We love TV and we love recaps, but a lot of times it’s not the big-picture plot developments that make a show great. It’s the little things; the details in the dialogue, set design, props, and performance. With Close Up, we’ll be taking a look at the coolest moments and most interesting details in some of our favorite shows. Today we’re looking at the third episode of Halt and Catch Fire: “High Plains Hardware.”
Last week IBM went after Cardiff Electric where it hurts: revenue. After losing most of its customers to Big Blue, Cardiff needs to cut overhead, and the episode starts with Gordon laying off an array of different employees. It’s not just awkward; it also creates a manpower problem. Joe’s big vision is to build a “portable” computer, but several top engineers have been let go and the team is scrambling. Meanwhile, on the business side everyone’s trying to find additional funding: Joe through a venture capitalist, and Nathan Cardiff and Bosworth from a rich socialite. Both sides manage to foil the other’s attempts (Joe through much more manipulative means than the others), but the end result is the same: with no money, Joe proposes that Cardiff create a prototype on their own dime, and then go out to investors when they have something to show.
Gordon’s wife Donna demonstrates her engineering prowess by solving what everyone else at the office seems to think is an unsolvable circuit-board design problem, but even then Gordon needs to get into a car accident before he has the guts to push away the naysayers and embrace the bold ideas his wife is generating. Meanwhile, Cameron continues to struggle, unable to find a groove and start cranking on the code that is at the very core of the PC clone project itself. She’s crashing at the office, unravelling at every turn, and partying with some local punks doesn’t help. Once again, she looks to Joe — or more specifically, sleeping with Joe — to clear her head and get things moving again.
Joe Macmillan, meet Patrick Bateman
Brainstorming on the portable computer project, Joe looks at a bunch of competitor’s machines while standing in his living room. Naked. From the period music to the stark, meticulous set design, it immediately calls to mind Mary Harron’s American Psycho. Adapted from the Brett Easton Ellis novel of the same name, Psycho starred Christian Bale as a 1980s Wall Street type that just happened to kill a lot of people on the side.
Bale’s Patrick Bateman was also obsessed with the pop culture of the time, specifically artists like Huey Lewis and the News and Phil Collins. Joe, on the other hand, is listening to "Are ‘Friends’ Electric?" by Tubeway Army. It’s an icy slice of synthy new-wave, perfectly matched to Joe himself — and if the vocals sound familiar while the band name doesn’t, there’s a reason for that. After two albums the lead singer of Tubeway Army decided to release music under his own name instead: Gary Numan.
THE MANY FLAVORS OF RANGER SODA
Last week we took a look at the house beverage of Halt and Catch Fire, Ranger Soda. Cameron was seen chugging Ranger Orange at several points in the show, but here we learn that there are other Ranger fans and that there’s also a lemon-lime flavor. What’s next? Grape, mango, strawberry? Is there a Slusho variant? And what does it all mean? Only series creators Chris Rogers and Chris Cantwell know for sure.
This hair must be stopped
Ajax is one of the alley punks Cameron runs into before deciding to throw a hotel party with her first paycheck. His schtick alone is obnoxious enough. "Work? Like a job?" he asks when Cameron mentions she’s employed nearby. "The day I sell out and get a job is the day I die. The materialistic greed hamsters spinning their wheels." Okay.
But it’s his proto-mullet that’s really offensive. Landing somewhere between accident and cruel prank, it’s a follicular abomination, and while the ’80s certainly had more than its fair share of fashion faux pas, Ajax takes things to an entirely new level.
It does a body good
In the middle of the hotel party, Cameron takes a swig of vodka and catches a commercial for milk on the television. "It tastes great," says the tagline, but this is a rather mellow version of what was essentially an entire cottage industry of bizarre 1980s milk commercials. The big slogan at the time was "Milk: it does a body good," and spots sponsored by the National Dairy Board saw little girls dressed up as Hollywood starlets, young boys as bloated muscle men, and lots of weird old-man voices dubbed onto youngsters of all kinds. Check some of them out here — and realize just how good we had it when "Got milk?" took over.
Black Flag and bad tattoos
Our good friend Ajax is super edgy, so to go along with his sweet haircut he does things like use a Bic pen and needle to tattoo "eat me" on his arm. Then to be even more charming, his offers to give Cameron a tattoo of her own. Shockingly, it’s fairly legible, but then again what he’s drawing isn’t that complex: it’s the logo for the hardcore punk band Black Flag.
Originally formed in 1976, Black Flag was famously fronted by Henry Rollins for many years before the group called it quits in 1986. The inevitable reunions (sans Rollins) have followed in recent years (with dueling lawsuits), but the group’s real legacy is in the influence it’s had on the genre and on an entire generation of musicians. Everyone from Kurt Cobain to Tool’s Maynard James Keenan have listed the band as a major influence, and SST Records — the label that was founded to release Black Flag’s records — ended up putting out albums from the likes of Hüsker Dü, Soundgarden, and Sonic Youth.
What did you think of the latest episode of Halt and Catch Fire, and what were some of your favorite details? Sound off below — and let the spoilers fly!