Review: ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ tries to learn ‘Rules of Honorable Play’

A few thoughts on tonight's Halt and Catch Fire coming up just as soon as I ask a racecar to adapt to a covered wagon…

We're now getting into the heart of my busiest time of the year, but I want to keep covering Halt whenever possible, so some weeks, like this one, it may just be a few bullet points to try to spark discussion to the precious few of you still watching the show.

(And, no, I have no idea if the lower ratings means this season is it, since I was surprised AMC renewed it last time, and since Joel Stillerman told me that their ownership of the series gives them financial incentive to keep it around even with low ratings. The question is, how low can it go and survive?)

* Last year, it seemed as if the show's directors seemed most excited whenever they got to shoot a sequence at the Mutiny house, which gave them the opportunity to really let loose visually. This season, the favored setting seems to be the inside of Gordon's head – or, at least, the way the various directors (in this case, Jake Paltrow) are using subjective camera angles to give us an idea of what it feels like to be Gordon as his faculties slowly but surely slip away from him. On the one hand, this is the most easygoing and likable incarnation of Gordon so far, but there's always that tension that his internal wiring may briefly short-circuit without warning. Whether Gordon microwaving food or getting way too into the laser tag contest (to the tune of Billy Joel's “Goodnight Saigon”), it's both visually stunning and heartbreaking.

* Donna is congenitally incapable of ever fully turning into Joe, but it's interesting to see her starting to lie to and manipulate Cameron to protect her vision of what Mutiny should become, and for Cameron to discover one of the situations where she's been lied to. The two partners' lives are so intertwined that Cameron can't just go off on Donna with this information, but it's rough seeing them on the verge of a potentially huge fight.

* Speaking of intertwining of work and personal lives, interesting to see Diane apparently blow it with Bos, who comes to feel like she wants him to be a performing monkey for all her Silicon Valley pals, when he's getting tired of telling that same damn story about the bear again and again.

* It had been so long since Joe's bisexuality came up that another critic asked me if these episodes were the first time the series had introduced the idea. Even though both of the serious relationships we've seen him conduct on the series have been with women, he still likes men, which we see evidenced both when he turns out to be on a date with a guy when he runs into Bos at the fundraiser, and when he tells off the VP of General Atomics for being a homophobe rooting for AIDS to wipe out all gay men. To someone like Ken (and how great has Matthew Lillard been in this role, as part of his mid-career sleazebag renaissance?), Joe's explosion seems like another example of the famous erratic MacMillan behavior. To us, it's one of his more understandable outbursts.

What did everybody else think? How you feeling about season 3 so far?