The first hour of Tuesday night’s “Halt and Catch Fire” two-part finale is more than just a transitional episode; it may be the best episode of the entire series. We may go so far as to say it is among the best episodes of any show in 2016 to date alongside “The Winds of Winter” from “Game of Thrones” and the second half of “The People v. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story.”
What made this episode so fantastic was not the enormity of any one event; instead, it was in the small, intimate moments, and a stellar performance from Lee Pace, who brings Joe MacMillan to a level we haven’t seen him since the end of season 1. The episode begins with him in 1990, and receiving a call from Donna that he should go to COMDEX this year. She had an offer she’d like for him to extend to Cameron, who she last spoke to years ago when Mutiny collapsed and she went in the direction of the IPO. She was now in the investment world alongside Diane Gould, a place of big ideas and support for creators who have them.
From here, we saw the journey of a man who was clearly broken, and trying to pick up the pieces. He was still haunted not only by the death of Ryan Ray, but the guilt he felt over his potential role in it. Maybe Ryan flew too close to the sun, but Joe felt as though he pushed him there. Even if the love he had for him wasn’t romantic (despite his response to Gordon, you can still make the case for it), it was still love and Ryan was one of the closest people in his life. He told Cameron he was at the convention to see her, and maybe he was. He was also there to execute a great con to bring her back into the fold with the world-wide-web.
The scenes between Pace and Mackenzie Davis as they bonded at the convention were like old friends rediscovering a sense of adventure and fun. After years spent in Japan working on games Cameron was a stranger in what should be a familiar hand; she had accomplishments, and yet felt unfulfilled with her career. She may also have felt unfulfilled with what Tom was bringing her in terms of support and ambition. The connection between her and Joe is somewhere out in the stratosphere; it’s often unattainable, and it often crashes to earth. Maybe it did that after they slept together, but their day together coupled with that act was enough seemingly for her to consider Donna’s offer.
Whether it be the mischievous behavior they displayed at COMDEX to Cameron reacting to “fans,” all of it felt close to pitch-perfect for this character. You can argue that if there was a slight weakness, it was Gordon having to contend with his cranky teenage daughter at home while also trying to entertain a date. While it suffered somewhat from the “cranky teenager syndrome,” we understand at least her reasoning here since she was trying to go to a party Gordon banned her from.
Episode Grade: A. A fantastic portrait of recovery, loss, and reconnection. In particular, one of Pace’s finest performances.
Finale review – We’ll have that up shortly over at the link here. Be on the lookout for it! (Photo: AMC.)