Tuesday, September 27, 2016

REVIEW: 'Halt and Catch Fire' - The Conflict Between Donna and Cameron Finally Boils Over in 'The Threshold'

AMC's Halt and Catch Fire - Episode 3.07 "The Threshold"

Joe and Ryan deal with the consequences of Joe's decision. Cameron and Donna fight over the future. Gordon has a crisis of conscience.

Mutiny's expansion has been very good for both the company and the dramatic tension on Halt and Catch Fire this season. The move to California has really paid off. The company now has a 20 million dollar evaluation. That's so impressive. Mutiny is the only company doing what they're doing. That has really made an impression on the community of Silicon Valley. But the expansion has put some serious issues in Cameron and Donna's partnership. Their friendship is the cornerstone of Mutiny. It's because of their bond that Diane was willing to invest in the company. But the company expanding means they can't make the same mistakes over and over again. They actually have a company that they can lose with just one careless mistake. They need to be aware of everything that's going on. They have to communicate with each other whenever a problem arises. They can't be impulsive and hope things will continue to go well for Mutiny. Donna and Cameron haven't been doing well over the last few weeks. And now, all that tension finally boils over in dramatic fashion in "The Threshold."

Cameron returns from her impulsive trip to Texas a changed woman. She is now married. She is happy with Tom who has finally made the move to California as well. They are determined to make the relationship work this time around. Yes, the engagement was short and secretive. But they believe they've learned their lessons from the past. As long as they don't work together, they will succeed as a couple. That's what gives them hope that things will be different this time around. Cameron needs this relationship to work. She needs stability in her life. She needs someone in her corner who supports her. That used to Donna and Bos. But she hasn't been on good terms with them for awhile. So, she has fallen back to the last time she was happy. That was with Tom. She effectively doubles down with this marriage. It's a celebration that is able to mend Donna and Cameron's partnership for a little while. But it's not enough to overcome the massive issues happening within the company.

Donna and Cameron have a difference of opinion over the direction of the company. They desperately want things to be better between them. But wanting that isn't the same as it actually happening. Things got so bad for a reason. Their distrust for each other came out of Donna's lies and Cameron's impulsivity. Neither are an effective way of building trust. Trust is crucial to run a successful company. Mutiny is doing well. It has the potential to go public. That's something that both Donna and Cameron want to do. They just have different ideas over what the timeline should be. Donna believes they can get all the required work for the IPO done in just three months. She and Diane believe they need to strike while the iron is hot. Mutiny is a standout company. There's no guarantee that they'll still have this buzz if they wait any longer. Meanwhile, Cameron believes they should wait another year because the system isn't as good as it needs to be. Inspiration strikes after she makes peace with Donna. It's clear that these two are much more creative - which is good for the company - when they are on the same page. That brief reunion is enough to spark genius thoughts for Cameron. Unfortunately, it's a lot of changes. Changes that just aren't feasible in Donna's time frame. And thus, the conflict sparks anew yet again.

This time the war between Donna and Cameron only continues to escalate and hits a very climatic beat. Cameron believes Mutiny is still her company. She founded it. And thus, she gets the final say with every decision. She doesn't like using that to win arguments because she still respects Donna's opinion. But here, she easily whips it out because things aren't good between them. And yes, it is true that her vote has more sway than any other member of the company. However, she doesn't have a majority share. If everyone votes against her, her agenda will stop. It's something she doesn't realize until she's at risk of losing everything she has worked so hard for. Both Donna and Cameron feel so passionately about their beliefs. They see this as the best thing possible for the company. But they are both pursuing actions that could destroy this friendship possibly for good. Gordon doesn't agree with Donna about bringing this issue to a vote. And yet, he'll remain loyal to her and vote with her. He gives Cameron a heads up which is enough to put an end to the happy party happening at the office. This war is enough to send Cameron back to Bos - who didn't even know she got married. He has always been a strong voice of reason for her. She's missed that over the last few weeks. She needs to listen to him when he says she needs to be very rational in her handling of this situation. Unfortunately, what she does is anything but that.

