Tuesday, September 6, 2016

REVIEW: 'Halt and Catch Fire' - Cameron Struggles to Maintain Control with Her Life in 'Rules of Honorable Play'

AMC's Halt and Catch Fire - Episode 3.04 "Rules of Honorable Play"

A game of laser tag teaches Gordon the importance of teamwork. Donna and Cameron disagree on their acquisition.

Cameron loves being in control. It's the reason why she started Mutiny in the first place. She didn't want to conform to a traditional workplace environment. That's why she was so miserable at Cardiff. She didn't completely change and play by the rules. But it was still expected of her. She fell into the trappings of submission and didn't like it all. She wanted a business where she could be in charge. A place where all non-conformists could go and make a difference in the world. This attitude does make it hard for her to collaborate though. She fought Donna for almost an entire season over Community. She didn't want to believe that her business could be used for more than just gaming. She finally did adapt and change in that respect though. She's proud that she was able to adjust her business. And now, she's actually excited about finding what's next and developing towards that. But at the end of the day, she still wants control. So whenever something of hers is threatened, she reverts back to these uncooperative qualities which could be very damaging to Mutiny's evolving business model.

Mutiny is no longer just the business Cameron and Donna started in a house with a bunch of coders. It's gotten much larger than that. Now, it actually has office space and investors. It's acquiring new companies in order to find the future of this business. That's impressive. But the people in charge need to be willing to adapt as well. Donna has had a lot to deal with as of late. The move to California and Gordon's health have put a lot of stress on her marriage. There's no clear distinction of where the professional life ends and the personal begins. Cameron, Donna and Gordon are close friends. But living together has brought them even closer together. That only creates more complications for them to deal with. And yet, Donna has accepted everything throughout all of this. She's ready to collaborate and grow. She knows what needs to be done to make this business a success. She's willing to find compromises. She wants to build bridges between the two companies and Diane Gould. Cameron's resistance is a source of conflict though. She wants Mutiny to grow into being a place where the subscribers can trade and buy goods. But that means needing to change the very last piece of original code. It's a prideful moment for sure. Plus, it's hardly the only thing that is complicating her business relationships.

Cameron and the guys from Swap Meet - Doug and Craig - need to adjust both of their codes in order to be compatible moving forward. This can't be an effective business until that happens. The three of them need to work together. This is a deal that has been made to improve the company. But Cameron's ego is getting in the way. Her creative vision has changed for the company. And yet, she still enjoys looking back at where all of this started. She's proud of starting Mutiny all by herself in her room. She's grateful for what it has become. It's just different. There's only so much change that Cameron can accept right away. While all of this is going on, she also gets a phone call from her stepfather who tells her that he and her mother are moving to Florida and selling everything at their house in Texas. That includes all the prized possessions that Cameron revers about her father. She definitely idolizes him. She changed her name in order to feel closer to him. And now, it feels like that whole world is being ripped apart. That's hard for her to accept. The only person she confides to about this is Craig. He just happens to be working late like she is.

Additionally, Cameron has a pattern of becoming romantically involved with people she works with. It's happened twice now - first with Joe and then with Tom. The work is so intoxicating to her that she acts on these friendships in ways that could complicate the future of the business. She made a lot of progress on the code with Tom. But she still found her heart broken when he didn't get on the plane to come to California. Meanwhile, Joe keeps inserting himself into her life even though she wants him gone completely. He just never seems to go away. She still holds so much anger towards him for what he did. And now, all of these feelings are complicating her business relationships as well. There definitely seems to be a spark between Cameron and Craig as they share some of Bos' whiskey. That absolutely terrifies her. She doesn't want to repeat past mistakes. She's grown because she can recognize that this can be a problem before it ever becomes one. And yet, her solution to the situation is to fire both Craig and Doug. That's something that is a whole lot more complicated now because she doesn't have complete control over this business anymore.

