Sunday, July 19, 2015

REVIEW: 'Halt and Catch Fire' - Cameron Learns to Accept The Company That Mutiny Has Become in 'Limbo'

AMC's Halt and Catch Fire - Episode 2.08 "Limbo"

Cameron and Tom try to come to terms at Mutiny's user picnic. Gordon searches for answers. Joe and Sara say goodbye to Dallas.

Mutiny has faced the threat of complete destruction several times this season. And yet, it has worked as a narrative device so strongly so far without feeling redundant or tired because it does feel realistic. Mutiny is a fledgling company. It's comprised of a staff that doesn't have the experience to know how to handle the success that they've achieved. They've managed to create a solid business foundation for themselves over the past few months. And yet, they don't know how they can take this product to a wider market. They are perfectly fine and happy to continue to serve their company. They are doing their best to expand, grow and strengthen. But they also struggle with the weight of those decisions and how it effects the vision for the company.

Cameron wants Mutiny to be as successful as all the other gaming companies out there. She now considers herself the founder and boss of Mutiny. She is the one who decides what to do in order to expand and grow as a company. That was made wonderfully clear in her handling of the acquisition deal in last week's episode. And yet, her passion for the company is somewhat misplaced with games. When she came up with this idea, she only saw the network being able to bring users together in order to connect while playing games. That's the part of this company that she understands. That's the part of the company that she is most passionate about. She has allowed Donna to nurture Community as another service on the network. But she has never prioritized it on an equal or greater playing field with games. That's the whole reason why Joe came to her at the hospital to say that Jacob would only destroy the soul of the company. It was in that tender moment that she was the most territorial and controlling she has ever been with Mutiny.

But just because she didn't have the vision and passion for Community, doesn't mean Cameron can't accept it as a crucial part of the Mutiny experience. She is hesitant to join the rest of the team when they invite the Mutiny users over for a celebration of the company and the profound good that has happened subsequently. She has taken on the title of head of this company but again doesn't want to deal with the responsibility of overseeing the entirety of the operation. She wants to focus on games and that's it. Mutiny has become so much more than just games though. And now, Cameron is starting to see that as well. She is proud of the work that she and her team has done. But she is just now beginning to see the importance of her company. It's not through games but through Community. That's a realization she needed to have and it's presented in a way that is truly wonderful while remaining deeply personal. She has taken the responsibility and is able to see the numerous good things that Mutiny has done already.

Cameron can now show a willingness to work with Donna again in order to expand Community. She is no longer hesitant about embracing the greatness that she helped create. She has always wanted Mutiny to be a team effort. And now, she is showing acceptance with an idea that she had almost no hand in. She sees the value in Community and wants to make it even better for the users. She is now passionate about that. That's a moment of pure reward for the character. Everyone may still be angry with her over how she handled the acquisition deal. But now, she has a willingness to embrace the change that is coming for the company. That should be enough to win the respect and trust of her team back.

And yet, that strong character moment for Cameron is then swiftly taken away by the reveal that Jacob and his new hire, Jesse, have created a new version of Mutiny to run on their system. Cameron and Donna knew that things would be tense between the two companies after they didn't take the acquisition deal. But they didn't imagine Jacob kicking them off the network and replacing them with a copycat system capable of stealing their users without them fully realizing what was going on. That was so devastating. Joe had absolutely nothing to do with it. He was off having fun with Sara getting married and doing drugs. And yet, it's easy for the team to place blame solely on him. They have the shared tumultuous history. Joe has been known to scorch the earth whenever he walks away from a project. He did so with the Giant and, to Cameron and the team, he is doing so again with Mutiny. It's devastating to them. Joe just wants to be taken seriously as a visionary. But he deserves all the hatred directed towards them. He cares enough to go to the Mutiny house as soon as he realizes what has happened. But his feelings for Cameron and the company are what created this mess in the first place. So if he's not to blame for the specifics, he still has to carry around the guilt of destroying this company and everything that they built. It's a much different place for the character to be in than the end of Season 1. They are similar situations but this one shows him having remorse and actual feelings instead of being a diva and throwing a tantrum because things didn't go his way. That was a strong turnaround for the character while still creating a huge mess for Cameron and Donna to clean up in the final two episodes of the season.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Limbo" was written by Zack Whedon and directed by Daisy Von Scherler Mayer.
  • WestNet just isn't as cool or catchy a name as Mutiny is. It basically is the perfect name for the "evil" company determined to destroy everything Cameron and Donna have accomplished this season. I'm also hoping it means more Skylar Astin in the next two episodes. He fits into this show's universe so well.
  • How in the world will Gordon's issues connect with the rest of the show by season's end? He seems to be really losing it with his paranoia lately - waking up in the middle of the night, seeing the other woman he slept with, accusing various people of stealing his idea, etc. It's tragic to see him essentially losing himself so quickly. And yet, it doesn't quite work with the urgency and tension happening elsewhere in the narrative.
  • Bos' son agrees to come to the Mutiny user picnic but he feels out of place the moment he arrives. He is a businessman out of the office. He doesn't see this place as a serious place of business. He's not upset about Bos not sharing with his co-workers that he has a son. But he does see Mutiny as just a placeholder for the great job that Bos could have next. 
  • Lev makes his triumphant return to the Mutiny house. He is on crutches but he was still able to make it back for the picnic!
  • Also, Tom loves Cameron. She makes sure that he truly commits to those words and their meaning. He does but she does not say them back. Does she have any doubts about committing to him? Or is she simply not ready to say those three big words yet?