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Halt and Catch Fire Essays + 3/8/22

Season 1 Episode 7

Analysis of Halt and Catch Fire S1:E7. Ok, now we know what we want to do with Donna and Boz.

There are ten episodes in every season of Halt and Catch Fire. In the seventh episode of the first season, we see the transformation complete for two characters. In this episode, Donna and Boz become the recognizable personalities that we''ll be with through the rest of the show.

At the start of the season, it felt like Donna would be a major character, but only as a flourish to Gordon. To my eye, she existed to give the writers a tool with which to constrain Gordon and add tension. Without Donna loitering around like a dark cloud, Gordon would not have hesitated to jump into building a computer with Joe. The scene in the garage reverse engineering the IBM wouldn't have had the hum of tension. However, what the show got right is taking Donna and moving her past being Gordon's foil and instead building complexity around her. Somewhere around episode three, Donna blesses the Cardiff project and switches to being a supporting force - this opens her character up to exploring new directions. The writers choose to explore Donna as a career woman, someone who is struggling to prove her worth, raise a family and actualize into the capable person she knows she can be (essentially the theme of the show). On the business trip with Hunt, Donna's true character finally erupts through her reserved facade. She interrupts a meeting to tersely give her thoughts and is immediately ashamed. Hunt backs her up, though, validating her outburst. At dinner with Hunt, Donna lets loose again and takes over the piano at the restaurant. This time, she is truly confident, and it results in one of my favorite Donna scenes. It's a simple but powerful moment where Donna, with no reservation or shame, lets her hair down and acts out. She even fires out a little inside joke calling back to her alter-ego of Susan Fairchild. Finally, in the elevator, Hunt lets Donna know she should embrace this new Donna - this new boldness. She misinterprets this encouragement and takes her boldness too far, bringing her back to shame. The writers give us three scenes where Donna figures out just how bold Donna should be. However, the point is, Donna is thrilled with discovering this new power. Despite the initial 'setback' we'll see Donna learn to wield this confidence and become a far more powerful and consequential character than she has been up to this point.

Boz has also been a curious character to pin down. I've written about it a lot. At some points in the season, Boz has acted incongruously from where it was clear the writers were taking him. The scene where picks up Joe from the police station after arranging his beating doesn't quite suit the character who also is providing fatherly advice to a young, lost Cameron. In this episode, the writers finally capture the Boz we'll know for the rest of the show: a genuine believer who will stop at nothing to support the team. In Boz's biggest scene this season we see this character fleshed out in full force: "You have no idea what these kids are making, Nathan. This could change everything. In five years, every one of us could have these damn things in the house. This is not a small market we're talking about. We got to get in the door now." The lines in this scene are delivered so passionately you can't help but feel that both Toby Huss and the writers have been gnawing at the bit to reach this point.

As this episode ends, we now have the five characters developed and put in place for what I think is one of the top five most rewarding episodes of the entire show. It's likely because the characters have finally found their footing that episode eight is so powerful. Episodes one through seven have been an interesting case study in developing rich characters and now we buckle in to see where these characters take us.