When Cameron wants to fire Craig and Doug, she has to tell Donna and Diane about it. Then as a group, they have to agree that it's in the best interest of the company. Cameron can't just fire them because she doesn't get along with them. Those personal issues can't be the reason. More importantly, Cameron doesn't even show up at the big dinner where everyone can sit down and talk about the problems as rational adults. She gets lost in the code because that's her safe space. It's where she feels comfortable and confident. When she's coding, she doesn't have to feel anything. She can escape the world when she's at the computer. And yet, she's exhausted. She's pushing herself too much. She's trying to do everything. She will burn out eventually. That's starting to be apparent to everyone - especially Donna. She isn't happy that Cameron wants to fire Craig and Doug. They've barely started working at Mutiny. Cameron hasn't given them the chance to impress them. But Donna still brings the subject up to Diane. Donna is still capable of being a professional and respecting Cameron's request. Diane says that they can fire them if they want to. To her, the most important thing is Cameron and Donna's partnership. She likes Doug and Craig. But if they don't work well with this team, then they should be let go. She just cautions that they better be the problem and not Cameron.

And yet, Donna knows that Cameron is the problem in this situation. She knows her so well. They've built this business together. It has succeeded because of their partnership. They are the most appealing aspect of this business model to investors. So, they need to remain strong. They can disagree over any issue. But they still need to respect and be honest with one another. Donna ultimately decides to tell Cameron that Diane denied the request to fire Doug and Craig. They are going to have to find a way to work with them. That could place Cameron on a dangerous path where she reverts back to troubling and familiar behavior. But more importantly, it could destroy the friendship that is the heart and soul of the show. Donna lies in order to preserve the business. She loves Cameron but also knows what her flaws are. Cameron can be temperamental and erratic at times. Donna doesn't understand why Cameron wants these two guys gone - especially since she's now willing to change the code to meet their demands. She doesn't understand it and so she lies. She tries to make up for it by saying Cameron can continue to live with her, Gordon and the kids for as long as she wants. But that could be the very thing that tips Cameron off that something is amiss. She immediately starts to worry that she is losing control. She may be. And that could be the most dangerous thing she has ever had to experience. She wasn't personally invested when Cardiff went down. But this is Mutiny. It's her baby. And now, she feels like she's being kicked out. She'll fight every step of the way. And yet, that could only doom her further.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Rules of Honorable Play" was written by Alison Tatlock and directed by Jake Paltrow.
  • It seems Gordon's symptoms are becoming more pronounced when he's dealing with the trivial nature of everyday life and work. But when he embraces his impulses and goes wild, he is suddenly better. That's not a good sign for the future.
  • Gordon takes the coders out to play laser tag as a bonding experience for everyone. He does so because he wants to eliminate the animosity between the two teams. It works too. He may have been disqualified for breaking the rules. But it was worth it in the end.
  • The connection between Diane and Bos is starting to pick up some steam. She invites him to be her plus one at a party with some important businessman. And yet, Bos is experiencing quite an existential crisis. He's good at putting on a show and entertaining a room. But that's not all that he wants to be. He's changed a lot over the last few years. But he still wants the respect that came from his old life.
  • Bos even shows up at laser tag simply because he said he would. It's not an environment he belongs in at all. He's realizing that the lines have blurred between him and the coders. He does love them. But he also wants things to be done his way. He doesn't want to conform to the whims of others either. So he doesn't want to share the story about a big bear one more time or play laser tag just because the guys beg him to.
  • Joe has been interestingly used this season. He has essentially become the villain of the story instead of the cable anti-hero. That has been a nice change of pace. And yet, it's becoming more and more difficult for his story to feel well-connected to the main plot with Mutiny. Here, he runs into Diane and Bos at the party. But that's about it.
  • And now, Joe is planning on making revenue for MacMillan Utilities by creating the upgrade the military's software badly needs right now. It gives him and Ryan renewed purpose. But again, it's a journey that will more than likely take them far away from whatever is going on at Mutiny.