Sunday, July 5, 2015

REVIEW: 'Halt and Catch Fire' - Joe Has New Terms for Mutiny While Donna Needs a Friend in '10Broad36'

AMC's Halt and Catch Fire - Episode 2.06 "10Broad36"

Gordon returns to California to reconnect with his brother, Henry, as Joe uses his newfound leverage to change Wheeler's thinking about computing.

Joe has manipulated the people around him so many times that no one is willing to take his concerns or demands genuinely. No one wants to take him seriously because he has ruined their lives so many times. Some how Joe, Cameron and Donna have been forced to work together again. That represents a threat to Mutiny much larger than anything they have dealt with so far. Joe is constantly looking to the future. He is a big picture man. He has no understanding of how the engineering or the coding works. But he does understand the business aspects and wants to position himself at the forefront of the industry. He has fallen back into his old pattern even though he doesn't want to admit that to himself. He wants to believe that he is doing all of this because of his great love for Sara. Well, she wants nothing to do with him now and he channels his old cutthroat spirit into his handling of Mutiny.

Joe's demands and negotiating tactics aren't that unreasonable. He wants the Mutiny homepage to have more user-friendly features and wants to make sure that the product can be played on the next major computing system. The fact that he is leveraging such demands against Mutiny during a make or break time for the company is a cold and heartless move. It's because it is Joe demanding such changes be made that Cameron and the rest of the Mutiny team don't feel like they genuinely have to do them. They believe they can just fool Joe into thinking they complied with his list of demands. They desperately need the price reduction with the hosting servers. The money is the source of all contention.

The team is capable of reconfiguring their entire system for Joe's vision of the future. That doesn't align with their own vision though. Mutiny sees Joe and the money as their only obstacle at the moment. They want to create a satisfying product but they aren't looking too far into the future. The team still enjoys a light-hearted work environment. One where they can place bets on whether or not Cameron and Tom are having sex at the immediate moment - which of course they were. They believe Joe is manipulating them in order to get what he wants. He is the one dictating the future of Mutiny. That's not fair to them. Cameron and the team are the ones working tirelessly to keep this company operational. They don't believe Joe should be able to come into the house and just demand that they change everything. So they don't do it. That's their way of taking the power back.

And yet, the misdirection doesn't work. Joe is able to see through their allusion quickly after they put it in front of him. Because of their work to fool him, Joe finds a new, even more destructive prospect. Cameron and the team were able to build their own effective broadband connection for this little demonstration. They were able to come up with that idea in less than a day. Joe realizes just how smart and savvy this team actually is. Now, he no longer cares about Mutiny as a company. He wants Jacob and his company to completely acquire Mutiny just so that they can be on the forefront of using broadband to connect the computing industry. It's a business move that Jacob is being forced into. He likes Cameron and was willing to give a good deal to Mutiny with the server price. Joe manipulated that to his own benefit. Now, everyone is at the mercy of Joe which is a horrifying position to be in. But one that promises great drama.

Of course, all of this happens while big things are happening in the characters' personal lives. Joe is so aggressive in his tactics because he just wants to escape the idea that Sara may no longer want to be with him. Cameron has no idea how to be professional with Joe when it seems that he is just using Mutiny to his own advantage. But Donna has the biggest meltdown of the episode. Her life has largely been spinning out of control - and she doesn't even know the half of it. She is committed to Mutiny. But all the problems with getting the company off the ground have been all consuming for her. She did manage to get pregnant again. But she's not in a great mindset at the moment to even consider bringing another child into this world. She loves her family but she is conflicted about the decision on whether to continue or terminate. She is allowed to be conflicted too. That's the beauty in the writing of this story. She is allowed to be selfish a little bit while still being immensely human. She basically had already made up her mind when she told her mother that she miscarried. But she still didn't actually go through with it until her big blowup at Joe and Cameron. It's in a moment of understanding that brings power to this story in the end. Cameron is able to be there for Donna as a friend. Donna doesn't have to make this big decision alone. She's just doing it with Cameron by her side - not her husband or her family. Gordon and her daughters are off having a really weird adventure in California. She's back home doing her best to survive with some sense of normalcy. Things are only going to continue to spiral out of control for her. This decision may be right in the long term. But that doesn't take away from the emotional effectiveness in the moment.

Some more thoughts:
  • "10Broad36" was written by Jamie Pachino and directed by Larysa Kondracki.
  • Gordon has been somewhat adrift at times this season. His story here is completely isolating and it doesn't seem to have much of a purpose other than him trying to explain to himself why he hasn't told Donna about his grim diagnosis yet. But that still doesn't make his cheating or his alcoholic brother interesting. They are just plot constructs to give him a story to engage with for this week. It was just pretty horrible all around.
  • It's interesting that Donna's mother didn't bring up the fact that Gordon paid her back for all the money that she gave the two of them over the years. Or does she just assume that Gordon told Donna? But then, why would she wonder if the two are having problems again once she can tell that something is off about Donna?
  • So, Cameron and Tom's sexual relationship is no longer a secret. Was it ever really if the rest of the coders were so casually placing bets on it? But how will that relationship evolve now that they are out in the open?
  • If Sara ever comes back (and she probably will since she's still listed in the opening credits), will Joe suddenly shift to being a nicer person again? Or is this manipulative persona just something that he is never capable of breaking out of? And does anyone in the audience really care?