ER’s Abby and Luka: A Walk in the Woods

Season 7 is the one where Abby and Luka struggling to connect and in episode 14 Luka’s patient the bishop helps them on a new path.

A Walk in the Woods starts off with four amorous morning scenes with four couples of the show. The last ones out are Abby and Luka who just concludes some morning loving and I have always loved this after-sex small talk that has so much in it. I find it very sweet and intimate in their own, introverted kind of way and the way Abby cautiously start to talk and explore is something the really have not done before.

I have also come to love that whole episode and realising how that first scene sets up the rest of the episode for these struggling love birds.

AWINW 1DThe scene itself is beautiful:

  • Abby’s careful kissing of his hand as they finish the sex.
  • Their sweet mutual check to see if the other one is okey.
  • How Luka first says “nothing really” before honestly telling her he is thinking about the bishop at the hospital.
  • How Abby feels comfortable to make a joke: ”Making love with me makes you think about a priest with lupus?”
  • Luka laughing, appreciating the joke.
  • Abby using the ”making love”-words again as she is noticing that Luka looks at her when doing that.
  • How Abby connects Luka’s thinking about the bishop with him thinking about his past, and hesitates but then asks him about his dead wife.
  • How Luka never stops touching her, stroking  her hand, her hair and letting his lips touch her head.
  • How Luka quietly tells Abby what she wants to know.
  • How Abby is not threatened by his answers, but happy he had loved.

It’s all very soft and low-key and shows their relationship is more to them then just something casual. That the want to connect even though they are struggling to do it. They talked, even if not using so many words. They opened up, if only just a little bit.

awitw-2.pngIn a later scene Abby goes to find Luka in the ambulance bay, and I love that fact that she goes and finds him (”we always seem to find each other”). He is upset about the bishop leaving the hospital against medical advice. Abby understands him, not only that he is worried about the bishop, but that Luka needs him. She is the one telling him to go after the bishop and help him, understanding it will also help Luka.

ER Abby and Luka s7e14The bishop’s story about a walk in the woods, when he was feeling lost, not knowing which way to go, as he tells Luka at the church, becomes Luka’s story. And when Abby again comes to find Luka in their final scene, Luka is also looking for answers in the snow. He too is lost and confused, not finding it as easy as he first thought perhaps to actually move on with another woman. When Abby shows up he takes another look towards the sky before deciding he is ready to go home with her and be with her, not only physically but emotionally. It will just takes another visit to the bishop and a heartbreaking confession before he is completely ready.

A Walk in the Woods is written and directed by John Wells.

Note! All photos are screenshots from DVD. Material owned by Warner Bros Entertainment Ltd.

For more of Abby and Luka visit: ER’s Abby and Luka 

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ER’s Abby and Luka: If Not Now

This episode, the 11th in season 12, If Not Now, is one of my favourite ER episodes, so exquisitely written, acted and directed.

We follow Abby with all her fears and insecurities during one day in January, looking back at her and Luka’s endless conversations during the holidays about her surprise pregnancy, until she finally making a decision. It shows us Luka so carefully navigating through those talks being honest without being pushy, being supportive yet encouraging and being loving without inflicting guilt.

The Fear

A: It scares me, Luka.
L: Having it or choosing not to?
A: Yeah.

INN 1 Abby and Luka

The Sweet

A: What if I go shopping and leave it in the supermarket?
L: Don’t worry! I’ll do all the shopping.

INN 2 Luka

The Sting

A: What are you looking for? Someone to have a baby with?

INN 3 Abby and Luka

The Knowing

L: It has to be your choice. I know that!

INN 4 Luka

The Truth

L: When I say I want us to keep it, you don’t like the way it sounds. But anything else is a lie.

INN 5 Abby and Luka

The Choice

A: I want to keep it. I want us to have this baby.

INN 6 Abby

This episode is written by David Zabel and directed by John E Gallagher III.

Note! All photos are screenshots from DVD. Material owned by Warner Bros Entertainment Ltd.

For more about Abby and Luka, look here: ER’s Abby and Luka

ER’s Luka and Sam: The dream of having a family again

The story about Sam and Luka is one relationship story very well told. So much thought went into this tale and so much depth was given to the characters even though it’s not really a love story, but about a man’s longing for a family.

I’m not a fan of Luka and Sam (played by Goran Visnjic and Linda Cardellini) as a couple and I rather hate seeing them together in season 10, 11 and the first few episodes of season 12 when they are together. Still, I don’t hate the story as such, I think it is a quite a brilliant one actually, about a man and a woman getting together for all the wrong reasons.

It’s intriguing and heartbreaking as well as really deepening our knowledge about the characters.

Love is not really part of the equation when these two manage to convince themselves that they’re a good fit. And who can blame them, from the outside it looks like a perfect match and things are fine on the surface until it all starts to crack and finally self-combusts.

TS Sam and Luka

Luka and Sam in The Student, season 10, episode 17.

The way it is so thoroughly written, filmed and acted makes it a gem in relationship storytelling. It’s an unusual one, because not often is so much thoughts and details put into a relationship story for a couple that is not meant to be. It’s intriguing and heartbreaking as well as really deepening our knowledge about the characters. Or rather, it makes us get to know Sam, who is a new character in season 10, and it lets us get even further into that sorrowful, yearning mind that is Luka’s at the same time as it becomes a very important phase in his personal journey.

How it started with Carol and Nicole

How Luka and Sam get together and their continued relationship is a natural continuation of the stories of Luka’s interaction with Carol in season 6 and Nicole in season 8. When Luka entered the ER in season 6 he was immediately drawn to the heavily pregnant Carol. His fondness of children was established already in his first episode and later that season we learned about him having lost his wife and two small children in the war in former Yugoslavia.

