Sunday, June 14, 2015

REVIEW: 'Halt and Catch Fire' - The Clarks Attend a Dinner Party While Mutiny Scrambles to Stay Alive in 'The Way In'

AMC's Halt and Catch Fire - Episode 2.03 "The Way In"

As Bosworth tries to reconnect with his former life, the Clarks receive a surprising invitation. A problem from within Mutiny threatens its survival.

So far, this season has been about Cameron and Donna trying to expand Mutiny as a business during a crucial point in time. As Donna accurately pointed out in the premiere, right now is the time where businesses either soar or go under. Mutiny has slowly been building a subscription list. Early in "The Way In," Cameron looks at the statistics of how many people are currently playing games on their system and is beaming with pride. She is excited by what she has accomplished and is already trying to plan the next thing that will expand their horizons even further. That's what makes it so devastating when the entire system crashes. All of this time and effort is wiped away in a matter of minutes.

Cameron and the team of programmers do their best to save the system while still being online. And yet, they are forced to take the entire system offline in order to deal with the bug that Gordon foolishly uploaded. After a night of hard work, the system has rebounded. But none of the subscribers have returned. It's a catastrophic turn of events for the season. The first two episodes built Mutiny up only for "The Way In" to explode that foundation. Mutiny is now effectively back at the beginning. This attack threatens to destroy every single thing that Cameron and Donna have tirelessly been working for. It also threatens to ruin their partnership. Donna does her best to stand by the team and work all night to fix the system. And yet, she also allowed Gordon to get too close to the project and ruin all of it. He doesn't stand to lose anything from this destruction. He still has all his money from Cardiff and his family. Mutiny lost everything and that will take months to rebuild.

This attack occurs while Donna accompanies Gordon to a dinner with Joe and Sara. They attend out of pure curiosity. They want to see what kind of life he is living and who this mysterious new fiancé is. They are surprised when they open that door and see a dressed down Joe in a one bedroom apartment with a very humble and sweet woman. It's a shock. It is a tad weird seeing the three of them interacting again. Donna and Gordon still have reason to be upset at Joe. They do act differently when they are with him. Sara brings about a change in Joe. It's because of her that he feels like he can be honest and reveal the truth about not getting any money from Cardiff. Of course, Gordon does the requisite thing and says he would have fought for Joe. And yet, that was the cordial thing to do. That's how Gordon would react in hindsight to this whole deal. If he knew in that moment, he probably wouldn't have acted in that way. That's why he can say such things now. He doesn't have to follow through. The audience is aware that Joe still has a connection with the various other members of the cast and Mutiny. But they really don't think they'll be interacting with Joe all that much in the future.

However, dinner with Joe is enough to shock Cameron to her core when she calls in a panic over what is happening at the Mutiny house only to hear Joe on the other end of the line. This was already a destructive situation for her. To then add Joe on top of that was too much for her to handle. Mutiny is her entire life right now. She is the one always at the house managing the rest of the programmers. Donna is able to leave work and go back to a real personal life. That escape is something that Cameron can't afford right now. It's also what she can easily blame when this attack occurs. The more she learns about what has happened, the easier it is to place blame on Donna. It's because of her that Gordon became attached to the project and tried his basic understanding of coding to help/hurt the company. Gordon is not a programmer. It was laughable when he was typing away in the opening sequence. There was no way he picked up that skill since the last episode. That's entirely the point though. He's not aware of the destruction he has caused until it's too late. He wants to help his wife but he doesn't have a strong understanding of the mechanics of their system. He and Cameron have never really gotten along. They are able to violently hash things out outside the house while Donna is standing on the side quiet. She's unable to fully process what has just happened.

However, it really is because of Donna that Mutiny has been able to operate for as long as it has. As Gordon rightfully points out, she has paid attention to all the various bills and commercial issues that keep the house working exactly as it is. That information is positioned as a weapon. One that Gordon uses against Cameron as reasoning for why she doesn't have a firm grip on her own company. And yet, it's one that only further alienates Donna from the core team. She has to earn back Cameron's trust. She can't just leave the house again with the problems still apparent throughout the night. She needs to stay and work in the hopes of salvaging what's left of the company. She shares few words with Cameron and Gordon after that night of work. Everyone is understandably very exhausted. And yet, this whole experience will be a huge wake up call for Mutiny and how they have been operating as a business. If they continue going the way that they've been, they will burn out both being able to truly change the game and themselves. It will just be another loss for the team. They can't afford that. They need Mutiny to work. They desperately need it to. If it doesn't, it will lead to panic attacks about it failing. It's great that Cameron has someone who can comfort her when that fear of failure sets in. Mutiny is still alive by hour's end. But the entire team has their work cut out for them in trying to rebuild everything that they lost.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Way In" was written by Jason Cahill and directed by Jeff Freilich.
  • It was also a terrific spotlight episode for Bos. His backstory and family needed to be fleshed out more this season in order for that attachment to be stronger and more meaningful for that character. It's never as outwardly emotional as his final conversation with Cameron last week. And yet, it shows the personal side of his life in a way that informs who he was in the past and how he is trying to do better in the wake of his release from prison.
  • Joe spends his day job thinking up of ways to get promoted within the company. He has that instant connection to the man in charge. Surprisingly, his opinion on how things can change are taken to heart. He can implement those changes as long as he recognizes the personal damage it would mean to his fellow co-workers. It's positioned him in a situation where he could ruin other people's lives just like he did last season. It's big that he opted not to do so in the end. And yet, he enters that scene ready to do so - only to be hit with an even bigger idea when his supervisor took a minute to get to the other room.
  • Tom works as the character who is able to be critical of Cameron's work. He is able to look at the bigger picture importance of choosing a new game and not just whether or not the game works. That's a fine character construct. However, the show also seems to potentially be teasing some sexual chemistry between Tom and Cameron. I'll reserve judgment until something actually happens.
  • Are the Clarks the only Dallas friends of Joe's who were invited to the party? Or were they the only ones who actually showed up?