Halt and Catch Fire’s Long Awaited Tragedy Finally Happens

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I’ve been expecting this to come since… hell, the season Gordon got diagnosed. I really expected it after the episode where there were all the lens flares while Gordon burned his symptom journals. That said, I never thought this episode would be the one where it finally happened. Yes, my dear readers and fellow Halt views, the tragedy we all knew would come sooner or later has finally happened.

Gordon Clarke is dead.

In a lot of ways, I feel like, looking back, I should’ve known this episode was going to end this way. This whole episode felt to me like one of the episodes that gives us a ‘so this is where everybody is at’ rundown before a big shift. Viewing the episode through, I thought the big shift was going to be Comet’s big re-design/re-launch, because we kept talking about all the characters and where they are right now in their lives and in proximity to each other. But after it’s over, I feel like I understand better now that this was a snapshot of Gordon Clarke’s last day on earth with of all those he cares about most.

We started out with Gordon and his daughters, dealing with the fact that he and Haley had this falling out, him knowing that Haley is gay now but her not knowing he knows, and with Joanie trying to talk to him about her sister in that ‘I know her better than you’ halt-and-catch-fire-episode-407-donna-bishe-3-935way that sisters have (we do, trust me). The nostalgia with which he goes around Haley’s room later on to return her test to her helped remind us how much of their lives we’ve seen so far. We viewers have watched the Clarke family grow up and change for over a decade now, and this is another change that is a forever change the family is now facing. It’s so hard to see Gordon’s last interactions with his children be something so tense, but at least we got the sweet moment where Joe called Haley to ask her to come back, and to have her tell her dad “I’ll see you tonight” even though, crushingly, it wasn’t true. My mother lost her dad when she was a teenager, and to have a real understanding of how much Haley and Joanie won’t get with their dad is so upsetting. (Yes, it’s fiction, but in that context, they are still ‘people’.) It’s just good that they didn’t have a fight be their last interaction, however indirect. It still hurts to think that Haley won’t ever get to hear from Gordon that he knows she’s gay and accepts her for it.

Beyond the children, there were a lot of allusions to the past this episode that should have made me realize where it was going. Bos getting married at the start should’ve really given me a clue, because Halt and Catch Fire is the type of show that would balance a beginning with an ending, and the only real ending that was coming down thehalt-and-catch-fire-episode-407-donna-bishe-2-935 pipe all along was the ending of Gordon’s life. We had a lot of talk about the people they used to be versus the people they’ve become as well. Cameron mentioning her and Joe both having failed marriages in the past (I had forgotten he was married before, actually), Alexa bringing up Cameron’s time at Mutiny and her rivalry with Donna and how their visions changed along the way, Joe talking to Donna about knowing what it’s like to have people think of you as ruthless, all of these things were ways of bringing the past into the present in such a skillful way that we viewers are reminded of who these people used to be and where they are now. It forces you to think about their stories and their lives and how naturally all of this progression has gone, and it puts you in a mood of caring more about them before it ultimately pulled the rug out from under us and took one of them away.

This episode is, and I highly suspect next week’s episode will also be, a huge reminder that this show is made so perfect by its writing. Yes, the acting is impeccable, the cinematography is the stuff that would win film DP’s Oscars, and the sound work is mind-blowing. But this show? It’s always been about the writing. The writers of this show are one of the main reasons that Halt and Catch Fire deserves to be on everybody’s top 10 shows of all time list. It’s truly worth of AMC giving it the full four seasons in spite of absolutely shit ratings. There are episodes of this show that have only had 100,000 viewers. That’s how low the ratings for Halt are. But it’s always worthy of not being canceled and I’m so grateful that AMC recognized this and finished it. I’ll be heartbroken when it’s gone, but the writing of this show is possibly the best I’ve ever seen.

halt-and-catch-fire-episode-407-gordon-mcnairy-935I’m going to miss Gordon Clarke – or Weirdy McBeardy as my friend and I started calling him way back in season 1 – more than I have most any character on TV, not because I thought he was ever perfect or someone to admire, but because he’s written and developed in a way that’s so human that it hurts. Halt and Catch Fire is something so special, and to have a lead character die is just so painful and yet, the way it was done, with his last dying moments being a hallucination of the lives of his children, was so fair to him, and I like to think that, as tragic as it is, Gordon Clarke got the ending he deserved.

There’s only two weeks of this show left and I’m sure all of you are just as devastated by that thought as I am, so please, feel free to comment or tweet me about Halt and Catch Fire while we still can.

 

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Author: J. Chelsea Williford

Movie addict, reader, writer, pop culture lover.