For him being a family is more important than being in love

They become friends and actually Carol seems a bit protective of that relationship when Luka meets Abby for the first time in the ER. Missing the father of her children (Doug Ross), Carol is happy to have Luka help her with the twins and other things and Luka does not mind at all. Luka makes it clear, rather clumsily though, that he can see their relationship became something more. “It’s time to get on with my life” he tells Carol and after she has talked to him about Doug, suggesting they could move on together. But Carol’s heart still belongs to Doug and she decides to go to him in Seattle crushing Luka’s vision and leaving him sad and lonely behind in Chicago.

SSS Carol and Luka and twins

Carol and Luka in Such Sweet Sorrow, season 6, episode 21.

After the brutal breakup with Abby in the beginning of season 8 Luka falls into something with the waitress at his local bar, Nicole played by (and horribly miscast according to me) Julie Delpy. “It just happened” is Luka’s explanation when he tells Abby that Nicole is pregnant and this is where we learn that Luka lets things kind of happen to him. He wanted to help and he let Nicole move in when she lost her job at the bar, although we never see any of those scenes at his apartment. Luka got her a job at the hospital and when she tells him about the pregnancy, he says that he will marry her, because Not only would Luka never suggest an abortion, never not take care of his child, but for him being a family, as in being married, is more important than being in love. (Note! Nicole later told him she wasn’t pregnant at all, but actually had an abortion as far as we know.)

Season 10 and the dream of becoming a father again

It’s certainly not any instant attraction between Luka and Sam when she enters the ER as a new nurse, replacing Abby who has started med-school again, and there is no proper introduction between the two. What happens is that Alex, Sam’s 10 year-old son hangs around the ER and befriends Luka at the café across the street who treats him with a sweet without knowing he is a diabetics. Sam is furious when she founds out and annoyed that her son has acquired such an inappropriate friend. Luka is not happy about it either.

Sam initiates the sex, Luka initiates activities that include Alex

After a few episodes thought, when Sam finds herself feeling extra inadequate as a mother, Luka is there though to offer a bit of comfort and support. And as he carries a sleeping Alex to Sam’s car, the smile on his face reveals how the dream of becoming a father again comes to life. He can see himself with Sam and Alex, being a family.

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Luka and Alex in Touch and Go, season 10, episode 11.

Yet, Luka doesn’t initiate anything but doing some small talk with Alex. It’s Sam that actually tells Abby that she wouldn’t mind some regular sex and later spontaneously kisses Luka as they stand close to each other in the fully packed subway train. She is the one coming to Luka’s apartment after a bad day at work, looking for comfort and satisfaction. Luka doesn’t say no of course, he never does.

This seems to be somewhat of a pattern during the rest of the season, Sam initiates the sex, Luka initiates activities that include Alex, like eagerly trying to find something fun for Alex’ birthday and ends up renting a camper van for them to get away in together. They do make their motives quite clear. She wants her regular sex and he wants to play family, and what the other one wants is just a bonus. They don’t seem to be in love, still they enjoy each others company.

Season 11 and the decision to start pretending

Season 10 ends with Sam and Alex fleeing Chicago in an attempt to get away from Steve, Alex’ father. Alex calls Luka to tell him what’s going on and Luka goes off to find them. Luka likes to rescue women, but Sam doesn’t really like to be rescued and blows him off when Luka offers them to move in with him so they’ll feel secure.

This turns into the most unromantic “I love you”-scene ever witnessed on TV. Outside in the ambulance bay Luka explains to Sam that he didn’t ask her to move in to because of what happened, but because he loves her. “I love you. I’m in love with you” he says in a voice that is neither very loving nor passionate. He continues to matter-of-factly inform her that he doesn’t want to waste any time and wants her to let him know when she is ready. Sam is totally surprised, not happily surprised, just very surprised: “Did you just say that?”

But just because something looks good from afar, in the dark or on the surface, it doesn’t mean it really is when you study it up close.

At the end of the episode extroverted Sam, who never has had any problem expressing her feelings before, tells Luka that “what you said earlier, me too”, not bringing herself to say it out loud. Then she seems relieved and happy having made that decision and as Luka starts walking away, Sam runs after him and they kiss.

I can’t help but notice how it is filmed. It’s dark and we do not get a close look. It’s romantic in the dusk, her in his arms with the street lights illuminating her blond hair. It’s similar the first time the have sex when Sam comes to Luka’s apartment. Then we see the kiss and the losing of clothes from afar in the evening darkness of his living room. They look good together, but we don’t see them up close, we don’t see the kiss or their expressions. This says two things. We are not really invited to see how they feel and how they act compared for instance to the much more up-close scenes with Abby in season 7.

Damaged Sam and Luka

Sam and Luka in Damaged, season 11, episode 2.

Secondly, it is the thing about looking good from a distance or in the dark, which mirrors the way the relationship seems like a perfect match on the surface. Luka is the competent, hot-looking doctor with a sad, somewhat checkered past. Sam is the new, feisty nurse who also happens to be incredibly pretty with her doll face and golden locks. They are like the perfect couple from the outside and they seem to complement each other, fulfilling each others needs. She is extrovert and impulsive, he is a bit calmer and protective. She has a kid and wants a co-parent, a man around the house, security. He loves kids and wants a family.

They were made to be attracted to each other and for sure, none of them had anything against some casual sex. But just because something looks good from afar, in the dark or on the surface, it doesn’t mean it really is when you study it closely. And no matter how much Luka and Sam hooked up and played family, they just never managed to fall in love.

There is not that much going on with Sam and Luka in the middle of season 11 after Sam and Alex has moved in. Alex has troubles in school and Luka is there to support and talk to Alex. These are sweet, funny and sometimes awkward scenes in school and at home with Luka happily acting dad. But sometimes what is not included tells a story as well. There are no cute Christmas scenes with Sam, Alex and Luka together in the Christmas episode of season 11. What we see is Luka’s excitement about getting to spend his “first” Christmas with them. The focus is on just that, Luka’s anticipation and the way he sees himself spending more holidays with them.

