Warning: This post contains spoilers from Saturday’s Halt and Catch Fire episode “Who Needs a Guy.” Read at your own risk!
The final season of Halt and Catch Fire has taken a tragic turn.
Comet co-founder Gordon Clark (Scoot McNairy) finally succumbed to his chronic toxic encephalopathy and died from a stroke at the end of Saturday’s episode. However, the show did not depict his death. Instead, the last thing Gordon saw before passing away were visions of his ex-wife Donna (Kerry Bishé) and their daughters as he walked around his home, and the viewers found out about his death at the same time as his girlfriend Kate (Anna Chlumsky), Donna, Joe (Lee Pace), and Bos (Toby Huss). (For the full episode recap, click here).
EW caught up with McNairy to discuss why he thinks this was the perfect ending for his character and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you find out that this is where Gordon’s story was heading in the final season?
SCOOT MCNAIRY: Well, it was talked about a bit in season 3, you know, a year before. Then, I sort of brought it up to them, probably, once we got the announcement for a fourth and final season. I thought, “Hey, you guys, do you think we should kill off the character? He’s obviously been dealing with this illness for quite some time and what do you guys think?” At first, I don’t know if they were thinking it, that they wanted to do it, but they were like, “No… I don’t know… Maybe… We’ll think about it.” Then about two months before we started shooting, they called and said, “Hey, we’re thinking about doing it. What do you think?” I said, “I think it’s a great idea.” Based on what he’s been going through over the last three years, it would only make sense that the show is ending and [to] give closure to the character. It was more so of them figuring out how to do it and what episode to do it in. That’s something we kind of went back and forth on for a while. The results that we got from that, in regards to episode 8, they wanted to make sure they didn’t end the show on a sad note. So, it gave them more time to recoup and redeem through episodes 9 and 10. The way that they decided to do it with the stroke and the camera work, I just thought was really beautiful and really well done.
When this idea first came up in season 3, did they approach you or was that something on your mind going into season 3 because of his illness?
No, it was something I brought them, [like] “What are going to do with this illness? It keeps popping up and it keeps coming to a head. Are we going to give this illness some kind of closure?” It was never me saying, “Hey, we should kill off a character!”
Like Ryan’s death last year, the show decides not to depict the moment Gordon dies. Why do you think that was the best move?
For me, that was sort of the whole show — you don’t really show the dramatic events. You show the before and after of the events, and that’s something [creators Christopher C. Rogers and Christopher Cantwell] really wanted and that’s what they liked. I think there was probably some pushback from that, but that’s how they wanted it, and I have the utmost respect for them to fight for that, because we would kind of question it a lot of times. It’s right before you drop the line “I have cancer” and they cut, you know? Some days it felt like, “Oh, we aren’t showing any of the meat?” and around season 2 you really started to enjoy that and let the audience members put that together themselves.
As he dies, he hallucinates Donna and his daughters in his home. What was the significance of that being the last thing he thought of before he died?
I can’t really speak too freely as to episode 8, but I think a lot of those questions get answered in episode 8. He makes a very life-changing decision later on and that is the reason why he sort of flashes back to that memory, because it was a decision in his life that totally would’ve changed his life. Because he made the decision that he made, he had a wife and kids and a family and he was able to fulfill his dreams.
Given that there’s more to find out about Gordon, is it fair to say this episode isn’t your last one?
Technically, it is, you know, but maybe not, you know…
When I spoke to the Chrises at the beginning of the season, they said one of the themes of the show is how these characters hope the next project will make them whole. Do you think that Gordon found that peace by the time he met his end?
Absolutely, 100 percent. I feel as though the metaphor “man builds house, man dies” is Gordon. He struggled so much through his relationships and his work for the first three years. Now, here’s a guy that’s finally got his company up and running; he’s got a relationship with his daughters; he and his wife are finally on good terms; he has a new relationship; he feels complete and content and almost as if his job is done here. Everything’s working out great for him. It’s good to finally see Gordon at a place of contentment before he passes on.
Before he dies, he’s pretty energized about Comet’s relaunch. Why do you think it was important to leave it off there before he actually got a chance to pursue it?
I think that he’s already teed it up in regards to Comet. I think that he’s done the work. When Joe and Gordon are sitting around playing pool one day after work and Joe’s speaking about the next thing, Gordon says to him, “I’m happy. I’m happy with this. This is good. I don’t necessarily need more. What I’m happy about is, me and you working together.” It comes to a place where the technology and the striving to make something new and create something is sort of surpassed [by] the [realization] these relationships that he has in his life [are more important] than him trying to come up with a new piece of technology to change the world.
Do you have an idea of how Gordon’s death tees up the last three episodes and the show’s eventual end point?
It takes all of these people away from their work and says, “Holy s—t,” not that life is real, but, “Holy s—t, we’ve lost somebody.” Everybody has to take a step back from work and check in with themselves and reality. I think one of the messages that Gordon sort of leaves with them is, “Take a step back and take a look up from your computer every once and awhile. There’s a whole life out there that’s happening, and we are so engulfed in our computers and our work and we’re losing the sense of and touch with reality and the world around us.”
Looking back on the past four seasons, what has been your favorite episode and why?
One of my favorite episodes was the parking garage episode [season 2’s “Kali”]. I love storytelling where very little is happening and so much is told through the camera. I just loved the idea that this guy gets lost in a parking garage, cause we’ve sort of all been there, but at the same time, it’s such a simple, simple idea, but they made a whole episode out of it. There was very little for me to do in that episode, but the idea of the episode to me of him lost, essentially, in a silicon semiconductor or this sort of breadboard of circuits and stuff that he can’t really find his way through, which was a really great metaphor for the episode and season. All in all, I thought the writing was so good and so well done. Even as actors, we really had to get together and talk about it to get underneath it. So that was the most fun that we had — sitting around and talking about these characters and talking about these scripts and sort of discovering it for ourselves what they had written on the page, because they wouldn’t give us everything. They’d give us the bullet points and stuff, but it was up to us to sort of figure it out. If we didn’t, they would obviously help us along. They liked watching us figure out the dynamics of the episodes and the seasons and the characters.
Halt and Catch Fire airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.