Disaster struck during "Close to the Metal," the fourth episode of AMC's Halt and Catch Fire . Just as struggling computer programmer Cameron Howe appeared to have hit her stride, an unfortunate power surge caused her to lose all of her hard work. Luckily, Gordon Clark's wife Donna was able to recover the majority of her code. Of course, toward the end of the episode, we learned that Joe MacMillan orchestrated the entire catastrophe (after stealing Cameron's backup disks and replacing them with fakes) in order to give a visiting reporter an interesting story to write about, but the damage to Cameron's psyche had already been done.
"Close to the Metal" was the first time that viewers actually got to see Cameron as a real person with a heart and feelings, as opposed to just a bratty, ultra cocky asshole who has nothing but disdain for the world around her. Considering that Halt and Catch Fire is a little light on likable, easy to relate to characters at the moment, this was a fairly major development.
While Donna and Gordon are trying to recover Cameron's BIOS code, they need someone to look after their two young daughters, Joanie and Haley. In a rather surprising act of kindness, Cameron volunteers. Initially, Gordon is reluctant to leave his daughters in Cameron's care, but seeing no other option, he eventually agrees.
At first, everything is going great between Cameron and the girls. There's laughter, there's tickling — Cameron's a regular Mrs. Doubtfire. But things take a bit of a turn when Joanie casually remarks to Cameron, "You're not trash." Haley chimes in, "Yeah, you're fun." Confused, Cameron asks, "What? Did someone say I was? It's okay girls, you can tell me." There's a bit of tremor in her voice. Joanie says, "Well, Dad said to Mom that you were just like white trash." Haley adds, "Yeah, they were joking." "How do you know they were joking?" Cameron questions. "'Cause they were laughing," Haley responds. The hurt in Cameron's eyes is heartbreaking.
That scene represents one of the few moments that I've actually felt something for one of Halt and Catch Fire's main characters — and that's a real problem. Still, it's a testament to Mackenzie Davis' talents as an actress. After all, if the writers are just going to make your character storm around insulting everyone for four episodes straight, you really have to know how to make the most of your softer, more emotional moments. (You know, the ones that show the audience that you're a dynamic, realistic character worth caring about.) Thankfully, Davis does.
I realize that we're only four episodes in, but I should be invested in these characters at this point — and I'm not. Joe is still more or less a total mystery and, so far, Gordon appears to be nothing more than a selfish jerk who takes his family for granted. Isn't there more to these people? Shouldn't I be rooting for them on some level? I'm not saying that we need to fall in love with all of Halt and Catch Fire's characters, but we do need to at least be interested in them.
It's difficult to care about the drama if you don't care about the people involved. Hopefully Halt and Catch Fire will be able to remedy this issue soon.