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Halt and Catch Fire recap: Play with Friends

Chatrooms and multiplayer first person shooters are born.

Posted on

Richard DuCree/AMC

Halt and Catch Fire

TV Show
run date:
Lee Pace, Mackenzie Davis, Kerry Bishe, Scoot McNairy
Current Status:
In Season

It’s a new day in Dallas. Gordon and Joe are working together again, Cameron and Tom are falling for each other, and … Donna’s pregnant.

As new story lines sprout, old ones mature and are harvested, and we’re left with an open field of possibility. Will Gordon’s health issue take center stage? Will Donna’s pregnancy derail her work at Mutiny? Will Joe and Sara fail as he steps back into his familiar role of workaholic swindler?

But before getting to that stuff, let’s talk about the home pregnancy test in the last scene. Can you believe a gal used to have to wait 20 minutes to two hours for a result? The first home tests were made widely available to the public in 1976, and by 1985, they were still a slow, messy test tube situation—like a dial-up modem, but for women’s health. Re-experiencing ’80s technology is a big piece of watching Halt and Catch Fire; the show took a cue from its AMC sibling, Mad Men, and realized that audiences love to reminisce and ask each other, “Remember those?” and “Remember when?”

From the gigantic answering machines to those multicolored ’80s Afghans, pogo sticks, cabbage patch kids, chicken cacciatore, Neal Patrick (the hacker, not Neil the actor—Doogie Howser is still four years away), and of course, the beige-box desktop computers and slow-as-molasses printers, the show allows the audience to soak in nostalgia and let their own ’80s memories color the story.

It’s a brilliant device that’s been used plenty, Happy Days, The Wonder Years, That ’70s Show, etc. But it goes further when our ’80s tech wizards make “new” discoveries like chat rooms that they hope will succeed, while we know they will. (In season 1, Gordon calls touch screens a passing fad.) The audience feels powerful, omniscient, as well as nostalgic. It’s an addictive combination. Of course, if you’re too young to remember the ’80s, you’re not old enough to enjoy that cocktail. The Millenials may not get, or care, about what it took to digitize the world, and perhaps that’s a reason the show isn’t a bigger hit. But seeing the birth of the digital age is good fun for middle-aged viewers who can exclaim things like, “I didn’t get email until 1995!” to one another.

But back to the big bombshell in episode 4—Donna’s pregnancy. She’s referred to the Community rooms as her baby, but now that an actual baby is in the mix, her dreams will have to accommodate a new story line. And with Gordon collapsing, she may have to take care of him and her other two kids, too.

When Gordon passes out in the server room, he lies to Joe about what’s happened, but the reason for his cover-up is unclear. He’s been trying to impress Joe with his Sancerre and his jogging “nine miles,” so perhaps he just doesn’t want to appear weak (or human). Or, he may be continuing to use cocaine, though we saw him throw it away in a previous episode. Gordon also took a trip to the doctor after a nosebleed and claimed he received a clean bill of health, “The doctor says I have the body of a 25-year-old!” But in the final scene, as he’s talking to Donna, he looks in the mirror and says more to himself than to her, “Maybe you should go see a doctor, just to rule out anything serious.”

Mutiny is slowly recovering from its quite-serious Gordon virus, but to stay afloat, its employees have to agree to take shares of the company instead of paychecks, and a regular character, Yo-Yo, is lost in the process. Boz steps in and deftly recovers some lost subscribers, and we learn his sales skills rival Joe’s—a Texas version of Joe’s city slicker charm.

Boz goes to a gamer’s doorstep and convinces the kid’s “Luddite” mother that gaming is a healthy way for him to socialize. The teen feels seen, the mom feels like a better parent, Boz gets his groove back, and Mutiny takes a step back from ruin. Boz also makes the suggestion that Mutiny use ad space in Wired’s forerunner, BYTE magazine (remember that?), and advertise that they’re hiring to make it look like they’re “cooking on the front burner.” It’s an invitation for new faces to appear, and their Animal House-like group photo is sure to draw in some interesting characters.

NEXT: “Everyone wants to shoot their friends sometimes.”