“Limbo” – aired 7/19/2015 – (5 stars)
Written by Zack Whedon
Directed by Daisy von Scherler Mayer
*Spoilers are contained within*
The full spectrum of the characters on AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire is finally revealed in full during last night’s episode “Limbo.” A nearly perfect episode, written by Zack Whedon, serves as a fitting climax for season two, along with a proper sequel to the first season of the series. While we only have two episodes left, it’s abundantly clear that the idea of Joe, Gordon, Cameron, Donna, and Bos being stuck in limbo has finally been resolved. As I tweeted last night’s viewing of “Limbo”, “Bos understands his place in the universe. Will Joe and Gordon discover theirs? Do they still have time?”
I felt it was fitting to include the opening titles for Halt and Catch Fire as it’s the only aspect of the underrated series nominated for an EMMY. (Outstanding Main Title Design.)
“Limbo” opens with Joe (Lee Pace) and Sara (Aleksa Palladino) announcing their marriage to her father, Jacob (James Cromwell). The news is sprung on him and helps service Joe in telling him that he will no longer be working with Westgroup. Much to Joe’s surprise, Wheeler cuts him loose pretty fast and without any hesitation. Wheeler, initially upset that he wasn’t told about the shot-gun wedding, tells Joe he’s making a habit of springing things on people. Joe assures him that he meant no disrespect by the move and Sara reinforces that this was her desire. After she steps out, Joe tells his father in law that he’ll be happy to stay and help find a suitable replacement for him, but Wheeler insists that he goes on a proper honeymoon with Sara. We see Joe hesitate before he leaves the office and he gives one subtle, but longing look back at Wheeler. There’s so much being exposed in regards to Joe and his current predicament. We believe him to be truly happy with Sara, but there’s an uncertainty about how much of a true relationship/marriage it is.
Later on, we start to see just how unstable and self-destructive Sara is after she insists they take MDMA (the popular ecstasy drug known as Molly) and head out to a club. Joe says that he’s never been able to keep up with her and while on the drug, he opens up by revealing perhaps the most powerfully authentic aspect of how he sees himself.
“I feel like there’s a lot of goodness in me, a lot of greatness, but I can’t get it out of me.
I can’t give it to the world.
I have ideas.
I’m not an echo.
I make things in my mind, but I can’t get them into the world.
I can’t get past this.
It’s like a trap.
Like the world won’t see the me the real me.”
There’s a sincerity and poetry to what Joe says and the way Lee Pace delivers in this scene. After season one and the earlier episodes of season two, it became very hard to specify the kind of person Joe was/is due to his chameleon ways. His response to feeling like ‘there’s a lot of goodness in me… but I can’t get it out of me” is tragic in the sense that we finally see Joe as this broken piece of hardware. The point is further made when he sees Wheeler bring aboard his replacement, Jesse. Joe, understanding that he’s not an “echo” (still obviously haunted by Cameron’s words in “1984”) feels trapped. To make matters even worse, he discovers that Jesse and Westgroup have stolen Mutiny and shut them off the network. He heads over to Mutiny and desperately tries to tell Cameron (Mackenzie Davis) that he had nothing to do with it. It’s a sad and harsh moment as Joe realizes that no one believes him when, in reality, he is telling the truth. The idea of Joe discovering his place in the universe and being ushers out of his existential limbo would be more reassuring if it wasn’t for his uncertain future. In the ways he’s sprung things on people as Wheeler suggested in the opening, Wheeler has done just the same to him with WestNet.
While Bosworth (Toby Huss) celebrates the Mutiny picnic, designed to thank those that have stuck with them as they tread through uncertain waters, his son returns with a job opportunity. Bos politely declines and it’s clear that he doesn’t want to leave Mutiny. In the way we’ve seen Zack Whedon’s script deal with the idea of ageism through out this season, it’s interesting to see Bos choose Mutiny. We get the feeling, as I live tweeted, that he “understands his place in the universe.” While he could leave, after the prison troubles and continuing his life post incarceration, it makes sense if he were to feel that Mutiny is his last stop. Bos also has a special relationship with Cameron and I’m positive he would not want to betray that by abandoning her start-up. He’s potentially and currently the most grounded character, along with Mark O’ Brien’s Tom Rendon.
However, while Bos and Tom are firmly planted at Mutiny, the future remains as unsettling as ever for Cameron, Donna (Kerry Bishe), and Gordon (Scoot McNairy.) Gordon, faced with a degenerative condition due to brain damage, begins to unravel as he believes Clark Computers business plan has been stolen by his friend, Stan (Randall Havens). It hasn’t, but he learns too late after he breaks into Stanley’s garage and confronts his friend. The truth turns out that Stan left Silicon Valley after feeling he was too old for the youthful scene. It’s another reminder, like Bos and Joe before, that the future is coming and the landscape is different. The police soon arrive and arrest Gordon after he begins to suspect Donna. Stanley tells him that he has it all wrong and that she’s concerned for him. (Stan doesn’t know that Gordon has brain damage as he suspects he may be back on the coke.) While Gordon is taken away, we see him question why Donna would sabotage him. It’s clear that Gordon is not in a good place with his mind and Scoot McNairy plays it great, as always.
“Limbo” perfectly focuses on the set of characters we’ve known since season one of Halt and Catch Fire. Servicing the series in a far greater way, the Zack Whedon script sets up the series for an extremely rewarding conclusion with the finale set to air on Sunday, August 2nd. Listed below are a few afterthoughts I had while watching the episode.
- Aleksa Palladino has given Sara incredible dimension, especially during “Limbo.” While the MDMA club sequence may have felt unnecessary to some, it was a great way to establish Sara as a version of Joe’s mother. Perhaps he’s still seeking some sort of connection to his “wild” mother and he has found that in Sara?
- Tom Rendon telling Cameron he loves her, while expressing to her that two people could be mad at one another, without having to break up landed terrifically well. Not only is Mark O’ Brien a great addition to season two, but in many ways Tom has filled the idea of what a boyfriend should be to Cameron in a way that Joe could never have provided. They have their disagreement over the direction of Mutiny and she immediately believes that he wants to break up with her. The idea of just how much of an imprint Joe left on Cameron in the wake of their destructive relationship, especially so much so that it’s changed her perspective, is very plausible. I love that Tom explains disagreements in relationships to her and, once again, it reinforces his maturity.
Halt and Catch Fire airs on Sunday nights, 10 PM ET, on AMC. Check your local listings.