Quiet and contemplative, “Goodwill” is yet another standout episode in Halt and Catch Fire‘s final season. The show spares us by not depicting Gordon’s funeral. Instead, we pick up several days later, and it turns out, to borrow Joe’s words, everyone’s terrible. This hour zooms in on the grieving process and how it ends up bringing these characters together (finally!).
Before diving into the aftermath of Gordon’s death, “Goodwill” begins a flashback to when Gordon and Donna lived in San Francisco right after Joanie was born and they were still struggling computer geniuses. Donna’s parents just visited, and while they were there, her mother offered to buy them a house if they moved back to Texas. Donna brings this up with Gordon later on, and he flies off the handle because the future is in San Francisco and they’ll miss the boat on the next big thing if they leave. The fight spins out of control and eventually Gordon storms off and drives off into the night, leaving Donna alone with their crying baby.
In the present, Donna, the girls, Joe, and Cameron gather at Gordon’s home to start packing up his things. Cue a packing montage set to Dire Straits’ “So Far Away,” a perfect song choice for the sequence, which finds each character pausing to spend some time with Gordon’s belongings. Unfortunately, the grieving process is interrupted (or, rather, takes a turn, since we all grieve in different ways) when Donna, in the process of helping Joanie pack up her room, discovers that Joanie never sent in her college applications. The ensuing fight turns nasty when Donna says Gordon would be disappointed in Joanie, who retaliates by accusing Donna of not being able to stand Gordon. Cameron stands awkwardly in the middle of this.
Following the fight, Joanie starts smoking in her room, a clichéd yet effective act of rebellion that pisses off her mom. Cameron decides to take a stab at talking to Joanie and heads up to her room for a meeting between Little Cameron and Real Cameron. It’s been clear since we met grown-up Joanie that a lot of Cameron rubbed off on her, and Cameron’s attempts to get Joanie to go easy on her mom reveals how much she has grown since we first met her. Furthermore, this show is about how people put a part of themselves in the things they create, and so this little chat is also Cameron’s way of connecting with both Donna and Gordon. It’s sort of similar to how Donna played Cameron’s frustrating game in order to connect with her earlier in the season. In fact, Donna brings up how she finally beat Pilgrim later on, which means a lot to Cameron because she did put a lot of herself in that game.
Meanwhile, Joe, who was in charge of cleaning out Gordon’s clothes, accidentally gets rid of a sweater Haley wanted to keep. So, my favorite pair head off on a mission to Goodwill to get it back. In a way, spending time with Haley is Joe’s way of connecting with Gordon, too. After a Goodwill employee refuses to let them have their bags back, Joe steals it anyway and Haley drives the getaway car. Alas, their mission is for naught and it turns out Joe grabbed the wrong bag, a realization that’s funny but then rather sobering for him. (Recap continues on the next page)
After Katie stops by to say goodbye to the man she was seeing, Haley and Joanie spend some sister time. Without dialogue, it’s clear that Joanie is well aware of what’s been going on with Haley, and the two comfort each other. Wrapped in Joanie’s arms, Haley asks her big sister not to leave her, too, and it’s one of the most heartbreaking moments of the entire episode. What this scene really drives home is how these two young women are Gordon’s legacy; not the Symphonic or Comet or whatever else he fiddled with in his life.
Bos comes over with his famous chili, comfort food. He finds a sullen Joe in the kitchen and tries to bring levity to the moment by reminiscing about his first impression of Gordon. But, Joe isn’t ready to do that. He isn’t ready to anything for that matter, except sit at Gordon’s dining table and quietly eat Bos’ chili. For a man who is so good with words, he’s rather speechless here, still processing Gordon’s death. We know from the beginning of the episode that Joe gave a beautiful speech at Gordon’s funeral, but you get the sense, here, that this is when it finally hits him, the fact that he lost such an important person.
In my favorite scene of the episode, Donna and Cameron finally make a genuine connection when Donna goes looking to bring her former friend, who snuck off for a moment, in for dinner. What ensues is beautiful and moving: Two former friends who finally find a way to move past years of pain and to share a real heart-to-heart with each other. Cameron admits that Gordon’s death has reminded her how she and Joe are at different points in their lives: Joe wants kids, and Cameron doesn’t. Donna counsels that she doesn’t need to change her mind. The ice thaws even more, and Cameron admits that Gordon’s death really hurts because she has trouble forming relationships. Donna, with Joanie’s accusations still weighing heavily on her mind, admits she misses him, too… and that she misses Cameron. “I’m here,” says Cameron.
Donna and Cameron join Joe, Bos, Haley, and Joanie at the dinner table. Joe is still in his head and apologizes to Haley for not being able to get her father’s sweatshirt back. The last thing he wants to do is disappoint her. Haley says it’s fine, which lightens Joe’s mood ever so slightly. The dinner marches on as these characters slowly start to piece themselves together after such a tragic loss: Joe sits quietly; Bos jokes; and the Clark women actually get along. The grieving isn’t over, but they’ll make it through this terrible time together.
The hour ends with another flashback. Gordon, after taking a swim, returns home to a worried Donna, who simply tells him to never do that again.