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July 16th 2014 5:25 pm

Halt and Catch Fire S1E7: There's a sucker born every minute

It's starting to become apparent to me that each episode revolves around a theme: episode 5 was about fathers and their children, episode 6 was about humanity and now, in episode 7, it feels like this is an episode about... art? I couldn't tell you for sure but, in "Giant," industrial design, an art gallery and the large sculpture/hoax from which the episode draws its name all factor into the plot.

The episode name checks a few things that I felt compelled to look up. But first, the context. The episode begins with Gordon dreaming about the dead body he saw during the storm, but instead he sees himself dead on the street, probably because he feels himself wither away as his input is pushed aside in favor of Cameron and Joe's ideas. His screaming wakes up his kids, and causes his wife to check in on him. Elsewhere, Joe and Cameron are working an all-nighter at the Cardiff office, which goes from normal work to playing around (dangerously) with live wires to sex on the floor of the office. The whole sequence reinforces what I said last week about Cameron and Joe becoming a unit, increasingly painted in opposition to Gordon and his infinitely patient wife Donna.

However, that unit is broken symbolically when a late night phone call pulls Joe out of the room to talk to a designer for their computer, and he closes the door rather than let Cameron listen in. While being cagey isn't out of Joe's wheelhouse, it's odd given their earlier intimacy. However, the reason for it becomes very obvious when we meet the designer, Simon (D.B. Woodside, who is always going to be either "Principal Wood" or "President Palmer II" to me) and we find out him and Joe used to be lovers.

Gordon pretty much freaks out when he sees the new case design, and we get a little bit of name-checking here, in that Simon worked on the Countach and the DeLorean (which were both actually designed by Italians, but I'll accept the fantasy for the sake of story). Gordon's story is pretty straightforward from this point, honestly: he suggests names for the computer but Joe's already decided on one ("Contrail," which is a terrible, terrible name) and then Gordon stays home with the kids while Donna is on a business trip. Gordon sinks into depression, rebelling in his own little way by preparing dinner fresh for the kids instead of just heating up whatever Donna left. Later he tells his girls a story, about the Cardiff Giant.


For Gordon the story has resonance because he feels like George Hull: he came up with a great idea and now it's been copied and repackaged and he won't get any of the credit. The "Giant" analogy is especially apt when you consider that the Cardiff computer is a PC clone and the Cardiff Giant was "cloned" by PT Barnum. Perhaps that's why, toward the end of the episode, we learn that Joe has in fact, called their computer the Cardiff Giant. It's a copy, but they're repackaging it and they'll be damn sure to take all the credit.

First, they have to sort out that messy little design issue. Simon walks after Joe's outburst, but what's he's really not happy about is that Joe seems to have moved on... with Cameron. Unable to sort this out because relationships are messy and Joe is still kind of a robot, Joe and Bosworth try to work things out with the designer they fired, by taking him to a strip club and listening to his shit. When he insults Bosworth's wife that's the last straw, and Bosworth slugs the guy before storming out with Joe. What no one else at the table besides Bosworth knows is that said wife wants a divorce. Bosworth signs the papers in his office after this.

I guess I should have mentioned that Cardiff is almost broke and Bosworth is going to mortgage his house to make sure they stay afloat. It's sort of interesting how this is left to bubble in the background, with no indication of when things will come to a head. What is clear now is that Bosworth is willing to put everything on the line for this project now. And why not? It's not like he has a loving family at home anymore. He needs something to hold on to.

Of course, family isn't everything: Gordon has a loving wife and great kids and yet he's still completely losing it. He doesn't know Donna kissed her boss (I loved this scene, because it broke from cliché). His life is pretty good right now, but he's wrapped up his identity in the project so much that he's starting to break, digging in the yard for a giant that isn't there.

This is probably because this is his last chance. Meanwhile, despite what she said in episode 1 about "repairing VCRs for $3.25 an hour," Cameron has a future now. Even if this fails, she's building this reputation for herself that will open doors at other companies if she needs them. She's also growing up a bit -- the way she dressed at the art gallery was absolutely exquisite, and how she could dress at the company if she ever moves up to executive level, a huge improvement from her camo pants and white t-shirts. Joe knows how brilliant she is, and that's what he tells Simon at the art gallery. Simon is his past and Cameron is his future... maybe. That's what this episode ends on. Cameron asks Joe if he'll get bored of her like he did Simon, and he can't actually give her an answer. It's as uncertain as their future at Cardiff.


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