Family Animism: Halt and Catch Fire Season 4 Episode 8 (AMC)

Halt and Catch Fire: Season 4 Episode 7 “Goodwill”

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This week was about coming to grips with loss, mending wounds, and mourning with family.

I apologize that this is a bit later than usual, during the Michigan vs. Michigan State game last night (yes, believe me, I know my team lost) the power went out for my entire block. In other words, I couldn’t watch or write about Halt and Catch Fire.

As usual, if you haven’t seen Halt and Catch Fire Season 4 Episode 5 *Spoiler Alert*

A Sad Coincidence

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So, I will just say it, during church this morning, I got the news that an old friend of mine had passed away (at some point during the night, while I was worried about my football team and my power, like a typical jackass). Luckily, I went to see him in the ICU last week and he acknowledged my presence (he couldn’t talk and was hooked up to about a million machines).

Pretty shitty way to start writing this particular recap.

It happened just like with Gordon, not anybody’s fault, just had a heart that stopped working.

We had been friends for about 20 years. We were never super close friends, but we always stayed in touch and he was a brilliant guy and a super nice fellow. I will miss our great conversations and his insights.

I am writing about it, but I still kind of feel like Joe when Bos starts telling funny stories about Gordon...Too soon.

I am not even sure how I feel about it yet (aside from that it really sucks).

Anyway, one thing that Halt and Catch Fire does really well is to show the tiny fissures in the tiny minutes in relationships that become cracks and then finally grow into gaping holes that become too big to repair.

This time, Cantwell and Rogers present us with a flashback of a younger Donna and Gordon which shows the fissures like when Gordon believed that following his dream was somehow THEM working together and “building something together” or when they made a silent quid pro quo agreement to move back to Dallas as long as Donna remains primary caregiver to the kids (sometimes it is hard to imagine how much their roles have reversed since Season One).

The flashback reminded us that Donna was always ambitious and that Gordon was always a bit selfish (and purposefully so) until he started to mature during Season 3. It also provided us with some much needed glimpses of the love that existed between them too.

When, at the end of the episode, Donna breaks down and admits how much she misses Gordon, it loops back beautifully from the very first scene where Donna is lying on the floor joking around with Gordon about her parents. There is a wonderful innocence there and what she is missing is not just the older Gordon, but all of the love and potential that got lost along the way.

The Pilgrim’s a Kid

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One of the best things that happened during this penultimate episode (yes, I know the finale is actually two separate episodes but whatever, you get my point) was the extended reconciliation between Donna and Cameron.

I am a big tough guy who has been to jail and prison, and yet I found myself sniffling and brushing back tears when after admitting to Cameron how much she misses Gordon she said:

“I miss you too”

When Cam responded:

“I’m here”

What an amazing moment, one of the best in the history of the show. It was only one season ago when Donna and Cam were standing shoulder to shoulder facing down the slings and arrows of tech industry sexism together.

When else in the history of television have two such capable, intelligent, and powerful visionary women taken on the world together with the support but not following the lead of men?

It has been very hard to see Donna grow into the villain and to see Cameron and Donna grow apart (abruptly).

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, and Cameron explained to Joanie, deep down Donna is a wonderful person (even if she irons her jeans and decorates her condo like it is living in a Nagel print).   

She has raised two very cool kids, she was a key contributor to everything that happened, and for most of the first two seasons, she sacrificed most of her self-actualization goals to be the emotional support structure for Gordon and later for the entire group.

I guess what I am saying is that it would have really pissed me off if at the end of the show Donna was reduced to some bitter cutout trying to graduate to becoming a parody of some garish and ogrish male "executroid."

Donna and Cameron were our hope for a better future, they were successful women as we wish could have existed in the 80’s and 90’s and their story, to almost to a Tarantino Esque degree, speaks to who we could still be and who we should have already been as a society.

I also want to take a second to mention what Cameron and Donna share about pilgrim. When Donna says that “The Pilgrim is a Kid” I immediately felt the emotional impact of that statement.

My Mom is in her 70’s and she tells me all the time that she still feels like she did when she was 20 in her head. I am 50 and I feel the same way. In a sense getting older is the growing recognition that everything is changing while our ego stays eternally optimistic.

Cameron is the pilgrim, walking through life and trying to find a home and someone to welcome her home with a big hug.

I am certainly the pilgrim, walking through life and trying to find a home and someone to welcome me home with a big hug.

I get it.

Bodies Die, But The People Live On

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I am no expert in Animism, but I recall being told in college that in this African religion bodies may die but the people who were housed in those bodies live on in memory and in all of the people that they influenced in life.

I apologize if I am bastardizing that concept, but it seems a beautiful way to look at death.

For any of you who have been with me from the beginning of this recap, you know that I have always said that Halt and Catch Fire is a show about a five-person non-nuclear family.

When I saw the scenes with Joe, Cameron, Bos, and Donna sitting around the table eating Bos’s chili it made me so happy. Gordon was in those scenes too. Those characters are who they are because of their singular and collective relationships with Gordon Clark.

His presence lived in every scene and in every character. Gordon Clark was the ghost in the “Goodwill” machine.

It made it so poignant when prior to that scene Cameron said:

“I lost a pretty good friend, I don’t have too many of those to spare.”

I felt that deeply too.

And I have many times told myself “Boo Hoo, Poor Me” too ( just like Cameron did).

We have such an aversion to grief and mourning in this country that we are often much more concerned with people’s opinion of our mourning (or about their judgments about the appropriateness of our mourning) than we are about actually allowing ourselves to mourn.

I was glad that Dr, Katie was given the opportunity to mourn too (and I guess I am happy she is getting to go hang out in counterfactual Seattle where she will be able to see counterfactual Sleater Kinney, Mudhoney, the Melvins, and Nirvana).

I was glad that Haley and Joanie got to find some peace (I was sad that Joanie secretly wanted badly to go to college but, because her grades were so low, she acted like she was protesting by not sending in her applications rather than just admitting defeat).

What makes me happiest of all, however,  is that the death of Gordon’s body brought the core Halt and Catch Fire family back together again.

Okay, I am still sticking with my prediction that Joe and Cam will end this thing married and with a child. I believe that it will be entirely on Cameron’s terms and I suspect Joe will be the stay-home Dad. But, they would not keep coming back to this if it wasn’t going to be a thing.

Next week we say goodbye to a great friend (or I should say the body of the series may die but the spirit will live on in all of us who have been touched by this amazing series).

Also, as you probably know, my Mr. Robot recap starts back up next week after the season premiere on Wednesday.

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