We’re a couple weeks into hiatus now after the masterpiece of The Executioner’s Song and while there are hundreds of nuances available for analysis and examination in that episode, the pre-cursor Halt and Catch Fire offers a much calmer and arguably more classically formulated episode inspiring its own thoughts on later viewings as well.
This episode presents as the formula of days gone by: classic hunt, basic supernatural entity, researchable back story, victim/damsels and relatively easy disposal. Removing any discussion of the overall season plots or relationship dynamics or any other on-going seasonal story-arcs that do crop up throughout, how well did this episode hold up independently overall as a singular piece? Let’s look.
Initially, we have an interesting teaser that seems to be okay. As haunted cars go, it’s not too bad: it’s creepy and new, not a rehash of the last possessed car we saw, that’s for sure. We open with two college students, Billy and Janet, who by the dialogue have imbibed to some degree, laughing about finding a taco place to eat away the slight intoxication. Now, this is lackadaisical attitude towards driving and the appropriate state of attention/mental awareness/ rules of the road, etc. is displayed a couple times in the episode – here and again as the cause of the accident that brings about our killer ghost. In the opening approach, since the students don’t appear ridiculous or out of control, it’s not nearly as cartoonish and caricature as later in the episode and so this scene does work for me. (BTW – that statement in no way is meant to condone drinking and driving, just for the record).
The car, through Trini, becomes possessed and quickly after evicting Janet, drives Billy off the cliff. As possessed cars go, this was pretty good – as I said, it was a new way to do what we’ve seen before. And I must admit, until our girl was kicked out, I thought the car/Trini was our perp, possibly a ghost in love with our driver. So, the teaser intro had a bit of twist to it too. Well done.
Where to stand on this? I don’t know where exactly I fall on the like/hate spectrum of this plot point and here is why.
From a like perspective – the story of our ghost talking to his widow was a tragic romance feel that kind of worked, briefly. Corey, unlike past peripheral characters whose loved ones are busy haunting people, did not have to be convinced, which is a welcome divergence from the classic case pattern. Additionally, there were some unique build ups of the fear to the victims – Trini talking back in the car, the tease on the laptop chat and the sexting moment.
On the other hand – it was simply far too broad a medium. Once the ghost was “possessing WiFi” he was essentially everywhere. Frankly, the strangling by cord wasn’t really scary. One of the appeals of the ghosts in the past, is their ties to something very personal about their life or their death, or their remains as we know. Yes, technically he was killed by being electrocuted and jumped into a Wifi box – but it wasn’t a personal connection, not really and this didn’t allow for an understanding of the ghost’s story – not truly – like we usually do in these classic cases. The situations the kids got into were generic and because the methods of killing weren’t specific – a cord, wireless speakers, wifi on the cell phones – it somehow wasn’t a good and as spooky as something like Bloody Mary where staying away from reflective surfaces came into play.
The entire death was very tragic, as was his widow in the aftermath, but at the same time very rushed in the telling and impersonal. As a result, the final “moving on” scene felt hurried and too quick – really, over the phone? – and even the reparation meet with the young widow and the Delilah at the end was lacking in emotion to some extent.
This issue bothers me the most about the episode: the way the accident played out – it was simply unbelievable. Do people text and drive? Yes. Does it cause accidents? Absolutely! Was the portrayal of the four collegiates in that car completely vapid and ridiculous with their phones? Definitely. It’s one thing to suggest people text or are addicted to their phones a bit much; but the way technology played into the lives of these four and in particular, in the moments leading to the accident seemed to be a complete caricature. It was as though four people got into a car and said “let’s see if it drives itself while we all text each other.”
Furthermore, it simply seemed incredible that all of them agreed to drive away and leave the man dying. The driver, already driving illegally because of a previous DUI? Okay. But all three of the others, don’t even call the police first? I know it can happen – but there were a lot of extremely exaggerated traits crammed into these people to make them unlikable so we wouldn’t feel bad they died, that were a bit hard to take.
As a character, Delilah was okay at best. Like the “villains”, if you will, she was bit tailor made – she tried to call the police but the big, bad group would not let her, she was the one leaving flowers because felt sorry, she owned up at the end, etc. There was limited depth here, where usually our dame in distress, or the focus at least, is one of the most defined characters.
In my opinion, the one with the most definition had very little time on screen: our widow. Corey was grieving, there was a clear (but unknown to her) connection to the kids who were being killed, and in the end Corey told Sam clearly about the shift in her deceased husband from the man she loved to a focused, vengeful spirit. It would have been more interesting to follow the plot thread to the widow and have had Sam and Dean realize and keep focus on as her husband became more vengeful with the college killings in the background.
Overall, I didn’t mind the episode even if these core mystery/case was a bit rough around the edges for my tastes. Sam and Dean pulled out classic investigation tools i.e. law enforcement impersonation which is always a pleasure to watch. They did help a spirit move on, though in my opinion it was far too rushed in delivery and manifestation. Ultimately, the case did reach a satisfactory conclusion – spirit gone, people working toward moving on – Sam and Dean go to the next town in need. As classic formula goes, it hits all the points, if some a little weaker than others.
What did you think?
Where would you have put the primary focus in this storyline?
Did you think WiFi was a good haunting medium (no pun intended)?
Were the collegiate students realistic or over their limits?