UK TV review: Halt and Catch Fire: Season 3, Episode 8
Ivan Radford | On 13, Oct 2016Reading time: 3 mins
Warning: This contains spoilers.
How do you solve a problem like Ryan Ray? Episode 8 of Halt and Catch Fire Season 3 gives us the answer – and it’s one you might not fully expect.
His character has been the sole weak point in a stunning season for AMC’s period tech drama, someone who acted more as a symbol of Joe’s inner idealist than a person with any real sustance of their own. But Halt and Catch Fire’s writers delivered a one-two punch of surprising blows in Episode 7 and 8 – firstly, they saw him make an unexpected decision to release Citadel online for free to everyone, a reckless move by someone more independently minded than they first appeared; and secondly, they killed him off altogether.
His suicide – from Joe’s balcony, no less – is a tragic climax to an episode that is full of things and people sliding into melancholy. We build up to it with Joe’s hunt for his missing protege, a search that he enlists Cameron to help with, while kids knock on her door for Halloween tricks and treats. It shows just how much he cares about Ryan and also prompts the hour’s best line of dialogue: “Oh look, it’s a very tall child dressed as Joe MacMillan.”
The other sad departure is the relationship between Cameron and Donna that was once the beating heart of the series. Following their heartbreaking split in Episode 7, Episode 8 sees both of them in mourning, neither knowing quite how too feel. For Cameron, a job offer for Tom in Tokyo offers a plausible future away from Mutiny, while for Donna, the looming IPO means that she has no option but to take the company public as planned. A subtle jump forward by several months is a genius idea from the writers, as it stops any chance of people going back on their decisions from last episode – the Cameron/Donna break-up is as permanent as it gets.
That makes Mutiny’s IPO even more painful to watch, as Donna still struggles to come up with a way to describe Cameron without it sounding like a funeral eulogy. Kerry Bishe and Mackenzie Davis both do so much here without words, the latter looking at a TV report of the IPO with conflicted disappointment, the former sitting on a hotel bed alone, hyperventilating. The actual IPO, of course, is a mild disaster: the company turns out to be less than half the estimated value, while Donna’s attempt to describe her revolutionary creation is dismissed by a news reporter as a place for her to buy shoes. “Finally! Something about computers to get excited about!” the journalist cries, simultaneously deflating Donna’s dreams and reminding us just how much of a battle Mutiny has faced in this sexist era.
Gordon, inevitably, is having no luck either, as he and Joe attempt to keep the NSFNET project going, but Joe basically decides that he’s reached the end of the line. The discovery of Ryan, after Cameron pleads with him and Joe offers him money to flee, is the final nail in the coffin. It’s a functional move to erase a blip in the show’s otherwise precisely coded narrative, but the surprisingly extreme resolution is equally unexpecteed in just how moving it is; the programme manages to find the humanity in Ryan’s actions, as well as in Joe’s reactions – MacMilllan’s promise “You are not safe” from the beginning of the season takes on a whole new poignant weight.
If Episode 7 was the moment when these perpetually self-imploding characters hit the “Sabotage” button, Episode 8 captures the ensuing destruction with heartfelt detail. With two more episodes on the cards, released together as a two-part finale, can our quartet find a way to turn things back around?
New episodes of Halt and Catch Fire Season 3 premiere in the UK on Amazon Prime Video every Thursday, within 48 hours of their US broadcast. A subscription costs £5.99 a month – or, if you want next-day delivery on Amazon products too, is included with a £79 annual Amazon Prime membership.
Photo Credit: Tina Rowden/AMC