Cameron calls an impromptu board meeting. It's easy to do because everyone of importance is already at the party - except for Doug and Craig (who'll more than likely vote against Cameron for firing them in the first place). Cameron begins by really expressing herself in a clear and concise way. She's been on Swap Meet and knows that there are problems that need addressing. She has the vision to lead this company into the future the right way. Meanwhile, Donna has actually had to lead whenever Cameron decides to leave for some reason. They are both right to hold these opinions. But this board meeting takes a turn for the nasty. Their relationship has always blurred the lines between personal and professional. Cameron moving out of the house wasn't enough to restore the order of things. In fact, Cameron and Donna know all the dirty secrets about each other. And now, they are willing to let out all of their frustrations at each other. Cameron calls Donna out for focusing so much on work to avoid coming home and dealing with Gordon. Donna calls Cameron out for her impulsive and rash decisions including her marriage to Tom. They aren't wrong for pointing out these flaws. But it's very mean-spirited to do so in this setting. It comes at the risk of the business too. They both make some big decisions. They both threaten to quit if they don't get what they want. The board votes for Donna's plan. So, Cameron is officially out of the company she founded. It's a heartbreaking moment. The impact is allowed to linger for awhile too. The uncomfortableness of that moment really helps sell the devastation of this action. Both Cameron and Donna crossed a line. And now, there's no clear indication that things can ever go back to the way things were. This could be the thing that effectively kills Mutiny as a company.

If Mutiny is spiraling into oblivion, then Joe and Ryan's plan to expand the NSFNET could be the future for these characters. It hasn't always been the most engaging storyline this season. But now, it's becoming clear just how it's going to impact all of the characters. Gordon just happens to see the plans when he visits Joe following his deposition confession. It's a victory for Gordon. Joe is officially out of his company. He is exposed as the fraud he really is. Ryan is caught in the crossfire. Everyone is making him feel like a pawn. He's insignificant to the larger plan. That's not true at all. Joe and Gordon didn't conspire to end MacMillan Utilities in order to move forward with this government contract. It has just worked out that way. Gordon settles his case by accepting less money but taking on this deal that Joe cares about. He's even willing to let Joe run it. That seems to be the lesson he learned from watching Donna and Cameron rip each other apart. He has no reason to trust Joe at all. But this is something he is willing to do. And yet, Joe isn't able to celebrate the news with Ryan. He was instrumental in getting this deal off the ground. And now, Ryan may have ruined his own future by trying to clear Joe's name in the press. He may have committed a crime by actually releasing Joe's famed program to the public for free like it was originally promised. It's something he does because he feels isolated. He doesn't know what's happening with Joe and Gordon. He didn't know Joe was coming over willing to share the keys to the new kingdom. So even this victory isn't as sweet as it original seems because a core component won't be a part of it any more. That thematically ties this story to Mutiny in some fantastic ways and makes for an overall terrific episode.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Threshold" was written by Michael Saltzman and directed by Karyn Kusama.
  • Joe and Gordon will need someone to manage operations for them. Joe can't do it because it will make it seem like they conspired to do all of this. Perhaps Cameron will move into the position. She is out of a job after all and Gordon really likes her. Though that would mean returning into Joe's orbit.
  • Gordon sure was acting weird during that dinner with Cameron and Tom. It seemed like his health problems were flaring up again. But nothing really ever came from that. It was more important that Cameron and Donna mended fences.
  • Donna learns about Diane and Bos simply because she storms into Diane's house to talk about all the plans Cameron has for the future of Mutiny. She doesn't see them in a compromising position. But Bos is there and made aware of just how much Cameron has changed without him.
  • Diane isn't surprised to learn about Bos' time in prison. She did her duty and ran background checks on every important part of this company. She already knew and continued to pursue him anyway.
  • It seems unlikely that Ryan will be able to get away with what he did, right? He says that he covered all of his tracks. It can't be traced back to him. But it wouldn't be surprising if it was. That's why Joe doesn't hand him the key.