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Halt and Catch Fire Essays + 2/15/22

Season 1 Episode 4

Analysis of Halt and Catch Fire S1:E4. A 45 minute reflection on backing up your BIOS.

Not every swing can be a hit and the fourth episode of this series is one of those misses.

In "Close to the Metal" there is only one storyline: a reporter observing Cardiff's R&D team going through heroics to restore a fried hard-drive. The plot is not enough to keep my interest, and I found myself checking my watch. I imagine the writers were intending to wow us with Joe's voodoo marketing acumen, but that angle fell flat for me. Scene after scene, we dug into the details of how the drive was painstakingly restored only to have the twist be that it was a Joe-manufactured crisis. I don't buy it. We have already established Joe's not technically gifted (we have literally never seen Joe touch a keyboard). I don't find it plausible that Joe went about degaussing disks and frying hard drives.

So, the plot fell short. The challenging part is that there wasn't any significant character development for a lackluster series-of-events storyline. Donna's storyline, the only storyline I enjoyed, was a re-hashing of the concepts we are already familiar with: Donna is a mom, a career woman and technically gifted. In this episode, we get to see a little more of Donna being gifted at hardware and we learn just a little more about her relationship with Gordon.

Technically, this isn't a one storyline episode. The 'B' plot is Joe and Bos competing for the role of leader at Cardiff. A ham-fisted shot at the end of the cold-open shows Bos and Joe staring at each other through the flames of a burning book. This storyline isn't given enough attention as it only gets brought up two more times. Nathan Cardiff summons Bos to the Cardiff ranch, where Nathan asks Bos, 'Who's in charge over there?'. Bos sees his authority is in danger and calls in a favor from some police friends to pummel Joe with nightsticks. This feels like Bos from episode one (before the writers knew what to do with him), but not the Bos who sleeps under a picture of his family.

Frankly, this script feels like it was written in isolation from the other scripts. Character evolution we had seen occurring in the prior three episodes is missing in this one. Bos keeps the bad guy angle that the other writers had softened. Cameron is shallow and useless in a crisis. We establish, again, that Donna has a lot going on and is not just a mom.

Next week, when we view episode five, I'll be watching with the thought: "Would anything be lost if episode four disappeared?"