Mastodon Mastodon Mastodon Mastodon Mastodon Halt and Catch Fire - NIM/NeXT - Review: "The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread"

    Enable Dark Mode!

  • What's HOT
  • Premiere Calendar
  • Ratings News
  • Movies
  • YouTube Channel
  • Submit Scoop
  • Contact Us
  • Search
  • Privacy Policy
Support SpoilerTV is now available ad-free to for all premium subscribers. Thank you for considering becoming a SpoilerTV premium member!

SpoilerTV - TV Spoilers

Halt and Catch Fire - NIM/NeXT - Review: "The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread"

18 Oct 2016

Share on Reddit

If I didn’t make a review two weeks ago or last week it was merely because I didn’t have the time to. All season long Halt and Catch Fire has been on a roll, delivering phenomenal episode after phenomenal episode, but the last 3 episodes (episode 8 and the 2 hour season finale) have been something else. The suicide reveal is one of the most heartbreaking death scenes I have ever seen in TV, and that’s without the victim’s body, we realized he died just like Joe did and we shared his shock, the show managed to put us in the exact same position as Joe was. That’s very commendable for any TV show, or rather, any kind of storytelling, to be able to put the audience in the exact same position as the character.

After such a stellar episode, I was further aggravated by Halt’s lack of viewership. After this standout season, Halt and Catch Fire may just become my very favorite TV show on the air (beware Game of Thrones, Mr. Robot and Jessica Jones, there is a new contestant in town), and to think that, just when the show hit its zenith, just as it managed to figure out exactly what works and what makes the most effective storytelling, that this show could get cancelled, it made me furious. Thankfully, the show was renewed for a fourth and final season, but I’m still mad about the numbers. And it’s not against those who tried it and didn’t like it, they have every right not to like the show. No, my beef is with the people who have not tried it out. Those who continue to pass it on because it’s a period piece, or because they have heard season 1 is uneven, or for whatever reason.

Halt and Catch Fire is simply, to my eyes, the best acted, the best written, the best planned out, and the best constructed show on TV. Everything is carefully designed, plot, character arcs, pacing, directing, every beats sticks the landing. The acting is top notch, emmy worthy, on par with any single nominee and winner (yes, Lee Pace could be right there with Rami Malek and Mackenzie Davis’ nuanced performance is just as impressive as the multifaceted Tatiana Maslany), and the love everyone involved in this show has for their project shows both on and off screen. If you haven’t tried out the show yet and you are reading this review, I beg you, try this show out.

Now, with that plea out of the way, let’s talk the episode. And where to begin? There is so much to talk about, in these 2 hours the show simply blew itself up in the best manner possible to get a sense of both earnest satisfaction, emotional pain through the wreckage of many of the character’s relationships and immense anticipation for what’s to come.

We pick up with Donna, who seems to be adjusting to a new position. I’m not sure exactly what’s going on and how much time has passed. Bos comes to congratulate here, has she saved Mutiny or something? After the collapse we saw on the previous episode I can’t make much sense of what’s going on until we get a close up of the computer. Microsoft, Windows version 3.0, 1990. My mind was officially blown at that moment.

The show took a time jump and I was immediately anxious: “is this going to work?! how are we supposed to relate to all the changes the characters have been through?!” I should have known Halt and Catch Fire would play it smartly and craft a story through the characters dynamics, telling us exactly what we needed to know.

As Donna tries to get Joe to go to Cameron and convince her to hear out her amazing idea, I start to pay more and more attention and I became baffled by how well they seem to be. Cameron seems to be very successful with her Atari game “Space Bike” which spawned 3 sequels, with one more on the way apparently. We saw Joe working and it would seem he is doing fairly well as well. But neither look as happy as when they are together.

It’s a joy to see them both navigate the convention, but the golden moment of the first half of “NIM” comes when they play with the lighters. It’s just so painful how they catch up and how Cameron tells Joe that he needs to move on from the guilt he has over Ryan’s death. There is something so human, so empathetic, and so broken in this scene that I was almost in tears as the smiles crack through each and one of them, alongside the pain both of them hold. We can see the intention to enjoy themselves while the dark cloud is hovering above, a dark cloud Cameron tries to make go away.