Season 11 and the cracks suddenly getting too apparent

Sam and Luka do seem to fight quite a bit, Luka does something that annoys Sam, she is upset all day and then they make up in the evening. One time Luka freaks out when Sam is annoyed over Neela obviously having a crush on him. Someone who is confident in his relationship would probably no react so strongly, but Luka gets nervous and is very eager to put Sam’s worries at peace. Love is not what holds them together and that makes their relationship fragile. It’s like Luka is afraid Sam will suddenly decide she’s not interested anymore after all, she only wanted it casual in the first place as she very well told him.

Just ”we enjoy each other”, which sounds like a plain ”the sex is good” metaphor.

Later we do get some sweetness between Sam and Luka. They don’t really appear to be in love, but they are sweet to each other also in situations not related to making up/having sex. At the same time this is when the breakup arc starts, where Sam says she can’t see herself with a toddler and then later asks Luka if he wants kids to which he answers nothing.

We see an evolvement of their relationship in the episode where Steve comes back. Last time he came he moved in with Sam, Luka was left out in the cold and it was all a mess. Now Sam knows how to handle it, they don’t fight about it and Luka stops Steve from taking Alex. They are ”a team now” as Sam says to Alex, not a family, but at least she sees them as a team. It feels like they have grown and settled into their relationship somewhat. But in this episode it also becomes clear how utterly sad Luka is about not having a child of his own and no matter how much he is pretending, Alex isn’t his.

Even later an episode starts with a pregnancy test, negative, that Sam doesn’t tell Luka about although he finds out. This is when they both stop smiling for good. ”Why does it seem we can talk about anything other than us?” she asks later and Luka doesn’t answer, maybe knowing that starting to dissect their relationship would not end well. But Sam is an extrovert who expresses her thoughts. She wants to solve problems and is not afraid to ask the difficult questions. She decides they should see a therapist.

CEA Sam and Luka at therapist

Luka and Sam at the therapist in Carter est Amoureux, season 11, episode 21.

”I don’t think Luka and I should be together” she honestly tells the therapist. Luka looks like he wants to be anywhere else and then just wishes they can pretend to be happy and move on with it. ”I’m happy, Sam’s not” he says with a voice that is NOT happy. ”We enjoy each other” Luka further explains to the therapist, not saying ”we love each other” or at least ”we enjoy being together”. Just ”we enjoy each other”, which sounds like a plain ”the sex is good” metaphor

That is not necessarily what he meant, but that is how it comes out. He isn’t trying to convince the therapist or Sam that there is any love involved, maybe because he doesn’t see that as a priority. They are healthy and live a good life, he states, what else is needed, words that somewhat shocks both Sam and the therapist. Luka seems more sad for himself than for them as a couple already. It’s over now and they both know it, even if they do nothing about it yet and Alex goes missing at the end of the season.

Season 12 and the desperation to hold on

Sam and Luka in the season 12 opening episode, Cañon City, is quite painful to watch. While on the road trying to locate Alex, Sam continues to ask the difficult questions: ”Why are you with me Luka?” It’s heartbreaking to see Luka so desperately trying to hang on to her. And it’s not “why don’t you love me?” that he despairingly cries out on the truck, it’s “why don’t you want to have children with me?”

Love can be made up, created, pretended if you just envision it and live like you do it.

Because that is what it always was about, he wants a family and he wants more children of his own. The love is not the priority, it is not what he so achingly is yearning for. Love can be made up, created or pretended if you so wish. Children on the other hand are real, and any more of those is not what Sam has in mind.

Sam and Alex moves out and an episodes later Luka is equally desperately begging her to come back. He is willing to pretend to get what he wants, he doesn’t even see it as such, they can start over, take it slow, be a family. They can be happy. But Sam is not willing to pretend anymore to get what she wants in life.

CC Sam and Luka

Luka and Sam in Cañon City, season 12, episode 1.

In the ER lockup Sam finally says it out loud: “We are pretending, Luka, I don’t wanna pretend anymore.” He is utterly disappointed and in pain and childishly avoids working with her all afternoon, which causes damage to a young patient. “It was the wrong thing for the wrong reason”, he describes his behaviour later in the afternoon. Finally he is at the same time admitting that he knows that their relationship was wrong, that he went in to it for the wrong reasons, pushed it forward for the wrong reasons and that they never managed to get it quite right.

Epilogue

The way this story is told so cleverly and carefully thought-out makes it clear that Sam and Luka where not meant to last. At the same as Abby would focus on med-school and her first year as a resident, Luka wanted to move on from his fruitless pining for Abby and get those things he was longing for. And the story works. We got to know the core of Luka, he got to take a deep look at himself, gather some self-revelation and come out a very insightful person at the other end. Abby is on her own journey building her professional confidence and personal self-esteem.

It is almost as they were never together

We can see how his relationship with Abby is all different. She is a pessimist and had never shown any interest in having children, he knows her family history. She never provided Luka with a vision of an idyllic future for him to envision and fall in love with. He just loved her. For once he took the initiative and made it clear to Abby that he wanted her. He kissed her breathlessly, he said his “I do” and made sure she knew he really wanted this. He took charge instead of just letting things happen to him.

When Abby becomes pregnant and very uncertain of her maternal capabilities, Luka says all the right things. Not only does he understand Abby this time around, he has to be patient, otherwise she will run the other way. He has also learned from his time with Sam. He knows he must be clear about wanting Abby first and foremost, the baby second.

ER Abby and Luka s12e09b

Abby and Luka in I Do, season 12, episode 9.

I think it is interesting also how Luka and Sam very quickly turn into just colleagues again. As soon as Luka acknowledges that their relationship was the wrong thing, they are back to being colleagues only. Even if Sam is slightly thrown by Abby’s pregnancy, it never becomes a thing. She and Abby actually become kind of friends in the end (just like Luka and Carter), but Luka and Sam are not friends, because just as they weren’t connected by love, they weren’t connected by friendship either.

