Donna Clark is easily standing out as Halt and Catch Fire‘s most interesting character. A hardworking mother of two that is proving to be smarter than her husband Gordon, but also slowly being the most layered character on the show. It helps that Kerry Bishé provides a nuance and delicate performance that allows body language and facials speak louder than any of the dialogue.

She also is proving to have the most intriguing relationships with the three main characters as she is trying to suffer through a marriage that her husband seems oblivious is damaged, acting as a possible mentor to the rough around the edges but brilliant Cameron, and easily seeing through the manipulations of Joe.

“Close to the Metal” turned out to be one of the more solid episodes of the series due to the focus being on Donna and setting up some potentially interesting stories as her day job is now at risk after spending all her energy rescuing Cardiff from a disastrous situation.

Donna the Super Sleuth

Though, we learn near the end of the episode that Cardiff actually wasn’t really in much trouble. Joe works his manipulative magic by purposefully causing a power surge forcing the code on Cameron’s computer to be wiped out and then replacing the real back-up disks to make it looks like the information has been erased. After spending an entire night recovering the code, Donna discovers the disks are fake and suddenly realizes the floor is concrete rather than just really grey and hard carpet.

It seems a little far-fetched that Cameron or no one else would notice labels had been hastily stuck over the descriptions of the actual disks. One would think Cameron may notice the disks didn’t seem to be in her actual handwriting anymore. Donna was the only on to sort out that the vacuum that caused the power surge didn’t really have a purpose on the carpet-less floor. The point was to make Donna smarter than Joe and another possible antagonist for him down the line.

Gordon Pick Sides

It also leads to another rather important confrontation between Gordon and Donna. Donna reveals Joe’s stunt is orchestrated just to ensure the reporter will stick around and print a story about Cardiff. Gordon ends up adding to Donna’s frustration by not standing up to Joe but rather more concerned about if the story will be written.

Gordon’s response was just the sludge icing on the garbage cake he has been baking for his marriage. This episode alone he failed to pick up his daughters from school, demean his wife by insinuating his job is more important, and then drag her out for the all-night recovery that caused her to under-perform at her work. Gordon hasn’t been much more than a caricature, but actor Scoot McNairy has a solid chemistry with Bishé. He is most interesting when they interact with each other, especially in hostile situation.

Cameron Needs a Mentor

Donna’s best relationship this episode is with Cameron as they had two great scenes in particular. The first was when Donna delivers a few zingers to Cameron and stands up to her after being questions about her smarts and ability. It shows a new flourish of wit and strength in the Donna character.

The other stand-out scene is when Donna pumps up the recently demoralized Cameron by mentioning her code is like brilliant poetry. This makes Cameron feel a little worse about her decision to steal Donna’s car and almost graffiti the house. Hopefully, this scene leads to a friendship between the two characters, as the warring female storyline can get tiring. It will also hopefully leads to Cameron becoming a more developed character and one that experiences growth with a mentorship from Donna.  

Bosworth for the Win

Joe is another character that might finally be seeing some character development over the next several episodes. For the first time, Bosworth finally gets the better of him. The episode started with Joe rallying the troops over the new speed acquired in their prototype PC clone while Bosworth sneered at him. The notion was that Joe is clearly running the show, and Bosworth can’t call the shots even if he is worried about the amount of money being spent.

It was the third animal death scene in the series that inspired Bosworth to stand up for himself. Nathan Cardiff issued an ultimatum that Bosworth better start to make it clear that he is running the company. To hammer down the point, we get some symbolism as a horse is shot while Bosworth walks away. For most of the episode, it looks like Bosworth is ready to go out to glue factory because he is behind the times and lacks the charm of Joe.

Nothing like some good old fashioned police brutality to show who is boss. It looks like Bosworth has some tight connections and got some cop buddies to help rough up Joe, The message is that Bosworth has lots of pull in the town, and isn’t the push over that Joe assumes. The cop scene was a little goofy and tonally off, but it was important to finally have a scene where Joe doesn’t come out on top. In order for the Bosworth and Joe grudge match to remain compelling, Bosworth needs some victories. Hopefully, the next one doesn’t blatantly try to paint Bosworth as a thug, since it works better when he is somewhat relatable and likable.

Time to Grow

The best thing is that it feels like the characters have progressed. Cameron has some renewed confidence and is now more focused on her work. Joe for the short term has lost some swagger. Gordon has shown more loyalty to his company than his wife, which should lead to more intrigue with his relationship with Donna. As for Donna, there looks like some potential that she may end up being out of job and thus free to become the real genius at Cardiff. If I’m right about that, things will then really get shaken up

(Image courtesy of AMC)

Chris Spicer

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV