Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Halt and Catch Fire 3x03 Review: “Flipping the Switch” (Powering On) [Guest Poster: Amir]

“Flipping the Switch” 
Original Airdate: August 30, 2016

Halt and Catch Fire has always been a show about forward progression, both in a literal sense and in a meta-sense. Season one of the series stumbled in finding its footing but still managed to keep the pace, while season two not only quickened the pace but also kept it consistent. We saw Donna go from being merely a wife with tech expertise to being a company owner and content creator, and we saw Bosworth go from being someone in charge with a Texas attitude to an invaluable asset for Mutiny and lovable father figure for Cameron.

In "Flipping the Switch," we find Joe making leaps and branching out of the mold that he was once stuck in. And that, in and of itself, is exciting. No longer restrained to filling out the Don Draper archetype, Joe taking classes to learn coding and programming in an effort to create something himself. This not only allows for endless possibilities in his character, but it also shows a sense of vulnerability that his character was lacking. “Flipping the Switch” seems like a very apropos title for this episode — we see our characters kicking into gear as they take the next steps toward bettering not only themselves and their relationships with one another, but their progression within Mutiny. After all, they are taking off with acquiring Swap Meet and moving forward with their own plans.

... Except things aren’t generally as simple as that. This seems to be the motto with Halt and Catch Fire, and it shows up throughout this episode in many ways. Joe catches up with Ryan (who I’m growing to enjoy more and more) and explains that while they’ll be finding a new way to make money, they might fail. Gordon tries to create a HAM radio in an effort to connect with people with middling results, despite technology favoring online communication to do that. Bosworth and Diane go over to handle the takeover of Swap Meet — which would be a good move for Munity — only to find that the company seems worryingly small and reeks of a bad investment.

This discovery leads to some of the best lines to come out of Bosworth in a long time. Truthfully, watching Bosworth work and handle clients was always a major highlight of the series, with Toby Huss’ charismatic and assertive performance winning anyone over. Nothing comes easy, which is not new for any television series in 2016. And yet, Halt and Catch Fire seems to capture that spirit far greater than any series out now. There are genuine fears of failure that would be disastrous for everyone involved, and Mutiny moving on with their plans in spite of that shows how strong their commitment is — not only producing great content, but also working together as a team. But they’ve still got a long way to go before they’re the well-oiled machine. And we see this when Gordon is brought into business discussions and it starts a very heated argument between Gordon and Donna.

Scoot McNairy and Kerry Bishé make their argument honest, devastating and rewarding — they butt heads in a way that we’ve never seen before. It’s as if all of season two (infidelities, sicknesses, and disappointments) was bottled up between the two of them. And then, all of the secrets and things they’ve never discussed openly just came spiraling out for the first time. It adds to the show’s "go big or go home attitude," and it’s a scene that’s important for building the two characters. Some things need to be out in the open — sometimes fights allow for better structure between people. In the end, Gordon and Donna only grow from the experience. It doesn’t help that we get moments of levity from Cameron and Bosworth — who watch from a window, Bosworth looking on casually while Cameron peeks her head out like a small kid watching her parents fight. It’s sweet, amusing, and fitting for the characters, even when Gordon points to her and she dips down to get away.

Not only do we see Gordon and Donna work out their relationship for the better, but we also see Gordon and Cameron get some time together as well. And all I have to say is that it's about time. Gordon and Cameron have been in contention with each other since the first day — with Cameron representing the new school and Gordon representing the old. Naturally, Gordon has always been threatened by Cameron, not only in terms of her youth in the business, but also her intelligence. It doesn’t help that Gordon feels cramped in his own house with Cameron there, so it’s finally nice the two of them get to air out their grievances. Cameron even admitted that staying with them is completely temporary. Soon, the two of them were sharing laughs, expressing apologies, and being genuinely honest and caring for each other. It’s been a long time coming, but this is a good step not just for the two of them, but for Mutiny as a whole.

Ever since season two, Joe has been apart from the rest of the characters of Halt and Catch Fire, seemingly operating in his own lane and on his own terms. Joe is a conqueror -- always looking to expand and find new ways to make his mark on the world. And yet it’s here that we see Joe in a position we’ve never seen him in before. A master of his own destiny before, Joe now has bosses and board members he has to answer to. His claim on bringing his security program Citidal to the general public for free is being reneged in favor of turning a profit. Which leaves him not only in a tight spot, but also leaves Ryan -- the one who he took under his wing because of his conference from episode one -- in one as well.

Joe is no longer the loner-island type. He now has to rely on people to get where he wants to go and that’s exciting to see. When Ryan chews him out for going against his word and his promise, he’s not chewing him out merely for the words — Ryan’s attacking Joe's character, which is what Joe needs to hear. Ryan may prove to be a more valuable asset to Joe than we’ve been made to believe, and it’ll be fun seeing the two of them moving forward.

Even Joe and Cameron get some alone time, which — admittedly — made this reviewer anxious. Not just because the two of them finally met up in California, but because of the possibility of the series returning to season one antics. Despite that scene, the two of them don’t feel like past lovers, but instead competition. And it’s Joe’s humble attitude toward Cameron (wanting to be more than just a man with good ideas, he wants to create them, much to Cameron’s disbelief) that makes this scene less regressive and more progressive. Cameron’s exit from their scene together shows that both of them have genuinely moved on, but their paths will — inevitably — cross again.

Season three of Halt and Catch Fire is shaping up to be a change of pace not only for its characters, but for the show as a whole. Like all good families, Mutiny will bicker, but in the end, they’re going to try their hardest because they’re all they’ve got. That’s real progress.


Post a Comment