Reviewing the best ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ episode yet

Thoughts on last night's terrific “Halt and Catch Fire” coming up just as soon as I try to steal HBO to watch “Cat People”…

I praised the second season of “Halt” after watching the four episodes AMC made available to critics in advance of the premiere. These next two episodes, and “10Broad36” in particular, have been even better, as they've built on the foundation laid about the perilous states of Mutiny, the Clark marriage, Gordon's physical and mental health, and Joe's attempt to be less of a… Joe.

It's safe to say that Joe is back in full manipulator mode, but it's working better for the show than it did last season for a few reasons. First, he's actually being a visionary this time rather than some guy blowing up everyone's lives in order to make a slightly cheaper laptop no one will remember. Second, he's doing it against people who know what he's about, and he's still able to outmaneuver them because they underestimate his skills, technical and otherwise. (The sequence with the faked AT&T machine was like watching a caper movie where the mark is three steps ahead of the thieves the whole time.) Third, the Sonny Crockett look suits Lee Pace far better than the suit and tie wardrobe from season 1. And four, he's so much more deeply entangled in the lives of Cameron, Donna and Gordon – and now Sara and her father – that his various stunts take on deeper resonance than they did when he was the mystery man from out of town.

Gordon's diagnosis has turned out to be a lot more interesting than if it was just cocaine addiction. The impending loss of his genius, if not more, would be a hard one for anyone to reckon with, but someone like Gordon in particular. And while it's admirable in a way that he's not laying this on Donna because he doesn't want her to give up Mutiny, his brother's ex(*) is absolutely right to call him out for using her as a Donna surrogate.

(*) Two fine bits of casting, with Erin Cummings from “Astronaut Wives Club” as the ex and Kevin Rankin from everything a good genetic match for Scoot McNairy.

The strongest stuff, though, continues to be what's happening inside the Mutiny frat house, first with Donna's outburst at Joe when he refuses to negotiate, then with the ongoing conflict between Donna and Cameron, as Bosworth tries to mediate without simply giving away Donna's secret.

In a series that's been an outstanding showcase for Kerry Bishé, this was a particular highlight for both actress and character. Donna's complex feelings about work vs. family are being illustrated in a way I've rarely seen in TV dramatic form before, or at least not with this level of nuance. Ending the episode with Donna, fresh off her abortion, doing the bedtime routine for her upset daughter – and seeing how much she cherishes that interaction, even as she doesn't want to repeat the process with a third child – was incredibly powerful.

“Halt and Catch Fire” has simply turned into a great show at this point. I hope AMC continues to stick with it.

What did everybody else think, of both this episode, and season 2 so far?