It was Alex that connected them, the family and the home life, not love or friendship. They did not do things together without Alex, although Sam tried to in the beginning. When they broke up, they just returned to being colleagues, there was nothing else connecting them anymore, thus there was no awkwardness hovering between them. It is almost as they were never together and certainly it was not a relationship meant to last, although it sure had a lasting effect. It gave Luka the understanding of what he really wanted and the willingness to take charge and go and get it. Abby that is.

Note! All photos are screenshots from DVD. Material owned by Warner Bros Entertainment Ltd.

For more about Abby and Luka, who actually were in love: ER’s Abby and Luka

Best TV Husbands of 2017

There are good men out there. These darlings are my pick of top TV husbands.

There are husbands on TV that will do more or less anything for their highly beloved wives, may it be experimenting with new sex-partners, committing a few murders here and there, persevering although knowing they are not “the one” to their wife or just relentlessly keep on loving, supporting and respecting. Here are a few good men I loved a little bit extra last year.

9. Sylvere, I Love Dick

Sylvere smal

Griffin Dunne in Amazon’s I Love Dick

Sylvere does not come off very good in the beginning as he gives younger, female colleagues way too lingering and admiring looks. But as the arrogance and the confidence is being replaced by awkwardness, unease and the feeling of being left out, when his wife is showing Dick a grotesque amount of attention, I feel more and more sympathy for him. He loves his wife and the story of this somewhat odd couple going through a crisis turns into something rather lovely.

8. Kyle, The Arrangement

Kyle West

Josh Henderson in E!’s The Arrangement

»This is not right.« Kyle may have done a deal with his to-be girlfriend about getting married – if you are a major movie star maybe that is the best way, at least according to his mentor.

But when said mentor/cult leader as well as media do everything to control the narrative of the lovebirds, Kyle has no problem jumping out if his pants and pose butt-naked to assure both them and his girlfriend that no one else decides which story is to be told about them but they themselves.

7. Avery, Nashville

Avery

Jonathan Jackson in CMT’s Nashville

Now I didn’t watch beyond episode 9 this season, so I don’t what happened to Avery and Juliette, but I do remember his loving, attentive caring of her after the plane crash even though she did her best to push him away.

How she screamed about how she did not want to be a chore, a burden and how he finally assured her this was what he wanted to do. And finally how he couldn’t stop talking about his feelings (how very unmanly of him) until both we and Juliette just wished he’d just stop and started SHOWING how he felt instead. Which he finally did thank god.

6. Len, Transparent

Lev

Rob Heubel in Amazon’s Transparent

”I do this for you.” Those are Len’s words when Sarah somewhat worried wonder if it’s okey if they break up with Lila, the young pre-school teacher Sarah met at the sex-addict meeting and decided to write a book with, before it all turned into some kind of relationship of three.

Now I’m sure their threesomes, dominated and directed by Sarah, was not all a chore for Len, but still he makes it quite clear that there’s a lot of things he will do for this woman, who first left him for another woman, then explored her sexuality elsewhere before she decided to come back to him.

5. Kyle, Easy

Kyle

Michael Chernus in Netflix’ Easy 

»Kyle, you look surprised«, the therapist states when Kyle’s wife Andi blurts out that it’s time for the open marriage, time to have sex with other people. He is surprised for sure, but since he wants nothing but to please his wife he makes his own hesitant and awkward attempt to have sex as his wife goes on a date with a sexy colleague.

4. Ed, Big Little Lies

Ed

Adam Scott in HBO’s Big Little Lies

“The essence of a happy marriage – the ability to pretend” is the sad conclusion Ed makes when talking to his wife Madeleine of the lack of passion and that she actually doesn’t like him touching her.

Seeing how much attention she gives her ex-husband, the father of her oldest daughter, it’s not much wonder why he feels unappreciated. He knows, or that’s how he feels, that he is not her great love, if also he knew that she had an affair…

But Ed is a good guy. He is kind and he keeps on loving even if he doesn’t get that much back. He even sings Elvis for her, with the hope that she will really see him.

3. Philip, The Americans

Philip

Matthew Rhys in FX’ The Americans

”Do you want to make it official?” Philip and Elizabeth were never each other choice, their marriage is a product of the job. Both have others they were in love with, both have been force to act in love.

The mission to spy on the US has been less important for Philip and he is hesitant of how much they should involve their daughter Paige. But despite of the differences in opinion in regards to these things, or maybe because of them, the love squiggled its way up the cracks between them and Philip’s proposal come as a total surprise and as an obvious given at the same time, as incredibly loving as it was.

2. Donnie, Orphan Black

Donnie

Kristian Bruun in BBC America’s Orphan Black

Seriously, is there any more devoted husband then Donnie? He hides murders, berries bodies, sell drugs, takes on the mob an god knows what for his beloved wife Alison during the shows five seasons.

Yes, Donnie was once her ”handler”, but after that was revealed no man has so tirelessly supported, encouraged, reassured and also made a fool out of himself for his snoopy, driven and uptight wife as he has.

1. Joel, Santa Clarita Diet

JOel again

Timothy Olyphant in Netflix’ Santa Clarita Diet

What do you do when your beloved wife goes through a change and suddenly feels much more alive, loses all filters and can only feed on human meat?

Never have I seen a husband so eagerly get out of his own way to support and adjust to his wife’s new way of living. Joel struggles industriously to find the balance between what he is prepared to do and what not at the same time as he feels more and more inadequate and lost.

But he continues to stretch his bounds of what he finds acceptable just to ensure the marriage with the woman he loves will work. He wants nothing but to continue his support for her, even if murdering for food is not something he ever will get completely comfortable with.

Joel is definitely my number one best husband of 2017.

Also read my list of Top 10 TV shows 2017: My Top 10 (or so) TV shows of 2017

Halt and Catch Fire: The Journey of Donna Clark

Halt and Catch Fire does not only give us a mesmerising tale of the computer tech industry in the 1980’s, it also brings us a woman’s very intriguing and liberating journey with it.

That I love the show Halt and Catch shouldn’t come as a surprise, I’ve written about this perfect show earlier. I admitted that I’d fallen in love with with one of its main characters, Donna Clark, portrayed impeccably by Kerry Bishé. This love is strong and I feel there is more to say about her and that she deserves an article of her own.

donna-halt-and-catch-fire-season-1-gallery-donna-bishe-1200

Kerry Bishé as Donna Clark in AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire.

Donna’s journey through the four seasons of the show is not only her own, it is in one way our common journey as women. The one from where women are destined to be responsible for home and family to where women can grow, develop and chase their own dreams while also inspiring others to do so.

The one doing all the work without getting any credit

The first time we meet Donna is a while into the pilot episode, where she picks up her husband Gordon from a drunk cell in the middle of the night with the young daughters sleeping in the back seat.

It’s immediately clear that Donna is the on making the family life work, the one solving the problems and the one adapting to her husband.

”You didn’t have to bring the kids, did you?”, Gordon asks somewhat accusingly, although he knows it should be ashamedly.
”I think I did”, Donna answers reproachfully, because who was she to ask for help in the middle of the night and who’s fault was it that she had to come to the police station in the first place.

It’s immediately clear that Donna is the on making the family life work, the one solving the problems and the one adapting to her husband. She is the practical one that worry about the important stuff:
”Do you still have a job?” is the first thing she asks Gordon in the car.
Donna Clark S1
Donna is not only the project manager of the home life. She has a job that isn’t really challenging enough for her, while Gordon has a job that is very much so. She comes and puts out fires at his work though, since she is smarter than both he and his colleagues are.

The climax of the first season takes place at the COMDEX fair, where Cardiff’s new PC is to be launched and make people gasp. And though it was because of Donna they actually made the fair, it is also her mistake that makes them fail there. Gordon is furious at first:
”He used you!”, he yells and refers to Donna’s boss.
”At least he encouraged me and rewarded me”, Donna coldly defends herself with.

So starved for attention is Donna that she lapped up what she could get from whoever who bothered.

So starved for attention is Donna that she lapped up whatever she could get from whoever bothered. She saved her husbands project a number of times with her knowledge and her ideas, which she has done on her spare time and what did she get? She didn’t get any acknowledgement or a request to join the company he is working for.

But Donna is no victim. The season ends with Gordon picking her up in a new fancy car when she has resigned from her job. He is feeling much better and she is feeling fantastic. They are a team again and there is a balance now. She has taken an active decision, she wants to move on, challenge herself and chase her own dreams.

The one learning to compromise with herself

When season 2 begins it’s almost two years later and we are at the homely office of Mutiny, the company that the SW genius Cameron started and asked Donna to join. Donna seems to be in a good mood, energetic and positive, when we meet her coming into work solving issues and conflicts, but it isn’t all fun. Her and Cameron’s different view on running a company becomes evident and again Donna is the responsible and the practical.
Donna Clark S2
”I don’t want to be the mom here! I do that at home. I came her to do what I love and I don’t love dealing with the power company”, Donna protests.
”Don’t do those thing! Nobody asked you to”, Cameron counters.

But it is just that, Donna can’t refrain from being the mother who makes sure everything is in order and at the same time sacrifices her wish to create new things. Again Donna actively tries to solve her own problem and decides to compromise, not so much with Cameron but with herself. She will manage the office and take care of practical stuff, but she will aslo make room for her to be responsible for the development of a new product.

”I don’t want to be the mom here! I do that at home.”

This means that Donna spends a lot of time at work, which causes her and Gordon to grow apart, but again Donna is the one finding the solutions, she is the one making demands. Gordon must invest in Mutiny and also in their marriage by following them to Silicon Valley. And she will defenitely not have any more children as a way to repair what has broken.

The one who is not afraid to make tough decisions

In season 3 Mutiny needs to expand and again Donna and Cameron’s differences in what drives and motives them comes to the surface. Donna is the business woman who wants the company to grow and make money. Cameron cares mostly about her games, her products, her babies. Donna is still the responsible one while Cameron disappears without telling anyone. Another side of Donna is then starting to show. She lies to get her way, but she doesn’t do it for her own benefit only, she believes it is the best thing for the company.
Donna Clark S3
The relationship between Donna and Cameron mirrors Donna’s inner conflict about who she is and who she wants to be – mom, business woman, developer, partner, boss.

Donna is the best thing that has happened to Cameron according to Cameron’s husband Tom and she herself agree:
”You anchor me”, Cameron explains (and a few years later when they have parted ways, she still admits that working with Donna is the best thing she has ever done).

”Cam is the genius, Donna is the mom!”

At the same time that Donna is the one steering the ship and enabling Cameron to flourish, she doesn’t feel she gets the appreciation she deserves.
”Cam is the genius, Donna is the mom”, is what she hears from the surroundings loud and clear.

In another room another time Cameron is pissed.
”Stop patronising me, you are handling me like you always do”, she accuses Donna.
”I’m not gonna sit down and watch when this company is taken hostage by a petulant child”, Donna counters.

Being a ”mother” is not simple, finding the balance between encouragement and discipline, guiding and steering. But it was the mother that the others listened to this time, not the genius. By the end of the season it’s a few years later and Donna is now the CEO of a big, successful Mutiny. She has gotten divorced, liberated herself from Gordon and is on the next phase of her journey.

The one that finally embraces the different sides of herself

It’s a new Donna we meet in season 4. A few years has passed and she is now working at that investment company that helped Mutiny grow and get listed on the stock exchange. She is the one being waited on, now by her assistant. She makes people nervous, those who need her money to be able to take their idéas further.

”I’ve done things. It always comes with a price, but I did them”

”You need to pursue you own vision, not aping after others”, she instructs a group of hopeful suckers.
”I was really rooting for you guys”, is then how she softly but brutally ends the conversation while she drinks her vitamin juice and revels in the power she has.

Donna is smart. She has no problem to outmanoeuvre the men that tries to take her place. But being a power-exercising bastard is not something she is entirely comfortable with, to become like ”the men” is not something she strives for and she is not immune to her own unscrupulous actions. Out of the grey ashes of self-pity, grief and soul-searching a new Donna rises eventually.
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This Donna has gathered women in the same line of business to an event at her house where she gives a speech telling the audience what it took to get where she is. She lost her marriage. She voted her female partner out of her own company. She does wonder if she spends enough time with her kids. But on the other hand she has achieved things and that matters.

Donna finally embraces the fact that she is a mother. Not only literally, but also the way she is a person.

”I’ve done things. It always comes with a price, but I did them”, she states and stresses that it’s all about people and she had help, from Gordon and Cameron as well as from Diane, the investor that helped Mutiny and who later became Donna’s mentor.
”I’m rooting for you. How can I not?”, she ends it with, ”I’m a partner by trade, a mother and sister by design. I’m so proud to be this journey on you.”

Donna finally embraces the fact that she is a mother. Not only literally, but also the way she is a person, the caring, the fixer making sure the world is turning and the sometimes condescending adult who wants to handle and lecture the people around her, who doesn’t understand what is best for them. But this doesn’t stop her from being the business woman and partner she wants to be as well. The one she has chosen to become. It’s the opposite. It’s her strength.
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In the last scene Donna manages to be both. She ensures that Cameron gets on the road to her mother at the same time as she figures out what their (her and Cameron’s) next business idea will be all about. She has succeeded in affirming both sides of her, they both fit into her life. She can be a mother and a driven business woman. She can make many mistakes and still be successful. She can have loads of flaws and still be perfect.

You have to be prepared to get on a journey, have courage, take risks, make mistakes, pay the price and get back on the road again. You have to find the right persons to support you, but there is no-one else that can make the journey for you. Donna Emerson Clark, in the fabulous shape of Kerry Bishé, does this journey for us. She is an inspiration. She is the woman I was, the one I am and the one I want to be.

For more about Halt and Catch Fire: Halt and Catch Fire was the perfect show

Another female character I adore: Abby Lockhart: Evidence the ER writers created a person, not a woman

My Top 10 (or so) TV shows of 2017

1. Halt and Catch Fire

One of the best shows ever, so perfectly depicting the computer tech revolution – with its failures and successes, struggles and innovations – in the 1980’s and four persons’ personal journeys with it.

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Susanna Skaggs, Kathryn Newton, Kerry Bishé, Lee Pace, Toby Huss, Annabeth Gish, Scoot McNairy and Mackenzie Davis in AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire.

2. Jane the Virgin

The second half of season 3 where Jane is in the wake of healing from her tragic loss is the most clever, funny and fabulous drama-comedy I have ever watched.

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Gina Rodriguez as Jane in CW’s Jane the Virgin. Photo: Scott Everett White/The CW

3. Casual

There’s something so adorable about these confident yet so lost family members, a brother, a sister and her teenage daughter, navigating their lives the best they can.

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Tommy Dewey, Tara Lynne Barr and Michaela Watkins in Hulu’s Casual.

4. GLOW

Just a lovely story of a struggling actor who together with some other women become the 1980’s Glorious Ladies of Wrestling and end the story with their oh so uplifting ”we can do it” attitude.

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Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin in Netflix’ GLOW.

5. I Love Dick

Very touching and also thought-provoking tale of obsession, a woman going through a crisis and a small town awakening.

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Kathryn Hahn in Amazon’s I love Dick.

6. Santa Clarita Diet

The best show about a marriage ever, seriously funny and yeah, kind of gory.

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Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant in Netflix’ Santa Clarita Diet.

7. Timeless

Totally charming, intriguing show which together with its worthwhile, historical lessons make it irresistible (and because it has Goran Visnjic in it).

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TIMELESS — “The Capture of Benedict Arnold” Episode 109 — Pictured: (l-r) Goran Visnjic as Garcia Flynn, Abigail Spencer as Lucy Preston, Matt Lanter as Wyatt Logan — (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)

8. The Arrangement

I thought I’d get a cheesy Hollywood soap, but got a smart, thought-provoking tale of identity, control and boundaries among other things.

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Michael Vartan, Lexa Doig, Josh Henderson and Christine Evangelista in E!’s The Arrangement.

9. Mary Kills People

A low-key drama where existential angst and ravishing thrills is mixed with family drama, unpredictable partners and irresistible cops. Mary Harris is a delight to get to know.

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Caroline Dhavernas i Global TV’s Mary Kills People.

10. Easy

A show that very entertainingly calls out hypocrisy, doesn’t stereotypically make people oppressed victims and includes lots of nice husbands/men, except for that genius artist, who just falls further into his self-obsessed hole.

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Marc Maron and Jane Adams in Netflix’ Easy.

And just below the top 10 we have:

Feud: Bette and Joan

A brilliant display of destructiveness and the cruel, oppressive games everyone seems to be playing in Hollywood to keep their head above water.

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Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange in FX’ Feud: Bette and Joan.

Girlboss

A charming and inspiring tale of a young, somewhat eccentric woman struggling to start her own e-business.

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Britt Robertson in Netflix’ Girlboss.

Bosch

There is no better crime show right now, with its embodiment of the dark as well as the dreamy LA atmosphere and with characters we now almost care more about than the plot itself.

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Titus Welliver in Amazon’s Bosch.

And further down we have the lovely new show SMILF about a single mom in Boston as well as the continued story about the ever so messy Pfefferman family in Transparent. Which ones were your favourites?

Halt and Catch Fire was the perfect show

Halt and Catch Fire takes the rise of personal computers in the early 1980’s, follows four engineers through ten years and makes an entertaining, captivating and flawless tech-drama perfectly relevant also today.

As a TV writer I often get asked to recommend shows when getting into conversations with people. It’s difficult, I get dumb, I mean it all depends on what kind of shows people like. But then there is one show that I have come to always recommend, because I think it suits most people and at least before, not so many were already watching it.

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Scoot McNairy as Gordon Clark, Kerry Bishé as Donna Clark, Mackenzie Davis as Cameron How and Lee Pace as Joe McMillan in AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire.

The fact that Halt and Catch Fire works for most people is not because it is a smooth and easy watch, but because it is universal and relatable to more or less anyone, as well as a marvellous portrait of people and the times. It takes us back to Texas in the early 1980’s where Joe McMillan (Lee Pace), a former IBM employee and a charismatic entrepreneur, decides to challenge his former employee, enlists Gordon Clark (Scoot McNairy), a hardware designer and Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis), a software genius to help him create a better Personal Computer (PC).

The characters, except for Joe, seems like they are taken from everyday life, but their stories are captivating as well as recognisable. They women runs companies in the computer business and the men try to find themselves and their context. There is a total retro-feeling to it at the same time as the questions asked are them same as we ask ourselves today, in the world of technology as well as in our private life.

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When the fourth and final season ended in October, I was immensely happy, sad, enlightened and broken all at once and I wondered if there would be a reason to watch TV ever again, since there never could be anything else like it. Halt and Catch Fire was a show that managed to brilliant from start to end.

The one making the world go round

The first seasons gave much space to Joe who gave the story such a brutal kick-start. Then the creators, Chistopher Cantwell och Christopher C. Rogers, did the smart thing and let the other characters get more prominent, first Gordon and Cameron and later on Gordon’s wife Donna, who just demanded presence and became somewhat of the nave of the story.

Donna puts out fires, also at Gordon’s workplace, because she is smarter than both he and his colleagues are. She’s the one making the world go round.

I know the exact moment I fell in love with Donna Clark, beautifully portrayed by Kerry Bishé and my favourite character of Halt and Catch Fire. It was a scene somewhere in the middle of season 1 when she has an outburst, accusing her husband Gordon of not even knowing the name of their childrens’ doctor.

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She just personified so many things I recognise in women also today. She is the project manager of the household and thereby ensures dinners are prepared, children get to bed, presents are acquired and all the other little things need to be done for everything to run smoothly.

She has a job that is not challenging enough for her, while Gordon has a job requiring enormous energy from him. She is being lectured by her boss, sometimes unfairly but always condescending, and can’t help but purr when receiving the appreciation her boss sometimes do find the effort to show her. Donna puts out fires, also at Gordon’s workplace, because she is smarter than both he and his colleagues are. She’s the one making the world go round.

Donna and Cameron S2After a very fascinating first season building concluding after a COMDEX computer expo, the second one still managed to be better. The focus swifts when Donna and Cameron take their learnings and confidence and go into business together and takes part in creating the world of online gaming, shopping and community chat rooms. It becomes quite magical as we get to take part in the successes and failures and how to manage a company together, their company, Mutiny.

While also watching Gordon and Joe trying to find new goals and places for themselves, we slowly get to know all these people better and better. What drives and motivates them, what are their strengths and weaknesses and how does that form their lives?

The feeling of doom

The start of season 3 amazed as the production team so skillfully evoked the feeling of doom as Donna and Cameron with Gordon’s help tried to move their company forward in a new city. I thought we would revisit our friends in a more exuberantly energetic and intense state as they had moved from Texas to Silicon Valley at the end of season 2, but the show just went in the opposite direction.

Those words from the old machine code command, Halt and Catch Fire, couldn’t better describe the start of the season.

The gloomy, almost dystopian atmosphere was not only present at work, where the engineers are lazying around, not knowing what to do as you just waited for the roof to have all the pipes and cables crash down on Gordon trying to jumpstart the mainframe computer in the basement. Also at the house of the Clark family worrying signs, big and small, earthquakes and arguments, made their announcements one by one.

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Those words from the old machine code command, Halt and Catch Fire, couldn’t better describe the start of the season. Everything seemed to be at a stop, there was no movement forward, not at Mutiny and not at the Clarks. Although in another part of the city, at a large stage, Joe appeared like a saviour in front of the audience – uncannily like other computer visionaries from that time – and intuitively it felt that something was going to catch fire.

The creators continued to handle the womens’ stories so utterly well through season 3, but did not forget about the men. Between Gordon and Joe there seemed to be some kind of destructive attraction, the same that belonged to Joe and Cameron in season 1. Gordon may had sued Joe for steeling his anti-virus code and Joe may had acquired a new disciple, but you could just feel how Gordon wouldn’t be able to restrain himself from getting drawn into Joe’s world again. There was something in Gordon that attracted him to the genius and the innovator that is Joe, even if he was awfully tired of the psychopath within him.

halt-and-catch-fire-season-3-e1512167424313.jpgThat season ended beautifully with a chamber play of sorts when all the main characters – Joe, Gordon, Donna and Cameron – together with Cameron’s husband Tom, having a brainstorming session trying to understand that thing called world wide web and what it could possibly do in the future.

The world of ideas and innovations

The combination of the personal journey of the character with the technology makes Halt and Catch Fire so unique. This whole story with startups striving for success – the instinct to always look forward, to get further, understanding what people want, coming up with ideas, exert oneself for what seems impossible, unreachable – it’s so satisfying to see that getting room on television.

There are no bad ideas, because also bad ideas can inspire to new ideas and maybe the next one will be that fabulous one.

It’s incredibly exciting to follow the computer revolution in a perspective that make it not only nostalgic viewing, but relevant also today. We are more than ever looking of new services, new technology, to simplify and brighten are lives and at the same time parents will always worry about what their kids are doing. Technology changes, but behaviour stays the same, as someone taught me not so long ago.

donna-halt-and-catch-fire-from-amc-tvThe fact that it does take place in the tech-world is just something I enjoy immensely having worked in it myself for 20 years. Donna and Gordon embodies this world so well as I have seen and experienced it – Gordon, the introverted, rational designer, together with Donna, the structured leader, who in the longer run gets to lead change and run the company without there being anything strange about that.

I like character dramas where the obstacles for the characters comes from within themselves and their own personalities and struggles create the drama instead of having external forces steer the action all the time. Cameron and Donna were exposed to sexism for sure when trying to get to the next level with their company, but that didn’t stop them and at the end they found the right collaborators. Their main challenges on their path forward had to do with themselves and their different goals, purposes and motivation.

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The role of ideas and innovation got to be prominent in the show. “There are no bad ideas”, is something a friend of mine had learned at a course about innovation, because also bad ideas inspire to new ideas and maybe the next one will be that fabulous one. This thinking is confirmed by Donna (or was it Cameron) about Community: “It was just one idea that purcolated out of one of your ideas.” This is innovation and when you think that all is lost and someone else has won, there will still always be new inventions and more improvements to come up with, even if it might not be evident to you just then.

The reversal of roles

Season 4 touched and captivated me even more than before, yet it was hard to put in words what made what made it do so. We had gotten to know the characters so well by now though, they all had their own story. We’d known them for four seasons and ten fictive years, their journeys became clearer without them having to be explicit about it.

Donna has become Joe, Joe became Gordon and Gordon became Donna, their character journeys made perfect sense, although nobody seemed to be really happy or content.

What startled me was how different things were 10 years later compared to season 1. The roles had shifted around even if their personalities are the same. It used to be Joe that called all the shots and Gordon who desperately tried to deliver whatever Joe demanded. But season 4 starts with Gordon trying to get Joe out of the basement and engaged in the main company, instead of collecting url’s all by himself. Joe still has ideas, Gordon still is the one who do the actual work, but now it’s Gordon who is the chief.

hacf_403_bjm_0501_0144-rt-e1512170003660.jpgTen years ago it was Donna who was the caring one who took care of all problems, private and business problems alike. Now this is what Gordon do, taking care of Cameron in her time of need, tending to his daughters’ ups and downs. He is the sympathetic business owner who after a busy week hits the sofa and plays video games. He is the optimist that knows how to adapt to reality, still getting ideas from Donna though on how to develop his company.

Back then Joe was the brutal leader who had a vision. In season 4 it’s Donna that forces her entrepreneurs to sharpen their ideas while Joe is stuck in the basement, just as Cameron and Gordon once was at the beginning. Donna has become the merciless business woman that without blinking disses proposals not visionary enough. She is arrogant and self-centred and manages to get a promotion she gives to an employee to be more about her own excellence than the employee’s. She is still utterly smart though.

indie-music-and-television-blog-halt-and-catch-fire-joe-and-cameron-reunionDonna had become Joe, Joe became Gordon and Gordon became Donna, their character journeys made perfect sense, although nobody seemed to be really happy or content. The atmosphere the last season was a bit low-key and provided the characters with a bit of reflection and soul-searching. It’s not only the technology that is renewed and improved in the show, it asked the same questions about the people. What drives a person? Can you change and renew yourself, stop remaking the same mistakes? And how do you then do that?

Those questions certainly applied to Joe who’s journey from the genius, but slightly psychopathic innovator, to the softer, more mature man thinking about children and family was not an obvious one. Donna too got prompted to do some personal reflection this season when things just did not go her way.

Cameron final 2Cameron, the coding genius, was a bit hard to like in the beginning, I thought, so stubborn and headstrong. It did become easier to feel sympathy when she had a crisis to work through and her stumbling around this season, a few steps forward then a misstep of sorts, was one of the most fascinating stories of the season. The sorrow and fear as well as the willpower beaming out of her was impossible to fend off.

The season that killed

The show just killed me a little bit with each and every episode of the last season. As Rogers and Cantwell knew season 4 was the last one, they could finish off their stories neatly even if they chose to shake us up brutally before that. Because that is what they did and did so well as the pain was described in sentences that were not finished, farewells that could not be brought off and emotions that could not be expressed. I love when shows go introvert and nothing is explicitly expressed, we are not told what to feel and when. We just do it anyway, in our own way.

I will just have to take Donna’s words to heart. There is always something new around the corner to get obsessed to find, or just to get obsessed with.

Yes, Halt and Catch Fire started as a show about Joe and Gordon before it changed its focus to the women and certainly by the end that’s where the focus still was. I wonder if I have seen a better story of a female professional relationship than the one about Donna and Cameron, both female engineers, yet so different. One of the most rewarding scenes in season 4 must have been when Donna tells Cameron that she finished her game, the scene where they truly confess how much they do respect and admire each other: “I made it for people like you. Unfortunately there are not many people like you.”

Donna and Cameron at Mutiny 2But that was not it. They have also learned to appreciate their differences and I get goosebumps just thinking about the scene in the old Mutiny-building where they reflect over their past and imagine their future all at the same time.

The last episode could not have been better with that phone call from Donnas daughter that she will live on for a long time. How she and Cameron somehow got back to basics when trying to fix Haley’s computer, yet realising things are different. Donna who of course would not give up on her drive and ambition, but was ready to use it in other ways as well, inspiring other ambitious ladies. And then the so utterly touching scene between her and Cameron pictured above, that I mentioned before, forever preserved in my mind. It is the most beautiful and dignified ending I have ever experienced from a show.

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Will this be the end of my TV-viewing life? No, I will just have to take Donna’s words to heart. There is always something new around the corner to get obsessed to find, or just to get obsessed with. She already found herself a new idea to explore.

Read more about Donna here: Halt and Catch Fire: The Journey of Donna Clark