Seriously, I can’t say how awesome that scene is, how heavy, how amazingly crafted it is. I almost picked it for the Scene of the Week section, but had to give it to the final moment (more on that in a moment). At that moment I was engaged with the episode in a way I’m rarely am. The investment on their interactions was on another level due to sharp writing and the outstanding performances of Mackenzie Davis and Lee Pace. Emmy worthy for both.

Meanwhile, we sadly learn that Donna and Gordon have gone through a divorce. This realization is a heavy blow: it’s not unexpected, but it’s still hard to swallow, since both are amazing characters that, despite their conflicts, always seemed somewhat in sync and like a natural match, but I guess there was something that simply couldn’t be fixed. Their flirtation game, acting like strangers, became more and more painful as I realized they weren’t together, but it also came across as something both of them would do. Kudos to the writers for managing such a tricky scene to let us know the fallout of their relationship.

We also need to talk about the party scene in which Joe and Cameron try to enjoy themselves and we see the cutest moment with a fan saying “I love Space Bike!” and Cameron replying “Oh! I love you!”. It was a small, but very beautiful moment. That scene’s tone completely shifts as Donna makes her entrance, and opens the wound of Mutiny’s failure to Cameron.
“What are you doing here?!” she asks. Donna tries to make her listen, but Cameron is in no mood to.

Now, we change to the roof scene with Joe and there he tells Cameron that Donna wanted him to give her the idea she had. I was scared that the show would stereotypically play this out as the reveal of a double agent thing, but Joe assures Cameron he never even read the idea, that he wasn’t in Donna’s side, but Cameron’s. Which slowly leads to them having sex.

I was impressed by the fact that I wasn’t appalled by that fact: during the first season, I thought the will they/won’t they aspect of Joe and Cameron was one of the show’s flaws, but here it worked perfectly, just because they feel in sync, it suddenly makes sense. Both of them are similar, they are a fit, as broken as they may be, it feels that when they are together they make a good couple. There is a chemistry there that wasn’t back in season 1.

If there was something to really complain about in this episode, I’d say is the whole Gordon dating thing and mostly because Joannie is pretty much insufferable. But then again, my worries were put to bed when she helped Gordon on the stairs: they painted the character as rebellious and a jerk, but not heartless, as soon as she sees her dad struggling she is there to help him and that was tender enough for me to say “aaaw” and praise the fact that, even though painted in a somewhat stereotypical light at first, the writers did hint more depth to her. She may be immature, but certainly not heartless, which is a much needed representation of teenagers where in many tv shows they seem to be very insensible, which is not true to them.

Finally, Joe reads Donna’s idea and he is obviously fascinated by what he finds there and we have a transition towards the last episode, which was written in such a way that could have easily worked out as a series finale. This final episode of the season is simply phenomenal. No, it’s more than that: it’s one of the best episodes of TV I have ever seen.

There is something so exciting to see the gang back together (plus Tom) discussing the future of the web, discussing html vs http. All of them are discussing about how to proceed with a good idea, but there is a subtext that is very clear, everyone is also airing their own issues while discussing what’s going on.

The conversation is fairly technical, I know a fair amount about computers and the web, but at times I had to rewind a bit since they were talking fast to keep up, but I found it really thrilling. It showcases the characters passions and knowledge and their desire to make something great just rubbed in me.

The stakes of this show are all in the realm of personal achievements and self fulfillment. None of these characters face financial problems, they are all fairly successful, probably even somewhat rich (if not outright rich), but the issue here is not money: it’s making something great, something transcendence and to be remember, which was the drive towards making the Giant a memorable computer in season 1 (which didn’t worked out) and to make Mutiny something that connected with their users in a more personal level as we saw on seasons 2 and 3 (which also ended up in flames).

The past pain and experience carries a burden to follow through this idea and makes it very difficult for these brilliant people to agree on what has to be done. The tensions are clear, especially in between Tom and Joe, and during that second meeting… oh god, that was so intense.

