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’ way 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 the 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.
I’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.