A review of tonight’s Halt and Catch Fire coming up just as soon as I cut my own hair…
I was not prepared for that.
But in hindsight, I probably should have been.
Gordon was diagnosed with toxic encephalopathy way back in the middle of season two, and while Halt has waxed and waned in how much it focused on his condition, it’s never entirely forgotten it. Even this season, when he’s been largely symptom-free, featured an episode a few weeks ago that climaxed with him throwing his symptom journals into the fireplace, because they had never done him much good.
Still, of the four leads, Gordon’s path this season had been the easiest, and happiest. He was at peace with the divorce (which happened many years in the past by the time Comet launched), was getting along well with Donna and the girls, had a promising new relationship with Katie, and seemed to derive nothing but pleasure from building Comet. Even the project’s bumps didn’t eat at him the way setbacks had at Cardiff or Mutiny. He was just happy to be building Haley’s idea into something real. The tightly-wound genius we met at the start of the series had found inner peace — which, in hindsight, should have been a big danger sign that poor Gordo wasn’t long for this world.
“Who Needs a Guy” only magnified this approach, giving Gordon a nearly perfect final day on earth — fixing the AC, figuring out the new Comet direction with Joe, coming to terms with Haley’s apparent sexuality(*) and arranging for her to return to the company — before his borrowed time finally ran out.
(*) The cruelest part of this whole thing is that Gordon never gets to tell Haley this directly. Joe will be there to say it when the moment comes, but this is a hard thing for any kid to go through, much less at the exact moment she loses the parent with whom she’s closest. Never hearing those words directly from Gordon could always leave some nagging doubt in her mind over what he actually thought about it. Now excuse me while I grab another box of tissues.
I should have been prepared. The episode doesn’t really try to hide what’s coming. Death comes up again and again. We open with Bos and Diane getting married because life is too short to keep messing around (and also because of the tax implications), and when Gordon and Joe are brainstorming their plan to turn Comet into a whole web portal — more Yahoo than Alta Vista — they discuss how they could have covered Kurt Cobain’s suicide(*) with this approach.
(*) True story: I told my editor Keith that something big happened in this episode. “Kurt Cobain’s suicide?” “Well, yes, but also…”
And the way the episode actually portrayed Gordon’s final moments couldn’t have been lovelier. Given what was going on with Donna, it actually wouldn’t have been surprising if she had just showed up at Gordon’s in need of comfort from her ex, though we know how she was dressed in the scenes with Joe. But within a few seconds, it was clear this was Halt‘s way of showing Gordon’s life flashing before his eyes (literally, in some cases, given the lighting choices), as he got to glimpse the happy and intact nuclear family he once presided over, going back from recent years to events from before the series even began. We don’t see whatever his body is really going through in these last moments, because it doesn’t matter. Gordon Clark was a thinker and a dreamer, and as the spark went out of his body, his mind was bringing forth visions of the project that mattered to him most: Donna and those girls. Absolutely gorgeous, and devastating.
The final season slumped a bit after those first couple of episodes, as all four leads cast about for a direction for their projects, and their lives, but the last few have been incredibly strong, particularly Donna’s problems at work and home. And if Halt is willing to pull a Six Feet Under and kill off Gordon with multiple episodes to go? I’m not sure I’m ready for whatever else might be coming.
What did everybody else think? Are you all okay right now? And what hopes do you have for the surviving three before the series is done?