Tom says he doesn’t want to see Cameron end up like Ryan, which is an incredibly low blow. To which Joe replies “Lucky for us, wives don’t get a vote”. Ouch. That ends up in both of them getting into a fight, which leads to Joe falling into shaky floor that breaks and he falls. For a moment there I screamed “OH SHIT!” and I seriously thought Halt may be indulging in a casualty. Thankfully not, Joe recovered, and it seemed like seeing that pumped Gordon to take a leap forward to stop thinking about the future and try to bring it at that very moment.

Then we have a very concerning scene in which Donna talks to Cameron, trying to make amends for what she did, to which Cameron maturely replies that she made mistakes too. It all looks like it’s going to be great and good from here onwards, but it all falls apart as soon as Donna says “we can get rid of Joe is you want”. At that moment I felt something was terribly off, but nothing prepared me for their next confrontation.

As Cameron convinces Tom to let her do her thing while he is off to work with SEGA (little does he know that’s a very bad career path at the time), she tells Donna that they can’t work together. She is baffled, and as she asks why, she replies what has been obvious, but we didn’t want to admit. “I almost forgot how easy it is for you to toss aside people when they get in your way”. That line was brutal, mostly because it’s true: this season Donna has been so driven by her ideals that she didn’t realize how much she sacrificed everyone around her for her own success.

The exchange ends up with Donna making a great sacrifice. “Take it”. She gives away her idea so that Cameron can develop it alongside Joe and Gordon as she is off to Sweden to do god’s knows what. It’s incredibly painful, bold, and earnest to what we have been seeing this season. I really thought the season would end with the 4 of them working together, but now we see the show was brave enough to acknowledge that there are some things you can’t easily fix.

Donna's breakdown in the car is an incredibly acted moment that makes all of this all the more heartbreaking. She was ready for a new beginning, she kickstarted the whole thing, but now she has to find it elsewhere. And Kerry Bishé delivers a very powerful performance.

As we get to the end, Joe reveals Gordon that he is in love with Cameron, and Cameron gives the news that Donna won’t be joining them. This scene, the original trio looking at the computer mirrors the pilot while recognizing how much these characters have evolved. After everything they have been through, after all the pain and the success, they still want one thing: develop something great, memorable.

All the money in the world won’t give these people what they really want, the level of self fulfillment that comes from doing something new, something bold and great, and it’s in this little scene that we see the heart and soul of the show. It’s about people trying their best, putting their brilliant minds together to make the next big things, putting all their souls into what they are doing. They have been hurt in this path, they have failed, but they need to keep going because this is who they are.

Every single scene in these 2 episodes are outstandings as they treat each character with respect, showcasing their evolution. And there is a lot I left out, the sad wine drinking in between Gordon and Donna as both of them kinda contemplate getting back together without getting to that, or Cameron’s heartfelt meeting with Bos who puts her in the right path to pursue what she really wants to do. If this finale missed anything is more Bos, but there are time constraints that makes it understandable.

There is so much we could talk about, but I don’t want this review to be a bible, I want to touch on the soul of the show, to talk about what it really wants to do and push forward. And I can see it: it’s all about what we do next, how we pursue what we really want and how we deal with the fallouts of our past mistakes.

I don’t think there’s a show in TV right now that develops and treats characters so realistically and so respectfully as Halt and Catch Fire does. I’m really happy it will be able to end in the terms of the showrunners and creators, the way they envision it, but I’m also to think the end is near. I’ll miss this show a lot once it’s done, but I’ll be forever thankful to AMC to allow the best of TV to continue on.

Grade: A

About the Author - Pablo
I'm currently studying Psychology while also writing fantasy books (one already published in my home country, Chile, you can check it out on the facebook icon). I watch many different types of shows, including my favorites Game of Thrones, Mr. Robot, Jessica Jones, and about 23 more. Currently writing occasional reviews for Halt and Catch Fire and regular reviews for The Flash season 3
Recent Reviews (All Reviews)