8 thoughts on “Halt and Catch Fire’s Long Awaited Tragedy Finally Happens”

  1. I didn’t really think about it like that, but you are absolutely right. The first half of the episode really sets everything up, but when he saw Donna come home in the episode’s third act, I knew something was up. At first, I thought it was just a flashback, and the overall atmosphere of the scene was really nostalgic and emotional for me to begin with. But, it wasn’t too soon after that I ended up crying like a baby anyways. The third-to-last episode of One Tree Hill is similar as well, because it allows all the characters to tie up any loose ends with the one main character who is dying in that show. But, it’s different too, because they all knew it was coming, and I did too…most of the episode took place in his hospital room. But, tonight’s episode hit me like a train, cuz I had actually read someone on IMDBs theory that it was gonna happen tonight, but it had completely slipped my mind…until now. Nevertheless, an extremely emotional episode, but a very well-written and well-made one too…really makes me wanna go give my parents a hug… :’)

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    1. Oh I know. My mom losing her dad at 18 has always made me kind of remember how lucky I am that I’m 26 and my dad is still with us. Her youngest sister was only 16. Just like Hayley and Joanie, they’ve lost their father at such a young age and it’s so heartbreaking to imagine. I’m 26 and I can’t imagine live without my dad, but my youngest sister just turned 14 so I REALLY can’t imagine her without our dad.

      If my parents were awake, I’d go hug them for sure.

      Thank you so much for the comment!

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  2. I am so happy to read your review and thoughts. None of my friends get this show. I do. And like you, I really feel these people as well, people. I don’t ever get that with most shows. Every second of this show captures my sincere interest, mostly the little things. The way they just looked at each other with out words and knew Gordon was gone. About crying, I didn’t see it coming, and I am a father. The hit was as real and OMG as anything I have felt in real life. I just miss him and love him for fixing the AC himself. I could go on….

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  3. Gordon was my favorite character of the show. It was very hard for me to digest this episode because it got me by surprise.
    I agree with you about him having the ending he deserved, I think the writers also had an affection for Gordon and wanted to make a special tribute for him.

    It was a very emotional ending. Gordon’s hallucination on his last heartbeats, with Donna entering his house, was all about how Donna and his family, despite everything that had happened, were still the single most important things of his life and that he still loved and cared for Donna.
    On another episode we saw Donna having a moment with another man but she rapidly realized how much it was all because she missed Gordon but she couldn’t replace his void in her heart.
    She also rejected that man’s suggestion to discuss the job as CTO, because I think she realized that she didn’t wanted to replace Gordon’s void, she wanted him back but her pride was holding her to realize this, all that time.
    Donna’s last call to Gordon suggests the acceptance that Gordon’s place in her heart was irreplaceable and that she needed a dose of him to feel happy.
    I believe that if it wasn’t for his condition, Donna and Gordon would still be together and that Gordon knew this but he kept himself away only because sooner or later his time would knock on the door.

    I think that after Donna and the kids, Joe is the character that is going to miss Gordon the most.
    They never had a chance to agree upon one thing and work it out together successfully. They always disagreeing on something and going split ways. But when that was just about to happen, with the “RE-LAUNCH” of Comet, Gordon left Joe’s office to become a memory.
    Joe was also living under an unfinished and unfulfilled life for a long time. The hopes for that to end with Cameron’s comeback and Gordon’s company starting to consider his visions were all uplifting for him but now he is only left with Cameron and the memory of his best friend and partner Gordon’s which for him will forever stay in that office room.

    It’s also very sad to know this is the last season of my all time favorite tv series. I can’t believe how it can get bad ratings but, like you, I can only be grateful AMC was fair to give it 4 seasons and, I hope, the ending it deserves.

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  4. This was a great episode because it wasn’t cheesy, and it was not completely unexpected but still shocking. For example, they could have some feel-good scene between Haley and Gordon in the beginning, but instead we just see Gordon examining Haley’s room after an argument about her school grades.

    It was not completely unexpected because we have known about Gordon’s condition for over a season, and AMC has promoted this as the final season of H&CF. On the other hand, Bos just had a heart-attack and didn’t die… it was just a plot device. Something similar could have happened to Gordon.

    Gordon spent so much time messing around with circuit breakers and HVAC units — all while people were constantly conversing with him — I kept expecting Gordon to be electrocuted by a careless mistake due to distraction.

    Then the day ended (“Look at the time…”) and he went off for his date. He hadn’t even heard about Bos’ wedding (unless I missed something) so I wasn’t concerned about his safety after that.

    Then that strange scene when Gordon was at home. The eerie lighting and Donna’s strange appearance made us all know something was wrong. The first episode of this season also had some very strange visuals, so at first I wasn’t alarmed… just assumed it was more artsy story-telling. But the regression of Donna into the past (while everyone was still in the same/modern home) made it clear things were very, very wrong…

    It’s all quite clear after a re-watch, but on first view I wasn’t sure what exactly happened. And then Donna got that phone call. We never hear what she was told, but we can tell from her expression…

    It hit me like a ton of bricks. I was shocked by Gordon’s death (and not in the electrical sense I imagined). It was really a touching final scene of his thoughts and memories… Donna and his daughters. Loved the lens flares… not very expensive but quite effective.

    It is a real tribute to the writers, actors, and film crew that a factious character’s death would have such emotional consequences for me. This episode was shockingly beautiful/tragic, and the next episode painfully sad and empathetic.

    So yeah, I want to also thank AMC for giving us this show four seasons! It’s really nice to experience great art, ratings be damned.

    Liked by 1 person

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