cameron, the prodigy, is now facing her first real challenge as she tries to create code for the IBM clone. Meanwhile, Cardiff is still a bird trying to cling to a few more breaths.

Halt and Catch Fire airs Sundays at 10pm on AMC.

(Image courtesy of AMC)

Chris Spicer

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV