Sunday, June 28, 2015

REVIEW: 'Halt and Catch Fire' - Cameron Struggles with the Pressure as Outside Forces Control Mutiny in 'Extract and Defend'

AMC's Halt and Catch Fire - Episode 2.05 "Extract and Defend"

Cameron and Joe cross paths again, putting Cameron in a tailspin. Gordon searches for connection as he processes difficult news.

Mutiny is Cameron's baby. She had the vision to connect subscribers together with fun games. She set out to do something that was her own idea. One that other people couldn't ruin. She doesn't know everything on how to run the company as a successful and efficient business. That's why she brought in people whose opinions she trusted - Donna, Bosworth and Tom - in order to make Mutiny a better company. Through a collaborative and opening dynamic, the team was able to effectively manage the business through several tumultuous times. But lately, it seems as if people have been making big decisions about Mutiny without consulting Cameron or even being a part of the company itself.

That's a terrifying prospect to Cameron. She knows that her company is unique. She knows that she has created a work environment that encourages the creative process instead of forcing the employees into cubicles. She has given herself completely to the project. She is connected to Mutiny in ways both professional and personal - as she has also started a sexual relationship with Tom. Forces beyond her control seem to be conspiring against Mutiny to the point where she feels powerless. She had a tough time when she was at Cardiff. At first, she was alienated in an extreme way that felt impersonal. After she had a major creative breakthrough on what their product could actually do, Joe and Gordon took all that creativity away in order to get the Giant to market. That was the most crushing and personal blow she has experienced in her life. She gave her life to the product and her soul was crushed in the process. She doesn't want that to happen again to Mutiny. She wants nothing to do with either Joe or Gordon. And yet, they still find some way to get back into her life. The future of her company is in their hands which is so infuriating to her. Mutiny may not have experienced the kind of growth it has without the timesharing expansion from Joe. But it's still so frustrating to her that she's not the one steering her company. That distinction goes to two untrustworthy and selfish men who don't have that connection to Mutiny that makes them want to see it succeed.

Even the people who Cameron does trust with the business don't seem to be there for her in a supportive way. It's a devastating personal blow she experiences throughout the hour. Donna is honest with her. But that honesty is about Joe controlling the timesharing deal. Bosworth continues to bring a business savvy focus to the company. But he's also blunt in saying that Joe and Gordon made the right decision in the handling of the Giant. Things are much simpler and genuine with Tom than they ever were with Joe. And yet, her freaking out pushes him away for a little bit. She genuinely believes for a moment that he's going on a date with someone else in a time where she needs support more than anything else.

Cameron is capable of handling all this emotional stress. She goes to the meeting with Joe and Jacob Wheeler to finalize the timesharing contract. She may not be able to look at Joe but she is able to win the support and trust of Jacob. She says and does everything she needs to in order to keep this expansion a viable option for the company. She hates being forced into business with Joe. She knows that she can't trust him. He is a master manipulator. He can't change. Cameron is adament about that. He destroyed her in so many different ways last season. She only briefly gets to let out some of those frustrations. But even then, she has to be level-headed again once Sara shows up and extends a dinner invitation to her. Cameron is capable of being a pleasant businesswoman. But there are so many complicated emotional issues also at play during all these negotiations. The only way she can possibly deal with them is in lashing out in the comfort of her own office. Away from everyone else on the team, she is capable of screaming and knocking over furniture. She is angry and upset by what people have done to her company. She has every right to be. She doesn't want to be in business with people she can't trust. But in the end, the only kind of comfort she finds is in a hug with Tom. She doesn't expose what's troubling her though. She's clearly upset and he's there for her. It's a nice moment that proves that he is a good guy after all. But he doesn't approach that embrace from a place of understanding. He has no idea what Joe did to her and why all of this chaos is getting to her. But he is there for her nevertheless.

That's a dynamic completely missing from the other two romantic relationships at the moment. Sara is frustrated by the amount of caution that her father is directing to her engagement to Joe. And yet, when she sees Joe with Cameron, a shift occurs within. Maybe she should be more cautious about this man. Her last marriage caused so much destruction. Jacob is doing his best to protect her. And Joe really hasn't changed all that much because he is still lying to the people closest to him. Sara does know about his past with Cameron. But neither she nor Jacob knew about his big timesharing enterprise until he had already collected three weeks of data. He says that her love is all that he is after in this relationship. Cameron doesn't believe that. She sees what Joe is doing with Jacob as exactly what he did at Cardiff. Sara is now uncertain as well. That's her first big decision of the season. Joe seems at a loss. But is Cameron right in saying that he can't even tell that he is lying anymore?

And then, Donna and Gordon continue to operate on two different wavelengths. They share moments together that still prove that they are happy together. But both are also stressed out with the realities of their lives and haven't entrusted the other with what they are going through. Seriously, when did these two have enough time together to actually make a baby? Donna is pregnant and dealing with those symptoms. But she's also doing her best at work. Mutiny has taken so much of her time and focus this season. That drive hasn't gone away just because of this new discovery. In fact, the only person she tells is Bos and that's just because of a misunderstanding. He offers her congratulations but she doesn't seem all that joyful about this pending addition. But that's still a much better headspace to be in than Gordon's. He gets an official diagnosis about what's wrong with him. A portion of his brain tissue is deteriorating. It's a condition with no cure and where the symptoms are only going to get worse. It's clear that he's trying to do right by his family. He's supportive of Donna's desire to focus on work and wants to give his daughters as much happiness as they want. But he's also trying to connect to the people in his life again in the wake of such devastating news. And the only person in his family who actually spends some quality time with him is Donna's mother - which just leads to an awkward situation about all the money she has given him over the years. The truth will need to come out eventually. Circumstances are keeping the Donna and Gordon apart. But they need each other now more than ever. The future looks bleak for them and they will need the comfort and support of each other in order to get through it as a family.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Extract and Defend" was written by Zack Whedon and directed by Michael Morris.
  • Bos learning that Lev is gay was such a cliche storytelling beat. That moment plus his big rant about the coffee machine not being close to the cups or sugar really accentuated the generational differences between him and the rest of the company - a story the show has already given amble development too.
  • And yet, Bos knows that Donna is pregnant and Cameron is sleeping with Tom. Even though his credit cards are being declined, he still has influence and knowledge in regards to his friends.
  • Cameron and Tom doing Terminator impressions proves that they are two like-minded souls who actually complement each other in a relationship.
  • Donna discovering the joy and opportunities the Community rooms can create is just so much fun to watch. This week it's online dating.
  • Gordon going to a club and sharing his terminal news with a dancer who he thinks looks like Donna really only worked after the audience got the context from his conversation with Donna's mother.
  • That Nintendo name drop was great.